OurNextLife.com // How Combined Finances Helped Us Get to FIRE Faster // We're big believers in combined finances *for us* (though maybe not for everyone!) // Married finances, money management for couples, couples' finances

How Combined Finances Helped Us Get to FIRE Faster

It’s been a while since we’ve talked love. While we can schmoop out with the best of ’em, we’ll spare you the sappy stuff today and talk instead about our approach to money as a couple, and how it has impacted how quickly we’ve been able to get to our early retirement goal. And since you already saw the title of this post, I’m not spoiling anything to say:

We are absolutely going to be able to retire earlier because our finances are completely combined.

If we maintained even partially separated finances, we’d still be years away from our goal.

We’re big believers in “you do you,” so this post isn’t an attempt to say that fully combined finances are the best approach, or that they’re right for everyone. Every couple needs to figure out what works best for them, both financially and in terms of the feelings that come with the money. (Don’t discount the feelings! More on that in a bit.)

This is why we’re grateful to have figured out that a fully combined arrangement works best for us — and has actually sped up our progress.

OurNextLife.com // How Combined Finances Helped Us Get to FIRE Faster // We're big believers in combined finances *for us* (though maybe not for everyone!) // Married finances, money management for couples, couples' finances

First, a quick history of our finances as a couple. The way we think about and deal with money has changed a lot since we first got together almost 12 years ago, and the evolution of some of our thinking has mirrored our overall life goals at different stages of our lives.

Related post: Why Married Early Retirees Should See Our Marriages As Our Most Important Investments

Here’s a timeline overview of where we began, and where we are now:

OurNextLife.com // How Combined Finances Helped Us Get to FIRE Faster // We're big believers in combined finances *for us* (though maybe not for everyone!) // Married finances, money management for couples, couples' finances

OurNextLife.com // How Combined Finances Helped Us Get to FIRE Faster // We're big believers in combined finances *for us* (though maybe not for everyone!) // Married finances, money management for couples, couples' finances

When we first started dating, Mr. ONL was out of debt, but I still had about $30,000 in combined debt between my small student loan, a car loan (financed the Civic we still drive at 100%! D’oh!), and credit card debt. We dated long-distance for a year, which we’d do again in a heartbeat despite how financially ill-advised it was, but after we moved in together, we quickly decided that dealing with my debt was our top priority. Though we didn’t actually combine our finances, we divided up expenses to allow me to focus on my debt. Mr. ONL paid the rent and any anything we spent going out. I paid the utilities, bought most of the groceries, and otherwise spent very little — focusing on putting all the rest of my paycheck toward the debt. It also helped that we lived in a dirty cave of a rent-controlled apartment, and we had just one economical car.

Related post: When We’re Not on the Same Page About Money

dating-no-debt

With my debt dealt gone, we kicked off our baller years, but we also started saving in earnest to buy our first place, a goal we created before we got engaged. Our finances still weren’t combined, and we didn’t scrutinize each other’s spending, but we started to hold each other more accountable to our shared goal. And we kept the arrangement of Mr. ONL paying the rent, me paying for groceries, and then us splitting more of less proportionally to income the rest of our expenses.

OurNextLife.com // How Combined Finances Helped Us Get to FIRE Faster // We're big believers in combined finances *for us* (though maybe not for everyone!) // Married finances, money management for couples, couples' finances

Because we’d fallen into a dynamic from early on in the relationship of viewing our finances as a team effort, it was a no-brainer to combined everything once we knew we were in this for the long haul. We combined all of our accounts a few weeks before we got married in one epic call to USAA. There were new beneficiary designations, powers of attorney, lots of questions about why I wasn’t going to change my last name (still not sure why that was relevant, but it’s part of the script and I was making them deviate from that), and of course the opening of new checking, savings and money market accounts. We opted to keep our old individual checking accounts active because we agreed that we would pay ourselves a small monthly allowance to use as fun money that the other couldn’t question. Maybe it’s because we both have a rebellious streak, maybe it’s because we both felt the need to hold on to some bit of independence, but we both believed we needed that allowance to be happy in our financial arrangement. And so that’s where we started in our married financial life.

OurNextLife.com // How Combined Finances Helped Us Get to FIRE Faster // We're big believers in combined finances *for us* (though maybe not for everyone!) // Married finances, money management for couples, couples' finances

Fast forward a couple of years, and we found that we really weren’t using our allowance funds anymore. Maybe we each felt trusted enough by the other that we didn’t feel we had to justify expenditures from our shared accounts. Maybe we just felt like we needed to buy less stuff period. But soon enough, our allowance money was just piling up, and we would end up spending it on shared things like a trip, just to use it up. In the end, it wasn’t a hard choice to decide to stop giving ourselves the allowances, and it was a good reminder that there should be change and evolution in a relationship. We grew a lot as people — in a good way! — in the first few years of marriage, and it makes total sense that what we need from our financial arrangement would change as well. We no longer needed to flex our own individual independence, so we waved goodbye to the allowances and never looked back.

OurNextLife.com // How Combined Finances Helped Us Get to FIRE Faster // We're big believers in combined finances *for us* (though maybe not for everyone!) // Married finances, money management for couples, couples' finances

The final step in the timeline, until we retire, is our period saving up for FIRE so that we can retire in just over a year at most. We’ve gone through a lot of financial seasons together at this point — from debt payoff to big spending to big saving — and we’ve learned a lot about ourselves and each other along the way. What still feels most amazing for us is how instantly we both got on board with the early retirement vision. There was never a moment when one of us had to try to convince the other, though we did have a lot to learn at first. And there were growing pains, of course, as we found our comfort zone for saving for the future vs. enjoying life now. But by the time we started actively pursuing early retirement, we had already saved up to buy our first two homes and had plans to buy our rental property, so we knew how to save in a focused way, and we had tracking mechanisms in place that we were both comfortable with. I have always tracked actual numbers — account balances, spending, net worth — while Mr. ONL makes projections — how much we need to save each month to hit goal X by month Y, how much we’ll have at retirement if we save amount Z each month. (Yeah, we know how to party. But you’re reading this, so you’re a money nerd, too.) ;-) Transitioning from saving for property to saving for early retirement was far less traumatic than it could have been, as a result.

What Our Combined Finances Look Like

When I say “fully combined,” I mean fully combined. The only accounts we have that only have one name on them are our retirement accounts which must, by law, be for an individual only. So we each have our 401(k)s, and I have one tiny IRA from years ago. But for everything else, we hold property titles and financial accounts as “joint tenants with rights of survivorship” (JTWROS). That combined list includes:

  • Title (and mortgage) on our home
  • Title (and mortgage) on our rental property
  • Vanguard taxable investment account
  • USAA joint checking, savings, money market and investment accounts
  • Ally “high interest” (eye roll) savings account
  • Titles on our two cars

For now we each have separate points credit cards, which is easier to manage while we’re charging a lot of work travel expenses and need to reconcile things for reimbursement. But after we retire, we’ll most likely streamline that as well for simplified tracking.

