Marriage: Yours, Mine, or the Old Fashion Ours, Sharing Bank Accounts

Couple figurine on US dollar note

Determine Which Account is Working for You

Ancient Wisdom says: “Where your treasure is, there will our heart be also….” (KJV)

Money is one of the leading causes of tension in a relationship. It’s an issue of trust. Historically, men did not marry until they were able to financially take care of a wife and all the expenses that go along with having a wife. There was only the established becoming one person partnership.

In marriage the transition to total trust from single and becoming one flesh can be difficult. Going from Other People’s Money, “OPM,” to having no secrets and sharing a lifelong partnership together, is achieved only by developing financial intimacy where the couple becomes, financial partners.

In that context the need for having management standards for your money becomes most important. Deciding whether or not to share a bank account is among the first hurdles newlyweds face – and it’s an important decision.

Most banks offer three main options:

  • Joint Account – You and your partner have equal access to withdraw and deposit money from one account in both of your names.
  • Separate Accounts – You and your partner maintain separate financial accounts, each in your own name.
  • Joint and Separate Accounts – You and your partner maintain separate accounts, but use a third account to pay all of the mutual expenses.

Joint Banking Accounts:

This requires a great amount of planning, agreement, and discipline between two people.

Pros:   It doesn’t get much easier than having all of your money in one spot. A true partnership is exactly what a joint banking account offers. A joint banking account bears the names of both partners. Legally, the owners of the account have equal ownership. If something were to happen to one of the account owners, the other named account owner would receive all of the money, eliminating the need for probate.

Joint banking accounts simplify bill paying and money management. An account in both of your names is at its root an issue of the level of trust in your marriage relationship. It helps if you and your partner have similar spending habits.

Maintaining financial partnership requires a mutual account that you both have access to. It is the best of both worlds. You and your spouse can predetermine an amount (a percentage of your salary or a whole number) to deposit into the joint account monthly for the shared expenses like the mortgage, utilities payments and car bill.

Cons: Since everything in a joint account is shared and both partners have equal access to the money, it can be difficult to keep track of the current balance. You are more likely to bounce a check when two people are withdrawing from the account on a daily basis.

For example, if you have $1,000 in your account and you purchase a gift for $750 on Tuesday, your partner writes a $300 check to the pool guy on Wednesday, and you don’t deposit more funds into the account, your check will bounce.

By developing financial intimacy and money management standards you and your partner will share a true lifelong partnership together.

Separate Accounts:

Having separate bank accounts can build an invisible wall between a couple. Ask yourself “how much do I really trust the other person?”

Pros: It is thought that the main benefit of having separate bank accounts is maintaining your financial independence. It is easy to track the balance since you are the only person who has access to the funds. However, once you’re married those separate bank accounts become part of the marital assets. There is legally no financial independence because you are now one person. Be aware that when you get married, under the law a husband and wife are viewed legally as one person. Even in a divorce, a husband and wife must divorce as one person. If the wife retains and only uses her sir-name during her marriage at the time of the divorce, all divorce documents will refer to her in her legally married name, the last name of her husband.

A wife will still retain that married name after a decree of divorce had been certified. In a divorce, all assets including your separate bank account are added together then divided according to predetermined legal formulas set by law in the state where you live. Hiding money doesn’t work but for a short while. It’s better to be honest, developing trust, and work together as life partners, sharing life together with all that comes with it.

After all, you have chosen your partner well; you believed your partner was so special that you married him or her. If there is any question regarding your partner, you can hedge by entering into a prenuptial agreement signed by both partners before the marriage that will set all the rules, duties and division of assets for your union. Prenuptials are also commonly used for second marriages where there are children from first marriages involved to help with estate planning for the two different families.

Cons: By keeping your money separated, it becomes necessary to divide the costs of the bills. For example, perhaps you pay the mortgage payment and your spouse pays all of the utilities. The final cost of the bills can vary from month to month and it can be difficult to contribute an equal amount. This can be a sticking point in a relationship because it raises the issue of “how much do I truly trust you with my life.” It says we are not truly one or partners in our marriage because it’s yours, mine there is no true ours. I bought this. I paid for that. The “WE” is missing in a forever after life.

One solution: Having separate bank accounts for different expenses that carry both partners names, but that only one partner at a time manages the separate yet joint account. This affords trust, true partnership, and the working together by way of account management for the union the two of you have legally and spiritually created. This situation helps to avoid unnecessary friction caused by over withdrawals, bounced checks and the like by using money management standards mutually agreed upon and set by both partners

Joint and Separate Accounts:

There are times in a partnership that financial intimacy requires separate accounts for things like a college fund, health care account, child care and other savings accounts. Separate accounts are accounts that are for issues outside the regular day to day events that the lifelong partnership of trust was formed through marriage. These accounts too should carry both partners’ names, and that of children if appropriate.

Ways to Monitor Your Spending Account

If you decide to move forward with joint bank accounts it is wise to monitor the spending of the account so you and your partner are always aware of the current balance. For many, this process is called balancing a checkbook, but below are alternatives to recording your expenses in a paper book:

  • Download an AppExpense Tracker is a free app that creates a spending log. You and your partner can record expenses right as the deductions are being made. Other popular apps include CashBook, Expensify, MONI and HelloExpense.
  • Use Your Credit Card – Putting all of your expenses on a credit card and then paying it off at the end of the month is a financial strategy. If you choose this method, be careful not to create debt.
  • Online Banking – Major banking institutions have real-time financial information available on the web and through cell phone applications. To take full advantage of this feature, check the account online or on your app before making a large purchase.

Yours, Mine, or the Old-Fashioned Ours?

Money is a topic you and your spouse will frequently discuss for the rest of your lives. You will share many experiences and assets during your marriage. Will a bank account be one of them?

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