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Area couples prefer separate accounts, poll says

Couples in the Boston area have declared their financial independence — from each other.

A study by New Jersey-based TD Bank found that 41 percent of couples in Greater Boston maintain separate checking accounts so they can indulge themselves without dipping into the household accounts.

The survey found that couples here and across the United States maintain a joint checking account for the obvious household expenses: mortgages, groceries, utilities, and other bills.

But when they want to splurge on themselves, for a spa treatment, a daily dose of the venti caramel macchiato at Starbucks, or behind-home-plate seats at a Red Sox game, they spend from their individual accounts.


Perhaps unwittingly, such independence may be good for the relationship, said financial planner Lisa J.B. Peterson.

The founder of Lantern Financial LLC in Boston, Peterson said the usual household financial endeavors — saving for a new house or for children — can be tedious and trying on a couple, and having their own money to spend without question is a necessary outlet.

“If they put everything and all their effort into whatever goal they have at the moment, it’s a greater likelihood they’re going to burn out and take it out on each other,” Peterson said.

“Independent accounts are important to the joint success.”

TD Bank surveyed 1,140 consumers around the country — and not just its own customers. Nationwide, it found that most respondents kept separate checking accounts out of habit or because they felt the money was theirs alone — not their partner’s.

And in Greater Boston, 28 percent of the respondents said the individual accounts were specifically for personal spending or for emergencies; nationwide some 20 percent cited those reasons.

In Boston, where the economy is driven by high-paying industries such as medicine, technology, and financial services, many individuals enjoy spending at their discretion, and that’s probably a hard habit to break after they get married, said Mark Crandall, the regional president for Southern New England at TD Bank.


So while they’ll set aside money in a joint account for bills they accumulate as a couple, more Boston consumers are deliberate about maintaining individual accounts for their own spending, Crandall said. “They’re a very educated consumer,” he said.

TD Bank also found that younger consumers aren’t waiting until they marry to open a joint account. Almost 9 out of 10 consumers over the age of 55 set up their first joint account after tying the knot. But for those under age 35, only 70 percent wait for wedding bells before merging their money.

According to the survey, 26 percent of younger couples opened joint accounts when they were living together.

Peterson, the financial planner, said that many of her younger clients are waiting longer to get married. And by the time they move in together, they have established financial routines. In fact, many don’t know how to share the financial burden of running a household, she said.

“People don’t know how to set up financial house together,” she said. “You have your experience you had growing up from your parents. But for most younger people these days their situation may be very different, and coming together very differently.”

Still, money is among the top reasons why couples divorce, so getting that financial partnership right is key to ensuring a happy marriage, Peterson said.


Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at deirdre.fernandes@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @fernandesglobe.