Now that we’re in the post-allowance era, each paycheck goes into our joint checking account (with a chunk of mine carved off to get deposited straight into our joint savings account), and we pay everything we buy from that as well as transferring all of our investments out from it.

The Importance of Equality

We’ve always had an income imbalance in our relationship — Mr. ONL has always made significantly more, and even as my income has increased, his has still outpaced mine. If we maintained separate finances, I would always be comparing my income to his and would feel less than. Or I wouldn’t be able to afford to do things he could afford. We’d be on different levels even though we are married, which — at least for us — would undoubtedly lead to resentment one way or the other, either for the lower earner feeling crappy about that or the higher earner feeling held back.

And this imbalance is still incredibly common. Almost no marriages have two partners who earn exactly the same, or spend exactly the same or want to save exactly the same for big goals. There is almost always going to be some inequality. And that can lead to all kinds of problems: feeling like unequal partners in non-financial decisions, feeling like one partner is the “boss” and the other has to go along with it, the lower earner feeling like his or her work is pointless, the higher earner feeling the pressure to stay in an unsatisfying job that pays well just to maintain his or her relationship status, the lower earner feeling resentful of being able to afford less or having to pay an unproportional share of expenses, etc. Is it any wonder money is the leading cause of divorce?

Our solution to our income inequality was to combine everything, so there wasn’t his money and her money, there was only our money that we both have an equal say in. And as soon as that money comes in, it no longer matters who earned it, all that matters is that it’s our shared pool of resources to do with as we agree together.

Money Affects Feelings… Which Affect FIRE

Beyond making us feel like equal partners despite unequal income, having combined finances has worked better for us on a lot of different feelings levels, which has resulted in faster progress to fire.

Accountability — Accountability isn’t really the right word for this, because we aren’t breathing down each other’s necks, trying to micromanage each other’s spending. Instead, we map out shared goals, and we work together to reach those goals. If we don’t hit our savings target one month, we aren’t interested in pointing fingers (unless it’s at the IRS! Ha.), but instead create a plan together for how we can make up for the lost progress.

Team Mindset — For us, having the team mindset is probably the single biggest factor in our financial success. A quick example to illustrate this: We have both been in high-pressure jobs for our whole careers, and that has often meant working long hours at inconvenient times, and sometimes working on vacation. If we viewed our finances as separate, and pretend that Mr. ONL needs to work today, despite us being on vacation at some place we have flown to at great expense, I could easily interpret his having to work as a selfish act that’s disrespecting my limited vacation time, or as a sign of a failing on his part to create proper boundaries. After all, his work is only enriching him, not me. But instead, in the combined finances example, it’s easier for me to give him the benefit of the doubt, and know that he’s working so hard to get us to our shared goal as fast as possible. Sure, it still blows that he’s working on vacation, but I can interpret it in a more sympathetic light, knowing he’s also doing this for me, because we’re in this together. In our careers’ home stretch, we’re both working more than we’d like to, but we’re able to support each other in getting through these last months because we’re so excited about our shared goal.

Multiplier Effect — Everyone who has ever built a money spreadsheet knows how kick ass it feels to watch numbers get bigger. It’s motivating when it happens, and you pick up even more momentum as you go. This progress happens a whole lot faster when you have multiple income streams going into the tracker and funding your goals, making the momentum build that much more quickly.

OurNextLife.com // Our 2016 Q3 Financial Update, on track to retire early in 2017!
The power of momentum — our savings has increased big time every year since we got serious about early retirement

Our FIRE Timeline — Together and Separately

We believe strongly that money doesn’t exist in a vacuum. How we relate to it is tied up in how we were raised, what we value, whom we trust or don’t trust, and how we view the world generally. There are so many feelings in there that can’t be explained on a spreadsheet or chart.

For us, we can’t imagine being where we are now in our FIRE journey if we didn’t have those feelings of equality, accountability, team spirit and momentum in place. All of them have undoubtedly sped our progress to early retirement.

But let’s put the feelings aside and just look at the numbers. Right now, as a joint effort, we’re about 86 percent of the way to our ideal early retirement scenario:

combined-number

If we were keeping our finances separate, we’d each have to determine our own FI number, and though they’d probably be different given my risk-aversion, we’d certainly each be looking at a magic number that is well more than half of our combined magic number. We can live pretty comfortably as a couple on far less than double what either of us would need as a single person because of all the efficiencies we enjoy. If we then split up our assets proportionally by income, we’d see a pretty enormous gap:

We'd be a lot less far along on our early retirement goals if we kept our finances separate!

Mr. ONL wouldn’t be in terrible shape, though the gap between his progress and his magic number would be slower to close on a single income, so he’d be about two years out instead of one. But in my case, I would all of a sudden be many years away from early retirement. A decade or more.

Bottom line: We’d both be farther from early retirement than we are now, and I’d especially be a lot farther from it.

Let’s say that we were willing to accept all of that to keep things separate. Let’s say Mr. ONL reaches his retirement magic number in two years and quits his job, while I continue for another eight or more. What then? The thing we most want to do is travel together, and we can’t do that if I’m still working. Even though he’s retired, he’s still limited by my vacation time. Which isn’t especially “free.”

Chime In!

We’re thrilled that our financial system is working so well for us and is giving us the momentum and trust to get to FIRE as soon as possible. But we’d love to hear from others! What works well for you? Any separate finances folks want to chime in to share how that arrangement works better for you? Anyone else found the momentum boost that we’ve had happen through the multiplier effect? Let’s discuss it all in the comments!

 

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99 thoughts on “How Combined Finances Helped Us Get to FIRE Faster

  1. Great points! I especially like your comments about uneven incomes. I can see how combining everything makes sense. My partner and I are unmarried without a plan to combine finances. However, we do share some common long-term goals — like further developing the property we live on. We’ll need to find a way to work through that.

    1. I do think uneven incomes can be a huge problem if you don’t find ways to think about money jointly or at least contribute proportionally — so many landmines there! I think the actual combining is far less important than just figuring out how you’ll get to your long-term goals together, as a team. :-)

  2. We’d be a lot further away from our magic number if we were financially separate. Like you said, what works for us doesn’t work for all. We still use the allowance system and it works well. Prof. SSC has ~$5k or so (mostly in index funds…) and mine is just above zero, lol. Funny how much hobbies can eat into it.

    1. Holy moly — she has $5,000 in her separate account?! We never let ours build up anywhere close to that before we’d force ourselves to cash them out on a trip or something. Wow, she could take off on vacation without you! Hahaha.

