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.”)
1. 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.
2.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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
The Bottom Line
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.