I have outlined below the main reasons why a married couple may choose a single joint account vs. separate accounts. And then, for the really important part, take a look at why this decision should matter to you and your spouse.
Reasons Why a Joint Bank Account is Best
- Encourages regular communication about finances
- Built-in accountability partner on spending matters
- Fosters unity in money matters
- Strong sense of working together to meet financial goals
- Clear that all household income is treated as "our" money
- No conflict or administrative work in "splitting up the bills"
Reasons Why Separate or "Yours, Mine and Ours" Bank Accounts Rule
- Duties of financial bookkeeping not solely on one person
- Clear boundaries set up-front for individual spending
- May be easier to track specific savings goals
- Easy to surprise your spouse with gifts
- No need to talk about finances regularly
- Each spouse can keep "their proportionate amount" of household income
- Ability to maintain privacy about what you spend money on
- More independence and autonomy to spend as desired without seeking concurrence
So, who is really right?
After reading a lot about this issue and reflecting upon it, I have divined the one, true and infallible answer to this age-old question:
You will notice that the reasons listed in support of separate accounts are broken into two groups. The "black" group are legitimate and healthy reasons for having multiple accounts. However, the "red" group spells trouble.
The reasons listed in red are centered in a mentality of not just separate accounts, but separate finances within the marriage. This is a dangerous and unhealthy foundation for money management for a married couple.
These reasons come from a spirit of selfishness, and they do not reflect the fact that marriage is a partnership. And they certainly do not support open communication and trust.
The Key is Intent
If you believe in marriage in the traditional sense, then you understand the intent of the "two becoming one," and money is a key area where this is lived out. There is no "yours, mine and ours" but only "ours."
When you handle your money together, you are agreeing on your hopes, dreams and goals together. The use of a single joint account also encourages (requires, really) open communication about your finances, which is absolutely critical to a successful marriage.
As long as the right intent is there, you can also operate in full unity with multiple accounts. It may not provide as accommodating of environment for unity and open communication, but many couples lead happy, healthy and successful financial lives together under this arrangement.
Some couples find the simplicity of their money management to actually be enhanced by using multiple accounts. For most, a single account is the simplest and easiest to manage.
The Bottom Line
The real question to ask here is not how many accounts you have or what you call them. The key is to operate your finances in a unified way with open communication at all times.
You can do that with one account or twenty. However, if you do operate with multiple accounts, they should all be "joint" accounts that you both can access, and there should be absolutely no secrets about how money is being earned or spent.
And remember that your motivation should be one of unity. That will keep you in the black and out of the red in more ways than one.
So, I just have to know:
Do you and your spouse use a single joint checking account or do you choose to keep separate accounts? Why?