  3. I always smile a little bit when people tell me they have separate finances “just in case”. I know it doesn’t work the same way in every state, but where we live, that’s generally a formality in the case of divorce. That being said, we never added each other to the titles on our cars. Maybe one day when I’m not so opposed to paying a fee to have it re-titled. We have separate Roth IRAs and separate pensions. But everything else is in one pot! The waters might be muddier, but it definitely makes us feel like we’ve got more power together. I know it may not be right for everyone, but it works for us!

    1. Yeah, I decided not to go into the legalese in this post of the fallacy of “separate finances” without a prenup or postnup. ;-) Because, yeah exactly! I don’t know how much you need to go out and retitle your car — if you die, your husband will get it, and if you get divorced, you’ll have to split the value, and in every other instance it doesn’t matter one bit. :-) And right on for more power together!

  4. In our marriage we’ve always had joint accounts and viewed money as “what’s mine is yours.” I love how you describe the “team” approach which is essential for lots of areas in marriage. It’s interesting to me that one of you is the tracker while the other does more of the projections. It’s obviously been a great arrangement, though I’m not sure you “arranged” it or just did so naturally.

    1. The tracking vs. projecting just fell into place and completely suit our personalities. I am way more the details person, and like to see progress, so it makes sense for me to be the tracker. I started my spreadsheet — which I still use, though in a much-expanded version! — more than a decade ago when I was paying off my debt, and I’ve just continued that practice to this day. :-)

  5. We have very similar situations- we joined all of our finances when we bought our first house together (we did skip the allowance phase – there may not even have been enough to pay ourselves at that point)

    I love how you describe the team aspect, I have always out-earned Mrs AE – but whenever one of us gets a raise it’s always a “we” are making that much more together – it’s all going into the same pot for the same goals.

    1. I’m gathering from the comments that a lot of people skip the allowances, so you’re not alone! It was something we had to try, but now we know we don’t need them. And yeah, team spirit all the way. So many pluses to thinking of the money that way! :-)

  6. I really like seeing this financial journey and my hope is that Ms. FP and I can continue on the same path. Right now we’re on the same page money wise, but have separate finances until we’re married next year. We’ll probably skip the allowance stage and just go with the your money is my money system.

    We’re also in a sort of a similar situation in which I’m coming in with no student loans (paid off all of them while we were dating), but Ms. FP is going to have a ton of student loans! Ms. FP will also make significantly me more then me over the long term, as I’m probably going to stay as a lowly public servant, while she’ll be owning her own practice. I don’t expect that to be a problem, but it will be an interesting change, especially since for all of our relationship so far, I’ve been the one earning the “big bucks” (she’s still in residency).

    There’s no doubt though, working together is definitely a faster way to get to your goals than working separately.

    1. Starting out on the same page before marriage is HUGE. That’s super awesome. And it’s great you recognize that circumstances will change over time — she has more loans now but will later on contribute more, for example. Staying adaptable and working as a team are the two best attributes of a good financial arrangement in marriage, in our humble opinion. :-)

  7. I grew up in an environment where there was one joint pot of money, so that’s the “normal” that I understand. It seems counter-intuitive to not work together to reach financial goals, but to be sure, everyone has to figure out what method does or does not work for them.

    This part makes me sad though: the scenario where you are trying to plan a joint retirement life together, but one of you has to work for another decade because there’s so much pride or stubbornness that the money should be independent.

    Would both people then end up working the extra decade? I mean, I probably would.

    1. Yeah, I can’t speak to what we’d do in terms of working longer if we were pursuing solo FI, because we’re not wired for that at all! And though I think most of us tend to be wired for combined finances or separate, I do think there are legit reasons to do either way. For some people, keeping things separate really could reduce stress in the relationship, though we’re super glad that we’re fully combined, obviously. :-)

  8. One of the best things my husband and I ever did was to get our debt under control early on in our marriage. We got married pretty young (23 & 26) and we had about $25k in combined credit card debt + car payments. When we got engaged, we immediately combined our accounts and set out to eliminate all debt. I read a book called “How to Live Within Your Means & Still Finance Your Dreams”. We paid off both cars and all credit cards and we’ve never had a car payment or any credit card debt since. Now I can’t say that we’ve led a financially responsible or frugal life for the last 26 years, but we’ve definitely socked away the max in 401ks and have managed to save a significant amount that has enabled my early retirement (I’m about 6 weeks in & loving it!!!!) Hubby will follow soon :)

    1. So awesome that you’re living the early retired life!!! Wohooooo! And hooray for your husband’s imminent departure! It’s awesome you guys were on the same page so early on — and clearly you did PLENTY right to be able to retire now. Kudos to you!

  9. Thanks for sharing the evolution of your finances. It’s always fun to take a peek into other people’s lives. :)
    We combined our finances too and it is working very well for us. I made more money for most of our marriage, but Mrs. RB40 has been earning more since I left my full time job. It works well because we both contributed out our household net worth. I like the team approach because we can both work toward our shared goals.

    1. Happy to share it! :-) I think it’s awesome how you guys have traded off on the higher earner title — that’s something I won’t ever get to experience since we’ll quit at the same time! Mr. ONL would say I’m welcome to work a little longer, but I don’t think it’s worth quite that much to me. Hahahaha. ;-)

  10. Sad single lady commenting. This is what I want to work towards someday! I love seeing positive examples of couples that I can emulate in the future (so don’t mess it up! Haha).

    1. Okay, deal! We won’t mess it up! And you’re such a catch on every level, but especially financially, so I know you’re going to find a partner who wants to rock the money world with you. :-)

  11. This is so important. We have joint accounts, though he primarily uses one for our fun stuff like vacations and entertainment, and I primarily use another for day to day bills like water, electricity, car insurance, etc.
    When we make decisions, it is never “as long as you pay” because all the money is in one pot. Instead, it’s a good conversation and truly a joint decision.

    1. That sounds like a great arrangement! I think having multiple accounts makes a ton of sense — we’ve maintained our separate checking accounts even though we don’t do allowances anymore just so we can sequester out work reimbursements for our credit card bills. Then we don’t see all this reimbursement money in our joint account and think we can invest it! :-)

  12. from day one my wife and i have agreed on joining our finances. We are about 90% joined. Pretty sure we read ‘smart couples finish rich’ on our honeymoon. We both have our own checking accounts but transfer equal portions every pay day into a joint account. what remains is ours to spend how we see fit which sometimes means transferring even more into the joint to save or pay down our mortgage debt which is our primary goal right now outside of our retirement accounts. I am always amazed and a little sad when people refer to their money situation separately from their spouses. I think they are fooling themselves a bit. I just can’t imagine what it would be like to view my spouse as a separate financial entity. I’ve heard people at work say, “I will have enough money to retire but my wife won’t.” What? I just don’t see things that way at all. I’m so glad that my spouse and I are on the same page financially. And to be honest, if we weren’t we probably wouldn’t be married. we had those early on discussions about money and goals of saving big and living below our means. We truly have peace because of it. We don’t argue about money…EVER. our only money stress comes from self imposed goals which sometimes feel difficult to hit.

