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Joint Bank Account vs Separate Bank Accounts in Marriage

By Janet Siroto · February 24, 2022 · 7 minute read

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Joint Bank Account vs Separate Bank Accounts in Marriage

“Should we merge our bank accounts or keep them separate once we’re wed?”: Many couples wrestle with this decision. Recently there’s been a trend toward keeping separate bank accounts in marriage. While that millennial approach might be appealing, don’t forget that financial problems and money miscommunications can have a profound impact on one’s union. For instance, recent research found that couples who disagree on savings and investment decisions are twice as likely to divorce.

Before you spend hours worrying about making the “right” decision, we’ll let you in on a secret: there isn’t one. The decision about whether to have a joint account or separate bank accounts in a marriage is as unique as your union.

Weigh the pros and cons below with your partner, and make the right decision based on your relationship. As long as everyone’s on the same page, who’s to say you need to be in the same account?

What Is a Joint Bank Account?

Are you ready to dive into the deep end of financial coupledom? A joint bank account will help make that happen; it’s similar to a standard account, but it has more than one owner, which indicates a high degree of trust. With a joint account, you and your spouse will each fully share access to the account. Each of you will get a debit card, checkbook, and the other typical benefits that come with a checking account. A joint bank account brings transparency to a marriage, which may make some people cheer and others cringe. Everything’s out in the open, including debits (those pricey lunchtime salads? Check), deposits, and your in-real-time account balance.

Pros and Cons of a Joint Bank Account in Marriage

Now that you know what a joint bank account involves, mull over whether it’s right for your marriage. The decision will depend on a few factors. Are you starting out on equal financial footing? Are you comfortable revealing your spending habits? Would a shared account come in handy when setting financial goals?

Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of having a joint bank account when married.

Pros

Cons

Clarity: An easy, instant read on how much, as a couple, you’ve spent and how much you’ve saved. Less time needed to communicate about finances. Total transparency: Spending habits become completely visible, which can become ammo in money arguments.
Teamwork: Two sets of eyes on the account. You’re both contributing to your shared financial life and health. Loss of autonomy: You may feel as if you’ve lost your sense of independence, both financially and personally. Also, potential resentment if partners enter with unequal assets.
Convenience: Easier management of monthly payments such as mortgage and insurance. You may save on fees, too. Vulnerability: Generally, each of you has the right to withdraw the funds and even close the account.
Legal streamlining: Shared access in case of emergency or death; avoidance of court proceedings. Legal complications: More challenging division of assets if you divorce.

As you can see, a joint account in marriage offers convenience and a sense of more complete coupledom. You are truly partners in finance. It can make managing your money and shared goals easier.

However, along with this, your finances become an open book. Some expenses that you might have kept private — from pricey personal-training sessions to a surprise gift for your spouse — become totally visible to your partner.

There are also legal implications: If your sweetie brings significant debt to the marriage, your money is now mixed in as an asset should a collector come calling. Also (and we hate to mention the d-word), if you were to split, untangling whose money is whose may be a major endeavor.

Consider these factors and your comfort level. Depending on your and your spouse’s personalities, comfort levels, and financial situations, a joint account might be the right move for you.

Pros and Cons of Separate Bank Accounts in Marriage

You and your spouse may be synced up in the sports team you root for and your favorite place for takeout pad thai. But how about the way you spend and save money?

Maybe you check your bank-account balance obsessively, while your partner is more of an “Oops, am I overdrawn?” kind of person. Or perhaps you have a live-for-today approach and believe money exists to be spent. If your significant other is a plan-ahead type who schedules monthly transfers into savings, you may benefit from separate bank accounts in marriage. It can be a great peace-keeper, so you don’t argue over money.

Here’s a closer look at the pros and cons of separate bank accounts in marriage.

Pros

Cons

Autonomy: Ability to individually manage your money, which may suit your personalities and accommodate different financial styles. Isolation: You may not feel as connected as a couple when your accounts aren’t merged.
Privacy: No one else sees your spending habits and bank balance. Communication: More conversation about your financial habits and goals will be required.
Protection: Your assets may be safe if your spouse confronts debt collection , and available in the event of a death. Complexity: Potentially more time and energy needed to pay monthly expenses like rent, groceries, and utilities.
Ease: Depending on the state you live in, simplified division of assets if you divorce. Separation: Contributing toward shared money goals is harder.

