General Question

KatawaGrey's avatar

Married folks: Do you have a joint account with your spouse? Why or why not?

Asked by KatawaGrey (21477points) January 21st, 2011

I am an unmarried 22-year-old and I am in a relationship with a 25-year-old. With any luck, he and I will end up being stuck with each other for the rest of our lives and this has got me to thinking about some of the issues that all married couples have to deal with. one of those is whether or not to have joint accounts. I find that I do not want to have solely a joint account. It’s not because I don’t trust my boyfriend or because I’m afraid I’ll spend all of his money. I don’t know what it is really, but I don’t like the idea of having no money of my own and only having “our” money.

So, married folks, what’s your bank account situation with your spouse?

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31 Answers

crisw's avatar

We had separate accounts for years after we married, and it was always a sore spot with me. Finally making the accounts joint was probably the biggest act of trust my husband could make!

Seaofclouds's avatar

We have two joint checking accounts and two joint savings accounts. His money gets direct deposited into one checking account and mine into the other checking account (just the way we set it up to have money in both accounts). We pay the bills off his pay checks and use mine for savings and play. We also each have spending money left over after bills, savings, and fun. It works really well for us. This especially came in handy while he was deployed, so that I always had access to all of the accounts. I think it’s really a good idea to at least be able to access each others accounts in case something were to happen to one of you (such as a hospitalization for an extended period of time).

funkdaddy's avatar

Separate accounts at her insistence, she explained it just as you did, she just wants to have her own money.

Beyond that, she’s much better about keeping track of finances down to the penny and laying out bills a month in advance. I think having me and my willy-nilly ways in her account would make her anxious and cause stress.

At first it seemed really odd to me. Once I realized we have different techniques to manage our money and that our pay schedules are so different it made a lot more sense. Having separate accounts actually means we have to talk less about money.

One trick is that we have the accounts attached with our bank, so we can transfer funds between them online at any time. It makes shared expenses much easier to manage while still giving us the separation.

SavoirFaire's avatar

My wife and I have had a joint account since we started living together, though we also had separate accounts during that time. We fully consolidated when we were married, but we have credit cards for making purchases independently (e.g., gifts for one another). If you’re worried, you can always have some sort of prenuptial agreement regarding what happens to the joint account in case of divorce (and about what kinds of activity are illegitimate leading up to the divorce).

mrrich724's avatar

I’m 25.5 and married. I do not believe in joint accounts at all. I have witnessed too many major issues caused in relationships (of family & friends) over money.

This is one area where 50/50 is the best way, just so there is no room for argument/tension in a given situation.

My wife and I split our common bills (rent, utilities, groceries, etc), but keep our banking separate. This way, after our “together” bills are paid, we can do whatever we please with the money we work hard to earn. Many many times, I end up spending my extra money taking her to the movies or dinner, on dates, and vice versa, but we’ve been together for a few years and have NEVER had “issues” between each other with money.

I remember my stepfather having to “ask” my mom when he wanted to buy a new motorcycle. It’s bullshit. He earned twice as much $ as she did. Why should he have to ask her if he wants to spend it!!! He’s a grown man.

I don’t want to have to encounter that.

crisw's avatar


This option may work in households where both partners are on an equal earning level, but it becomes much more difficult when one spouse earns much more than the other does.

laureth's avatar

Short answer: we each have our own accounts as we see fit, no joint accounts.

Long answer: This is my first marriage, but my husband’s second. He made the mistake with his first wife of having a joint account where he just deposited his pay, and she “managed” the finances. As a result, he was royally screwed. She “forgot” to pay the mortgage for two years (and hid the court summons and foreclosure paperwork). She racked up thousands of dollars in phone bills. She bought tons and tons of craft supplies, etc., to where $100—$200 in overdraft fees was normal each month. Of course, he didn’t know any of this until the bitter end. It was the whole “forgot the mortgage” thing that led to their divorce. He realized she was a money black hole and it was the only way to get out of the mess. (They hadn’t really loved each other for years, either, but that’s beside the point.)

He’s late 40s, I’m late 30s, we each have jobs that earn about the same amount of money, and we’re both happy this way. We manage our own finances. He doesn’t get screwed, I don’t feel “untrusted.” He doesn’t get mad if I spend money on craft supplies, because it’s my money to spend as I please, and if I go overboard, I have to answer for it myself. As far as the mortgage goes, it’s still in his name (I moved into his place when we hooked up), but I write him a check each month for my share of things like “rent” and utilities. He deposits it and pays the bills. Right now we split it down the middle, but we’ve discussed what would happen if either of us suddenly made a lot more than the other; the decision was that we would pro-rate the bills by a percentage ratio.

