As society progresses, we start to see that certain traditions surrounding weddings and marriage are less necessary than previously thought. A woman can choose to take her husband’s name, or keep hers; a man doesn’t have to ask for permission to propose to the love of his life – and of course, a marriage may not have a man or woman at all.
Joint bank accounts are something that also used to be a given, as many women were housewives and otherwise did not have access to income. It’s still a popular choice among couples, in the spirit of togetherness and starting a family, but it’s not as much of a necessity as it once was. With people marrying later in life, "they may have accumulated significant assets in that period, so thinking through the positives and negatives is crucial," explains a representative for LegalZoom. Before starting the process because you assume you’re supposed to, find out if it’s the right thing for you and your spouse.
Photo by Bob & Dawn Davis Photography
Joint accounts are a good fit for those who have similar assets, but it may not work if one or both of you has something like student-loan debt or child-support payments from before your marriage. "It’s crucial to be open with your partner about your credit history, any existing debt, and your money management styles. It could also be helpful to look ahead and have a conversation about house ownership and retirement plans, so you’ll both have the full picture when deciding how to manage your assets," advises the team at LegalZoom.
Maintaining financial independence is also important to many people and having separate accounts keeps each person financially literate in case the worst should happen. Of course, if your income levels are vastly different, there can be tension about how to divide up bills and other payments. Combining bank accounts can help create the feeling of “ours” instead of “yours and mine” in regards to money, though it’s very important to have discussions leading to this mindset before making the decision – and likely before you say "I do." LegalZoom adds, "From a legal perspective, commingling assets helps if one spouse passes away. With a joint account, the surviving spouse will have access to the account without having to refer to the will."
If you and your beloved believe that neither option feels right, there is a compromise available. Many couples choose to have the best of both worlds: a joint bank account for shared expenses and separate accounts for their own spending. That way things such as rent or a mortgage payment, cable and internet bills, utilities, groceries, and other applicable categories can be paid for together, whereas fun, personal purchases can be made independently. Plus it keeps surprise gifts from being given away when your spouse checks a billing statement!