Should I consider sharing a joint account with my spouse?

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  • 4 out of 4 people found this answer helpful

    CFP® Monterey, CA

    I’ve seen couples have a variety of account configurations that worked for them. There is no perfect set up or any one solution that always works best.

    Communication about your finances is more important than any one account type. This is a fundamental and big picture conversation that extends far beyond yes or no on the joint account. It should include your goals in life, how you will save for retirement, how you would want assets distributed if something were to happened to one of both of you, as well as near term goals, sharing income figures as well as net worth. Getting financially “naked” so to speak.

    A joint account might be a helpful tool to spark this conversation and help you merge your financial lives.

    One strategy I’ve seen that can work quite well is having a joint account where “shared” expenses are paid. Each partner also has a separate account where they can pay for their personal expenditures. The couple agrees on the amount of money that is put into each account from each paycheck and that way there is some autonomy in spending as well as a pool of money to pay for joint expenses.

    In a case like this the couple has a joint checking account, as well as separate checking accounts, a joint brokerage account and separate retirement accounts. Be sure that mutual savings goals are met before money is put into the separate accounts for expenditures.

    There are additional factors to consider. For example, you want to be sure there is enough money in the joint account just incase your spouse made an unexpected withdrawal. Or, you might want the convenience of one signature to complete the transaction vs. both partners needing to sign. However, this could be a problem if the relationship goes south because either person could withdraw funds regardless of who deposited them.

    If you live in a community property state earned assets are shared regardless of the account they are in. If you have a prenuptial agreement you want to be mindful of the assets you are commingling. In that case, perhaps limited funds go to a joint account.

    Remember that communication is key. Be open and detailed when merging your finances and this will help you decide if a joint account is right for the both of you.

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  • 3 out of 3 people found this answer helpful

    CFP® San Francisco, CA

    Catherine's advice in regard to the importance of communication between spouses in regard to money is right on target.  In fact, the best time to start the discussion is before you actually tie the knot.  

    Many couples talk about many life issues before marriage, spend countless hours together, meet each other's families, vacation together but don't explicitly discuss how they will manage personal finances together.  This conversation should be mandatory.

    What ever system works for both of you is where you start.  When individuals have been single for a long time their perspective on a joint personal finance system might be shaped by being independent financially for so long.  In another case being independent for a long period of time might not interfere with merging your personal finances.  Success is all about picking a mutually agreed upon system and then discussing personal finances on a regular basis-whatever frequency makes sense to both partners.  At least quarterly until you establish joint financial goals and then maybe more frequently.  

    In CA I recommend opening joint bank and brokerage accounts as "community property with rights of survivorship".  This offers the advantages of a joint account as well as community property rights.  If your state is a common property state then "joint tenants with rights of survivorship" is appropriate.

    Also noted by Catherine is in CA as a "community property" state all earned income is community property credited 50/50 to each spouse.  If either partner has separate property acquired before marriage or either partner inherits property during the marriage this will be separate property unless those assets become commingled with your spouse.  Decide how you want to handle this situation before marriage either through a pre-nuptial agreement or by maintaining separate assets being careful not to commingle in a joint account.

    As far as paying current joint expenses there is no right or wrong way.  Decide what will work for both of you understanding that the system can change.  If either of you has a problem let it be known.  Do not let it fester.  

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  • 5 out of 6 people found this answer helpful

    CFP® Lafayette, CA

    Maybe!  It really depends on what works best in your family dynamic.  It might also depend on a few legal issues. 

    Here are just a couple of things to think about:

    Who pays the bills?  And, whose bills are they?  If you own property that is considered your separate property, you are probably best off keeping your money as separate as possible and paying things jointly with separate checks.  But if everything you have is his, mine and ours, then a joint account is most likely your easiest solution.  

    That said, a lot of great marriages are exactly that because we don’t need to necessarily share EVERYTHING with each other!  Many couples want to have their own spending money and not have to account to each other for where it goes. Once you’ve defined how much that should be, it might make sense to keep a small separate account that is for you only.  Go ahead and deposit your income checks into the joint account and then carve out a monthly amount you keep in your private accounts. That way if you go on a golfing or shoe buying binge, and it’s within your spending allotment, it’s all about you and no one needs to know.  

