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I have some friends who have been married several years and they each have their own checking account. They think we should do the same but something about that doesn't feel right. What do you think? Is it a good idea for couples to have separate bank accounts?

In many marriages, stress builds up around money because of a "yours and/or mine" attitude. The stickiest issue, in fact, for two income couples, especially in the early years of marriage, is choosing between separate and joint bank accounts.

The question of whether money should be pooled seems to have no right answer. Some researchers have found that couples who favored pooling their money were neither more nor less satisfied with their money management than couples who insisted on keeping money separate. Nevertheless, both types of couples felt that their system was the right way to handle money.

Pooling both incomes is usually the simplest way to go. It requires fewer accounts to balance, for one thing. Also, each spouse knows what the other spouse is doing monetarily. On the other hand, pooling can lead to confusion and being overdrawn at the bank if partners are writing checks unknown to the other. The solution to this, of course, is to keep each other informed and up to date on expenses.

Whether you hold joint or separate accounts or have one income or two, be sure you take great pains to make buying decisions as equal as possible. It's also a good idea to set aside a monthly amount of personal spending money for each of you. There's a definite psychological benefit to having your own private bit of money to do with as you wish, no matter how small the sum.