Q. My wife and I have always kept separate accounts, and we never really sit to talk about money. At what point do we need to make sure all our “ducks are in a row?”
— Together but separate

A. Lots of married couples have separate accounts, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

If one spouse has money problems, it can even be beneficial.

But not having money conversations at all? That’s a problem.

Ron Garutti, a certified financial planner with Newroads Financial Group in Clinton, said you should have the talk immediately, “unless you can figure out how to go back in time and do it sooner.”

He said if your system works for you, kudos to you and your wife. But he said his 20-plus years of financial consulting experience and nearly 15 years of marriage has taught him many things and one of the most important is that open communication about finances is generally better than closed.

“Take it to an extreme: what if something happened to one of you and you needed access to the other’s funds in an emergency? What would you do?” Garutti said. “On a more day-to day level, what if something one of you owns is negating benefits of something that the other one of you owns?”

He said you could be unintentionally overlapping your investments without even knowing it, perhaps having too many eggs in one basket, therefore increasing your exposure to risk.

“My wife and I had separate joint checking accounts the first few years of our marriage because we simply added the other’s name to our original single accounts,” Garutti said. “But eventually that got old and we even merged those too.”

You said you wanted to make sure your “ducks are in a row,” but Vicki Tomaro, an Investment Advisor Representative with Tomaro Financial Group in Wall, said if you do not sit down soon, “your ducks may fly away.”

“I have always suggested to my clients that they sit down as a couple to discuss their current financial situation, what their goals are and where they want to be at a certain point in their life,” Tomaro said. “There should be no waiting on this subject at all.”

Each of you may play a different role in handling the finances and you should both know exactly what is going on, Tomaro said.

You can still have your separate accounts for your own incidentals, but she recommends you have a joint account that you both contribute to for the household bills and maybe even funds your joint investments.

“We all need to have our own stash for a little independence but a couple should always work together on their finances,” Tomaro said.

Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboozled column for The Star-Ledger and she’s the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Click here to sign up for the NJMoneyHelp.com weekly e-newsletter. Like NJMoneyHelp.com on Facebook and follow it on Twitter.

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