Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Joint or separate? What to do about bank accounts:

One money decision couples have to make is whether or not to open a joint account. What are the pros and cons?
By James Evans
Date: November 28 2013
Tags: money,
Editor Rating:
man_woman_money

Many (but not all) couples open a joint account when they get married, but among those who live together, it’s less clear-cut. A joint account definitely makes the finances simpler, but what about the disadvantages?

What is a joint account?

A joint account gives more than one person access to the money in it. If you open a joint account with your husband or partner, it will be set up so either of you can take out money and pay bills without the other having to sign or agree to it. So far, so straightforward.

The bad news is each of you is responsible for any debts on the account (not just half or the debts you’ve run up individually), and joint accounts can be hard to freeze or close down quickly if you break up acrimoniously. 

You may like the idea of mixing your money together or you may prefer to keep some of your money separate. It’s important to think of both the practical and emotional implications of having a joint account. 

Advantages

  • You both know exactly what’s going on
  • It’s easier to pay bills; you don’t have to juggle accounts
  • You can share responsibility for the finances more easily

Disadvantages

  • Your partner may question what you’re spending money on (and vice-versa!)
  • You’re each responsible for all the debts that either of you run up on a joint account. If your partner won’t pay up, your credit rating could be damaged.

Separate accounts

A friend of mine still keeps her money separate from her husband’s, even though they’ve been married for 15 years. They’re completely open about their finances, they just prefer it that way. Although most couples pool their money at some point, if you or your partner had a bad experience from a previous relationship, you may prefer to keep your money in separate accounts. 

Advantages

  • You can keep your financial independence
  • You are only responsible for debts that you’ve incurred on your own account
  • You might find it easier to keep on top of your own finances because you won’t each assume the other is making all the decisions.

Disadvantages

  • It’s easier to keep secrets, which can lead to problems
  • You can end up juggling several different accounts, which can be hard to keep track of,

Joint and separate accounts

An increasing number of couples open a joint account while keeping their existing individuals accounts open as well. 

 

Advantages

  • You can keep some of your ‘own’ money to spend on exactly what you want (including surprises and presents for your partner without feeling like he or she paid for them)
  • You can still pay all your household bills from your joint account, which can be easier to manage.

Disadvantages

  • You may have different ideas about what the joint account should be used for. It’s worth sorting that out upfront as it could lead to arguments later on. 
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