First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes … a joint checking account?
This is a question most newlyweds, or newly cohabitating couples, face at some point. The decision to merge your finances is one that should not be made lightly, as disagreements over money can quickly erode even the strongest of unions.
Couples need to make sure they’re on the same page regarding spending, budgeting and savings. If you open a joint account, you need to agree on how those funds will be spent. Money shouldn’t be a one-time conversation, but rather something you and your partner talk about regularly.
As you discuss your financial goals and priorities, and think about an account at a financial institution such as TEG Federal Credit Union, consider too the benefits and drawbacks of merging your money.
Convenience: As two become one, so do their expenses. A joint account makes it easier to pay for shared costs, such as mortgage or rent payments, utilities and groceries. The list of these expenditures will grow along with your family, making a joint account all the more appealing.
Common goals: You’re building a life together. Making plans and setting goals, together. It makes sense, then, that you would save for those goals together. Whether it’s a short-term target, such as a vacation or down payment, or a long-term objective such as retirement or a child’s college fund, teaming up on savings can help you get there more quickly.
Debt: It’s not uncommon for couples to bring past debts into their new union. In fact, a recent NerdWallet survey found that among partnered millennials (ages 18-34), 45% came into the relationship with credit card debt and 36% brought student loan debt. Those surveyed had at least partially combined their finances. In that scenario, if either party defaults on individual debt, creditors can come after any joint accounts.
Deception: No one wants to consider the worst-case scenario, but it’s important to acknowledge when combining finances. With joint accounts, both parties are equal owners. So if things go south and one spouse drains the account, the other is left with a broken heart and an empty piggy bank.
When merging accounts, you don’t need to go all-in. Experts suggest couples instead maintain three accounts: yours, mine and ours. Couples can then determine what they consider “shared” expenses, budget for those and each contribute a percentage of their income to the shared account. This allows each partner to maintain individual accounts for personal expenses, such as drinks with the girls or guys.
Kelsey Sheehy, NerdWallet
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