    1. It’s interesting because I think of your approach as a bit more of a hybrid, and not a fully combined system, but I’m curious: When you say you transfer equal portions each payday into your joint account, do you mean that you each contribute the same amount, or that you each have a set amount that’s proportional to earnings?

      We’re definitely like you in not being able to imagine saving for early retirement separately — what’s the fun in one of us being retired without the other? That would be a definite recipe for the exact opposite of marital bliss. Hahahaha.

      1. I’m now thinking that by saying Equal portions that may not make any sense. Anyways. Although we don’t have the same salary we transfer the amount that gives us each the same amount of money that is ours to do as we wish. The other thing worth mentioning which starts to get complicated is that even though I make more than my wife our net take home pay is almost exactly the same. I max out my retirement account, she only does 10% right now. I pay for family health insurance, she does not. I have some other small additional before and after tax expenses taken out such as pension contribution and life insurance. I also pay extra taxes each paycheck to spread out the tax burden. I think a lot of this is how you think about the money. Some of this is mechanics of how it all flows which can seem, combined, separate or hybrid, but the main thing to me is feeling that this is all ‘our’ money. your paycheck, my paycheck, its all ours.

        1. I think that makes total sense. Thanks for coming back and clarifying! You both end up with the same amount of fun money, and all the rest is joint. Sounds completely fair and equal. :-)

  13. We like to take the easy and simplified approach, so we’ve combined finances and haven’t looked back. There is some money from a previous life still only in our individual names – meaning, we haven’t rolled that over into our joint investment account. We just haven’t felt the need to. It’s all tracked together. We don’t much care who has more and who has less. It’s all a part of our overall net worth picture.

    We have credit cards individually as well in order to maximize our point balances.

    All in all, we haven’t really considered *NOT* combining our finances for the most part. There are one-offs here and there that aren’t combined, but we also don’t consider those things to be separate from a practical perspective. Legally it might be separate, but we certainly don’t operate like they are separate.

    Our main bank account, as well as our Ally savings account, is a combined thing. Our Vanguard brokerage account, likewise, is all combined. Everything that we’ve created since we got married, for the exception of the aforementioned credit cards, are combined. It’s just easier, and there’s no real reason that we can determine to do otherwise.

    1. You don’t have to physically combine every account so long as you think of it as joint — divorce courts in virtually every state will consider that money joint, too, if there’s no prenup. Haha. ;-) But I’m glad you guys have a system that’s working for you and that you’re happy with! That’s ultimately what’s most important.

  14. We’re honestly half combined and half not. Not for any particular reason as we treat them as shared. Just simply too lazy to change them and in this state like others noted it does not matter. Towards the end goal we have to treat them as shared. My wife is becomming a stay at home mom which benefits the household without a salary. It would hardly be fair for me to consider her retirement number now extended because she took one for the team to take care of the kids all day long. That is still a job after all.

    1. Haha — laziness is as good an excuse as any! The reality in most states is that all assets either of you hold separately will be treated as joint anyway, in the event of divorce proceedings, so if you view stuff as shared, then it’s all good. :-) And amen to SAHM being a job! I’m sure moms everywhere love hearing that acknowledged. ;-)

  15. We currently find ourselves closest to the “Married No Allowances” phase in your timeline above. We essentially combined all of our finances when we moved out to Seattle together, definitely going against conventional wisdom considering we weren’t even engaged at the time, but even now we maintain separate checking accounts although in both of our minds (and in our excel sheets!), it’s all one big pool of money that we share.

    One tricky aspect when trying to simplify is our constant urge to maximize by adding complexity, such as opening new credit cards and bank accounts in order to get large signup bonuses. This alone may make getting to the “Fully Combined” state you detail above next to impossible in the short-term.

    One thing I’m still not sure about it whether we’ll pursue various few hundred dollar opportunities after reaching FI. Are we doing it now just to speed up our FI date, or do we actually enjoy “gaming” the system to make some extra money? Only time will tell I suppose.

    Somewhat related is this cool chart I made of our cash flow not too long ago:
    http://i0.wp.com/moneymetagame.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/cash-flow-chart-1.png

    I should update it though because we now have a Brokerage account that we feed money into! After leaving our jobs, the whole operation will definitely get much simpler, but for now it’s a somewhat optimized organized chaos of accounts that keeps us going.

    1. I don’t know that I’d count those short-term accounts you open for bonuses as a ding against your fully combined status. I’d think of those as little 1099 jobs. :-) We’ve stopped chasing those bonuses now, but once we have more time, we might resume in ER… we’ll see! And what’s funny is we expect our account structure to get MORE complicated after we quit because we’re going to go to multiple checking accounts as our anti-budgeting approach to cash management in retirement. :-)

  16. My wife and I have shared our finances since the day that we got married. With my wife responsible to take care of her special needs sister. It was never a question that we would share finances. While my wife would love to work and generate outside income she more than makes up for with the ability to shop grocery deals and saving us money anyway that she can :)

    1. How great that you guys are happy with your system of managing finances together! That’s wonderful that your wife is able to take care of her sister and that you support her in that! :-)

  17. This post beautifully illustrates the journey couples take throughout their financial lives. Since we’re at the beginning of our journey I’m glad we’re seeing this ahead of time! There are certainly messy feelings around income, fairness, and equality, so seeing how you both navigated that process is encouraging. We haven’t decide our future financial setup, but it’s a relief to know nothing has to be set in stone. Plans and finances change, and it’s okay to adjust your strategy.

    1. 100% nothing has to be set in stone! I think approaching the decision as though it’s final and binding makes figuring out your couples’ financial arrangement that much more stressful. Really it should be more of a “let’s try this and see if it works, and if not, try something else” approach. Letting yourselves evolve is always a good thing. :-)

  18. To be honest, I have never understood why couples (married or life partners) go their separate ways with finances. I am always left wondering if it is a trust issue, in which case, the partnership is in trouble for sure. Or if it is a power play thing. Just don’t know. Remains a mystery but each to their own.

    Our gross incomes ( inc. bonus, options etc.) are skewed in about a 3:1 ratio but that is simply immaterial for all the great reasons you put forward.

    Can’t imagine how we would ever get to the place we are at without the combined financial efforts. Here, 1 +1 is actually more than 2. That is an economic win before we even get to the greater aspect of partnership to win together. There is a FI in Team.

