The wedding is around the corner and you have booked the church, the reception hall and the music band. The dress has been dry-cleaned, the suit has been bought. The guest cards are already out. The happy couple is eager for the big day.
It is easy for such a couple to get caught up in the details of the wedding planning and overlook some of the major discussions that should take place before the actual signing of the marriage certificate.
Before they say I do the question they should first answer should be, ‘How do we handle our finances?’, ‘Separate or a joint bank account?’
Don’t get me wrong though, they should also discuss other issues too like children and where to build their home. But the question of finances is core in every marriage.
Whether you are newly married or you’ve been married for 20 years, the debate over joint versus separate bank accounts is a hot topic among married couples.
Meet Eddie and Esther Salango proud parents of twin girls. They have been married for the last three years and they have had a joint account since then.
‘Before getting married my wife and I went through some marriage counseling with the pastor, and part of the handbook we used handled financial advice. They were advocating using joint accounts and setting certain rules for easier money management” Eddie explains.
Esther says that she is happy with the arrangement “First, we both get certain allowances monthly that each of us can spend, this covers my trips to the salon and boutique and Eddie can use his to go out with the boys or to go to the barbers.”
Eddie continues to say, “we always discuss major investments and depending on their viability my wife and I can decide to either go ahead or cancel the investments. We are a team in everything.” They both believe that what they earn has nothing to do with their choice to have a joint account.
“Sometimes I feel sad when my suggestion to buy new wheels is turned down by my wife, but in the long run I know she’s doing it for all of us” he continues.
Some couples do not like to go this route because they feel they have to be accountable to their partner for every single cent they spend.
Some psychologists have advised couples over the years to have at least one joint account but for some couples this is a definitely a no go area.
Shalom a teacher has been married to banker John Murenzi for over ten years and a joint account has never been an option in their marriage.
Shalom says, “Before we became a couple, I had my own account and John had his. We separately paid bills, wrote checks, kept savings, so when we got married we just went on doing it.” They both believe this system is working and there is no need to change it.
“My wife runs the house expenses such as food and wages for the house helps and I pay the school fees and maintain our car,” Murenzi explains. They both agree that their marriage has not been affected by their separate accounts.
“I love my husband but sharing money is strange and I think it would make our marriage weird,” he explained They agree that once a while they pool their money to invest on substantial assets for their family.
“Last year we bought a house together, we both had been saving separately then we just put the money together and bought our house,” Murenzi explains.
Herbert Muhire, Public Relations officer and a youth pastor at a local church says.
“I have a strong opinion about this debate. I think that all married couples, new and old, should hold joint checking and savings accounts. I understand the argument for separate accounts, but when you said “I do” at the altar, you made a commitment to become one cohesive unit. When you choose not to share your finances, you are choosing not to share one of the most important aspects of your lives.”
In Rwanda the right to choose the kind of marriage agreement is reserved to the bride and groom. During the civil marriage ceremony the bride and groom are asked to choose whether they wish to share their wealth or to separate it. Hence when the two are at the altar the question of money is normally already resolved.
The debate of whether to have or not to have joint accounts will rage on now and for many years to come as couples choose different ways to approach the financial debate. As a couple you need to find a common ground, and help each other rather than get mad at each other.
What works for another couple might not always work for you. But the solution lies in your communication and your zeal to make your marriage work.