An overwhelming number of spouses hide bank and and credit-card accounts from each other — 72 million, to be exact.
And then there are those spouses who openly decide to have their own personal accounts and credit cards so they can spend that money guilt-free on whatever they please.
Certified financial planner Jeff Motske, author of “The Couple’s Guide to Financial Compatibility: Avoid Fights About Spending and Saving & Build a Happy and Secure Future Together,” says this way of thinking is common in many of the couples he meets.
However, he says, having separate credit cards will most likely end up doing more harm than good for your finances.
I get it. Truly I do. But, as the saying goes, ‘There’s no I in team.’ Remember the focus here is on you as a couple: you’re a team, a unit working to build a better life together. When you have your own credit card it’s that much easier to hide purchases, and, ultimately, incur debt.
For this reason I advise against it. Both names should be on all cards, and both of you should review the monthly statements.
And if you’re thinking that you won’t have a part in any possible debt your spouse racks up on their personal credit card, Motske says you’re wrong. The author explains that both spouses are liable for most debt incurred during marriage, even if it wasn’t you who did the spending. And that doesn’t go away if you split up.
“If you split up and your spouse owes $US70,000 in debt, you’re very likely going to be responsible for it as well,” Motske says. “And if your spouse chooses not to pay that debt, you’re liable for it. So it’s to your benefit to know exactly how much is being spent each month.”
Motske does add one caveat to his advice: “I do think it’s important to have your own bit of fun money to spend on yourself. It can be ‘secret’ only in the sense that you don’t have to clear your purchases with your spouse.” He advises not going overboard with that money, and says it should be “income appropriate.”
If your annual salary is $US50,000, he suggests, set aside $US50 per person per month. If you make $US150,000, each person can have $US150 to spend every month.