Modern Love and the Death of the Joint Bank Account

Joint bank accounts have gone the way of the wind…or at least, they have in Missouri (or have they just not made it here yet…? Sorry, lame Missouri-is-Misery joke). The common trend here is that couples do not have a joint bank account. A 2005 study by Radon Financial Group, reported in the Wall Street Journal, found that 48% of married couples have separate accounts. So I have a hard time believing this is just a Missouri practice. 


Case Study A: I was at lunch with some of my female coworkers, and the topic of budgets, boyfriends, and bills came up. Coworker A mentioned that her boyfriend ‘generously’ paid the rent, and they split the utilities. Did I mention that they’ve been living together for 7 years? 7 years and you still split utilities? Coworker B agreed that her and her HUSBAND did the same thing, and thus began a long discussion of the intimate details of their financial arrangements. Essentially, the majority of the table (and the people they knew) all had separate bank accounts from their spouses (or long term boyfriends, I’m talkin…civil marriage long term…) and that they all split the bills. When the one person at the table fessed up to the fact that her and her husband did have a joint bank account, it was met with rapid silence and a chorus of “oh. how does that work”‘s. She blushed. 


Case Study B: Another female coworker of mine keeps her paycheck as her “fun money.” Now I’ve heard of this before, women working part-time jobs just to get out of the house and have some extra fun money. That’s normal. Until she starts complaining about how she has to use her paycheck for her speeding ticket, which may be over the amount of her paycheck (umm, slow down) and she (direct quote) “doesn’t want to have to ask [her husband] for extra money.” I’m sorry…what? And then she goes “I don’t want to have to take money from him. Plus, he has to pay for his dental surgery this week.” Hold the phone (the rotary phone, in Missouri’s case…wink wink). Isn’t it your money too? I mean you are…married. For twenty years. And your husband has to pay his own dental bills? Do you pay your own dental bills? What if your car breaks, do you pay that too? What do you guys pay for together? How much time and anxiety do you add to your life by having this separate system that requires you talk over who will be paying for what before every decision? Do you split dinners, groceries, and vacation prices? What if you pick up a razor for him on the way home, or a pack of socks? Do you turn in a reimbursement slip? You’ve been married 20 years! What happened to “what’s mine is yours to have and hold” and “two becoming one.” Is it now in sickness and health, but not in my wallet? 


Plus, how do these separate bank accounts work once they have children? Does one cover the medical, and the other the clothes? 


If my fiance asked me to have separate bank accounts, my first question would be “And just where do you plan on going?” and then I would promptly hand the ring back. Marriage should be entered into with the idea that it is forever (obviously, shit happens, I get it, and plans might change). But you shouldn’t go into a lifelong commitment with an escape plan on the ready. Plus, once even the idea of separation comes up, think how much easier separate accounts would make it. Done. 


Besides my obvious issue with this in regards to how very un-marriage-y it is, I also have a problem with the way it pertains to female empowerment. These women talked about separate bank accounts as their source of empowerment  equality, and independence. Having control of their own money made them feel empowered, they cited it as a huge step forward for women. I cite that as a huge step backward. For explanation, let’s just go back to Case Study B. She had to ask her husband for help to pay her ticket. And right there women, we are right back to where we started. Right back to sitting below them and asking for their assistance and benevolence. They can say yes, or no…and we are dependent on their answer. They grant us permission. Isn’t escaping that what feminism was all about? You shouldn’t have to ask your husband for extra money to pay your parking ticket or your dentist bill or your groceries. Your husband should trust you to use the money in a responsible, mature way for what you need. You shouldn’t need his permission. And, shouldn’t your husband be putting you above his money? Shouldn’t he love you enough that money is not an issue and that if you need it, it’s yours to have? 


So no, ladies, separate bank accounts are not empowerment. In my opinion, they are the exact opposite. Your husband should be your number one partner. You greatest support emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially. 


And of course…I want to hear your opinions. Is this a common practice outside of Missouri? Do you think it’s a good idea? Am I just crazy?