Can you help my betrothed and me resolve a financial disagreement? We're soon to be married for the first time, and we've just run into a conflict concerning money matters. Should we have joint or separate checking accounts after we're married? What are your thoughts?
There are a few minor practical considerations that may have some bearing on your question, but generally speaking this is a spiritual issue that can't be fully resolved without reference to theology. The main point here is the meaning of marriage. Scripture says that when a man and a woman come together in the bonds of matrimony, they become "one flesh" (Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:6-8; Ephesians 5:31). "Has not the Lord made them one?" says Malachi 2:15. "In flesh and spirit they are His."
This "one flesh" union is, of course, derived from and centered in the sexual act, but its significance goes far beyond the merely sexual. In biblical language, the term "flesh" is often used in a way that encompasses the totality of everyday human life. It's about the body, to be sure, but it also includes feelings, emotions, food, shelter, economics, possessions, and all the other "stuff" people need in order to survive in this world. To be "one flesh" is to share all of this in common.
As we see it, a "yours and mine" mentality is not conducive to a healthy, happy marriage in this true biblical sense. Husband and wife are not two individuals who happen to sleep in the same bed but who lead separate and independent lives. On the contrary, they are supposed to forget self-interest and cast their lot together for good or ill. That's why so many Christian marriages include vows based on the words of Ruth to her mother-in-law Naomi: "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried" (Ruth 1:16, 17).
You can probably see where this is going. On the whole, we think you and your fiancé should affirm your commitment to this "one flesh" union by establishing a joint checking account. The sharing of your financial assets is an important part of sharing life as a whole. If both of you will be working outside the home, you can put all of your earnings into this one account and then agree that each of you will receive an equal share of monthly "allowance" money. That's the simplest way to keep yourselves accountable to one another and to the Lord. As we indicated above, special circumstances may necessitate opening separate accounts for separate things – a personal business venture, for instance. But for the most part it's best to handle your finances as a team.
If you're uneasy with this arrangement, you probably need to figure out why. You haven't given us any detailed information about your relationship with your fiancé, so we really aren't in a position to comment on this aspect of your question. We can only tell you that if two people don't feel they can trust one another, they would probably be well advised to reevaluate their marriage plans, or at least get some serious premarital counseling. It's best to bring issues of this nature out into the light before tying the knot.
If you think it might be helpful to talk these issues over at greater length with a member of our staff, we'd like to invite you to call Focus on the Family's Counseling department.
Securing Financial Peace for Your Family
Communicating About Money