Having separate bank accounts when married is a vital backup plan.
Having an emergency savings fund is an essential step in creating financial stability and peace of mind. Your financial backup plan will help in times of crisis and ensure you always have a cushion for those unexpected expenses. Many married and long-term couples have a joint emergency fund, but is that enough? In this article, we’re covering the vital reasons you should still have your own emergency fund, even if you are married.
Why Might a Person Need an Emergency Fund?
There are various reasons having an emergency savings fund is beneficial for you, your spouse, and any of your dependants. Expenses can arise and hit you out of nowhere if you aren’t prepared. Here are some of the biggest reasons for having your own emergency fund:
- Car, home & belonging repair – Even when you’re maintaining your vehicles, home, and belongings, they are bound to need repairs at some point.
A freak storm can leave hail damage, your car could blow a head gasket, and any number of other situations may arise that have to be addressed immediately.
- Emergency medical care – You can never predict when you or a family member becomes ill, sometimes more seriously than others.
Even a one-time trip to the emergency room can end up costing you thousands without insurance, and more serious illnesses will put further strain on your finances. It’s important to have a fund allowing you to get the care you need, should the time arise.
- Pet & Childcare – Our dependants, both of the furry and children variety, can come with a plethora of unexpected expenses.
It’s a good idea to have a backup fund for any unexpected childcare or petcare services you’ll need if you need to go out of town or take care of an issue with little notice.
- Unexpected expenses – Of course, there are always the random, miscellaneous fees that pop up throughout the year that you cannot control.
Perhaps you owe more in taxes than you had planned on, or you get a speeding ticket going to work. Having an emergency fund to cushion the blow will take some of the pressure off when these things do happen.
An emergency fund can protect you and your family from the unexpected. What about protecting yourself, though?
Having Separate Bank Accounts When Married
It may seem strange to some, but keeping finances separate is becoming far more commonplace for married and long-term couples. A 2018 survey found nearly 30% of Millennials forgo any joint finances with their spouse, and keep their finances separate (Megan Leonhardt, CNBC).
Whether you choose to join your finances with your spouse or not, it is still a good idea to have your own emergency savings fund. Keeping an account in your own name, that only you can access, is vital for a number of reasons:
- Personal Accountability for You and Your Spouse – Having separate bank accounts when you’re married can help you both keep track of your spending clearly, and see what you are bringing in separate from your spouse.
This can help you both have the freedom to spend money on the things you personally enjoy and need, as well as stay accountable when it comes time to paying bills and adding to any joint savings.
- Unexpected Loss of Income – If your spouse were to get laid off, having separate emergency savings can ensure you are able to cover the lost income.
- Funding Your Backup Plan – The last place you want to end up is stuck in a problematic or even abusive job or relationship because you don’t have the funds to leave.
While it might not seem like a situation that could ever happen to you, it is one that happens all too regularly. This article, for example, shares experiences from 8 women who were glad they had a personal emergency fund.
You Need a Backup Plan; You Need Your Own Emergency Fund
What if your boss began harassing you at work and you couldn’t stop it? What if you realized your marriage no longer fulfills you, or worse, is becoming a threat to your life? Would you have the finances to leave that job or marriage and get out of that situation?
Leaving a job and receiving no income while job searching is a luxury many cannot afford without having saved up emergency funds beforehand. And if it is a marriage you are escaping, the cost of divorce may be too overwhelming to comprehend.
While costs vary greatly depending on the situation and legal proceedings, the average cost of divorce is nearly $12,900, according to recent statistics (Fool.com). That doesn’t begin to scrape the surface of all the additional costs that come with life after divorce. Finding new housing, moving, and likely having to buy all new homegoods, will cost you far more.
Having a personal emergency fund can ensure that you always have a backup plan, even when things are going smoothly and you can’t imagine ever leaving your job or getting a divorce.
Can You Legally Hide Money from Your Spouse?
The short answer: yes, you can hide money from your spouse. While you are married, you are perfectly within your right to set up a bank account in your own name that your spouse is unaware of. Keep in mind, however, that this separate account may not stay secret, or even separate, forever.
According to Cristin Lowe Law, any financial accounts and assets must be disclosed in the event of a divorce. In fact, in some states, a percentage of the money in your separate account may legally go to your spouse upon separation. So your spouse will eventually discover the existence of this account if you do end up getting a divorce.
The important thing to remember here is that you are well within your right to have your own bank account, and keep it hidden if you wish, while you are married. Your money is still your money while you are married, and it is yours to use in any situation that may arise.
How Much Should You Have in Your Emergency Fund?
As a general rule of thumb, the average emergency fund is usually enough to cover around 3 months of living expenses. How much you will need to save will depend entirely on how much you spend for basic living necessities, as well as what exactly you are intending to cover the cost of with your emergency fund.
You may want to grow your emergency fund larger than 3-months-worth of living expenses if you want a surefire escape fund, should you need to get a divorce and move out on your own. There really is no perfect number, but having a goal in mind and consistently adding to your emergency fund will only continue to give you peace of mind.
Every marriage has a different dynamic and approach to finances. Whether or not you choose to keep separate bank accounts when married, having a personal emergency fund is essential. Unexpected situations are always going to arise, and having your own emergency fund will give you the peace of mind that you always have a backup plan, and you’ll never be stuck.
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