Being f’d over by his first wife made him very interested in finances, and he has a keen eye for it, so he also watches over our individual retirement accounts and stock portfolio. He enjoys it, and I enjoy not having to do it. I trust him very much, because he knows what it’s like to get the short end of the stick, and he responds by not giving me the short end. (And I do the cooking, which we both prefer, too. Heh.)

Also: if we DID have a joint account, I’d prefer it to be a set amount just for bills and such. I would still retain an account of my own, because I would resent having to “ask” to buy every little thing.

YoBob's avatar

Sort of both for us.

Technically all our accounts are joint accounts so should one of us get hit by a truck the other will still be able to access the funds. However, in the real world we pretty much treat them as separate accounts.

Of course the philosophy is that all accounts are ours in every respect, but the division of what the accounts go toward is pretty delineated. She and I both work. I give her the bulk of my income on a twice monthly basis to be used to pay the bills. The small left over goes into my savings that is used as our basic safety net and to have a bit of pocket money to do lunch, drink a beer, or enjoy a hobby from time to time. I also manage our future retirement investments as well as non-retirement investment portfolio.

Her paycheck plus the money from me goes to her checking account which pretty much instantly evaporates into the great cost of living vortex. Not sure what she has in her savings account, but I believe she squirrels away what she can there as well as the back up – back up safety net.

mrrich724's avatar


IMO it’s even more important for those who don’t earn evenly . . . just from what I have seen, that’s where the issues come in. Due to issues that arrive from one earner trying to control what the other does with his or her money, either because it’s alot more, or because it’s alot more limited!

SavoirFaire's avatar

@mrrich724 Your father asked for your mother’s permission because mature people in a relationship act as a team and discuss things like large expenditures. If you want to remain independent your whole life—if that’s what you think “being a grown man” means—then don’t get married. Just find someone who doesn’t mind the two of you living separate lives that happen to cross paths a lot.

crisw's avatar


Yep, exactly. My husband had been really hurt in a last relationship with a joint account- it took a long time for him to be able to trust that I wouldn’t take money and run out and buy a $3000 set of china! It takes a lot of trust and maturity to go from “his money” and “her money” to “our money.”

marinelife's avatar

We both have separate accounts. We have had joint accounts in the past. It is not a big issue either way. I just find both people taking money out of a single account harder to keep track of.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@laureth: Thank you for your detailed answer! I always figured the ideal situation would be having a joint account for bills and the like and separate accounts for personal expenses. I’m not sure how easy that would be to coordinate, but it would make me feel better.

mrrich724's avatar

@SavoirFaire I disagree. My wife and I set goals: how much money we want to save for a downpayment for the next vehicle, when we need the downpayment on our new house, and how much we have to contribute to our savings accounts each paycheck to meet those goals.

Believe it or not, you can be successful in meeting all those “team” goals without dumping all your money into joint accounts. You can do it without “living separate lives.” And you can do it without losing all sense of self identity and the rights you had before you were married. Hey, I am still the same person the day after I got married as the day before. You don’t just completely shift gears because now you are married.

Where does it say that getting married means giving up every dollar (in this case) of independence? My father didn’t discuss it with her because he was being a mature person discussing a big expenditure. He did it because if he didn’t, she’d have a major problem. AND THAT is where I see the problem, it was his money, and because they were married, she had this sense of entitlement to it. “We’re married now so you can’t buy something unless I say so.” I don’t think so . . .

Yes, you should discuss large expenses, especially when they may conflict with your long term goals as a couple (vacationing, housing, vehicles, etc), but when one person gets a sense of entitlement to the others earnings, seemingly because there is a disparity, that’s where I have an issue.

mrrich724's avatar

@KatawaGrey you could easily do that if it’s what you want. You sit down with your significant other and create a budget. You decided together how much money you need to contribute to meet those goals per paycheck (if that’s how you get paid).

Generally speaking, if your company offers direct deposit, they will also allow you to have “multiple” direct deposits where you can select how much you want from your paycheck deposited into any given account! You can then apply that “budgeted amount” to the joint account, and the excess into your own account.

Seelix's avatar

We don’t have a joint account yet, but have talked about it. What we would do is each deposit our share of the bills, rent etc. into that account, then pay the bills from there.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@mrrich724 My position is not that one cannot meet certain “team goals” without having joint accounts. It is obviously possible, and I did not say otherwise. Nor did I defend an over-exaggerated feeling of entitlement—though marriage laws do typically make income joint property, meaning that spouses are entitled to it (entitlement being a socio-legal convention). But thank you for not paying attention to what I actually wrote.

