financial-planning

Love and money: Should you merge your assets?

Feb. 14, 2014 at 1:35 PM ET

When it comes to love and money, many financial experts agree that one of the best ways to avoid friction over finances is to have the "money talk."

As couples start talking about money, many of them often have the same question as "Sunil," who tweeted me asking: Should we join bank accounts or keep separate accounts?"

Video: For this Valentine's Day, how about making a money date? CNBC's Sharon Epperson says when it comes to love and finances the best way to avoid friction is to have the "money talk."


Most couples take the traditional route when they get married. They merge their money — and that means putting their paychecks, bonuses and other income in a joint account.

Yet many financial advisers say it may be more prudent for couples to set up separate bank accounts, with each person having their own checking account.

They can divide household expenses and each person can be responsible for certain bills. That way, each partner has experience dealing with managing household finances and maintains some financial independence.

While some advisers suggest couples split shared expenses evenly, others advise they open a third, joint account to which both partners contribute a percentage of their income. Even nonworking spouses can benefit from having an account in their own name, advisers say.

Whether dividing accounts into "yours, mine and ours" or sharing expenses equally, couples should also earmark a certain amount of money for retirement savings, advisers agree.

Don't forget to designate a portion of your budgets for "fun money."

Stacy Francis, a certified financial planner with Francis Financial in New York, advises couples to use Mint.com, a free budgeting tool that connects to your checking, savings and credit card accounts. 

Couples should make time to talk about money and budgets to avoid friction.
Rob Daly / OJO Images | Getty Images
Couples should make time to talk about money and budgets to avoid friction.

Francis and her husband, who have separate accounts, use it themselves. One of her favorite features of this online tool: "It sends you an email to tell you when you're about to go over your budget."

Occasionally, Francis says, she'll get an alert that her husband has gone over his "fun fund budget" and it asks her if he can use her "fun fund." To which, she says, "for marriage happiness, the answer is 'No.' "

Bottom line: Do what is best for you and your partner, advisers say. Just make sure you continue to talk about your spending habits and your long-term financial goals.

Research has shown that couples are more likely to build wealth and meet their financial goals if they are working together. 

To get on the same page and stay on track, Brittney Castro, founder of Financially Wise Women and a certified financial planner, suggests scheduling a "money date" every week with your significant other to update your budgets, review expenses and talk about financial goals.

By CNBC's Sharon Epperson. If you have a question for me, follow me on Twitter@sharon_epperson. Just tweet your questions about how to better manage, grow or protect your money at #GetAPlan. Or send an email to yourmoney@cnbc.com.

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