Marriage is a major life transition, often with lots of adjustments and, yes, compromises required. Having separate bank accounts when wed can give you a sense of independence, control, and privacy over your finances. It’s how you came into your partnership and may well make sense to keep it going.

Keeping your accounts apart can also make sense if one of you entered marriage with, say, child support or with debt to clear up. That spouse can be solely responsible for paying that. And if one person significantly out-earns the other, they can do what they want with some of their moolah rather than pooling it. The fact that separate accounts may protect you in the event of a split is also worth noting.

That said, if you do choose to keep your dollars and cents in separate bank accounts once you’re hitched, know that communication will be key. Having regular check-ins will help you stay aware of how well each of you is managing your spending and progress toward financial goals.

Recap: Joint Bank Account vs Separate Bank Accounts

When you marry, you may feel as if you’ve been launched into adulting at warp speed. There are all kinds of discussions, considerations, and negotiations to be wrangled (Hello? Could that “So when are you starting a family?” question be any more annoying?).

Figuring out your financial life is a big decision, but remember, there’s no right or wrong answer. When it comes to whether to have a joint bank account or separate accounts, it’s all about what works for the two of you. Let’s recap the key features of each.

Joint Bank Account

Separate Bank Account

Equal access for both partners Division of accounts, which can be beneficial if one partner has debt or out-earns the other
Transparency of all transactions for both of you Privacy in terms of how each of you spends and saves
Ability to retrieve funds in emergencies Protection of your assets in case of divorce
Connectedness since your assets are pooled Autonomy because you still control your money

Still not sure whether a joint or separate account is best for you and your spouse? Consider a hybrid approach.

Both of you can keep your separate accounts while contributing to a joint account to handle common expenses such as monthly bills and future financial goals. It’s not uncommon for a single person to have multiple bank accounts, so why not try it as a couple?

If you decide to go down this route, you may want to make sure you’re clear about what the account is used for. Since you and your partner will be juggling multiple accounts and financial priorities, you may have to figure out a system for keeping in touch and on top of your money. Regular check-ins – added to both your calendars with reminders switched on – can be a good tactic.

Bank Accounts and Marriage: Setting Financial Goals

You and your spouse probably love dreaming of your future together, whether that means traveling to Bali, raising a brood of kids, or starting your own business. A big part of going from fantasy to reality is getting your financial habits and hopes aligned. Which will also make daily life a whole lot happier, too.

Regardless of whether you choose to have joint or separate bank accounts when married, you do want to set financial goals together. Here are some steps to consider:

•   Set a schedule. Pick a comfortable, regular time to meet and talk money. You’ll want to review spending and saving, and establish your long-term goals. Not only will this create good communication, it will allow you to adjust your plans as life happens — from a new car to a new baby, from a promotion to a job loss. Some married couples like to chat every week; others like to meet every quarter with an advisor. Decide what’s best for your union — just as long as it’s a recurring date.

•   Get goal-setting. Each couple has its own set of circumstances and aspirations. Air yours and create a plan. Whether crushing your credit card debt, saving for a child’s education, or maxing out your retirement savings, set your intentions and figure out how to make that happen. Also, research where to get the right guidance and products to realize the dreams you have for your married money.

•   Build a budget. Get familiar with how much money is coming in, how much is being spent, and how your savings are growing. Look for places to save. Consider having a set amount of money automatically whisked into savings every time you are paid. Expenses and habits change, so finding a system that works for the two of you to track this and pivot is vital.

The Takeaway

There are good reasons for joining together your finances — and there are good reasons for keeping them apart. What’s right for you depends on a number of factors, including how much transparency you want, whether one of you has more payments or debt than the other, whether one of you comes to the union with a lot more money than the other, and more.

Whether you decide to keep your accounts separate, combine them, or keep them separate and open one together, SoFi Bank, N.A. can help. Opening a single or joint SoFi Checking and Savings account is easy. With convenient online access and no account fees, you and your spouse can worry about bigger things, like what to binge-watch next, or if you’re ordering out for tacos — again.

Find out more about using SoFi Bank to help you and your partner reach your financial goals.


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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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