Regardless, I have lost neither my sense of identity nor my right to do what I want. A mature person who understands himself or herself before taking such a large step as marriage knows how to remain himself despite being inextricably linked to another.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

We never got a joint account, no particular reason why – we just never found a need for it. In the beginning, he worked and I didn’t – he paid the bills. Now, he’s been a stay at home parent for over 2 years, and I’m the one working – I pay the bills, he has complete access to my account. I don’t know the password to his but that’s ‘cause I don’t remember it. We share the same bank so he can always transfer money onto his card and use it. I’m 26, he’s 30.

wundayatta's avatar

We switched to a joint account about five years after we got married. We’d been moving accounts around a lot because there were a lot of mergers and our old banks disappeared and other such stuff. After those years, I guess it became difficult to justify the complexity of separate accounts and figuring out who pays what. I was keeping all the accounts in accounting software, anyway, so we already were making all spending decisions of more than 100 dollars together.

I think that’s gone up to around two or three hundred dollars now, but I’m not sure since we never discuss it. It’s clear what the big stuff is. In any case, we have joint credit cards, too, so we can each see what the other is spending.

It just makes it easier. As it is, we have accumulated some thirty accounts, what with the 401Ks of all our employers and inheritance accounts and IRAs and Education accounts for the kids. It’s ridiculous, and I don’t know what I would do without the software. As it is, I spend an inordinate amount of time fixing things because quicken doesn’t actually know how to handle downloads for joint accounts when each person has a separate login to the joint account.

But the money comes in and it goes out and we don’t have a savings account at all, any more, just a checking account that earns interest and then all those brokerage and mutual fund accounts, from which, in theory, we could also write checks.

In fact, I guess we do have plenty of separate accounts, due to all those employer sponsored accounts for us individually. But that leads to strange things like figuring out who should take out how much from the paycheck for the retirement savings in their name. And all her inheritance is in her name. Just in case. I don’t blame her. But I don’t worry about it either. I know what she has more than she does, and since I have her passwords, it’s like a joint account, anyway.

I guess, after a while, the checking account is really small stuff compared to the rest of your assets. It’s kind of cool how it has built up from a negative net worth when we got married (college loans and car loans) to a nice retirement fund, although, as she says, it looks much bigger than it is since they haven’t taken the taxes out yet. 100K is really 65–70K, I guess. Well, it’s all play money, anyway.

Which is the point about all money, separate account or no. It’s really just an idea—electrons flying around in response to our keyboard commands. Pay is direct deposited. We purchase with credit cards. We never see money any more—well, almost. Now with phone payment, we’ll see it even less.

This means that joint or individual accounts are a matter of symbols on a computer screen, and whether you share passwords or not. If you share passwords, they it doesn’t matter how many accounts there are; you still have joint accounts. If you keep your passwords separate, then it doesn’t matter how much you see of each other’s statements.

It’s all a state of mind, really, held in check by the sharing of passwords. The only way to keep things separate these days is to not share your passwords. I wonder how that makes people feel.

JLeslie's avatar

All of our accounts are joint except for IRA’s and 401K’s. But, there is nothing wrong with having a few accounts, your, mine, and ours. I think if you prefer it that way, better to set it up that way at the beginning of your marriage. It is more difficult after 3 years to say, “honey, I don’t want to put all my money in our account anymore.”

I like it because we have built it together. The savings. But, if I married as an older adult, coming in with significant savings, I would have yours, mine, and ours.

Last piece of advice: don’t have anything joint until after you are married.

Jeruba's avatar

We have two sets of checking and savings accounts. We are both signatories on both pairs, so technically they are joint, but one is mine and one is his. We each manage our own. In a pinch each could access the other’s. When we pay bills, we divide them up according to practices that have evolved over time according to our changing circumstances.

The value of this split became apparent at a time when my husband was working for one of those flaky Silicon Valley high-tech startups and it fell on hard times, as so many do. He deposited his paycheck, and after paying bills he found out that his paycheck had bounced. So, too, did most of the checks he’d written, with a penalty fee attached to each—and, to add insult to injury, a fee also on the bounced deposit. This resulted in the freezing of his checking account and also his linked savings account.

My accounts were at another bank, with no connection at all to his. They were unaffected by the foulup with his and the time it took to get it all straightened out. Meanwhile, mine saved us.

I believe in redundant systems when system failure could be something between a gross inconvenience and a catastrophe. I have two Coleman lanterns in the house and a good supply of candles. We have two credit cards with different companies. And my husband’s cellphone is on a different plan with a different provider from mine.

Bellatrix's avatar

We have both joint and individual. We put money into the joint account for our day-to-day expenses but then have our own money too. We both work and have our own incomes. We split other additional expenses such as renovaton costs, holiday expenses, investments, furniture and the like purchases). We both earn about the same and it works out pretty fair in the end.

