Thursday, January 7, 2010

Should couples have joint accounts?

Q: Do you think it is smart for couples (married or not) to have a joint bank account? What are the pros and cons of one? (submitted via Formspring)

A: If they're married, yes. There many good reasons for married couples to merge at least some, if not most, of their money. Marriage is a life partnership and besides raising children together, managing finances is about the most obvious example how effective that partnership is.

At the very least, there should be a joint checking account from which regular monthly bills are paid (and both people should contribute to this account). Couples should probably also have joint savings accounts for specific goals, emergencies or major purchases. It's easier to save for a home, vacation, new car or any other toys when two people stack their money together. This is why I think marriages are the best possible example of cooperative economics (that's Ujamaa if you celebrate Kwanzaa.)

That said, there are good reasons every person should have personal accounts, too. Everyone needs his or her own cash for personal use in emergencies or just discretionary purchases. NO adult should have to clear each and every expenditure by another person (#cmonson, what I look like asking the gf/wife if I can spend $100 on stuff I don’t need from Best Buy to take the boys to have a nice day out?).

We've all heard horror stories about jilted spouses finding out that their exes cleaned out the joint account and left them with nothing. That's not where you want to end up, either.

I don't think it's a good idea to merge finances before there's a serious commitment to the relationship. At the very least, a couple should be engaged before they make financial commitments like looking for a house together or opening joint accounts. Before I give you access to all my money, I kindasorta wanna know that you actually, um, plan to be with me.

1 comment:

Product Junkie Diva said...

I have nothing insightful to add but I totally agree with your breakdown of the accounts that should exist for people who are married. Regarding all other couples, including those who may be engaged, merging funds is risky business. Unless we were darn close to walking down that aisle simply being engaged isn't enough for me.