Should Married Couples Have Joint Bank Accounts?

By Janet Siroto · January 19, 2024 · 7 minute read

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Should Married Couples Have Joint Bank Accounts?

Whether to have a joint bank account when married is a personal decision, but most couples do merge finances, according to research at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Between 52% and 65% of couples surveyed do so, while 10% to 15% maintain completely separate bank accounts. The remainder have a hybrid approach, sharing some accounts and keeping others separate.

If you’re wondering whether to merge bank accounts when married, it can be a wise move to consider the pros and cons of joint and separate scenarios and then make your decision. In this article, you’ll delve into the upsides and downsides, so you’re ready to make an informed decision about what suits your finances and your relationship best.

What Is a Joint Bank Account?

First, consider this definition of a joint bank account: It’s similar to a standard account, but it has more than one owner. With a joint account, the account holders 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.

In this way, 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 clothes sneaking into your closet? Check), deposits, and your in-real-time account balance.

💡 Quick Tip: An online bank account with SoFi can help your money earn more — up to 4.60% APY, with no minimum balance required.

Why Have a Joint Bank Account in Marriage?

A joint account in marriage can offer a simplified approach to your personal finances, and it can symbolize trust. But, as with most things in life, there are pros and cons to this kind of banking relationship. Take a closer look.

Pros and Cons of a Joint Bank Account in Marriage

Whether a joint bank account in marriage is right for you can depend on a variety of 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? Consider the following points:

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.

Why Have Separate Bank Accounts in Marriage?

Some couples choose not to merge their bank accounts, or not do so completely. Maybe you check your bank-account balance obsessively, while your partner is more of an “Oops, am I overdrawn?” kind of person. If you have different money styles, separate accounts could be a great peace-keeper, so you don’t argue over money. Take a closer look at the upsides and downsides here.

Pros and Cons of Separate Bank Accounts in Marriage

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 could be harder.

Marriage is a major life transition, often with lots of adjustments and, yes, compromises required. Having separate bank accounts when you are wed can give you a sense of independence, control, and privacy over your finances.

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.

Recommended: How to Make a Budget in 5 Steps

Recap: Joint Bank Account vs Separate Bank Accounts

Should married couples have joint bank accounts? 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 keep your cash separated, it’s all about what works for the two of you. Here’s a recap of 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 that are scheduled on both your calendars (with reminders switched on) can be a good tactic.

Recommended: How to Automate Your Finances

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, and whether one of you comes to the union with a lot more money than the other.

Whether you decide to keep your accounts separate, combine them, or take a hybrid approach, finding the right banking partner is an important step. Investigate your options for joint accounts, including those offered by SoFi.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.


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FAQ

Is it normal for married couples to have joint bank accounts?

The majority of couples do have joint bank accounts, but a significant number also have a hybrid approach (a shared account as well separate ones). About 10% to 15% keep their money completely separate.

Are joint bank accounts the secret to a happy marriage?

While finances are a significant player in how couples get along, there is no one secret to a happy marriage. For some couples, the simplicity and transparency of a joint account work really well. For others, the relationship is happier with separate finances.

What percentage of married couples have joint bank accounts?

Research indicates that 52% to 65% of married couples choose to have joint bank accounts. Another segment will have both a joint bank account as well as separate bank accounts.


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