Should Married Couples Have Joint Bank Accounts?

One of the most common discussions that I hear from people considering walking down the isle, or those who have already gotten hitched, is the age old topic of whether or not couples should have joint bank accounts – and whether they should share their finances.  It can be a touchy topic to discuss because it really digs down deep to the core of a relationship, the levels of trust that there is for the partners, and just how strong the relationship is.  It’s can often lead to arguments, so it’s no wonder that people often avoid the topic like the plague before they get married.  I believe, however, that it should be discussed.

Have The “Joint Finances Discussion”

It’s a discussion that my wife and I have had in the past, and to some degree we’ve not completely agreed upon.    I have always been of the belief that when you get married, two become one.   You should become one in that you share everything, including joining your finances to become  a family financial situation.  If one partner has debt, the other partner takes that debt on as well.  If one has a large savings account, you both have it now.  Everything should be shared -both the good and the bad.

My wife, while she theoretically believes in two partners becoming one, has come from a household where that hasn’t always been practiced.   One parent came from an abusive first marriage, and as a result ended up not being as trusting in a lot of things, especially financial things.  Because of that my wife learned that you need to be wary of sharing finances, and always have your own accounts and  money – “just in case”.   That belief that was engendered in her from an early age wasn’t an easy one to overcome.

Because of that level of mis-trust that she had learned from her parents, we never joined our finances completely.  We had a joint budget, family budget meetings and we had joint financial goals, however, we never actually joined our bank accounts.  We just each had our own checking accounts, and savings accounts.  It seemed to work ok, but it just left me with a sour taste in my mouth for some reason.  Probably because I felt like I wasn’t trusted by my spouse.

We Finally Joined Our Accounts

This year after we had our first child we finally had the discussion again.  We were at a crossroads in our relationship, and we’re now heading down the road of being parents, and embracing other challenges.  My wife is now a stay at home mom, and as a result we started talking once again about having joint accounts.  This time she was more agreeable to the idea, mostly I think because she has matured in the relationship and has a higher level of trust in me.   I believe now that we have joint accounts it will lead to a greater sense of unity in our relationship, mean less mis-communication about our money, and force us to have less of an individualistic outlook on our relationship – one where there is a “mine vs. yours” outlook.  We might even end up with a better bank balance!

Reasons I Think Joint Accounts Are A Good Idea

There are a lot of reasons I think joint accounts are a good idea.

  • Fosters greater unity and less individualism in the relationship:  When you join your finances, and other aspects of your relationship it means you have to become more united, and less individualistic.  I know for me remembering that I was now in a relationship where I had to think more about the other person than myself was hard.  Joining finances helps that.
  • Creates better communication about money: When you are sharing an account, you have to communicate more about what’s coming in and going out by necessity.  More communication is a good thing, however, and you’ll probably find you’re in a better financial situation as well.
  • Gives a different perspective on money:  Forcing yourselves to be accountable to the other person, and giving up some ownership of your money is a good reminder that “our money” really isn’t our money anyway, it’s all God’s. Remembering that it all belongs to God makes it easier to release some of that control for me.

Now I should also mention that I don’t think joint accounts are ever a good idea unless and until you are married.  The same goes for other financial arrangements like mortgages and loans.    I would never enter into any of those arrangements until I was married as it can cause more problems than you could imagine.

So what do you think?  Are joint accounts a good idea like I lay out, or do you think having separate accounts is alright as well? Tell me your thoughts on joining finances in the comments!

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I’m a thirty-something Christian Midwestern father of one son, and have been happily married for 9 years to my beautiful wife. I love playing tennis, shooting hoops, or taking part in the occasional flag football game. Of course, I love writing and financial topics as well, and that's how this site came into being! Check me out on Google +!


Comments

  1. says

    I agree that joint checking is the way to go for marrieds. The big advantage is more accountability to each other for finances. It also simplifies access to the funds, God forbid, should something to one of the spouses.

  2. says

    Joint for most of one’s money is fine. My wife and I are both paid into out separate checking accounts and on payday we transfer most of it into the joint account.
    Tough enough to accidentally add wrong or forget to enter a check you wrote in haste. We each keep a few hundred bucks so we can write checks that the joint account doesn’t need to.
    Last year for my birthday she wasn’t happy with this arrangement for the first time in nearly 20 years. There was a piece of artwork far too expensive to hide from me. But I asked her if she could have, would she really have dropped that large a bundle without first talking to me. She said she wouldn’t have.

  3. says

    I do it exactly like Joe (Minus about 18 years). We each have our own checking and then a joint checking that gets most of each of our paychecks (and all savings accounts are joint also).

    Not sure if it is the best way but it works for us

  4. James says

    Not a good idea if your spouse is spendthrift like mine. At-least individually you save your each bit otherwise no body would take the responsibility for money outflow from a joint account.

  5. says

    Myself and my (now) husband were living together for ten years before we married and it was’t until after we mrried that we got a joint bank account.

    I dont think it is something that anyone should be “expected” to do just because they are married… but it has definitely made paying bills much more convenient.

    We both keep separate accounts too though and our wages are paid into our own accounts. We then both transfer a set amount each into a joint accuont that all the bills are paid from.

  6. says

    I see no issue with joint accounts, especially if you’re married, but I do think some ground rules should be laid out ahead of time because there are bound to be some issues. For example, does each person need to have a separate “Miscellaneous” account form which they can spend a certain amount of money on whatever they want instead of always having to ask for permission? I think some of the more complex issues should be discussed before they ever arise.

  7. financialwizardess says

    Just came across your blog and I’m catching up on some of the great posts! :)

    Here’s what we do (and I have a similar backstory to your wife, so that may be why we do what we do, but it works for us and will probably work for most…)

    We have mine, his, and ours. Paychecks go into mine or his (respectively, since we both work). The “ours” account is our working capital for the month, everything else is swept into sub accounts, with some small amounts left in our personal accounts to spend on whatever.

    We earn disproportionate amounts, so we don’t contribute 50/50 to our overall budget, but we DO contribute 50/50 to the joint account. So things like food, gas, etc are 50/50 and come out of the joint account. We also look at his job as mandatory and mine as optional. So the mortgage is 100% funded by him, and vacations are 100% funded by me. (we have sub accounts for these goals). My paycheck also funds the childcare, extra-curriculars, extra-payments on the mortgage, etc. His paycheck covers insurance premiums, property tax, major purchases, etc. We both contribute to Roths, charity, and investments, although not always 50/50.

    In the past 10 years, we’ve made modifications as things change – kids, promotions, etc. The nice thing is that it gives us both the freedom we need to make our own decisions, and funds our lives in a manner that matches our values.

  8. eva says

    Joint accounts for some expenses make sense. However, I do think it’s important for each person to have some financial autonomy. Much like letting your spouse have friends of the opposite sex, if you truly trust your partner it shouldn’t be an issue.

  9. says

    Interesting. I work at a bank, and anecdotally would say that couples comfortable with separate accounts have fewer trust issues. They don’t feel the need to know how their spouse spends every dime, aren’t checking up for cheating signs, etc. I certainly see your points, too… and I have no idea what I’ll do if I ever get married.

  10. G.K.G says

    All depends on trust. We trust each other 100%. Money matters are secondary. We have different salary accounts, different business accounts, but we work out one major budget and spend others on minor issues. No need to inquire of those. Any one of us could pick any of the bills and pay at convinience. We have been enjoying it. Problems are one or shared, challenges are shared. Marriage without trust is no marriage! God bless you.

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