Many couples open joint bank accounts to streamline their finances and work toward mutual goals. Historically, this was a traditional step for couples when they marry, but it is becoming increasingly common for couples to get married later in life, if it all. This change means couples may be more set in their individual financial ways, or they have more reservations about combining finances with someone who has different financial habits.
If a couple does marry in later years, according to U.S. News, they are likely to bring more substantial assets, income, and debt into the marriage. These potential complexities underscore the importance of understanding your options when it comes to choosing a joint checking or savings account, or not.
U.S. Bank offers personal checking accounts that may be established as a joint account upon agreement of the primary and joint owner/signer. When a couple chooses to open a joint account, each account holder may receive a checkbook and a debit card, as well as the ability to deposit and withdraw funds. U.S. Bank joint accounts may provide each account holder with a suite of convenient features, including online and mobile access to resources and account information. U.S. Bank also believes in giving you choices. You can choose a debit card design that’s right for you. Check out the U.S. Bank Visa® Debit Card with the Pride design.
Choosing whether or not to open a joint bank account isn’t a simple matter of whether you trust your partner; it’s about what you agree will get you both to your financial goals. Here are some ways to approach the decision about combining bank accounts:
If the only expenses you and your partner share are dinners or drinks every so often, joint accounts may not be the best option for you. Talk about how you want to approach ongoing living expenses, such as rent and groceries, or contributions to a shared savings account.
Whether you are saving for a vacation, a wedding, your first home or having your first child — establishing both short- and long-term goals with your partner will ensure that you are on the same page about what your future looks like prior to combining your finances.
Understand the individual debt you each will be bringing to the table as well. You may need to consider paying down your combined debt as a financial goal you work toward together. You don’t have to create a plan alone.
Choosing a joint account can help couples stay on top of financial goals and organize their regular spending. It can also simplify money matters in the event of illness, or even death.
Streamline bills and ongoing expenses. Paying all ongoing bills and living expenses from one account simplifies a couple’s overall financial picture. This makes it easier for a couple to see their combined spending habits and adjust for their changing mutual interests or goals. In cases like this, it’s a good idea to discuss a spending limit, the amount you or your partner can’t exceed without consulting the other. This helps avoid unexpected overdraft situations.
Promote transparency. Having both names on accounts can help couples communicate more openly about financial goals and budgets, keeping both partners accountable. A joint account also reduces the chance for secrets and misunderstandings that could more easily slip through with separate accounts.
Maintain access during times of crisis. When a couple has only separate accounts, it can make accessing funds a headache during dire times. In the event that one person becomes injured or ill, with separate accounts, their partner may have trouble accessing money for medical bills and other expenses. If the couple has a joint account, both partners will always have access to their combined funds.
Joint accounts can also minimize complication if one partner were to pass away. The other partner will retain access to the joint account without having to jump through additional hoops.
Although a joint checking account can simplify a couple’s financial landscape, it can also present disagreements on spending autonomy, responsibilities and asset ownership.
Spending independence may be limited. Compare your personal spending patterns with your partner’s, and note if you see a discrepancy in habits. For example, you may be used to spending less often to invest in higher-ticket items, while your partner is used to spending daily on low-cost items. Have a conversation about whether a joint account could end up creating more disagreements or if it could work with mutually agreed upon spending boundaries.
If you are used to managing your own money, a joint account may be outside of your comfort zone. Talk to your partner about your spending preferences and boundaries to align on a solution that works for both of you. This may mean a mix of your own personal accounts, with a combined account designated for specific bills or savings.
Furthermore, whether it’s an overdraft situation or a debt collector seeking an overdue payment, your joint accounts put you on the hook for each other’s mistakes. If you and your partner have very different incomes or habits, joining accounts may be a source of more frustration than relief.
Combining means untangling if your relationship should end. If the relationship ends and you don’t have your individual inheritance money or other assets you believe you should solely own in a separate account, your partner could attempt to claim half the value.
Understanding your individual spending habits, debt and financial goals will help you reach a solution that works for your relationship and current situation. Keeping accounts separate day to day but holding them jointly is an option, as is establishing one of you as your team’s accountant if one of you is up for the task. Any antiquated beliefs others may share with you about how finances “should” be shared between a couple are simply that: antiquated.
Reach out to a banker to help you understand your options and make the right decisions to help you and your partner reach your goals. Whether you keep separate accounts, joint accounts or a combination of both, being open and honest about what works for both you and your partner will help you choose the best option.
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