NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County

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One Account or Two?

One Account or Two?

 

          Have you recently gotten married? One of the hundreds of decision you and your spouse need to make is to decide whether or not you want to combine your finances into one, two, or even three checking accounts.

          These days, it's not necessarily a given that newly married couples will merge their individual checking accounts into one joint checking account. Finances are often complicated by previous marriages, child support or alimony, student loans, existing mortgages or credit card debt, and other issues such as a sense of autonomy and financial independence.

          Many couples find that having a discussion about money with their future spouse while they are engaged helps smooth the transition of their independent financial styles into a style that works for both partners once they are married.

          Whether you decide to have separate checking and savings accounts or joint accounts really depends upon your personal styles and whether you think your styles are different enough to require separate finances. If you are a spender and your spouse is a saver (or the opposite), having separate savings and checking accounts is a good way to help prevent arguments about where your money goes.

          With separate checking accounts, each of you is responsible for your own personal bills and spending, and your spending money stays separate. While you may have an overall family budget, you’ll also need to each have a personal budget.

          When you have separate checking accounts, you have a few options for combined expenses such as mortgage payments and utilities. Either you can split these expenses evenly, each take responsibility for separate charges, or open a third “house” account that you each fund with an agreed upon amount.

          When you decide to combine your finances into one joint checking account, communication is key.  It's certainly the easiest logistically for paying bills but leaves little room for individual decisions.  A joint account requires that you routinely revisit your budget and spending plans together to make sure that you are both on track with your goals. When life changes occur, including raises, changes in jobs, and children, prepare to reevaluate and make changes to your budget.

          Many couples today set up a joint checking account while retaining their separate checking accounts. They each pay an agreed upon amount into the joint checking account each month and use this account to pay the household bills. One of the big advantages to this method is that each person retains his or her own autonomy and financial independence, which helps avoid the use of money as power in the relationship.

 

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