By Yvonne Milosevic
Until now, the Blacklight hasn’t covered topics related to romantic relationships—we’re not here to dole out that type of life advice. But we couldn’t resist sharing new research from Cornell Johnson that challenges some common beliefs about couples and money. (We’re looking at you, Suze Orman.)
A paper called Pooling Finances and Relationship Satisfaction reveals that combining finances strengthens couples’ relationships. Marketing professor Emily Garbinsky and her co-authors Cassie Mogilner of UCLA Anderson and Joe Gladstone of Leeds School of Business discovered that couples with joint bank accounts experience higher personal satisfaction and commitment.
They also found that such couples exhibited a better connection and had more positive, stable, and safe interactions. The researchers say this benefit held especially true for low-income partners who comingle their cash.
“Couples who pool their finances are less likely to break up than couples who keep their finances separate,” said Garbinsky.
They noticed couples with joint accounts used what’s known as shared language to describe their relationships on online financial forums. This included pronouns such as “we,” “us,” and “our” and fewer “I” pronouns. These couples also used more affiliation words such as “agree,” “connect,” “friend,” “kindness,” “listen,” and “peace.”
“These simple pronouns over time reinforce these perceptions of being on a team versus not,” says Garbinsky.
Pooling Finances Doesn’t Do it for Japanese Couples
The study’s authors analyzed survey data from a wide swath of population samples in the US, UK, and Japan. Curiously, they discovered a stronger association between relationship satisfaction and pooled finances in the US and UK compared to Japan.
“We suspect that the difference in strength is due to the fact that the US and UK are individualistic cultures, while Japan is a collectivist culture,” Garbinsky notes.
“Individualistic cultures tend to focus on the self and an ‘I’ identity,” she explains. Meanwhile, “collectivist cultures focus on group membership and a ‘we’ identity.”
“Because members of collectivist cultures, such as Japan, are already accustomed to focusing on significant others, their relationship may not benefit as strongly from the boost in interdependence as when couples from the US and UK pool their finances together.”
Northwestern Mutual considers two other factors as pros for couples having joint accounts. First, there’s the issue of equality. If there’s an income disparity or one partner stays home with a child, a joint account is a fair way of sharing funds.
The second benefit—a sense of teamwork—echoes Garbinsky’s earlier comment. Northwestern Mutual notes that “Joint accounts can be a good way to combine and grow your money to work toward your common goals. They can also help couples keep each other in check on spending habits.”
Garbinsky hopes their research in this area helps couples decide how to organize their finances to improve their relationships. After all, she says, pooling finances can “ultimately improve their wellbeing.”
Read more well-being research from Cassie Mogilner Holmes and colleagues in This is How Much Free Time You Need for Happiness.