Money Smarts Blog

Adulting 101: Joint checking or no? How to manage money as a couple

Jan 25, 2024 || Paige Beswick, Branch Manager

Couple sitting at computer

Wedding season is upon us, and if you’re getting married this year, you’re probably thinking about many wedding and marriage-related things like a gift registry, photographer, rings and your honeymoon, but have you thought about a joint bank account with your future spouse?

With money stress being a reason many marriages deteriorate, it's smart to start your marriage off on the best foot possible by going into it with a mutual understanding of how you’ll manage your finances.

A conversation about finances can be a difficult thing to initiate, even with your future spouse/partner/SO, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some questions to ask your partner, and vice versa, to help get the joint bank account conversation started.

What bills do you pay, and how do you budget for them?

Some people have few monthly bills while others have many. Some people diligently budget while others simply pay bills as they come. You’ll want to look at the bills each of you will be bringing into your marriage and decide if you’re willing to combine finances and bill-paying responsibilities by having a joint bank account, or if you’d rather keep things separate.

Then, if you’re going to combine finances, you’ll want to find a middle ground for how you’re going to budget your income and expenses each month.

What are your saving goals?

Do you and your SO have similar saving goals or are your ideas about saving money radically different? You’ll want to discuss what your short and long-term savings goals are, and if they’re different from each other, decide if you’re willing to compromise or if you’d rather keep your money separate so you can each keep your own goals.

What are you willing (or not willing) to spend money on?

If you’re not the type of person who likes to drop large amounts of money on items you don’t necessarily need but your partner is, you’ll want to know this going into marriage. Find out if you and your partner are content with how each other spends money or if one of you has issues with it. If the conclusion is the latter, you may want to consider separate accounts.

Does income affect how you feel about combining finances?

Does one of you make more than the other? If so, does this affect how you feel about combining finances? If open communication and a plan for spending isn’t established, the partner who makes less money could end up feeling guilty for spending the other person’s money or even feel inferior to their SO.

Additionally, the SO who makes more money could end up feeling resentful of how their partner spends money, especially if they buy something that’s not absolutely necessary. This last question is going to take some inner reflection and honesty with your future spouse or SO, and it may lead to the decision to keep things separate for the sake of your relationship.

Now What?

You’ve discussed your personal financial habits and goals; now you need to decide how you’re going to manage finances. Your options are to keep everything separate, join all your finances, or open a joint account for shared bills and keep two separate accounts so you both can still spend your extra money as you please.

Separate Accounts

Oftentimes keeping everything separate works well for couples who have managed their own money for a long time and don’t want to share bill-paying responsibility, or for those who think they’ll take issue with how their partner spends their extra money each month.

If you think you might feel resentment or frustration with your partner about their spending habits, it would be better for your marriage to keep things separate (at least in the beginning) so you each can happily keep your own spending habits and saving goals. 

Joint Accounts

According to a survey done by Bankrate, 77% of married respondents said they share at least one bank account with their partner. Opening joint bank accounts work well for couples whose financial habits and goals are aligned. And they work well if you're tired of splitting checks, divvying up bills, and trying to figure out who pays what.

Joining bank accounts requires communication, flexibility and trust. It can provide a sense of stability and transparency - joining accounts makes it very easy to gauge how you and your partner are doing financially. You’ll both be able to see if you’re doing things that benefit or hurt your financial goals each month.

Three Accounts

Having a joint bank account for bills and emergencies, but still keeping two separate accounts for personal spending works well for couples who want the ease of paying bills from one account along with the freedom to spend extra cash as they wish.

This option gives partners a simultaneous sense of autonomy and comfort and may help avoid arguments about finances (as long as the joint account is being properly managed and funded).

So…Should You Open a Joint Account?

Ultimately, the decision to open a joint bank account with your future spouse or SO is up to you. Before you make a decision, make sure you sit down for 30 minutes and ask each other these specific questions.

  1. What are our shared financial goals as a couple?
  2. Do we have debt we are trying to pay off or a big expense we are saving for?
  3. Do we already have joint expenses and bills?
  4. Are there any money guidelines we want to implement as a couple?
  5. What will make each of us confident in sharing finances?
  6. What are our biggest hesitations on merging money?

After that, you should be able to decide if a joint bank account is right for you.

Whatever you decide, IHMVCU can help you start off on the right foot with checking accounts for every stage of your financial journey. Whether you're looking for a simple, free account or an account that earns a great rate, you’ll find the right checking account for you and your partner.

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