Because marriage is a union of two lives, many people believe that every quotidian aspect of those two lives should be merged, as well — up to and including bank accounts.
Not so fast. Joint bank accounts are commonplace in committed relationships, but they’re far from required. All married couples are entitled to their own choices, based on their unique financial temperaments. In fact, many couples will find that individual bank accounts ease financial and emotional strains in a marriage, making it a healthier and wealthier one. Here’s why.
Why You Should Opt for Separate Bank Accounts in a Marriage
So, what are the perks of keeping separate bank accounts?
Firstly, if finances are separate, there won’t be as much opportunity for conflict between partners with completely different spending habits. Savers and non-savers can get along — as long as they are in control of their own funds. This is especially true if one spouse makes significantly more than the other; eliminate the potential fight of “who spent whose money” by keeping it separate in the first place.
Additionally, Americans are marrying later and later in life — at 27, on average, according to the Pew Research Center — meaning couples have likely already developed their financial behaviors separately and distinctly. It’ll be far easier for two people to continue banking as they did before, rather than adopt another’s (perhaps less-effective) methods.
And then there’s the simple freedom of managing your own funds, and not having them impacted by someone else’s. A 2014 TD Bank survey found that 38 percent of respondents cited “independence” as their No. 1 reason for maintaining separate accounts.This independence comes in handy during a marriage — but, also, after one ends.
Whether by one spouse’s death or through divorce, more than 50 percent of all married people will have to become financially independent again at some point, according to The Wall Street Journal. In this case, separate accounts help simplify the painful process of splitting finances.
The Case for a Joint Account
Apologists for joint accounts are out there and certainly vocal. And there is some evidence that supports their position.
For one, statistics say people with joint accounts will spend about 10 percent less. Additionally, it’s much easier to deposit paychecks into a single account and pay all the expenses from there. You both can see what goes into and out of the account, which means no hiding purchases from your spouse.
That said, these benefits can be reaped if couples keep most funds separate, with a single account for joint expenses. According to a study highlighted in the New York Post last year, the key to a happy marriage can be just one shared bank account. The survey found couples who use only joint accounts are just as happy as those who pool only 5 percent of their funds in a separate account.
Related: How to Perfectly Plan Your Divorce to Protect Your Assets
A Happy Medium, and a Happy Marriage
There’s no reason couples can’t make use of both joint and separate accounts. Those that do will be able to save for joint expenses, as well as tend their own savings with autonomy — basically, they can share each other’s future without sacrificing their financial independence.
Whether you choose to go all in or keep your funds to yourself, the most important factor in a healthy marriage, regardless of finances, is being on the same page as your spouse. If you both agree that joint accounts are the way to go, great. If you’ve worked hard for your money and want to keep some autonomy over it, then keep it separate. Ultimately, this communication will make or break the marriage — and the bank.
Photo credit: Neil. Moralee