Joint Checking Accounts for Married Couples: The Great Debate Over Joint vs. Separate Bank Accounts
September 6, 2008
Whether you are newly married or you’ve been married for 20 years, the debate over joint versus separate bank accounts is a hot topic among married couples. Some couples swear by separate bank accounts, and other couples think joint accounts are the only way to go. I’ll give you my opinion over the debate, the best checking accounts for married couples, and a strategy for making the joint checking account work.
Joint vs. Separate Accounts
I have a strong opinion about this debate. I think that all married couples, new and old, should hold joint checking and savings accounts. I understand the argument for separate accounts, but when you said “I do” at the altar, you made a commitment to become one cohesive unit. You are a team, and you need to act like one. When you choose not to share your finances, you are choosing not to share one of the most important aspects of your lives. You can give me all of the excuses about how it works better with separate accounts, and it’s too confusing to share money. The reality is that you don’t trust each other, and you won’t put the time into sharing your money. Don’t settle for the compromise of spending whatever you make. Your marriage is not a business partnership, and if you weren’t ready to give up control of your money, then you weren’t ready to get married.
Responses To Advocates Of Separate Bank Accounts
“She/He spends too much money, and he/she won’t listen to me when it comes to saving money” The answer to this problem is communication and/or marriage counseling, not separate bank accounts. If your spouse refuses to change their financial habits and they are reckless with money, then you don’t have a financial problem. You have a marriage problem. You need to find common ground as a married couple, and help each other rather than get mad at each other. If you can’t communicate and resolve the problem on your own, see a marriage counselor. There may be a bigger issue that one of you isn’t talking about.
“It’s too confusing to share money. I’m afraid that we’ll overdraft on our account.” This is the excuse of a lazy couple that doesn’t want to communicate and budget money together. The solution to this problem is getting on a budget, and planning how you will spend your money each month. Set aside two hours each month to go over your budget and finances for the month with your spouse.
“She/He brought more debt into the marriage. She/He should pay it off on his/her own.” I’ve actually heard people say this before, and it makes me cringe every time I hear it. When you get married, you are coming together become one person, one flesh. You work as a team, and you help each other no matter what. If your spouse is bringing in a bunch of debt to the marriage, it’s now your debt. I don’t care who’s name is on the debt. You have an obligation as a marriage partner to share that debt.
Strategies for Sharing Bank Accounts
Our Strategy: I married a girl who is more frugal than me. In fact, she makes fun of me for the gadget cravings that I get and my weakness for spending money when we go out at night on a date. I got lucky. I never worry about her going on a spending spree with our money. She follows our budget religiously. There was no question when we got married that we would share a checking and savings account. We have a Bank of America checking account for convenience, and we have an ING savings account for short-term savings. I have a 401k for retirement, and now that she’s working, we’re going to open up Roth IRA’s with Sharebuilder in the coming months. We’ve shared a checking account for three years, and it’s been a great decision. We sit down every two weeks to go over our finances and map out what we’re going to do with OUR money, even though I was the only income producer for the past three years.
Joint Checking Account with Two Separate Checking Accounts: If you simply can’t grasp the concept of having one joint checking account, then try this method. Keep a joint account that feeds all of your income into it, and pay all of your bills through this account. Keep a separate checking account for yourself and for your spouse. Divide up 5 to 10% of your income into the separate accounts. Make a pact that you can do whatever you want with that money and your spouse can’t question you about it (as long as its legal! haha). My wife and I do something similar with cash. We give each other a certain amount of money each month called “mad money”, but instead of putting it in separate accounts, we keep it as cash. I like having some cash on me at all times, because there are still situations in life where you can’t swipe a piece of plastic, and sometimes cash speaks louder than plastic.
Checking Accounts of Interest for Married Couples
I know that i made some bold statements in this article, but I will stand by them. It was not my intention to offend you, but I hope it gets you thinking about your current financial set-up with your spouse. I am sure there are people out there that have separate checking accounts with a healthy marriage, but it is the minority. Think of this is a challenge to get you to think differently, not an attack on your current opinions. You must be on the same page with your finances, and sharing every aspect of it is part of the foundation of a healthy marriage.
This article on joint bank accounts in marriage is part of the Marriage Money Guide.
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