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Holding Your Own Financially Gives You Power

Updated on July 21, 2016

Should Married Couples Have Joint or Separate Accounts

When two people become married, after the excitement of the wedding ceremony, they confront a myriad of financial choices and decisions. One of the main conversations you should have as a couple is how to handle money, because navigating this somewhat sensitive issue is important because financial problems can strain relationships to breaking point and have been cited as a major cause of divorce. How much debt are you bringing to the marriage? Many people do not discover the full extent of their spouse’s financial obligations until they are married. Debt brought into the marriage can be a major source of strife if not well handled. Having joint finances with someone who has a history of bad debt may affect your credit rating.

One of the main conversations you should have as a couple is how to handle money. While some couples feel that marriage is a partnership in which everything should be shared, including bank accounts, others value their independence highly. There are no hard and fast rules about the best type of account. Whatever works best for both of you as a couple should prevail. Before you get started, try to understand each other’s approach and attitude to money. This will help you identify areas where you agree or disagree so you can spot potential problems that could arise.

Advantages of separate account

Separate accounts allow each the ability to retain some independence; this it is suggested could actually strengthen a relationship. With individual bank accounts, you don't have to feel guilty about spending. If one of you isn't earning – perhaps because you're staying at home to look after young children or caring for an elderly relative – you could both keep separate accounts and the earner pays their partner an allowance. It should not be seen as a favor, but a necessity. The main earner can transfer an agreed amount each week or month to their partner's account. You can both decide on what the money should be used for..

Disadvantages of Separate account

Some couples that keep separate accounts assign expenses –you pay the rent and school fees, whilst I’ll pay for groceries, utility bills, and so on. One of the couple might fail to meet up his/her own responsibility.

Advantages of joint account

Joint bank accounts are easy to use because either spouse can access the money at any time to make payments. Even though both of your names are on the account, you don't need written permission from your spouse to access the account. This can be particularly helpful if one spouse is out of town. Having your assets in one joint account can also make your financial lives simpler, as you do not have to track multiple accounts. A single joint account eliminates the possibility of having too much money in one account and not enough in the other when you need it, reducing the chance of an overdraft. Having a joint account with your spouse can make estate planning easy if you intend to leave all your assets to your spouse.

Since most banks now charge monthly service fees, the fewer accounts you have, the smaller your fee expense. Money, money is easily pooled together, particularly that spent on shared expenses--housing, utilities, groceries, and perhaps the car(s). Doing so not only gives you more of a sense of togetherness but also makes keeping a record of these expenses much simpler.

However, you’ll need to be clear on what you consider to be a fair contribution and stick to it. Will you both contribute the same amount to your joint account, or will you pay in based on your relative earnings?

Disadvantages of joint account

Managing your money together when you’re in a serious relationship can be tricky. You’ll always have some personal goals that don’t align with those of your partner. In relationships, there may be different goals and priorities. Everyone needs some personal spending money that doesn’t have to be accounted for. The amount will vary depending on your resources and lifestyle.

One of the advantages of a joint account is that you might not always know what is in the account. Your partner could overdraw the account without informing you. If you’ve got a lot of money in savings, you might want to open a joint savings account where you’ll both need to agree before any money can be taken out. This is a good safeguard against one person dipping into the savings without discussing it with the other first.

If things turn bad in your relationship, your partner has the ability to clean out the account and take all the money, even if it was deposited by you. A joint account also prevents each individual from building up his or her own credit.

If you intend to leave your money to a different beneficiary, when you die, such as to a child from a previous marriage, joint account could make it difficult, because the money automatically becomes that of your spouse. Even if your will directs your money to a specific beneficiary, any assets held jointly will transfer according to the laws of joint tenancy, rather than your will.

When you open a joint bank account you’ll both be responsible for any debt or overdrafts so it’s vital to trust each other when it comes to money and decision-making. Avoid a situation where one of you is in sole control of the money. You should make sure you both have a good understanding of your financial situation. Teamwork is essential and shared duties work well for some families, but even if one party is more involved, both should have a general overview of the total picture. Periodic meetings are important so you know where you stand financially and can see whether you are actually moving closer toward your family goals.

Hybrid system

In this arrangement, partners contribute a certain amount of their monthly salary into the joint account to cover routine household expenses such as mortgage, food, utility bills, and so on. On the side, you each keep a separate account for more personal expenditures, such as clothing or entertainment. One of the negatives of this arrangement is you have to agree on an equitable amount to put in the joint account and how it will be contributed, whether it’s 50/50 or related to the size of your income. If one spouse earns more than the other, this could be a source of conflict.

Conclusion

There are advantages and disadvantages to joint accounts, and there are no hard and fast rules about the best type of account, the answer depends on several factors. Among them are how you and your spouse feel money should be handled, your respective spending and saving habits, and whether there are any reasons to keep your money separate. Many couples find that the best solution is to have a joint account in addition to each keeping an individual account. What’s most important is honesty and communication. Any system in which the partners are open about their money habits is a good one. With careful planning, clear communication and compromise, many frustrating conversions can be avoided and conflicts resolved. Periodic meetings are useful to review bank balances, any outstanding debt, routine expenses as well as any major expenses that need to be carefully planned for. However, holding your own financially gives you power.


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