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Should I consider sharing a joint account with my spouse?

February 1, 2013

Advisor answers

Catherine Hawley

Catherine Hawley

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 i...

Christopher Arnold

Christopher Arnold

ChFC, CFP®, CASL®
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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Ira Fateman

Ira Fateman

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. Wh...

Michelle Brownstein

Michelle Brownstein

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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Hilary Hendershott

Hilary Hendershott

CFP®, MBA
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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Robert Henderson

Robert Henderson

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 thei...

Guy Baker

Guy Baker

AEP, CFP®, CLU, ChFC
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 un...

Lynn Ballou

Lynn Ballou

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.

Tha...

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