Back in the day, one of the first things on a newlywed couple's checklist would be to combine finances. Today, that's not necessarily the norm. According to a Harris Interactive poll, half of all married couples have only a joint account; 30 percent have both a joint and a separate account and the remaining 20 percent have separate accounts only. There are pros and cons to joint accounts versus separate, and it's up to you and your spouse to determine what works best in your relationship.
Having only one account for the both of you forces you to work together as a team. It forces communication and makes sure you're both on the same page financially. Money is the main factor in divorce, so by having a joint account you're eliminating either spouse being able to lie about spending habits or getting in trouble with credit card debt. If this is the method you choose, plan on discussing finances on a regular — think daily — basis. Set a spending amount that must be discussed with the other person before the purchase is made. It can be $50 or $500, depending on your personal financial situation.
The main reason for couples deciding against joint checking accounts is the lack of privacy. Technically, neither of you has your own money and all purchases can be seen by the other. This can cause unnecessary fights, even if money is discussed on a regular basis. You may feel your spouse doesn't need to know about your daily run to Starbucks, your new sweater you got on sale or exactly how much money you spent on girls-night-out. Another con to joint checking is no longer feeling independent. Even when married, many still want to feel like an individual when it comes to their career and finances. If this sounds like you and your spouse, separate accounts are the way to go. Make sure to still communicate about finances (savings goals, vacation goals, big purchases) on a weekly basis and be fair when it comes to paying bills, with each of you paying a percentage toward bills based on your income.
As you can see, just like anything, there are pros and cons to having joint accounts with your spouse. Ultimately, it comes down to your relationship and what works best for the both of you. Some state that joint is the only way to go. Saying your vows at the altar means you are living as one unit, so joint accounts are what make sense. Others don't want to lose their sense of independence and don't want every little expense monitored or questioned. Ultimately, the decision is up to you and your spouse. Either way, communicate about finances regularly to help ensure a healthy relationship. Marriage is based on trust, so be honest with each other and always remember that you're on the same team.
Do you have a joint checking account? Why or why not? Share in the comments below!
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