    1. I have for sure wondered the same thing in the past, but I’ve talked to enough people who keep separate finances to understand that a whole range of things could go into that decision that don’t necessarily reflect on the relationship. But certainly viewing finances as a team and communicating about all of it openly are essential, whether or not the finances are technically combined!

  19. I think if you’re both coming from the same place as far as your goals and general approach to money, combining makes total sense. Even before we decided to pursue FI, my husband and I were both hyper-conservative savers by nature, so we shared finances 100% from day 1, as soon as we moved in together. It’s worked out great. In the first years we were together, he made significantly more than me and even shouldered an extra chunk of our financial burdens while I worked part time and went back to school for a year. Now I make significantly more than him, but who cares? It balances out no matter what. He also saves us craploads of money with his awesome skills – everything in the car and home maintenance categories is a no-brainer. He takes care of it all, and I’m super grateful. I take care of the finances and he loves that he doesn’t have to do it. We both share other mundane tasks. I love the feeling of being a team, especially when we have an awesome goal to drive us together. It feels like we’re winning together, which is way better than winning alone. :)

    1. Wow, you went to combined finances as soon as you moved in together! That’s awesome you were so closely aligned on your goals and saving habits. That was all stuff we had to get on the same page about. :-) Plus, HOW AWESOME that you guys have such an incredible team spirit just generally! I love that you feel like partners in all things, and that you feel like you’re winning together. <3

  20. We’re past FIRE, but still have separate allowances we call ‘Sunshine Funds’. There was one step beyond FIRE for us – estate planning. 99% of our assets were put into separate trusts to protect the $$$ in our passing, so that we pass the max to our son. Our net worth is very little, but we are trustees on each other’s trusts. It’s a good thing to look into, or you’ll end up like Prince. ;-)

    1. Oh, amen to good estate planning! We haven’t done the full trusts yet just because of time, but we do have estate docs in place and are huge proponents of that! So, so important not to leave things behind with no directions, especially if you have sizeable assets you want to see distributed a certain way!

  21. I love how you draw out that your financial management systems have changed a lot over the years. We’ve found in our short period of somewhat sharing finances that it took a while to find the right solution – the first one wasn’t always the right one.

    Ugh with the questions of why we have different last names and that I don’t go by Mrs.! There are so many financial logistical decisions to make that go along with getting married, beyond just one pot vs allowances vs separate. I’m still not convinced that naming each other as beneficiaries was the correct answer – we’d probably prefer that one of our parental sets gets more money than the spouse to be honest. We’ll figure that out further in estate planning as transferring retirement accounts to a spouse is SO much smoother than to parents or siblings.

    We’ve found that not all banks will do legit “joint” credit ownership – most will only do authorized users and not all will even give the authorized user any online banking access (cough Chase). I kid you not that a Chase customer service rep told my husband to just give me his entire username and password so I would have online banking access to the credit card that was showing up on my credit report. /headdesk

    The equality section is something that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. Right now, one of us has more in assets than the other by a decent margin and the other has more income. We’re in the same industry, with the exact same degree from the same institution, yet one of us makes more money. (Can you guess which gender is now making the more money?!) As much as I would like to keep some things separate, what would we do ten years down the road if his assets eclipsed mine on the basis of him experiencing a less hostile work environment? Those are factors outside of both of our control. Yet the one of us with more assets is also the one who is more likely to receive an inheritance. So many feelings here that we are currently working through! Sitting here and realizing that with paying taxes jointly going forward, it’s like all of my income is taxed at in 33% tax bracket. It makes taking some fun or lower income career pivoting jobs seem silly, but at the same time, so key for pivoting one’s career. And if we keep income separate, how do we attribute who pays how much of the income taxes?

    It is so, so, so motivating looking at our net worth jointly in some respects beyond the fact that getting married made us millionaires ;) My condo equity is about 50% of my net worth individually, but more respectable jointly. His investments split is about 2/3 taxable 1/3 retirement, while mine is 90% retirement 10% taxable, which combined together, make for a good balance. I’m more risk averse and have a ton of cash on hand, whereas his portfolio is at 90% stock index funds, 10% bond index funds. Before we moved in together, he was paying more per month to rent his apartment than my mortgage P+I, property taxes, HOA dues, and maintenance added up to, which meant him moving in gave him an even bigger shovel to save and invest.

    Together, we are a far more powerful team than apart. I just don’t want to lose my “extra” assets by combining without enough thought.

    We’ve thought through the question of what would we do if I could retire earlier than him and honestly the answer is that I would because he loves his job enough that he doesn’t want to retire any time soon. For now, that’s a reasonable answer and he still has a great savings rate even though he doesn’t want to retire early. I do think though that if I retired early, he’d want to join me! (To be fair, he’d likely only be 2-3 years behind me, not a decade like someone else suggested.)

    Ack clearly I need to keep working on my posts about married finances as this comment is almost a post in itself! :)

    1. To be fair, the decade remark in my comment wasn’t intended to be my own personal suggestion. I took it right from the blog post where she mentioned that she would be a “decade or more away” if they weren’t working together on their financial goals. The thought of that scenario is something that depresses me, particularly as someone who would want to retire early with a spouse rather than alone.

      If both people are on more the independent side and one person loves working more than the other, that’s perfect for that situation and not at all a depressing thought.

      You have done a phenomenal job over a relatively short period of time – based on recent your comment on J$’s post and certainly when you are in a position where where the sets of in-laws are in different financial spots, and if their could be expectations of financial support or desire to leave a bigger gift behind, and different inheritance potentials, that’s a lot more complexity and it definitely shouldn’t be a decision that you rush.

      1. You guys, it warms my heart that you’re talking amongst yourselves here on the comments. :-) And heck yeah, it depresses me too that I’d have to work another decade to be solo FI! Booooooooooooooo!

    2. We have definitely continually evolved in how we manage this stuff together, so I’d expect that that could happen for you guys too. On beneficiaries, you can always leave each other instructions to give money to your families — that’s what we do. And our parents are our contingent beneficiaries. But Mr. ONL knows to take good care of my dad if I can’t, and I trust that he’ll follow through on that. :-) All of the stuff you raise is super important to be thinking about, and how you handle it depends totally on what makes you both feel comfortable and secure, but also still working together as a team. We know some people who came into their marriages with assets (unlike us!), and they did prenups that said basically that anything they came in with was theirs to leave with, but then they treated everything new they made when married as fully joint. I don’t know if that’s right for you guys, but it would solve some of the questions like who pays what share of income tax, and whether you can take a lower-paid job to pivot to something different. As partners, you clearly support each other emotionally, so there’s a certain logic to supporting each other financially as well. :-)

      1. We originally planned on getting (legally) married at the point where my husband could comfortably buy into the condo without using all of his savings AND where we would be comfortable combining all future income going forward. Unfortunately we’re not there yet as we want to be fair to both parties – we feel it’s unfair to make my pre-marital assets separate property but then my husband’s higher income community indefinitely. I think we will likely start with a system where everything is separate except what we put into joint accounts and over time, put more money into joint accounts as we become more comfortable with this. He joked that assuming that we’re still married at 60, then we don’t really care where we spend from out of our retirement accounts! I somehow think it’ll be before 60 that we want to combine things more fully but that’s also how we discussed marriage (we had agreed we’d be married by age 37 or so LOL).

