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Does having separate bank accounts prevent divorce?

Traditionally, marriage means merging two separate lives into one shared life. In the past, this included sharing most things - home, car, bank account, credit cards, maybe even each other's socks.

Today, however, a new study finds that more and more married couples are keeping things separate - at least financially. According to The Atlantic, younger generations, specifically the "Millenials," are more likely than previous generations to keep separate bank accounts while married. In fact, nearly one in five spouses don't even know their partner's salary.

Knowing that money problems are typically the source of many marital fights and a leading cause of divorce, this new trend begs the question: does keeping separate bank accounts mean less divorce?

Why young couples are keeping their financial autonomy

The Atlantic study cites several anecdotal reasons Millenials are choosing not to commingle their assets following marriage, and the research seems to back it up. The following summarizes their findings:

  • Cohabitation - Millenials are getting married later, which means they often live together before they say "I do." Consequently, most are simply used to keeping separate accounts. Opening a shared account and moving money into it seems like a huge hassle.
  • Independence - Some people identify having their own bank account as a sign of their independence. Though happily in a relationship, being able to cover some of the bills or pay for dinner out of their own pocket makes them feel like they're contributing something tangible to the relationship.
  • Feminism - Many couples indicated that joining finances blurs the lines between who makes what in the relationship, and this could result in adhering to outdated gender roles. At a time when 47 percent of the workforce is female and women are fighting for pay equity (among other things), the fear is that joining finances would mean only one person - the man - would eventually take over handling the family's finances.

But will it prevent divorce?

Some remain skeptical of this trend. In one study, researchers found that couples who had joint accounts actually stayed married longer than those who kept separate accounts. Some view independent financial management as a sign that partners don't trust each other or that they lack the communication skills to make a marriage last long-term.

However, researchers in this study found that many Millenials who keep separate accounts think quite the opposite. In fact, keeping separate accounts means they must trust each other more, since the family's bills and expenditures are being shared and monitored by both people.

Only time will tell, of course, whether this trend truly works to prevent marital dissolution. Every family is unique, so some couples can use this system to their advantage while it may cause problems for others. Keep in mind, of course, that unless you have a prenuptial agreement that says otherwise, any property - which includes bonuses and bank accounts - brought into the marriage is considered marital property, even if it stays in separate bank accounts. 

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