Sharing a life with someone you love is a beautiful thing. It means having someone to share your ups and downs with, someone to build a life with, and someone to lean on when times are tough. Yet, when it comes to sharing finances, navigating these waters can be tricky. Do you pool your money or keep it separate? This seemingly simple decision can have a big impact on your happiness.

According to our new research, couples who put all their money in joint bank accounts tend to be happier and stay together longer than couples who keep some or all their money apart. This research, which involved tens of thousands of couples, showed that merging bank accounts can benefit all kinds of couples, but especially those who have less money to spare.

Sharing money seems to be a good way for couples to keep their relationship strong and happy. We found in a 12-year study in the UK, which followed over 7,000 people, that couples with separate accounts had a 22% higher chance of splitting up and those with pooled accounts had an 18% lower chance of breaking up, compared to those who mixed both methods. Similarly, we find in a study that spanned 9 years and included more than 25,000 people that pooling money increased relationship satisfaction over time, while keeping money separate worsened it.

You may be curious about how gender affects this issue. Do women gain more from pooling money with their partners than men do, as some past research has implied? Our evidence contradicts this idea, showing that gender does not alter the benefits of pooling finances on relationship satisfaction. Essentially, the choice to maintain joint instead of only individual accounts appears to enhance satisfaction within a relationship for both genders equally.

Why does sharing money make such a difference? We suggest that when couples pool their money, they cultivate a sense of interdependence, leading to heightened relationship satisfaction. By sharing every aspect of your life, including your finances, you forge an unbreakable bond of trust and teamwork, fortifying your relationship. Plus, pooling money helps couples manage their finances more effectively, reducing stress and conflict.

But before you rush to merge your bank accounts, it's crucial to acknowledge that it's not the only path to financial harmony. Some couples may prefer to keep separate accounts for various reasons, such as different financial goals or values, personal autonomy or privacy, or previous bad experiences with joint accounts. The key is to communicate openly and honestly about your expectations and preferences, and respect each other's choices. Interestingly, we find that between 30-50% of couples with joint accounts also kept separate ones. This suggests that some couples may benefit from a hybrid approach that balances shared and separate finances.

However, we also caution that the research was largely based on people in the United States and the United Kingdom. Therefore, the findings may not generalize to all cultures, especially those with different norms and traditions around household financial management. This is a common limitation in psychology research, and it may be particularly important in this case, given the vast differences between individualistic and collectivist cultures in maintaining close relationships. We did find that pooling finances was also linked to higher satisfaction among couples in Japan, a collectivist country, but the effect was smaller.

Ultimately, the decision to pool finances is a personal one and should be made based on what works best for the individual couple. But it's important to have open and honest conversations about finances early on in a relationship to ensure that both partners are on the same page.

If you're considering pooling your finances with your partner, here are some of the benefits you can enjoy: you can save money on fees and charges by having fewer accounts, you can simplify your financial management by having a clear overview of your income and expenses, you can work together towards your common financial goals and support each other in achieving them, you can avoid conflicts and resentment over money matters by being transparent and accountable, and you can show your commitment and trust to each other by sharing everything.

In a nutshell, deciding to combine finances transcends mere monetary considerations; it's about forging a robust and fulfilling partnership. By sharing everything, including your finances, you can reinforce your connection, alleviate stress, and elevate your overall happiness. While it may not suit every couple, it's worth contemplating if you're committed to constructing a lifelong, blissful journey together.

For Further Reading

Gladstone, J. J., Garbinsky, E. N., & Mogilner, C. (2022). Pooling finances and relationship satisfaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 123(6), 1293–1314.

Joe Gladstone is an assistant professor of marketing at the Leeds School of Business, at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He investigates how people make financial decisions and how to help them improve their financial well-being.