Bellatrix's avatar

My dad said to me before my first marriage, when we did have only a joint account “You should always have your own money. Even if it’s only enough to buy a lipstick or something you want without asking”. My ex was quite the spender and I pretty much had no money for a long time. I didn’t get it when my dad gave me that very good advice, but I do now. Go with your instincts and have your own money and account. As I said above, you can do both, which means you are sharing expenses but still have you own independence and financial security.

tinyfaery's avatar

We have a joint checking account, but our savings accounts are separate and we have our own credit cards. We both have access to the checking account so we know how it is being spent; I pay all the bills anyway. It’s just money. Putting so much thought into it gives it way too much importance. In the 9½ years we have been married we have never had issues with money, except not having much. What a stupid thing to let come between us.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Separate accounts, plus two joint household accounts, one for automatic withdrawals, one with checks. No debit cards for either of the household accounts; that’s strictly bill-paying money.

My daughter and her boyfriend have separate accounts plus a joint account, and they have two joint credit cards with low credit limits. One is for eating out, because they try to budget that. They split the bill in half when it comes in. The other is for household purchases and groceries, and they split that bill, too, unless one has used it for an online purchase. The joint account is used to save for travel and for emergency expenses.

geeky_mama's avatar

I’m in a similar situation to @laureth. 10 years married so far. My first marriage, his second. His first wife spent him to the edge of bankruptcy (and then later wrecked our finances somewhat during the first few years of our marriage when she committed check fraud, declared bankruptcy and defaulted on a bunch of things that were her debts from the divorce decree…good times…good times… not!).

Anyways, once we got engaged and started combining our finances we discovered I was much more uptight about paying bills ontime or early than he I took over the finances/bill paying from the get-go.
He’s not had trouble trusting me—oddly enough it took me (because I was single into my 30s and very financially set in my ways) some time to trust him.. but we’ve had joint accounts from the very beginning.
I even have joint control his business account. Works for us. We both can look online and see what’s going on..we both have a level of control over our finances we feel good about. I still pay the bills..‘cause, well, that’s just the division of labor we have going on now after all these years together.

I have a dear friend who is adamant about having her own accounts separate from her husband. While I see her points completely (wanting her own money, not having to account for her own spending for her money in her account), I also see her and her husband bicker frequently over who will pick up a tab..because once they’ve exhausted their joint account with paying the bills each month (mortgage, utilities, day care for the kids, groceries, etc. come from their joint “family” account) they each live on their pocket money accounts. When those run low—they squabble over who will pay for dinner/parking/movies,etc.
One day we chatted about this at length (sort of a debate) and she finally conceded that the only tangible benefit of having separate accounts after all these years of marriage (I think they’re close to 10 yrs married, too) was that she could “hide” whatever she spent on his Christmas or Birthday gifts from him. She likes the element of surprise…that she or he can “save up” to buy something special (he got her a new ring for their anniversary once) without the other partner being aware.

YARNLADY's avatar

Yes, we have several joint accounts, and two or three personal accounts.

prolificus's avatar

The beauty of marrying a fiscally responsible accountant is not having to worry about finances ever again!  All I need to do is deposit my paycheck!

My spouse and I earn proportionally different incomes.  We have one joint checking account to which we both contribute equally in order to cover household expenses and any joint activities (I.e. dining out, groceries, movies, etc.). Also, we have two joint savings accounts (one for short-term goals / emergencies, and one for long-term goals). We contribute equally to the short-term savings, and as able/needed/wanted to the long-term account. Either one of us can borrow from short-term savings as needed. We’ve agreed no discussion is needed if borrowing $50 or below. Anything above, we check in with each other just to make a plan.

In addition to the joint accounts, we have our personal checking accounts. Out of those we pay personal expenses incurred prior to our marriage.  Also, we have the freedom to buy personal items (for ourselves, each other, etc.) as we wish.

How we handle finances reflects a willingness to “watch each other’s back.” While we have an open-door policy to our accounts, there remains a sense of privacy (if wanted/needed) for personal expenditures. We talk about finances in such a way that nothing is off limits. This encourages each to feel comfortable, respected, and heard.  We set goals and support each other to meet them. In cases of emergencies, no matter who’s in need, we make sure expenses are covered. (For example, my spouse has been known to pay for my expenses while I was unemployed or on short-term disability – without the expectation of repayment.  Also, we’ve used the joint accounts to pay travel expenses involving my parents.  Plus, we’ve used the joint accounts to assist both our parents.)

This experience is the total opposite of my upbringing. My family did not manage finances well. Joint accounts never worked out successfully. Heated arguments ensued instead of calm discussions.

So, having joint accounts is a huge commitment and trust factor for me. It means relinquishing control and becoming settled, to let go of the idea of being single (looking out for my self first). To me, it means, part of becoming one with my spouse.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

When married before the my spouse and I had separate accounts but joint access. This gave us coverage for emergencys or running errands to deposit/withdraw and it also gave us some independence/privacy for our own personal shopping or more fun like gifting. It wasn’t difficult to divy up expenses, trade off buying dinners out, that kind of thing. With my new husband-to-be, we’ll do the same once legally joined since it’s worked out so well for us while we’ve been living together.

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