This post was created in partnership with Credit Sesame.
Whether you have married, moved in with a partner, or are considering the next step in a relationship, one common question couples ask themselves is whether to open up a joint bank account.
A joint account is beneficial if you wish to share expenses like the monthly bills, but a large percentage of couples choose not to go that route. Many couples also find that keeping a separate account along with a joint account helps them keep finances straight. Before taking the plunge on a joint account, consider the good, the bad, and how to make the final decision.
Joint account overview
A joint bank account is a financial account that gives two or more people access to the same funds. These partners can make deposits, withdraw funds, and write checks. Examples of common joint bank account owners are married couples, partners living together and housemates that share bills.
Joint accounts offer several advantages:
Long-term saving is easier. If you and your partner have a long-term purchase in your sights, a joint account is a great way to save for it. You can both deposit funds, and you can both see progress.
Budgeting is simpler. When all of your payments come from account, it’s easier to track money that you spend. Two incomes might also make overdrafts less likely to occur.
Spending patterns are clear. Each person with access to the account can see where the money goes. Some people like the accountability a joint account provides. Knowing that their partner can see the transactions makes them less likely to make unnecessary purchases.
More comfort in finances. If one person prefers not to take the financial reins, the other can lead.
The savvier person can teach. Even though the person with more financial comfort is leading, a joint account can be an ongoing learning opportunity for the partner who is less hands-on with money. Learning and growing together allows a deeper connection in the relationship.
Opening a bank account with a partner carries some disadvantages, too:
Vulnerabilities are inherent. A joint account allows an irresponsible person to cause credit and financial damage for his or her partner.
Transparency may breed conflict. One partner may become critical of the spending patterns of the other.
Privacy is limited. Your partner knows all of the purchases you make and vice-versa.
Financial management may fall to one partner. The partner holding the reins may resent that the other person doesn’t manage the account. Even the simplest of accounts require review and balancing.
Miscommunications can occur. Overdrawing the account due to miscommunication is possible. On a joint account, each partner must know how much money is in the account and what expenses the money is headed for.
The demise of the relationship can lead to financial confusion. If the relationship ends, there might be issues dividing the funds, or one person may deplete the funds without the other’s permission.
Financial entanglement can lead to financial liability. If one partner has a large debt - a tax lien or child support arrears, for example – the funds may be at risk for seizure.
Learn more: Tax Best Practices for 2016
How to decide
You and your partner must consider all of the advantages and disadvantages and come to an agreement on whether or not it is the best decision for your situation. You have options
You can open a joint account that for day-to-day expenses and keep your own separate savings accounts. This could help you avoid conflict.
A joint savings account is an ideal option if you and your partner want to save for a large purchase together like a vehicle or home. With your own individual separate checking accounts, you can still pay the routine expenses at whatever ratio you’ve agreed upon.
You can skip the joint accounts all together and only share expenses. This is for couples or partners who prefer total financial independence. Each person maintains total control over his or her money.
Your final option is keeping all of your finances divided. You and your partner can take turns paying bills and buying dinner. Having separate accounts doesn’t mean you have to keep all assets separate, but you could do that as well.
Before deciding to merge finances, complete transparency is key. Share your credit history, debt picture and financial goals with one another. You can start the conversation with a free credit report from Credit Sesame and analyze them together.
This goes without saying, but before you open a joint account, be sure you absolutely trust your partner.
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