        1. Haha — So funny how things change! Good luck figuring all of this out — you have some big questions to wrestle with! And I suspect it all feels big and overwhelming right now, but it will all be second nature in no time. :-)

        2. Yup! And you know you married the right person when these questions aren’t stressful to handle, but are simply intelligent discussions weighing the various options :)

  22. Thanks for sharing. This is a very interesting topic as it’s not one size fits all and everyone’s situation will be different.

    I’m not married but my girlfriend and I like to have a plan so we have discussed how similar topics would play out. One of us has a much higher income and assets mainly due to starting their career earlier. One wants to FIRE ASAP (can you guess which that one is?) and the other enjoys their career more and might want to do it longer as it is extremely flexible right now and can be done from anywhere.

    At the end of the day I think it will be better to just combine, but we’ll see where we come out if we ever decide to make the big leap.

    1. I’ll be curious to know where you guys land on combining vs. keeping things separate if you ever take the “big leap.” ;-) And yes, I can probably guess which of you is itching for FIRE. Hahaha. Either way, it’s great you guys are thinking about this stuff and developing plans! Communication is by far the most important part of any system, as you well know.

    2. My husband admitted last night (at last!!) that he wants _to be able to_ retire early even if he doesn’t want to _actually_ retire early. Gold!! It goes along with his ideal world of not really needing to plan anything because he would ideally owe $0 in debt and not be tied financially to any job.

  23. We don’t have combined finances, and I doubt we ever will. Right now, our take-home pay is almost exactly the same (last time I checked, I think we were within about $500 of each other!), but this is likely to change in the not-too-distant future as I progress in my career, due to the nature of our chosen professions. For now, we’ve split our income and expenses in a way that balances with our personalities and income. I have very stable, consistent income and a tendency to be a bit of a control freak, so I cover our fixed expenses, while he has variable income and is generally more flexible, so he covers our variable expenses. The totals for each type of expense work out to approximately the same each month, so we’re essentially splitting 50/50 without itemizing and actually splitting each type of expense. We check in with each other before making major purchases, but that’s out of courtesy, not any sense of policing the other person’s choices. For us, not combining our finances forces us to actually talk about them and make decisions together, rather than one person taking control of the finances and the other having no responsibility or involvement (see my above-noted control freak tendencies…). I’ve paid his taxes and he’s paid for some of my graduate courses, it all just depends on what financial position each of us is in at any given time. It hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows, but the fact that some situations have been difficult to deal with means that we’ve had to find ways to communicate with each other and address problems effectively. And in the end, communication matters a whole lot more than whose name is on what bank account(s).

    1. What matters most is that you have a system that works for you, and it sounds like you guys have that! If you know that about yourself that you need to have control of stuff to a high degree, then your system makes sense — especially since keeping things separate possibly (?) allows you to keep a buffer from making each other crazy with the control freakiness. (Said from a place of love: I tend in that direction, too, and I know Mr. ONL is not a fan of it. So sometimes having a buffer from my control freakiness for his sake is a good thing.) ;-)

    1. Thanks, Mackenzie! Of course, with the current change of the seasons happening, I’m reminded that cold is less fun than warm, and possibly rethinking the whole endless winter thing. Hahahaha. Just kidding, but Brrrrrrrr!! ;-)

  24. I couldn’t imagine not having combined finances. We’ve been married for over 20 years and we’ve always had joint accounts. We also never felt the need to have allowances. Our financial goals are common and our spending habits are pretty similar. So any large purchases are discussed and we trust each other for any discretionary spending.

    Regarding the multiplier effect, it just so much easier for us to consider the cumulative sum of our accounts and how they are steamrolling ahead towards our financial independence goals.

    We currently make about the same salary, although some years Mrs. Need2Save gets a better (much better!) bonus than I do. When our kids were young, Mrs. Need2Save stopped working entirely for around six years. Since returning to work, initially part-time and then transitioning back to full-time, her salary has risen quickly. If you are interested, we have a post on our site (Deciding if One of You Can Stay Home With the Kids) sharing our experience.

    We married rather young, so we never had any assets of our own before getting married. We also only had minor individual debts (e.g. small school loans, similar car loans), so it wasn’t like one of us was carrying the majority of the debt. Perhaps that simplicity made it natural for us to combine finances right away.

    1. It’s so great that you guys have a system that works for you! It sounds like it helps a lot that you lucked into finding partners who have similar goals and spending habits, as well as fairly comparable earnings (at least at the moment) — all of those factors for sure simplify things! And yeah, that multiplier effect is pretty darn great, isn’t it? ;-)

      Also, just an aside, but it’s wonderful to hear about a mom going back to work and having her salary quickly rise — so often you hear about moms being penalized, so your story is refreshing. :-)

  25. Some have wondered why others’ finances aren’t mingled, and as someone who is married and doesn’t have combined finances, I can tell you that a huge part of the equation might be age. I was 37 and my husband 45 when we got married a few years ago. I’ve been on my own since I was 18 and so has he. That’s a long time to be on on your own and used to doing things your own way. Also, if you buy into astrology at all, we are both Cancerians–private Crabs! :) However, as I told Mrs. ONL on Twitter, it’s something we have discussed and that I in particular have thought about a lot. I think I am going to propose a baby step–that we at least get a joint savings account–and then go from there. It doesn’t help that my income is steadier and higher (although due to a layoff, I’m not making nearly what I was a few years ago), and I think my husband is sometimes embarrassed that he doesn’t always make what he would like to.

    1. That’s a great point, Bonnie! I think being different ages, being in very different places financially, or bearing some earlier money scars could all be plenty great reasons for keeping things separate. I think your baby step idea makes tons of sense and will let you test out how it feels, and then decide what to do or not do next. :-)

  26. I’m just starting on this combined journey (9 weeks married!) and have a lot of the same thoughts. Same team, same goals, so should combine everything. We will probably keep our existing checking accounts though, so it was interesting to hear you eventually stopped using your personal accounts.

