★ Rockstar Book Review: “One Bed, One Bank Account”

Derek Olsen and Carrie Olsen

Reviewed by:
On February 10, 2017
Last modified:April 5, 2017


Meaningful conversations (having them and acting on them) help build a strong foundation for a successful relationship, and that includes having the all-important money and planning-for-the-future conversations. "One Bed, One Bank Account" can help you get started.

one bank one bank account

This is part of our Rockstar Book Review series.
Be sure to check out all previous books we’ve covered!

“One Bed, One Bank Account: Better Conversations on Money and Marriage” by Derek and Carrie Olsen

rockstar rating 3 stars
Who it’s for: Anyone who wants to improve their financial communication skills in their relationship, or at least dip their toe in the water.

Readability: HIGH. The book is a short read at 83 pages and it’s peppered with humor and stories throughout, which virtually guarantees anyone will read it cover to cover.

What I liked about it: I appreciated the authors’ authenticity in sharing their journey. They share the information via stories (both theirs and other couples’ examples, including their go-to “Bob and Shirley”—a fictitious couple based on a collage of what they’ve come across over time) and that always seems to be more effective than a pure how-to type of book. The book also left me with the feeling that some readers would get that all-important “if they can do it so can we” feeling.

What I didn’t like about it: Making the idea of combining accounts the apparent emphasis of the book detracted from some of the useful information the book contained—and this is from someone who has combined accounts with her spouse! (Note that what the authors actually mean is made clear in chapter 3.) I also would have preferred the book have more “meat”: more examples, more varied & trying types of circumstances, more about why an approach is better than other alternatives. Finally, I wondered where all their assertions came from. What were their sources, their inspirations, their background research in developing their approach? It’s difficult to tell as there are no quotes, notes or references within or at the end of the book.

Where to find it:

Amazon @ $11.83 || Free @ the library :)

“One Bed, One Bank Account” is a Fun Read on a Serious Subject That Deserves Attention

Who likes to have “the talks” with their significant other, especially “the money talks”? If I were asking this question in a room full of people, how many hands would go up? Many of us would rather go for a root canal!

There’s strong evidence that communication deteriorates over the duration of a relationship, and that this deterioration is fueled by this nasty little thing called assumptions – we think we know what our spouse thinks, likes, wants and we don’t bother to check if it’s still true. That’s why books such as “One Bed, One Bank Account” are so important in reminding us of the benefits of having these conversations, not just once but as an ongoing endeavor.

[I]f the fuel level in your car is low, it’s okay. We can fix that. But if your gauge is broken (no communication), there could be big, bad surprises ahead.
(Derek, pg. 13-14)

Derek and Carrie focus not only on some of the benefits we can derive from making the effort of having these conversations (developing a shared understanding, having common goals, etc.) but they help us understand how we can successfully have them and what we should do with the output.

Here are some of their key takeaways:

  1. The approach we take when we have money and other challenging conversations matters
  2. Rules make the process more effective
  3. The debrief and taking care of the output (including setting boundaries and restrictions) makes the desired changes stick

#1. The Approach

The authors suggest that there are key ingredients to setting the stage for a good conversation, let’s call this pre-meeting preparation. Before sitting down with your other half, it’s important to decide on the setting, date and time that will be conducive to a good conversation, including ensuring there will be enough time to do it properly. It’s also important to start the first conversation on the right foot if there are to be others, and that means coming to it with a positive attitude, including the belief that you will make progress. Finally, mutual respect is table stakes, meaning that both parties should be on their best behavior, including keeping the conversation polite and free of blame.

#2. The Rules

The approach mentioned above already includes some “setting the stage” rules (setting the where, when and how). On Game Day, it gets more specific… and it involves a coffee cup:

  • First, topics should be prioritized from most to least important, and there should only be one topic discussed at a time to ensure each one is addressed as much as each party expects.
  • Then, Derek and Carrie suggest the coffee cup method. It’s their version of a talking stick. Whoever holds the cup gets to talk. No interruptions, including body language. Only the holder of the coffee cup can pass it on to the other party, ensuring no one dominates the conversation. When the coffee cup is passed on, the first order of business of the other person is to reiterate what their partner shared and get confirmation before getting into their thoughts on the matter, which effectively is when the roles become reversed. This method is used for every topic to be discussed. No exceptions.

The other person is the listener and is not allowed to respond or say a word, yet. Nothing. Silence. No wrinkly faces or head-shaking. (Carrie, pg. 25)

#3. The Debrief and the Output

Finally, there’s the debrief and processing the output. The debrief is the gut check conversation that has you checking in on how you both feel after the conversation. There should be a sense of relief, connection, and a desire for follow up and further discussion.

Dealing with the output means doing what was agreed upon during the conversation. It could include a change in behavior, setting additional meetings to take some agreed-upon action (listing debts to set up a debt repayment schedule for example) or other follow up you’ve both agreed to. It could also include setting agreed upon boundaries and limitations to ensure future financial and relationship success. Setting these can be the ultimate show of respect to both you and your partner. After all, actions speak louder than words.

Bottom Line

Meaningful conversations (having them and acting on them) help build a strong foundation for a successful relationship, and that includes having the all-important money and planning-for-the-future conversations. “One Bed, One Bank Account” can help you get started.

Where you can find the book: Amazon @ $11.83
Where you can find the companion workbook: Amazon @ $12.42
Where you can find the author: HowDoIMoney.com

Other suggested readings along the lines of various topics Derek and Carrie explore in “One Bed, One Bank Account” include: “Money Talks” by Gail Vaz-Oxlade, “Mating in Captivity” by Esther Perel, “You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap)“, “The Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey, “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman and, for some cautionary tales, and Valerie Rind’s “Gold Diggers and Deadbeat Dads” is a worthwhile read.


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Hélène is Rockstar Finance’s Curator of Books, and Blogger at FreetoPursue.com. A perpetual student, speaker, writer and coach, you’ll often find her reading, researching or writing. She also likes travelling and hanging out with her husband and their greyhound Belle.

Last modified: April 5, 2017

2 Responses to :
★ Rockstar Book Review: “One Bed, One Bank Account”

  1. This is a tough one because I know many people prefer to keep finances separate–while maintaining an open, honest, and healthy relationship. I do prefer keeping accounts combined and separate accounts wouldn’t work for me, but it’s important to acknowledge that different relationships and marriages exist. It does seem like the book is boxing itself into a corner by suggesting combined accounts is the only way to be forthcoming with each other about money.

    1. “it’s important to acknowledge that different relationships and marriages exist. It does seem like the book is boxing itself into a corner by suggesting combined accounts is the only way to be forthcoming with each other about money.”

      I agree with the statement and find myself with a similar position. To clarify, though the title does point that way, the authors are quick to state (in chapter 3) that their stance is more about having an open conversation about the couple’s finances overall and agreeing on money decisions as a couple than necessarily having all finances combined.

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