Should married couples always have a joint checking account?
Not always, I'd think. My first husband and I had a joint checking account, and then each had our own accounts as well. He had some compulsive spending habits, so we agreed on an amount that we each put into the joint account on payday, and that money was just for bills and mandatory household expenses (i.e. food). Any money in our own accounts, we each spent as we pleased. It seemed to work very well; he and I both respected the boundaries of the bill account, and the expenses stayed taken care of.
My husband now and I don't have a joint checking account and never have. Actually, right now, he's the only one who actually even has a checking account. He agrees that I'm better at managing finances, though -- he doesn't hold out if/when he makes some money, and won't spend any money until I say it isn't earmarked for anything else, so it works well. That said, my first husband and I were both income-earners, so it was more about a fair split. My husband is a stay-at-home and I bring in the money, so it's more about making ends meet and then occasionally indulging in some small thing for one or the other of us.
As with most things, I think this depends very much on the individuals involved, as well as the purposes for which they'd use a joint account.
I don't think it is a matter of setting rules for how every couple should run their finances.
We are all different and the couple needs to discuss between themselves how they are both happy with things working.
It is good for each to have 'their own' money that they can choose how to spend, as well as both contribute toward the bills and responsibilities of the home and family. It is not a good iudea for one to be carrying all the bills and the other have all their money to spend how they want to.
A joint account might be an idea that they can both contribute some money in to each month from their own personal accounts. And then from the joint account have an agreement how the money is spent (bills, groceries etc). However it is not essential to have a joint account for this, simple one of the possible ways to do it.
If one person in the couple is good with money and the other terrible with handling cash, then it also may determine how they run their finances. If they have a joint account and one is placing money in there for bills and the other is taking it and going to spend it on luxuries for themselves because they cannot resist sales in the shops, then it may be better to not have that joint account.
As I said, it is not a matter of 'this is how it has to be done', but rather a matter of the couple reviewing how good each is with finances, knowing their weaknesses with money etc and deciding between themselves if a joint account is a good idea
Very few questions should ever be answered with "always".
Joint checking accounts were very popular in the days of single income households. Generally speaking the husband was the breadwinner and the wife needed the ability to write checks to pay bills, buy groceries, and other things for the family. Historically the wife would ask or consult with the husband before making any major purchases or high ticket personal purchases for herself. A lot of women resented having to essentially ask for permission to buy things. It felt like being in a parent/child arrangement.
Today most households are made up of two income families. Very often they will have multiple bank accounts which may include a joint savings but not a joint checking or vise versa. Then there are some that put in a percentage of their payroll check in a joint checking/savings account the rest is deposited in personal accounts. Not many working people want to be told what they can buy with their money. Having personal accounts eliminates many potential arguments.
My wife and I have separate accounts/credit cards and each of us pays certain bills in the household. We have never had a single disagreement over money. I imagine the key to having a successful joint account arrangement would be having both people with the same "spend/save" philosophy. Even with that said I suspect there will be times when one person feels the other is wasting the joint money on frivolous things. This could escalate into a buying frenzy in an attempt to even things out.
There is no "right" or "wrong". There is only "agree" or "disagree". Ultimately the goal is to be with someone who naturally agrees with you on the major things in life! :-)
I like the way everyone else responded and have nothing more to add specific to your question. However, I have learned one thing over the past few years. I'll say, hypothetically, each of spouses have separate accounts with their own names on them (not joint accounts). Each spouse should have a power of attorney drawn up giving the other spouse permission to access that money if the something happens to the one who's name is on the account and they can't legally make transactions. A real life example is that my mom had a stroke and for almost a year was medically deemed not mentally sound enough to sign any forms for my dad to access the money in her non-joint savings or her pension plan. The only reason he didn't run into problems was because they do have joint checking and savings accounts. If they didn't have those, he may have not had enough money for paying bills, etc.
The power of attorney issue is an important one that I didnʻt think about. A power of attorney might not be enough for some banks. Here in Hawaii, Bank of Hawaii requires not only a power of attorney but also a letter addressed to the bank.
A joint account always as far as we are concerned. Whatever either of us earned just went in to the account 'The Pot' we did and still do take what is required at any time. Neither of us worried about the other using money which was required for day to day living etc..
We were / are together it just seems normal the share what we have.
You know I thought that was a necessary part of marriage until we almost divorced and he separated everything. Now I have a sense of independence and feel that the next time this happens I an prepared with my own money account cards act. He did me a favor.
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