Money represents more than a practical means of making purchases. It symbolizes independence, success, status and, when given or shared, love. Maybe that’s why it’s a common assumption that when couples cohabitate or marry, they will open a joint bank account.
But that belief is getting a generational shake-up. Thirty-nine percent of millennials said in a 2018 survey they keep their finances completely separate. Only 26 percent of Gen Xers keep their finances separate from their partner, whereas baby boomers were at 19 percent.1
Couples planning to marry or live together should have a frank talk about finances, including the topic of separate bank accounts. Those who learn to manage their money well – or create that perception for themselves – are more likely to have higher marital satisfaction, according to research from Iowa State.2
1. To maintain independence
Sharing money may help you feel like part of a couple, but you will want to make sure you have the same financial management expectations. Many couples keep separate accounts for paying bills or saving for a vacation. This way, partners avoid feeling they have to ask permission with every purchase. As an option, they may contribute to a joint account to achieve their shared financial goals.
2. To protect a partner from your creditors
Say you’re bringing a large student loan or credit card debt to your marriage. Know your spouse can be on the hook if your accounts are merged. Though creditors can’t target you for your spouse’s previous debt, they may be able to target a joint bank account. This is because the joint account has the debtor’s name on it.
In marriage, prior debt and obligations become “ours,” with both partners responsible. Accordingly, have a plan for how you’ll cover payments before saying “I do.” Maintaining separate accounts avoids this risk. You can always open a joint account later as you pay down debt.
3. To be prepared for a worst-case scenario
No one who’s about to take a leap into marriage likes to think about a future divorce. Keeping separate accounts can protect you from a common scenario where a partner perfectly, legally drains a joint account without the other’s knowledge. At a minimum, keep a separate account as an emergency fund to protect yourself if your relationship turns sour.
4. To avoid feeling stuck or trapped.
Some people say pooling their finances is like having a glue that binds you and your partner together. And that can make it hard to even think about splitting. If you’re the type that wants to always make decisions based on feelings and not finances, keep at least some money separate.
5. To help both stay on top of finances
Long-term relationships can show a tendency for one person to take the lead and become an expert in certain areas of life.3 If that area is finances, one partner could be left financially vulnerable. Should an emergency happen, you’ll be better off if you each know what bills are due or how to access retirement savings, for example. Keeping separate accounts lets both partners stay engaged in thinking about and managing money.
If you need help determining which account is right for you or your partner, make an appointment with a U.S. Bank personal banker today.