Joint Accounts Pros and Cons of Sharing a Bank Account with your Spouse

Anna grimaced as the cashier handed her back the debit card. “I am sorry, but the card has been declined”, said the teller.

Since marrying Kevin six months ago, this was becoming a theme. A very embarrassing and common theme. Kevin had a spendthrift personality, and whatever money that was deposited in their joint account through the direct deposit paychecks seemed to quickly evaporate.

Fortunately, Anna had a saver personality, and she always carried plenty of cash. She handed over the right number of twenty dollar bills to the cashier to settle her account and walked out to her efficient Honda. As she started the engine of her car, she was thinking…what was a solution to this money problem?

This is a common story with a reasonable solution. Kevin and Anna have three basic options:

1) Have One or Multiple Joint Accounts

This was the traditional way of married couples, to keep one single joint account to manage all of the household and other expenses. When a family is quite simple (poor), then having one joint account can be cost effective.

However, when it is necessary to have only one joint account due to bank costs and limited family assets, then it is vitally important that the couple make and keep a strict budget. Clear and polite communication regarding expenses, upcoming rent payments, other necessities and bills can not be overemphasized.

And even with this crystal clear communication, disagreements between the spouses can mean financial disaster, especially when both parties have a checkbook or debit card.

2) Keep Multiple Separate Accounts

Many times arguments and strife resulting from the above single joint account lead couples to establish separate accounts. This can relieve power struggles and ease tension in the marriage resulting from an unexpected draw down of funds, but may bring in other accounting difficulties.

For example, the question of who pays for large monthly bills (or even small ones) will arise. A mortgage or rent payment may be too large for just one spouse to handle, and therefore it is necessary to coordinate a transfer from one account to another.

Moreover, the reason why a couple switched to separate accounts may well have been because one partner is less “responsible” with money. This irresponsible partner will have the same trouble paying for his share of the monthly expenses as he will most likely not have kept track of his own account balance. The unlucky responsible spouse can feel resentment for picking up the slack.

3) Have Both Joint and Separate Accounts

Having a joint account or multiple accounts for certain large and repeatable expenses combined with individual accounts for each spouse is an excellent compromise. The higher number of bank accounts will be costlier, but if the couple is able to afford this expense they will have a method in place to avoid the pitfalls of the two previous systems.

The couple should decide what percentage each partner will pay for any particular regular expense, like the phone bill, cable bill or rent payment. This requires good judgment and communication on the part of the couple.

Also, if one partner watches the children full-time or otherwise does not have paid employment, the couple can arrange for an “allowance” of sorts to be transferred to the separate account of the affected spouse. A partner who sacrifices her life for that of the family will feel much happier when she shares in the monetary income that her mate brings home.

There are struggles about money and power in most relationships. When a couple can separate inevitable power struggles from very preventable money problems, happiness for both partners is one step closer.