    1. We actually DID keep our separate checking accounts, but really just use them for one specific purpose, which is to hold onto work travel reimbursements so we have the money to pay those credit card bills without confusing our overall cash flow situation. And we’ll probably keep them for early retirement, too, just because — BUT we also know that even though they’re listed as individual accounts, legally that money is still all joint money. (Divorce courts don’t care whose name is on what unless you have a prenup, so some of the “separate” stuff is a fallacy anyway.) As for why we stopped using the separate accounts, it just came down to simplicity. It was a pain to always have to ask each other questions about covering different things, and much easier if we could both see the whole view at any time. We’re both involved in our finances in a hands-on way, so full transparency all around is very helpful. :-)

  27. This is such a great post, not because we’re doing exactly the same thing :), but because you show how it is better as a team than individually. Our results would probably be similar and I have to agree that working on a team effort instead of working on individual goals makes for better accountability.
    Importantly, it also leverages each individual’s personal qualities. My wife does awesome travel optimizations. I do better on house stuff. I help her with her stuff, she helps with mine, so we basically create synergies in our own couple’s finances.
    Sounds a lot like M&A talk, but I think that’s the best analogy I could find :)

    1. That’s a great point about personal qualities! We’re complementary in that way, too, and just energetically. Mr. ONL is more of a calm, steady presence, and I’m more excitable, which makes a good team for moving forward on finances — we’re sort of both the tortoise AND the hare. Hahahah. ;-)

  28. Yay for combined finances! If we divided everything 50/50, we wouldn’t be able to afford as many ‘extras’ that we love such as travel, personal development books and conferences, etc. Sometimes I wish we did divide things 50/50 since we would be closer to FI with all of the extra savings. We’d also avoid some of the negatives you mentioned like the higher earner feeling like they have to work to keep up the lifestyle and the lower earner feeling discouraged. At time same time, we spend most of our extra money on learning opportunities and travel which have strengthened our path to FI and improved our quality of life.

    1. I hadn’t considered the point that splitting 50/50 instead of thinking of the money as one pot could artificially constrain spending for the higher earner and enable more spending — that would be assuming that that extra saving would be shared, so kind of a hybrid model there. Speaking of spending on travel — I’ve been loving your photos lately! You’re making me want to spend MORE on travel. ;-)

  29. I agree, combined finances have been key for us as well. Although our situation is the reverse of yours – I’ve always significantly out-earned my husband, and he’s currently a stay at home dad – I can’t imagine treating our finances and goals separately. We combined them 15 years ago when we first got married and have kept them together ever since. I feel that looking at them as a whole helps us see how close we are to meeting our ultimate goals of mortgage freedom, financing three college educations, and FIRE. Plus it keeps both of us involved even though I’m the money nerd. :)

    1. It warms my heart to hear stories like yours of the woman being the primary breadwinner! :-D <3 I love that combined finances have helped you get to your goals — and your point about being able to see the progress better that way is a really good one too!

  30. We don’t live together yet, but we approach things similarly. We earn roughly equal salaries, but she’ll have a new job soon and we don’t know what that will be. My income is anticipated to rise as well. We take turns planning and paying for dates. Everything about the date is a surprise for the other. When not on official dates, we often split 50/50 no matter who ordered what. We also share food and happiness at each other’s joy for eating something delicious. When I had an emergency trip home, she was there to offer support. When she needed to get to her family immediately, I was right there to support.

    If she agrees to marry (do it, beautiful), I don’t know if we will fully combine just because we love our respective banks. As the one who is better at detail, I’ll be in charge of the bills and she’ll just pay me back, which is what we do now. Venmo is really helpful. I know that her current job is really stressful, so I take care of some things on her home-front and she’ll refund me the money eventually.

    1. That sounds so romantic how you handle dates — how fun to have regular surprises like that! I trust that you guys will figure out the best financial arrangement that makes sense for you when the time comes. The question of who handles what is an important one, as is the question of combining.

      1. I’m sure we’ll figure something equitable out that makes the handling smooth and plays to our respective strengths.

        It’s really wonderfully romantic. I love it.

  31. I don’t see myself marrying within the next five years (not even dating anyone right now) and although I just started working this year, I’ve been quite focused on saving and FIRE by my mid to late 30s (long education track, I’m 25). So I anticipate that by the time I meet my husband I’ll have significant savings and assets already…with a very particular time-delineated goal. Not sure how that will pan out in terms of combined finances (my preference) if he isn’t on the FIRE path as well/willing to come on board/a saver/in LOVE with his job. Being older and having saved so hard by then will probably make me wary of joint finances with someone without similar goals and money attitudes, even if he is fiscally responsible in other ways…

    Guess only time will tell. This was such a thought provoking post, thank you!

    1. You should definitely check out Leigh’s blog: https://leightpf.wordpress.com/. She recently got married, and though she and her husband are both in their 20s, they came into the marriage with sizeable income and assets that are making the combining of it all a sticky affair… and she’s blogging all about it!

      I think it’s a super interesting Q of what to do if you have drastically unequal assets — I could see not wanting to jeopardize your own FI status, OR I could see wanting to help give your new spouse a big boost up to join you. I’m sure a lot will depend on the person!

  32. Thanks for this interesting post! We use a hybrid approach: while we have a shared mentality / goal toward the future, we do have some separate accounts, which means we have a lot of tracking tools in place to maintain visibility into our money!

    It’s not super efficient, but it works for us.

    I also wanted to add to the comments discussion that even though your assets would be divided in a divorce, there are all kinds of situations that could occur between a blissfully happy marriage and a divorce – and a desire to access some of your finances independently doesn’t necessarily mean you’re planning for your relationship to fall apart.

    1. You’re welcome! I think whether the accounts are physically combined matters less than whether you’re open about all of it, and it sounds like you are. So hooray!

      Great point that wanting to keep things separate to some extent does not mean you’re planning for a divorce!

  33. I am grateful that my wife is with me on the early retirement bandwagon but you can see how different goals could cause friction. I am a high saver trying to save 50% of my income but that’s just my own goal. Mrs. Xyz is more about spending first, savings whatever is left while I am more about automating my finances and spending what is left. We both have our ways but we do share a common end goal.

    I think that the main thing is communication, if you talk together about your common goals and strategies to reach those goals, then you should be fine.

    Both of us never were inclined to carry much consumer debt. Before even meeting each other, we both had a great credit score and never carried credit card debt. I used margin to invest in the past and always had a line of credit for day to day unexpected expenses but I keep both of those at a zero balance now.

    For rewards and practicality reasons, we try to use credit cards for all our purchases.

    I don’t think there is any right or wrong way to do this but we decided to not combine our finances entirely. We have separate checking accounts for all our day-to-day and have goal-allocated savings accounts.

    We share a home together and both share those expenses with automatic transfers. The mortgage and the bills are all automatically shared and paid from both our checking accounts each month. For all the other non-recurring things, we try to share week by week. I pay the groceries, this time, you pay the next kinda thing. It’s not a perfect split to the dollar but we don’t need it to be.

