If you’re ready to take a major step with someone special, and it involves mingling your money, take a close look at what’s involved before you leap. Managing a joint bank account for a couple can be tricky, especially if you and your significant other have different spending and saving habits.
Assess Money Management Styles
People have different ways of managing finances. Some people like to balance accounts to the penny and keep a tight grasp on every expenditure, while others prefer a more laid-back approach with estimates. Some people tend to pinch pennies, and others enjoy spending. It’s common for couples to differ, but this doesn’t automatically mean failure. You need to understand financial styles before you decide to open a joint account, though, so you know what to expect from each account holder.
Communication Is Key
Open communication about finances is a must between couples, especially if you intend to open a joint bank account. Discuss spending habits, preferences and debt history with each other so unpleasant surprises don’t crop up. Working together to manage a joint account can be an effective way to build trust in a relationship, as long as both partners operate on a full-disclosure agreement. Work out a budget and stick to the spending agreement to ensure that you don't overspend.
Designate a Manager
It’s likely that one of the two of you has a stronger grasp of details and money management. Managing a joint bank account generally works best when one person assumes responsibility for managing the details of the account. The account manager doesn’t have more authority; she's just the person responsible for reconciling the account, making deposits, paying bills and keeping the balance in the black. Because communication is the foundation of managing a joint account, the account manager needs to keep her partner apprised regularly about the status of the account to avoid costly misunderstandings or other problems.
Consider Three Accounts
Some couples find that a system of three accounts works best for finances. With a “mine, yours and ours” system, you each can have separate accounts for your individual spending. This leaves a joint account for the joint expenses such as rent, food and utilities. When you use three accounts, work out how much each of you will deposit into the joint account each month to cover your joint expenses. You'll still need an account manager for the joint account to keep the system running smoothly.
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