Why newly married couples are less likely to share their money

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The Independent Online

When modern women marry, they do not throw in their hard-earned financial independence with their new husband: they keep a separate account.

When modern women marry, they do not throw in their hard-earned financial independence with their new husband: they keep a separate account.

Newly married couples are far more likely to keep separate accounts than those who have been married for years, a study shows. Although newly married couples overwhelmingly insist their marriage is part of a commitment to share their lives, their behaviour over money suggests they want to retain a measure of the independence they had in their single lives, Dr Carol Burgoyne of the University of Exeter, said.

"Money is a mirror of less visible aspects of a couple's relationships," Dr Burgoyne told the British Association Festival of Science in Exeter. "The majority [of newlyweds have] much more separation in their finances than in the wider married population."

That may be because those in the first months of marriage have not gone through two of the key life stages of married couples, buying a house together and having children, she suggested.

But when couples do pool their finances, it is usually at the female partner's behest, the study found. "In this study when there was a joint account it had often been instigated by the woman," Dr Burgoyne said. "But there's a distinction between the everyday expenditure and the wider management of money; there we found that men tend to have more income, stay in their job when children arrive, and tend to have the last word about what happens to the money overall."

Often, couples begin to pool some finances by opening a joint account into which they would each pay a share to cover bills and rents. Dr Burgoyne drew from lists compiled at register offices and marriage fairs, and interviewed 42 couples marrying for the first time. They were interviewed separately so that they would not influence each other when answering the questions.

"It's interesting in the context of choice, which is something that political parties and everyone else is making into a buzzword," she said. "Why do people choose to marry? It's not for financial advantage; even the wedding can be pretty expensive, with an average cost of £15,000. Yet marriage is probably unnecessary, and isn't as compulsory as it used to be."

Married couples who have been together longer are far more likely to share their money - more than half pool their incomes, and only 2 per cent keep their money totally separately. But, Dr Burgoyne said, with newlyweds, "we found at least half of our sample were keeping their money totally separately or pooling just a part of it. There was a very strong sense of ownership associated with that money.

"While deciding to get married was all about long-term goals, money involved a much more short-term horizon."

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