For many couples, with marriage comes merging finances.
But for couples like Brandon — a blogger who retired at 34 years old, better known as the Mad Fientist — and his wife Jill, keeping their personal finances completely separate has been the key to their success.
Brandon, who doesn’t use his last name online for privacy reasons, reached financial independence in mid-2016 by living frugally in rural Vermont, where he managed to save and invest about 70% of his after-tax income. He’s now based in Scotland with his wife.
“I’d never been a spender,” Brandon, who worked as a software developer, told Business Insider. “For the first 5 to 7 years of my career, I wasn’t saving for anything in particular. I was just saving because I wanted a portfolio. Then I learned about financial independence, and I was like, ‘This is perfect. This is what I’m saving for.'”
“I think at the beginning, you were trying to be a gentleman and pay for everything, but I didn’t really care. That did not last too long. I convinced you we can split everything,” Jill said.
“And we’ve been splitting everything ever since,” Brandon said. “I was used to the American style where the guy pays for everything all the time. So that was a nice treat.”
Eventually, Jill explained, the couple opened up a joint account after Brandon moved to Scotland and they bought a home together, while still maintaining their own separate accounts.
“We just decided to have one joint account that paid for all the bills and the mortgage and everything and keep our separate accounts. It was just our own personal money that we could do what we want with.
“We weren’t earning exactly the same money at that point.
“[I]t just made sense because we knew at that early stage that I definitely like to spend a lot more money than you did. It just seemed like an easy way to prevent arguments with keeping our money separate. I could do what I want with my money; you could do what you want. Everyone was happy.
“I don’t remember it being a big discussion. … It just became a natural thing for us as a couple to do.”
Brandon added that it also made sense to keep some money separate since the early part of their relationship found them in different countries for extended periods of time, whether finishing up school or applying for a VISA.
So while Jill and Brandon say that every couple should choose what works best for them, they ultimately agree that separate accounts are the key to their success. “I think our marriage would have been doomed if we had everything in a joint account. I think that would have caused a lot of arguments,” Jill said.
By having “yours, mine, and ours” accounts, Brandon was able to retire early with his own pot of savings, Jill continues to work as an optometrist, and they’re able to travel together frequently.
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