Call me greedy, but I’ve never wanted to share my money with my husband. As an obsessive saver and penny pincher, it would drive me crazy to watch him waste it away, $7 at a time, on the Americano and lemon poppyseed muffin that’s become his thrice-weekly ritual. Having separate finances means no fighting over muffins but perhaps more importantly, it means equality. Statistically, my paycheck is already anywhere from 21 to 46 percent less than his—simply because I’m a woman. In reality, I make more than my yoga teacher husband. Either way, why should I be expected to fork over half of my take-home pay just because I’m married?
When we were dating, we split the cost of groceries and rent, took turns buying meals out, and both paid an even $5,000 to buy a used Subaru. I had a hard time believing that after a 15-minute courthouse wedding, we were better off pooling our money and calling it even. Still, keeping track of who paid for the last tank of gas was annoying. Our solution was a joint credit card used solely for shared expenses. Each month I pay the bill from my checking account and send him a Venmo request for his half of the payment.
When he got laid off I was there to back him up and he did the same for me when I had trouble finding a job, but it isn’t a regular occurrence and we always pay each other back. The fact that I’m expected to fund my own life keeps me more financially conservative than I would be if I knew I could rely on my husband to cover the rent after I splurged on cashmere PJs. Nothing makes me happier than adding to my high-yield savings account each month and I actually enjoy finding new, thrifty ways to save a buck.
It turns out, I’m not alone in my mistrust of the “what’s mine is yours” mentality. A 2018 report from Bank of America found that 28 percent of millennial couples keep their finances separate, while only 11 percent of Gen Xers and 13 percent of Baby Boomers do. The fact that in one generation more than twice as many couples are choosing to keep their money separate is a testament to the changing relationship dynamics and the empowerment of young women. This shift also ties into the idea of a “fuck off fund,” which calls out the vulnerability of women who lack the financial independence needed to leave a toxic partner or job.
Less drama, more romance
Anonymity may be the biggest driver in my choice to keep my finances separate, but it also means personal purchases and savings are never an issue. I have no idea how much is in his savings account or how much of a toll those $7 coffee runs make, and to be honest, as long as he can pay his half of the rent and the credit card bill each month, I don’t care.
That’s something that appeals to my friend Amy Stanley, who’s in a long-term relationship but hasn’t yet decided if she’ll merge finances with her partner. “You’d never have to feel bad for buying things you want but maybe don’t need. Your partner would feel the same and it could be good for squelching some of those money arguments. I’d use my money to buy lipstick and skincare, which my partner doesn’t understand, but she wouldn’t be able to say anything.”
There’s also something strangely sexy about keeping your finances separate. I know that when my husband takes me out to dinner or buys me a birthday present, he’s paying for it with his own money. When he splurged and bought me a pair of cross-country skis for Christmas, I felt loved and appreciated, not annoyed because we could’ve used that money to upgrade our couch.
What's next for our financial future
My married friends—most of whom have a mortgage, kids, and a joint bank account—argue that our method will need to evolve as life gets more complicated. My oldest friend, Alison Goodhart, took a totally different approach to money when she got married. She and her husband merged accounts. Even though she currently makes a higher salary than him, she’s comfortable sharing her earnings. “It’s kind of weird to me that you don’t share your money now that you’re married. For us, it was easier and just made sense.”
My method may be unusual now, but women are starting to realize you can be in a loving relationship and still keep your money separate. In fact, that financial independence is possible and even crucial for a secure future.
I choose to be with my husband because I want to, not because I need his paycheck. Make sure you feel the same.