    Lynn Ballou is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and co-owner of Ballou Plum Wealth Advisors, LLC, a Registered Investment Advisory (RIA) firm in Lafayette.  Lynn is also a Registered Principal and Branch Manager with LPL Financial (LPL).  The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendation for any individual.  Financial Planning offered through Ballou Plum Wealth Advisors, A Registered Investment Advisor and a separate entity.  Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC.


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  • 3 out of 4 people found this answer helpful

    San Francisco, CA

    It really depends on the couple. If you consider the money to be joint money, then why not share a joint account? If you don’t think about it this way, then I would suggest you keep individual accounts. If your reasoning for keeping separate accounts is to avoid complications in the event of divorce, it may or may not make a difference.

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  • 2 out of 3 people found this answer helpful

    CFP®, MBA, MSFS Irvine, CA

    Money and sex are the two biggest issues in most marriages, followed by how to raise children. So when you think about money you have to consider all of the financial aspects involved - credit, paying your bills on time, savings, retirement, equity between family members. The list is long.

    In general, sharing a joint account is simply a matter of trust. Do you trust each other to have unfettered access to the family money?

    There maybe good reasons to NOT have a joint account. But in general, there is no rational reason to not do this unless there is a history of poor money management by one you.

    In our family, we have two accounts, but we have equal access. We are on both of accounts. My wife has her own account and I manage the family account.

    I transfer a set amount to her every month (we call it her paycheck as she does not work outside the home.). She uses this to run the household. She has a set budget. We use credit cards for unforeseen expenses which I payoff each month.

    I pay all of the household fixed expenses from my account - the mortgage, car, insurance, utilities, etc.

    We did NOT do this originally. We worked from one account, but it drove me nuts because I never knew how much was really in there. So it made it hard to budget and save. We stumbled onto this method and it saved our sanity.

    Hope this helps.

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  • 1 out of 1 person found this answer helpful

    CFP® San Francisco, CA

    For joint expenses, it is a good idea to have a joint account. Each spouse should have their own individual account as well, probably titled “payable upon death” to their spouse (if that’s where you’d want the funds to go). That way, joint expenses will be paid from a joint account and each spouse will have their own individual accounts to manage as they wish.

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  • 1 out of 1 person found this answer helpful

    CFP® San Jose, CA

    If you're married and live in a Community Property state, your money is shared money anyway. Having a joint account likely allows for more teamwork, shared financial goals, and the experience of partnership. 

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    Advisors offer free consultations to determine if you're a good fit for one another. Providing more information in the consultation request will help advisors have a better sense of what you're looking for. The advisor will contact you via email and set up a time to meet. Depending on the advisor, and your preferences, this could be an in-person or online meeting. You are under no obligation to engage them after meeting with them.
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  • 1 out of 2 person found this answer helpful

    CDFA Mystic, CT

    I will give you my perspective from someone that deals a great deal with female divorcees and widows. 

    While I agree from a financial perspective that joint finances are the simplest, and often the most efficient way to manage household finances, I think it is important for BOTH spouses to maintain a degree of financial independence.

    Now, it may be presumptuous or "unromantic" to assume that you may eventually divorce. But the reality is that between divorce, disability, and premature death, many women end up needing to manage their own finances at some point in their lives. I have found (through actual client experience), that it is imprudent to wait until you are 50 (or 60 or 30) and a life event happens, to learn how to manage your own finances. I have simply seen too many women left grossly under-prepared for the realities of being single after decades of being left in the dark.

    I think everyone should have their own bank accounts, their own credit cards, and their own "safety nets" in place. Having said that, I also advocate paying household bills and saving for household purchases out of joint assets.

    The bottom line is that it needn't be an "all or nothing" decision. You can have joint finances, while also maintaining your own financial identity. 

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    Advisors offer free consultations to determine if you're a good fit for one another. Providing more information in the consultation request will help advisors have a better sense of what you're looking for. The advisor will contact you via email and set up a time to meet. Depending on the advisor, and your preferences, this could be an in-person or online meeting. You are under no obligation to engage them after meeting with them.
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