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Do You Have a Joint Bank Account?

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As my relationship gets a bit more serious with my boyfriend, we're having some serious money talks. (Well, that's if you count sharing monthly grocery bills as "serious"!)

couple going over their finances

Single Mom Seeking: Although we're very far from thinking about opening a joint account, the latest Gosselin family news made me cringe: Jon emptied $180,000 from his joint account with his estranged wife Kate (although he later returned it).

This has me very curious -- and cautious -- about having joint accounts. Are you among the couples that have one?

I set out to do a bit of research, which included Tweeting Suze Orman, who advised me (right away!) in 140 characters:

"Only keep your joint expenses in there -- and deposit the same percentage, not the same amounts. Keep everything else separate."

All right, could someone please clarify what the above means?

I turned to financial advisor "Eddy" del Rio, who has worked for Citigroup and Bank of America and manages a portfolio of clients in Florida. Eddy tells me that having a joint account is a great way for "you and your partner to have an open book on your finances. That way, there is no secret within your new family."

Moreover, he adds that: "You are responsible for your part of the household budget, which you can run from your account. He can manage his portion through his account."

But what if one of you is carrying over debt from, say, college or a credit card?

"I highly recommend you speak to your attorney," says Eddy, adding that "if either of you have debt issues, and for some reason cannot pay, the assets in the account are protected 50/50. A creditor cannot claim the full balance in the account."


"The magic ticket in all of this is communication," Eddy adds (isn't it always?).

So, do you and your hubby have a joint account? If not, why not?

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11 comments so far | Post a comment now
smoore November 11, 2009, 8:44 AM

we have seperate checkings and a shared savings. It is hard to manage money when it is being spent on two ends. especially when he doesn’t tell me he wrote a check 4 days ago for $400.

Robert November 11, 2009, 9:29 AM

We kept our accounts separate for about 15 years. When we moved to NYC we had to open a joint account just to meet the minimum balance needed. Keep your accounts separate for as long as humanly possible, but plan on defining well who pays what bills, or when. Or have a third account for bill money. Almost all couples’ fights, especially early on when times are tough, are about money and who spent what.
Keep it separate.

Mary November 11, 2009, 11:20 AM

My husband and I have always kept seperate accounts. Before we were married we clearly defined who was paying what, because I made significantly less than he did. Once we married, nothing has changed. It works well, because I can make extra payments on my credit cards or student
loans without having to worry about it
messing up his side of the bills. We’ve thought about joining accounts, but we have different banks and it just wouldn’t be convenient.

LindySue November 11, 2009, 2:22 PM

We’ve had joint accounts for 25 years and never had a problem.
I think couples who don’t trust each other usually have separate accounts.

chris November 12, 2009, 5:39 AM

I’ve been married for 16 years and with my husband for 20. After 1 year of dating we moved in together and opened a share checking and saving account. We have never had any issues with combining our money and paying all bills together. Luckily neither one of us had big outstanding bills when we met so it was easy for us to do this.

CMoore November 12, 2009, 6:46 AM

My husband and I have had the same joint account for the entire 16 years of our marriage. We have never had an issue. We pay the bills together twice a month and that way we both now were the money is going and how much we have left until the next payday.

Black Iris November 12, 2009, 8:44 AM

My husband and I had separate accounts for about eight years. When he was in grad school, he didn’t have enough money for it to make sense to have separate accounts.

I have found that a joint account makes you both spend more wisely. At this point in our lives, we don’t argue that much about money.

As scary as it is to think your husband could clear out the account, most of the time women benefit from joint accounts. Men usually earn more. Moms in particular are likely to spend part of their lives working for free (SAHM) or downsizing their career.

I would advise starting with separate accounts, but merging them fairly soon after you get married, unless you have kids already. Also it’s good to have some savings of your own, especially if you inheirit money.

kss January 8, 2010, 8:46 PM

LindySue nailed it. everything else is arbitrary. I had joint accounts until I found out my wife was getting credit cards without discussing with me first.

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