One of the biggest issues that you need to consider when you marry is whether or not you should open a joint checking account with your spouse. Combining finances can be tricky, and you need to make sure you understand the implications before you go the joint account route.
Do You Want to Combine Your Finances?
My husband and I have our finances completely combined. We have a joint checking account, and even a couple of joint credit cards. We’ve never had separate finances. Of course, the fact that we got married while we were still in college helps. Just about everything we have, we acquired together. When we married nearly 13 years ago, neither of us had any real assets, and neither of us had jobs, beyond the simple jobs that come when you’re in college.
It was easy to combine our finances, because we didn’t really have finances to speak of. Other couples, though, might be in different positions. If you have already amassed your own assets, and you already have a long-standing job, it might make sense to keep things separate in some regards. If you aren’t on your first marriage, keeping some of your finances separate can make sense if one of you needs to keep money aside for child support and/or alimony payments.
Look at your circumstances, and consider your money management styles. Most couples can come up with a way to manage their money that allows them to work with whatever financial framework works well for them. In some cases, separate finances can protect one or the other from problems. If you aren’t sure that you completely agree with your spouse’s spending style or decisions, separate finances might make sense.
Figure out whether or not it makes sense to combine finances, and move forward from there.
Why At Least One Joint Checking Account Can Be a Good Idea
Even if you do decide to keep your finances mostly separate, it can make sense to have one joint checking account for shared expenses. Although there are some couples who operate completely separately, with each partner responsible for different expenses. There are some households in which there are no shared expenses at all, and everything is kept separate.
However, for some couples, it’s easier for each to contribute money to a joint account for certain shared expenses, like the mortgage payment, utility costs, groceries, and other bills. Most of your money can remain separate, but it can make sense to contribute to shared expenses with a joint account that you can both access.
Again, though, it makes sense to double-check your situation and come up with a solution that works well for you as a couple.
What You Should Know About a Joint Checking Account
The most important thing to realize about a joint checking account is that you both have legal access to the money in the account. If your spouse decides to withdraw everything from the account and take off, he or she has the right. You need to understand this before you decide to get a joint checking account with him or her.
Trust is the most important thing in a marriage, so it makes sense to only get a joint checking account if you trust your partner. If you keep some accounts separate, or if you are unsure of your partner, it can make sense to have your own accounts that only you have access to. You shouldn’t hide this fact from your partner, but you should also take steps to protect yourself. Even if you have mostly combined finances, it can make sense to have your own retirement account, and maybe your own emergency fund, just in case you need the back up down the road.