It seems like such a minor thing, and not at all what I was originally going to write about. Originally I was going to write about the impact of Hispanics in Texas. But as exciting as that might have been, the Living section of my local newspaper caught my eye. A "human interest" story, it was highlighting a recent trend of married couples having separate finances (Free Login).
Let me just say, "Worst. Idea. Ever." (Except maybe for putting Ewoks in Return of the Jedi. You suck, Lucas.) I know I may get trashed for saying this. There are, of course, a lot of different types of marriages. But some things remain true across all of them. For example, having sex with people other than your spouse is bound to cause problems. Selling the house and moving while your spouse is out of town (and unaware) is bound to cause problems. And pretending like you are two separate financial entities is bound to cause problems.
This being said, there are good reasons to keep some property separated. When one spouse comes in with significantly more assets, for example. Or when there are kids from a previous marriage involved, they need to stay protected. But there needs to be community property, and that pool needs to be large enough to cover regular expenses, unanticipated expenses, and preparing for the future. Otherwise you're not married - you're leading separate lives going in different directions.
Last summer on a business trip, I was in the hotel hot tub with other people from my company, drinking rum and talking. (Don't ask. It was business during the day and like being back in college at night.) One guy was agonizing about whether to ask his girlfriend of 8 years to marry him. I think everyone else was married - most for 5-20 years. I had been married all of 2 months. They were almost unanimously trying to convince him not to get married - what they had was good, so why change it? They dismissed my protestations as those of a newlywed in love. But when I brought up the financial perspective, they all got quiet. Who pays when you go out for dinner? Who makes more money? When you have kids, how will it work if she stops working or goes on leave? Who will pay for the kids? One of the most liberating things about being married, for me, is not having to wonder who will pick up the check at dinner or whose turn it is to buy groceries. Maybe it sounds petty. But it's a big deal, because it means we're on the same team. We have the same goals. What's good for me is literally good for her. Suddenly, gifts from the heart have more meaning than gifts from the pocketbook. No matter how much you think you've gotten past money issues, it's always there in the back of your mind.
In the article, 24 year old Lekeisha Massey, who will be demanding separate checking accounts when she gets married, says, "I don't care if I have a dusty duffel bag when I start; I want it back when it ends." When it ends. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure she's on a self-destructive course. She's got "Future Divorcee" written all over her. I guess maybe I should be happy that she at least has some idea of financial responsibility, unlike my next-door neighbor. But if you can't trust the person you're marrying, what's the point of marrying? I've always said love isn't enough to justify a marriage. There has to be a whole lot more. I mean, I love my parents, my sisters, my cat. I love me some ice cream. I'm not marrying any of them (with the possible exception of the ice cream). But I love my wife, who's my best friend that I trust with my life (including my wallet). If you can't say that, maybe worrying about joint checking accounts should take a back seat to not getting married in the first place.