A Case Against Separate Accounts: 7 Reasons Shared Accounts Are Better

There are a lot of great reasons to have separate accounts, but they are not for every relationship. In fact, I’d argue that most couples would be best with only shared accounts. Here are 7 reasons why.
(Note that in this post I use the term “significant other” interchangeably with “spouse.” When I use the phrase “significant other” I really mean: extremely super significant other – such as a partner, spouse, or whichever term you use to describe the person you’ve made a commitment to spend the rest of your life with.  By “significant other” I don’t mean “whatever person you’re randomly dating who you aren’t 100% sure about.”)

Having Separate Accounts is Against the Values that Relationships Are Built On

What is a relationship built on? Trust, honesty, respect.  Sharing an account with your significant other shows that you respect their financial choices.  You’re not going to berate them for stopping at the Diary Queen on the way home because you respect them enough to allow them to make purchases that you don’t have to agree with 100%.

It also promotes trust and honesty.  Let’s say that your spouse does prefer that ice cream run on the way home from work. Would you rather he hid it from you? Of course not.  Relationships are built on trust, honesty, respect and sharing an account upholds these values. When you share an bank account, you’re sharing all the intimate details of your life – just like you should in a relationship.

Shared Accounts Ensure a 100% Shared Approach

Just because a shared account means that you’re 100% privy to the other person’s purchases, doesn’t mean you have to be 100% on the same page about everything.  It just means that you have to be willing to share. Remember when you were little and you had to share your toys with your siblings and friends?  None of us actually liked sharing – we wanted to keep what was “ours”. But, sharing and a willingness to compromise shows that you love and care for someone.


communication

communication

Shared Accounts Promote Communication

Let’s say your spouse is stopping for ice cream every day on his way home from work. It’s better to know now, and to be able to sit down and talk about it, rather than months later, discovering the stash of napkins in the glove compartment and finally understanding why he was never hungry when he got home from work.

In order to be successful at sharing an account, you have to be successful at communicating. And when you’re successful at communicating you’re going to have a better relationship.

It’s Less to Keep Track Of

When you have two (or three or four) accounts, that’s a lot to keep track of. If you’re splitting the bills you each have to do your own accounting – which takes twice as much work.

One Person Can Take the Reins

Usually in a relationship, one person prefers to do accounting and math and budgeting and all that fun stuff. Why not let that person take the reins? My spouse hates paying the bills. But me, I sort of like it. Same with travel planning and doing things like bidding on Priceline – I’d much rather take care of all of that than she would. There’s no point making her do something she doesn’t like and to be honest, isn’t as good at.  But,this doesn’t mean you should give up complete control.  God forbid something would happen to the primary financial manager or you two split up; both people need to be aware of the full financial picture.

If There’s an Emergency (or Worse Yet, Death) Life Gets Complicated

Let’s say for a second, that one of you gets in a horrific accident or even dies. If the account is not a joint account the only way you will be able to access your significant other’s money is by going to court. A joint account avoids probate. But a separate account? That will have to be probated by the court in order for you to access the money. And depending where you live, probate may be a long, complicated, and expensive process.

You’ll Both Be Held in Check

Does one of you overspend on books and the other on going out for lunch? Having someone else looking over your should at every financial decision can help keep these bad habits in check. Going back to the communication point, above, you and your significant other can discuss your goals, and your strengths and weaknesses. We all have our spending weaknesses and getting help from someone else leads to improvement. You never want this “looking over your shoulder” to get controlling or abusive, but a little bit of accountability is always a good thing.

Having a shared account isn’t for every couple. Any of the reasons listed above can get carried too far. For instance, too much accountability can become abusive. And you don’t want to be talking about money every night of the week. You also never want to give up complete control of your finances. But, for many, if not most couples a shared account makes both sense and cents.

0 thoughts on “A Case Against Separate Accounts: 7 Reasons Shared Accounts Are Better

    • Elizabeth

      I personally like the approach where there’s one shared account. Then each person has a “spending” account for the month that they can do whatever they want with. So it all goes in one pot at first, then a discretionary amount comes out.

      • E

        That’s sort of what we do – the bulk of both our paychecks goes into a joint account, but we each get an “allowance” (same dollar amount) that is deposited into our individual accounts. Almosty all expenses come out of the joint account, the allowances are mostly for gifts for each other and individual outings (for example, if he wants to do a baseball trip with the guys, or I want a weekend at the beach with the girls).

  • Yes, you’ve made some very strong arguments for having shared accounts. The one explanation that struck me the most was the emergency point. I hadn’t even thought of that. If one spouse with the single account gets into an accident or is seriously ill, it would be very hard for the other spouse to gain access to the account. Great point, and great post overall.

  • Malinda

    I’d like to share some thoughts with you about why considering separate accounts would prove to be a good idea for some couples.
    Having separate checking and savings accounts can be a team approach to managing finances in marriage. Finances are black and white, not emotional. So in my mind, strategies which make money work for you individually, and as a couple, are worth implementing.

    My husband and I have been married for twenty-two years. I stayed home for about fifteen of those years, as a stay at home mom. Recently I had to go back to work and opened a separate checking and savings account for the money I was earning.

    For years, we had a joint checking account. We found it difficult to stick with budgeting and it was overwhelming for one person to keep track of all of the expenses. Most of the time we couldn’t stick with a simple budget because of lack of communication.

    So instead of keeping all of our “eggs in one basket” We decided to spread out our money, keeping it in separate accounts. We use my account for the groceries, household supplies, fuel/oil changes/repairs, school events for the kids and fun money…basically stuff that isn’t predictable. My husband’s account pays for the mortgage, car payments and utilities…the predictable stuff.

    We still have the joint checking account we’ve used all these years. We use that for big stuff like appliances or bigger ticket items that require us to discuss before purchasing.

    For us, this has alleviated financial stress by helping us organize and diversify the money, making it harder to lose everything in one account. (In the case anyone steals our pin, which actually happened to us a few years back)

    In order to keep trust and accountability concerning each of our accounts, my husband has my pin and I have his, so there are no secrets and the trust and respect are not threatened. Plus, we are the beneficiaries of each other’s accounts in case of loss.

    Lastly, I’d like to share a personal reason for having a checking account and credit cards in my name only. If, heaven forbid I lost my husband, I’d have no credit history to my name even though both out names are listed on our mortgage, auto loans and credit cards.

    I knew when I started working again, I would want to show individual, fiscal responsibility and earning power in case I was ever left standing alone.
    Having my separate account has proven to alleviate fear in this area, and given me peace of mind. Now, In addition to feeling secure and building credit history in my name, I can do my grocery shopping and fill my gas tank without worrying if I am cutting into the mortgage, car and utility payments.

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