What's mine is mine: Spouses with separate bank accounts

Do you think sharing everything is part of any good marriage? How about finances? Have you ever considered keeping your money separate from your spouse's?

To some that sounds radical, as they believe that combining finances is a big part of becoming a true family unit. On the other hand, money is probably the most common root of problems in a marriage.

Some now say that separating finances might actually be good for a marriage. And in case the marriage ends in divorce, it might be the best thing the couple ever did.

Keeping finances separate comes down to protecting yourself, some people say. How can a spouse protect himself or herself if the other spouse controls all the money? How will the spouse know how much money they have or where it is?

One study estimates that half of married households have more than one checking account, which is an increase from 39% in 2001. The use of separate accounts may be linked to marrying later in life, the greater instance of women in the workforce, and the prevalence of divorce.

Marriage counselors are wary of separating finances. They say that it may lead to more secrecy and distrust within a marriage.

But in the modern economy, separate accounts may just be a reality that cannot be avoided. People marrying later in life may have built up substantial assets that should be protected. Spouses with children from a previous marriage may need separate accounts to pay for those expenses. And the proliferation of divorce is a reality that cannot be denied. It makes good sense to maintain some level of control over your finances for the protection of your future.

Forensic accountant Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations through her company, Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners honored Tracy as the 2007 winner of the prestigious Hubbard Award and her first book, Essentials of Corporate Fraud, will be on bookshelves in March 2008.
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