Own accounts the way to go

More Australian couples are choosing to buck tradition and hold on to their financial freedom by keeping their money in separate bank accounts.How men and women view their finances

While it’s a common financial set-up for young couples not ready to share the spoils of their hard work, maintaining detached accounts is also a tried and trusted system for older couples.

Queensland couple Adam and Renae Leishman have kept their accounts separate for so long now that they can’t imagine combining their cash.

”We still have the same bank accounts we had when we met in 1999 and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Adam says.

”We never had a conversation about joining accounts and that’s the beauty of it: we don’t have to talk about it.” Adam, a real estate agent, is the breadwinner in his family and although he says no one is keeping track of who pays for what, he pays the bigger household bills.

The Leishmans’ separate bank account arrangement even survived when Renae took maternity leave to have their children Chase, 6, and Hunter, 4.

”We know other people who have joint accounts, but we’ve always thought that’s weird,” he says.

”For us, it’s just what comes naturally. I couldn’t imagine having to explain to my wife that I wanted to pay for something with the money I earned.” Money is a divisive topic for many couples, with Relationships Australia listing financial stress among the top four reasons relationships suffer, along with communication difficulties, different expectations and values, and lack of trust.

On one hand, separate accounts give each person a sense of autonomy over their spending and savings. It can also prevent them inheriting their partner’s debts.

But maintaining separate accounts requires more budgeting and financial balancing, particularly if one partner earns a substantially larger amount than the other.

Financial planner Michael Miller says there is no financial advantage to keeping split or joint accounts.

”There’s not that much difference in terms of tax and financial strategies,” he says. ”It’s more about feelings and emotions that go with the process.

”In terms of whether to join accounts, my advice would be only if it’s going to improve your saving and spending habits.

”If it’s going to cause arguments, I’d counsel against it.”

While separate accounts give a sense of independence and financial freedom, it can come undone when one partner has to stop working to care for children, because they are injured or if they have unexpectedly found themselves unemployed. The person continuing to earn an income might be forced to pay an allowance to help their partner. Miller, from the MLC Advice Centre, says this can work if the partner receiving the payments doesn’t feel they are getting a handout.

”The words that you chose to use can be really important to how everybody feels about it,” he says.

”Instead of the word ‘allowance’, use ‘spending money’ or something less patronising.” Some employers are happy to divvy up a salary into two accounts, but failing that, internet banking allows for regular transactions.

Miller says couples without joint accounts are more common than ever. Most have successful careers by the time they meet in their late 20s or early 30s, and while they might be happy to say ”I do”, they aren’t as willing to merge their savings.

”They’ve had a good 10 years in the workforce and they’re very familiar with their finances,” he says.

”I think if the structures are right and both people are meeting their commitments, it’s a very good way to avoid unnecessary conflict.” A survey by Roy Morgan last year showed 19 per cent of Australian bank account holders have both joint and separate accounts. This reflects a common practice among couples who chose to have a personal spending account and a joint account for shared bills such as groceries, rent or mortgage payments.

The survey found 22 per cent of Australian couples only have joint accounts where all their incoming money is put into a single account.

Nelly Reffet, 32, shares a joint account with partner Sam Desmaris, 41, which pays for their utility bills, groceries, rent and daycare expenses for their 16-month-old daughter, Rose.

Reffet, a financial planning assistant, says the set-up allows her to indulge her penchant for buying homewares and Desmaris’ love of vintage motorbikes.

It has also given Reffet the freedom to launch her own small business, an interior style consultancy.

Growing up watching her parents argue over money made Reffet adamant about keeping her financial independence.

”My mum always had to justify the clothes she brought to my father, even though they both worked,” she says.

Reffet earns the lion’s share of the household income, so the couple calculate each other’s contribution to the shared account on a 60-40 ratio.

”I didn’t exactly think it was fair to go 50-50 because I earn more than him,” she says. ”We’re happy with this arrangement; it’s much less complicated.

”We both contribute to the household in a fair way and whatever else we spend, we’re not accountable to each other.

”No one feels like they’re getting robbed.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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