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how to combine your finances when you get married

Today we're diving into the common question many women ask when they're about to tie the knot: "Should I join my finances when I get married?" 

And we get it. It's a big decision! Some people like to keep their money separate, while others prefer to pool it all together. Regardless of whether you decide to join your finances when you get married or not, it can be hard to navigate this transition as a couple. 

So, we’re honing in on best practices to follow as a couple – including what NOT to do – so you can use this blog post as a compass to keep your wallets (and relationship) healthy and happy for many years to come.

PS. For anything else life throws your way, Penny can help you turn any money lemons into a delicious lemonade of wealth and confident spending. Click here to learn more. 

Let’s get started. 

👀 6min read

should i join my finances when i get married

📸: Wesley Tingey via Unsplash

What’s the best way to combine finances when I get married? 

There are very few “right answers” in finance. 

It’s usually a trade off. 

(Would you rather save for a house, or take an extra vacation? Would you rather buy new furniture, or register for continued education? And so on.) 

So, when it comes to combining your finances within a marriage or common-law relationship, you have a few options:

  1. Joint accounts for checking, savings, investing
  2. Joint accounts for nothing (100% split expenses)
  3. A mix of both

Generally, the best way to combine your finances as a married or common-law couple will depend on your individual preferences, goals, and spending habits. 

That being said, there are 2 “best practices” every couple should follow when combining your finances. 

#1: Whatever you do, always keep (some of) your own money. 


#2: Whatever you do, always have your own credit card. (YES!)

Even if…

  • you share the bulk of your finances with your partner.
  • you have joint accounts galore (including joint credit card).
  • it’s only a tiny portion of your family money. 

Keep at least 1% of that wealth to YOU and yourself alone. 

Why does it matter? We cover that in the next section.

Should I join my finances when I get married? 

As a couple, you will have many mutual goals to save for – such as daily expenses, future home, kids. Shared accounts often make it easier to manage these financial goals. 

However, there are 3 reasons you and your partner should avoid combining ALL of your finances. 

#1 – Credit scores are (not) equal. 

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been together for 6 weeks or 60 years. According to the financial system, you and your partner are still TWO different people. And the “system” will treat you as such. If you don’t have anything tied to your name, your credit score will suffer. 

The Fix: Get a credit card under your name. 

Even when you have a joint credit card, there is always a PRIMARY card holder - and that person's social security is linked. Your credit score gets impacted by whatever happens on that card. 

If you’re building your credit score (which you should) then you’ll want to be the primary card holder. 

Also, DO NOT let your partner immediately become the primary cardholder for your “primary” credit card. First, get comfortable managing your own money and having (sometimes hard) conversations about family finances. 

Once you’re both pros at money, healthy communication, and each other’s guilty spending habits – then yes, you can consider a credit card sharesies. 

(But always keep your own. How else would you buy surprise gifts?)

#2 – Budget preferences are (not) equal. 

You already deal with the occasional spout over who’s cooking dinner, or what to order for take-out. We guarantee you’ll have different interests and ways of spending your money. 

The Fix: Keep your own separate “fun money”. 

This way you ensure both of you get what you want, without the added stress on your relationship. Plus, those guilty spending habits? You can give yourself permission to indulge a little, both guilt and shame-free. You already have an allocated fun money budget for it! 

When you know you’re both spending consciously and intentionally with your own “fun money” instead of “family money” there’s no need to bicker or stress about finances. Instead, you can rest easy knowing you both have the breathing room to spend and invest in whatever hobbies or interests you’re passionate about, without the added strain on your relationship. It’s a win-win. 

#3 – Wallets are (not) equal. 

We’re all making different incomes, and have different spending habits. But one thing in finance is ALWAYS true: Wealth is built through investments. And to nurture wealth, you need to invest your money wisely. (Not your partner; YOU!) That way, your money can grow over time and help you and your family financially thrive.

The Fix: Open a retirement account. 

A retirement account is often the best way to build wealth within a relationship, since (a) it can't be held jointly and (b) it’s an easy way to build wealth over time. 

Does your partner support you financially? Good news! They can contribute to a retirement account on your behalf under your name (yes, in addition to their own). 

You can choose to look into a “Spousal IRA” account that they can contribute to; OR chat with your partner and set up monthly automatic transfers to your individual retirement account. 

Women tend to live much longer than men, so it’s important for you to build your own wealth even if your partner supports you financially. 

That way, you’re both set for success post-retirement.

How will I know what works for me? 

Healthy and open communication about your budget preferences and money non-negotiables is a great place to start. 

First, think about what your budget or spending threshold is. Then, ask your partner what theirs is. Did they match your threshold? Was it higher, lower? You’ll quickly find out once you start to compare. 

Here are some conversation starters. 

  • What do you consider important when it comes to money?
  • At what threshold does something feel “too expensive”? 
  • Would you rather invest in... luxury or convenience? 
  • How much would you consider paying for… a “fancy date night”? 
  • How much do you want to save for… family or long-term goals? 
  • How important is saving money for… retirement for you? 
  • What would you prioritize… retirement or kids college fund?

Don’t forget to add questions about whether your partner wants to combine their finances or not, and what it looks like in practice. Do they want to share a checking account or credit card? Why or why not? And so on. 

Adapt the questions to your liking, and repeat with different topics. You’ll be surprised at how similar (and different!) each of your answers can be.

The bottom line…

There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to combining finances in a marriage or common-law relationship. It's all about what works best for you and your partner. Just remember to: 

  • Always keep a bit of personal cash (or “fun money”), 
  • Have your own individual credit cards (hello, credit score) and
  • Build your own individual wealth (through retirement accounts)

Of course, don't forget to have those honest money talks to figure out your budget preferences and find common ground. The key is to work together, communicate openly, and make financial choices that set both of you up for success, in life and love. You've got this!

At Penny Finance, our goal is to provide easy and digestible financial education for women – so you can increase cash flow today, and retire with wealth tomorrow. Curious? Click here to learn more.


This blog post was written in partnership with Onward, a financial budgeting and tracking app that aims to make co-parenting easier for divorced or separated parents, and create happier homes for the next generation.


Penny Finance may earn an affiliate commission if you purchase a partner product or service.

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