Really interesting series by Jessica Grose in Slate on marital finances. She discusses in turn three patterns of marital finance: common potters, sometimes sharers, and independent operators (I think those terms are clear enough that I’m not going to explain further). I was pleased to learn that common potters are the most common and that people tend to migrate towards this over a marriage– especially when kids are involved. I certainly understand the impulse behind the sometimes sharers in that some people don’t want to give up all sense of financial independence and personhood, but I’ve always been a huge advocate of the common potter approach. The way I look at it when you are married, you are a team. Money is “ours” not “mine, yours, and ours.”
When I taught at Texas Tech I was the sole earner in our marriage, but not for a second did I think that entitled me to anything more than Kim. We had one income coming in and one child to raise between the two of us and that was all entirely a shared effort. As for spending money on one’s own things, even if you have your own account, when you buy that big-screen TV without permission, that’s a big hit to the team’s finances, whether they are in separate accounts or not. When Kim started her own business and money came rolling in, that didn’t change things one bit. To me, it’s always about trust. Kim has always trusted me not to spend significant amounts of money without discussing and I trusted her for the same. All that’s changed–for the better, fortunately– in the course of our marriage is what “significant amounts of money” is.
The way I see it, having separate account is either a) an accounting gimmick, or b) an indication of genuine separation in a marriage and I’ve yet to be convinced otherwise.