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My Married Life: The Question of Financial Togetherness

If you had asked me about financial togetherness six months ago, I would have told you that I was in favor of maintaining a big, fat gray area. Back then, Jack and I kept all of our money separate. We each had our own bank accounts (at different banks!), our own credit cards, and split household bills down the middle. I enjoyed not having to disclose the details of each and every frivolous purchase to Jack. Not that I make a ton, but we are renovating an old house together and I do have a bit of a French chandelier problem -- thanks to eBay.

I think Jack would have agreed. Even though we knew where 95 percent of each other's money was going, we enjoyed the 5 percent that was sort of our own business. We liked maintaining a little autonomy. But all that changed three months ago, when Jack was suddenly stricken with a life-threatening case of Lyme disease. In the ICU, he was incoherent when conscious, and I worried that his high fever might have caused permanent neurological damage. It was also the first of the month, and I realized that all of his monthly bills would have to be paid. So I went through his wallet and called each credit card company and bank in an attempt to stave off disaster.

Since I had no official permission to access any of his accounts, the process was a nightmare to say the least. If I’d had a list of Jack's passwords, I could have handled it all online. If Jack and I’d had joint checking, I could have monitored his bank balances. But until Jack's illness, we'd been thinking like children. It was time to wake up and grow up. Luckily, Jack recovered quickly enough to be released from the hospital after two weeks. And as soon as he was strong enough to venture out into the world, we opened a joint checking account.

We haven't combined everything, but we have shared enough information that we can now access each other's accounts in case of emergency. To me, this was just another area where we had to step up to the next level of partnership. Obviously, we are learning as we go.

What about you guys? Do you have a contingency plan in case of a catastrophic situation? Or are you already so financially intertwined that this would be a complete non-issue?

-- Holly

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