Should couples have a shared bank account?

Weigh the pros and cons to determine whether sharing a bank account is right for you and your partner

A couple saves money by putting coins into a jar, conceptual illustration
As people increasingly delay the tradition of marriage, it can make sense to question the traditional financial arrangements
(Image credit: Getty Images)

To share, or not to share? That is the question for couples when it comes to bank accounts.

"Among U.S. couples who are married, in a civil partnership or live together, 43% have only joint bank accounts," reported Bankrate. Meanwhile, "many couples (34%) have a mix of joint and separate bank accounts, while 23% have completely separate accounts."

With any of the above arrangements, there are pros as well as cons. You'll want to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each to determine whether or not sharing a bank account is right for you and your partner. 

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What are the arguments for a shared bank account?

"Traditionally, married couples have been expected to keep their money in a joint checking account," U.S. News & World Report highlights, "and many finance professionals tout this arrangement as engendering trust between partners as they blend their financial lives and assets." 

Further, having all of your assets in a shared account makes it "easy to gauge overall finances in a family," which is helpful for budgeting, and also simpler to "plan and pay for expenses," particularly those that are shared, per U.S. News & World Report.

Additionally, having both partners' names on the account ensures they can both access the funds at any time. As U.S. News & World Report notes, "if only one person's name is on an account and that spouse becomes injured or ill, their partner may be unable to pull out money needed for medical expenses or other bills."

What are the benefits of keeping separate accounts?

There are also certainly upsides to keeping things separate. For starters, highlights Bankrate, "separate accounts may prevent uncertainties about each other's spending habits that occur with a joint account." If each partner still has their own account, "they'll each have full control of their money and won't have to review statements to see who spent what," which can provide a sense of "monetary freedom," per Bankrate.

As people increasingly delay the tradition of marriage, it can also make sense to question the traditional financial arrangements, as a later union can have different financial implications. According to TIAA, "anything you acquired while single [...] won't be considered marital property, so it may not make sense to merge it into a shared account." This applies to both savings as well as debts, such as student loan debt or child support payments.

Lastly, keeping your own accounts can force you to stay on top of your finances, rather than letting one person handle everything, and also provide security if your happily ever after doesn't go as planned. As The Ascent, A Motley Fool Service, notes, "keeping your finances separate and having at least one individual bank account can give you an added layer of security if you split up in the future," as it provides a path "to escape a situation that no longer serves you well."

Are there any other solutions to consider?

Of course, you don't have to merge everything or keep it all separate — there are solutions that meet somewhere in the middle as well. As Bankrate points out, couples "can easily use a separate account for their personal spending and a joint account for their joint payments, such as rent or a mortgage, childcare, utilities and the like." This allows "you and your significant other can enjoy the benefits of both accounts, such as joint bill paying, without so much of the concern of differences in spending habits," per Bankrate.

In fact, according to U.S. News & World Report, this happy medium may actually be "the best way to manage your money in a marriage." But as with any strategy, there is some legwork required here to make sure it all goes off without a hitch. Agree how much you're putting in joint versus separate accounts each month, and make sure to "create a mechanism, such as a power of attorney legal document or transfer on death provision, that allows each spouse access to cash in separate accounts should one person become incapacitated or pass away," advises U.S. News & World Report.

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