Just Married: Individual or joint accounts?
If you’re a newlywed, you’ve probably discovered there are some adjustments that need to be made to your lifestyle. How you handle your finances as a couple is just one of them. If you and your spouse recently opened a joint bank account – or if you’re searching for the best one to open – here are some helpful rules you can follow.
Talk About Your Finances
Financial and marital experts will tell you that is important to talk about money. Don’t open a joint bank account and expect everything to go well. Budgeting for couples is different than budgeting for yourself, so be prepared to have a conversation about it. It’s especially important to monitor a joint bank account early in the marriage when spouses aren’t likely used to sharing the same money and will be more prone to making mistakes.
Keeping Separate Accounts is OK
Many couples completely merge their finances because that’s how their parents did it. And while opening a joint bank account is a good idea, keeping your own individual accounts as well works for many couples. A joint checking account can be used for shared expenses such as the mortgage, groceries, and utilities, while the money in individual accounts can be used for whatever each spouse wants. The idea behind individual accounts is having freedom to buy things that your partner wouldn’t buy.
Know the Specifics of Your Accounts
It’s important to understand the requirements of the account you are opening together. If your bank has direct-deposit requirements to avoid a monthly fee, linking two paychecks to one account might be more beneficial than just one paycheck. And if you keep an individual bank account open for your own personal spending or business purposes, make sure to retitle the accounts to payable upon death to your spouse. This way the assets fully avoid probate if the account owner passes away.
Keep a Budget
Budgeting for couples becomes even more important when you are working from one account. If you’re both spending freely without consulting the other, you could find that you’re spending more than you’re bringing in. There are budgeting apps for couples that categorize expenses and bills and offer reminders on when payments are due. Budgeting isn’t fun, and it might feel different sharing a bank account, but it beats worrying and fretting over money all by yourself.
Laura Lowry is manager of F&M Trust’s West Washington Street Community Office.
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