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Now that my friends and I are well into our twenties and either getting married or living in sin, I’m curious as to how all types of couples — married, living together, dating, or engaged — manage their money.
Joint accounts are specifically interesting. On one hand, having a joint account with your S.O. would make paying the bills a much less tedious process. But on the other hand, what if one of you is bad with money? What if you break up? What if you have trust issues or you just really like your privacy? It’s a pretty commonly known fact that money troubles are one of the leading causes of divorce — which makes sense, because it’s hard enough to manage your own money, let alone someone else’s.
My boyfriend and I live together, and while we’ve discussed opening up a joint account a few times, we’re sticking to our own accounts for now. When we moved in together, we sat down and did the math (okay, he did the math — I’m embarrassingly bad at it). We added up our monthly rent, Netflix and Hulu bills, estimated grocery bills, and split it down the middle. Although he’s better with math, I’m better at handling money and turning things in on time. So he has a certain amount of each paycheck direct deposited to my checking account, and I pay the bills. It seems logical to me, and it’s been working for about a year now.
The good news is that every couple manages their finances differently — which is surprisingly reassuring. You and your S.O. should decide on what works best for you — whether that includes a joint account or not. And I don’t know about you, but I’m stealing some tips from these girls.
1. Hannah, Long-Term Relationship
“My boyfriend and I do not share accounts. Running two separate households, with different financial goals, it makes the most sense. We don’t plan to combine until we tie the knot. This keeps our individual budgets intact and feels like the smartest thing. Plus, if there happened to be a breakup, splitting bank accounts would add a whole new level of complexity.”
2. Taylor, Married
“My husband and I are still figuring out the whole joint finances thing, but the first thing we did was open new bank accounts in our new city. We each opened a savings and checking account under our own names, and then we joined the accounts so that we can easily view them all at the same time and transfer funds between them. So far we’ve decided to keep our own credit cards, but we’ll probably add each other as an authorized user soon, just in case. I still have my Arkansas bank accounts with a little money left in them that only I can touch, but that’s mostly because we plan to move back to Arkansas eventually, so I didn’t see the point in closing the accounts only to open them again in the future.
“Basically, the way we agreed to handle finances (for now) was to inform each other when we’re moving money around and for what purpose, but we don’t usually go over the little details (like what exactly is on our credit card bills, etc.).”
3. Erin, Long-Distance Relationship
My boyfriend and I don’t have joint accounts. We’re long distance and really have no reason to. We do a pretty good job of switching off costs (traveling, meals, etc.) to try to avoid any financially based fights. We’ve talked a bit about how we will handle finances when we get engaged, married, etc. and it seems to be a bit overwhelming. We have slightly different views on how to handle finances. I’m very conservative and a big spender – probably because I’m the product of two fiscally conservative CPAs who teach personal finance classes for FUN (like, what?). On the other hand, he’s much more risky with investing and such. So when we cross that bridge it will definitely be interesting compromising on how to handle our finances.
4. Meleah, Living With S.O.
“You know how people say they’d rather talk about sex than money? I feel like either one is less weird than talking about my money AND someone else’s money. We’ve been shackin’ up for a good 2.5 years now, but we don’t have any joint banking or any real inclination. We probably could/should do a joint account for our joint bills and streamline our lives a bit, but instead we just transfer each other money using that “online money transfer” tab you should have in your online banking; or if we (usually “I”) forget to transfer the money on time, we’ll just write a check. It’s easy to just handle it this way because it’s how we’ve always done it, but also keeping the doll-hairs separated really just nixes any chance of fighting about money – we spend it how we spend it and as long as we pay the bills, it’s kosher – and it keeps one person from bearing the brunt of the money-managing.
“And honestly, we just have a really laid-back approach to managing our finances as a couple and a lot of financial transparency. For us, that ends up looking like us knowing deets about the other’s bank accounts, salary, savings, debt, investments, and giving/receiving advice, but ultimately doing what we want with the money in the end.”
5. Shannon, Engaged + Living Together
“My fiancé and I have had a joint bank account for several years, even before we got engaged. The biggest reason we have a joint bank account is because it makes paying the bills and spending money a lot easier. I’m not what you’d call a math guru, and he’s really good at numbers, so he keeps track of how much we have. We had to start doing this because our bank updated on Monday after the weekend, and we frequently over-drafted. Once we started keeping track, we never over-drafted. Plus, I have to remember less bank account numbers when paying bills.
“The only separate accounts we have are credit accounts. This is because I wanted both of us to be sure we had a good credit score separately just in case something happened. Relying on just his credit or just my credit would leave the other person high and dry if we ever split. Plus, if he wants to get a car or something that can majorly impact a credit score, it’ll only affect him, so we can later use mine to get a mortgage. The best way we decided to do that was to separate our credit cards.”
6. Amber, Married
“My husband and I have a joint account. We sometimes have separate accounts depending on if we want to take advantage of a sign-up bonus a specific bank is having, but we always have access to each other’s accounts. We are very transparent on every aspect of finances.”
7. Christine, Living With S.O.
“When we officially moved in together about a year and a half ago, my boyfriend and I decided to open a joint account for our living expenses. Because we were splitting our rent, utilities, groceries, etc. we thought this would be the easiest way to pay for everything without keeping track of every single thing we each had to pay for (and therefore constantly owing each other money). Originally, I added up all of our expenses, added a couple hundred for miscellaneous/unexpected expenses, and then divided it down the middle. Then we both set it up so that our half would be automatically direct deposited into the joint account from our personal paychecks each month.
“As time has passed, we’ve realized several flaws in our original plan (i.e. spending way more money on say, eating out, than we budgeted for, or having way too many wedding gifts to buy for friends, etc.), so we have recently revised our joint account budget and added a joint savings account to the mix as well. The way we do things now is working out pretty well so far – I love that all of my living expenses are automatically pulled from my paycheck so I know that the money left over in my personal account can be used for whatever I want to be!
“Even once we get married, I think we’ll keep this system (or at least a similar version of it). Even if we eventually put each other’s names on our personal accounts too, I like keeping our ‘personal’ money separate so I know how much I can blow on online shopping without feeling guilty!”
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