    We do most of those trips with credit card rewards points and for all the rest, we save for our common goal in a joint savings account to earn a bit of interest along the way until departure.

    We now have automated our investing and invest the majority of our portfolio in index funds with Vanguard. Our investments are not joint simply for tax purposes. Registered accounts are associated with only one name and we can greatly decrease our taxes keeping it that way.

  34. I am grateful that my wife is with me on the early retirement bandwagon but you can see how different goals could cause friction. I am a high saver trying to save 50% of my income but that’s just my own goal. Mrs. Xyz is more about spending first, savings whatever is left while I am more about automating my finances and spending what is left. We both have our ways but we do share a common end goal.

    I think that the main thing is communication, if you talk together about your common goals and strategies to reach those goals, then you should be fine.

    Both of us never were inclined to carry much consumer debt. Before even meeting each other, we both had a great credit score and never carried credit card debt. I used margin to invest in the past and always had a line of credit for day to day unexpected expenses but I keep both of those at a zero balance now.

    For rewards and practicality reasons, we try to use credit cards for all our purchases.

    I don’t think there is any right or wrong way to do this but we decided to not combine our finances entirely. We have separate checking accounts for all our day-to-day and have goal-allocated savings accounts.

    We share a home together and both share those expenses with automatic transfers. The mortgage and the bills are all automatically shared and paid from both our checking accounts each month. For all the other non-recurring things, we try to share week by week. I pay the groceries, this time, you pay the next kinda thing. It’s not a perfect split to the dollar but we don’t need it to be.

    We do most of those trips with credit card rewards points and for all the rest, we save for our common goal in a joint savings account to earn a bit of interest along the way until departure.

    We now have automated our investing and invest the majority of our portfolio in index funds with Vanguard. Our investments are not joint simply for tax purposes. Registered accounts are associated with only one name and we can greatly decrease our taxes keeping it that way.

    1. What matters most is that you guys both feel really good about your arrangement — and it sounds like you do. So high five! ;-) It’s also possible that you will get closer together on your individual goals over time — we for sure have. And as for your day-to-day funds management, it sounds like you have a system that is clear and working well, so no need to change that — especially if you’ve found some ways to optimize taxes that you’re happy with!

  35. Loved this post! The majority of my married friends do not combine their income. My ex was against it as well, but he also had secrets. When there are no secrets, there is no reason NOT to!

  36. Reblogged this on juantetcts and commented:
    Great post about married couples combing incomes to get further, faster! Most of my married friends have separate accounts, I will always be an advocate of joint accounts. If everything is not joined, why get married?

  37. Great post!! My partner and I had the same issues regarding uneven incomes. From the sounds of it you guys have pretty much been on the same page since day 1 and you’re both pretty financially savvy. I’m an accountant and she’s a dance teacher so there’s a bit of a disconnect when it comes to saving money for the future but we get there in the end. I think it’s about aligning your goals and understanding that there might be different priorities in life for both parties and evolving your financial strategy to suit both. Funnily enough we’ve played around with the idea of having separate allowances but never actually did it because we thought it would be a step in the wrong directing for us.

    1. We definitely haven’t always been on the same page, but we’ve generally had the same life priorities, which helps a lot! I totally agree that aligning your goals has to come first, and the rest follows from there. Saving just to save seems very pointless if you have no big goals behind it all, and a clear vision for how you reach those goals. And totally agree that you have to be willing to evolve to suit both partners.

  38. I love this topic. It’s always so fascinating to see how other couples manage their finances… there are so many choices! We fell backwards into early retirement, but got married late. OK, long story – we were friends for 10 years, dated/lived together for 10 years, and have been married for 8 years. We did not officially combine everything until we got married, and we did that with a joint “household” account. I am the primary money tracker/manager/geek and always have been (hubs gets bored because the math is too easy for him!) We’ve always discussed large purchases and goals, but he mostly lets me do my thing. Since we aren’t spenders, the money just kept piling up.

    For most of the time we’ve been together, I’ve made more, but after I changed jobs 5 years ago, he caught up and surpassed me. Also, I had a house when we started dating (we still live there, but it is paid off now). We just paid for whatever out of whoever’s account was most convenient for 10 years! We almost didn’t get married; we were combined in all other ways really and it didn’t seem important. However, it has helped with insurance and other details. We paid a huge tax penalty for marriage as two earners with similar high incomes until I retired in 2014.

    Sorry this turned into such a ramble! In the final summary, our combined finances really helped us see that an early retirement was possible and was what we wanted. Hubs is still working because he loves what he does and won’t be joining me for 3 more years.

    1. I love reading the story of your evolution as a couple on your finances! We were similar for a while — whoever had money paid for stuff, at least after I got rid of my initial debt. But it sounds like you guys have found a system that works for you, which is the important part. And I think it’s totally fair for people in a couple to retire at different times if that’s what you want, which it sounds like is true for you.

  39. Thank you for this post.

    We have a blended family. Second marriage for both of us. He brought a daughter and I brought two. We had a son and daughter together. We celebrated our twentieth anniversary this summer!

    We are now totally joint on everything but it took a looong process to get here. People site money as a leading cause of divorce for a reason, lol. His paycheck goes into a credit union where our mortgage used to be (until we crushed it, high five!) and I pay the bills out of that account. My paycheck goes to a different bank where our self-directed investment accounts are held since we are able to live off one paycheck. We use points credit cards for pretty much everything and pay them each month.

    We met at work in a union job with identical wages (same job title in a factory setting). We both went into the oil and gas industry about twelve years ago with different companies. I have always made the same or more than my husband, my last job I made a lot more but it was a very high stress role. The jobs we have now we make almost exactly the same again.

    I have been very lucky not to have been subjected to wage disparity between me and my almost exclusively male co-workers. I wonder if it is because instead of business suits and a briefcase my work attire is coveralls and a hardhat. That being said the welcome mat has not always been put out and I am usually the only chick in the room. It’s not so bad though, there are not a lot of six figure jobs out there for a woman (or man) separated and going through a divorce with two kids at twenty-two, the age I would have graduated if I had gone to University!

    Sorry for such a long comment on such a old post this one hit me in a lot of feels. I can’t believe so many women make less in the same fields as their husbands.

    I have less than a year to catch up for my virtual medal!!!! Although I would prefer a gold star if that’s okay.

    1. High five on crushing that mortgage, indeed! :-D Thanks for sharing your story, Angie. I keep comments open on the old posts for exactly this reason, so no apology necessary! ;-) And yes, you get a gold star, gold medal, whatever you like! Hahaha.

      Kudos to you for taking on so many roles in male-dominated fields, and for all the badass financial stuff you guys are doing! Keep up the awesome work!

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