Marriage is more than falling in love and wanting to be together. It’s a spiritual union that encompasses emotions, legalities, and economics. It brings together two people who promise to share themselves and everything that comes with themselves.
How much you share with your spouse says a great deal about the commitment you have to each other. Sharing a home is one thing, but how do you share money? Do you have joint bank accounts, or do you keep them separate?
Marriage and Money
Companionship is a big part of marriage. And making plans for a future together is a huge part of a strong marriage.
These plans often surround finances. The most significant conflict in many marriages is not what the plan should be, but how to get there financially. After all, bills need to be paid and retirement plans need to be made.
Unfortunately, finances can become a married couple’s focal point. And when it comes to money and how to handle it, you need to be on the same track, or there could be a derailment.
Although it’s not romantic, a discussion about finances should occur before you exchange rings. And if you’re genuinely committed to the union working, the question of whether to have joint or separate bank accounts must be at the forefront of these discussions.
When you’re discussing finances, dismiss the little voice that asks, “What if we divorce somewhere down the line? Let’s keep things separate, just in case.” That mindset is self-defeating for a marriage.
Separate Accounts: Pros
There are pros and cons to separate bank accounts.
Separate accounts promote autonomy. It’s hard enough, in the beginning, to combine households, let alone finances. Maintaining separate accounts initially can be a way to ease into marriage.
Financial independence is another reason for separate bank accounts. Separate bank accounts allow each partner to spend and save as they want. It may help a marriage if spouses don’t have to justify their spending to each other. It also avoids thrusting an individual’s debt on his or her spouse.
Separate accounts may allow each spouse to contribute to the family finances without feeling they’re being taken advantage of. Bills can be divided, with each paying for a share.
Separate Accounts: Cons
Are you sharing your life with another person? Part of sharing is merging not only the furniture and the house but merging the finances. After all, you’re not roommates; you’re married.
Autonomy comes at a price; there’s a possible feeling of isolation when you’re going it alone financially. There’s no open discussion of how the money will be spent. Who pays what bill becomes an issue.
In this situation, you’re basically running two sets of books. And if a company can’t operate that way, a marriage probably can’t either.
With separate accounts, it’s difficult to contribute to shared money goals. That makes it challenging to save for the big items like a house, children’s college education, or retirement.
The Joint Bank Account: Practical Reasons
There are some very pragmatic reasons for having a joint banking account.
The most obvious reason might be the convenience factor: it makes it easier to pay the mortgage and other monthly bills.
There’s also the legal aspect. If something happens to your spouse, you might need to have access to funds, perhaps quickly. This can be more complicated—or even impossible—if there are separate accounts.
And looking toward the future, there is a higher probability of building wealth when your finances are combined. This includes combining bank accounts.
There are also some intangible—but equally important—reasons.
Hopefully, you married because of the same value system. Why not spend and save based on those same values? When you combine your accounts and plan your money together, you share dreams, goals, and even fears. This brings you closer together.
Marriage shouldn’t be 50/50; it should be 100/100. By combining accounts, a deep commitment to the union is forged.
Having a joint banking account forces you to communicate. And communicating about the complex subject of finances teaches you to communicate in other areas. You will also have two sets of eyes on the books; this helps with communicating as well.
The Joint Account: Pitfalls
Transparency is the hallmark of a joint savings account. Yes, you can see the money, but you can also see how much a spouse withdraws for personal items. This could cause arguments.
There is a perceived loss of autonomy. For example, should a spouse need to explain why they purchase a product or service?
With a 50 percent divorce rate in the United States, there’s a vulnerability to having a joint account. Since your spouse is on the account with you, a withdrawal could be made that empties the account. There are also legal challenges when splitting assets if there is a divorce.
A Hybrid Solution
Joint or separate? One solution to the question is a hybrid system. And that is to have four accounts.
Open a joint checking account and a joint savings account when you are first married. At the same time, keep your individual checking accounts. By keeping a small individual checking account, each spouse still has money to spend on personal items. After all, it’s hard to buy your spouse a surprise birthday gift out of a joint account.
If you use this system, you may want to deposit your paychecks in your joint account. Then you can move an equal amount, or a percentage of each paycheck, to each individual account.
Pay the mortgage, childcare, and other expenses out of the joint checking account. Then, discuss and agree upon how much to move to your joint savings account.
By following this plan, you’ll keep some financial autonomy, while still working as a couple to build a future together.
The Bottom Line
Marriage is a commitment, a permanent merger. When you combine lives, it affects every aspect. This includes finances.
Communication, before you wed, is vital. Having the same values system is key to a successful marriage. Your shared values will translate into how you save and spend money.
Do you share the same values? The answer to that question may determine whether or not you share a joint bank account.
The Epoch Times Copyright © 2022 The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors. They are meant for general informational purposes only and should not be construed or interpreted as a recommendation or solicitation. The Epoch Times does not provide investment, tax, legal, financial planning, estate planning, or any other personal finance advice. The Epoch Times holds no liability for the accuracy or timeliness of the information provided.