You have your dress, the tux and the rings. You've booked the venue and the caterers. You've even finalized your post-wedding living arrangements. But in all this excitement, don't forget one other joint collaboration: your bank accounts.
So, yes...most people enter a marriage with the thought "what's yours is mine, what's mine is yours." But does that sentiment really extend to finances? You vow to be open and honest with one another. But do you really want your spouse to know what you paid for that new designer jacket?
There's no clear-cut best practice for merging finances; every situation is unique. However, here are a few options to consider before you tie that financial knot:
The case for consolidation
Having a single bank account certainly simplifies matters from a financial management standpoint, and sharing both income and expenses seems fair and equitable. Neither of you will have to ask the other to "borrow" money from another account (we won't even talk about the emotional repurcussions of that concept). And even though we don't want to think about it, a joint account (with rights to survivorship) will give one spouse access to funds if the other passes away. However, there's that pesky "transparency" issue. There's no hiding surprise birthday purchases or quick ATM cash withdrawals. But consider this: having one account may help you build trust, spur healthy conversations about financial goals and help you view your marriage as a true partnership.
Keep 'em separated
Do you like to splurge, but your soon-to-be-spouse pinches pennies? Maybe you follow a strict budget, but your spouse has never even heard of a check register. If joining two financial lives is going to lead to dysfunction or arguments, maybe a joint account is not your best bet. Many couples choose separate accounts to maintain the financial freedoms they enjoyed pre-nuptuals. They work out which bills will be paid from what account and live happily ever after with this structure. This is especially helpful for couples with complicated financial pasts; keeping separate accounts is just easier. And not to be a negative Nellie, but sometimes separate accounts make it easier to part ways--from a financial standpoint, that is.
Yours, mine AND ours
Can't decide on joint or separate? Why not do both? Open a joint account and two individual accounts. These days, the availability of bank-to-bank transfers and aggregated banking tools makes managing multiple accounts easy. And let's face it--this setup makes everyone happy. You get the financial freedom of having your very own account, plus enjoy the benefits of sharing a very important aspect of your couplehood.
Again, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The best thing to do is sit down and talk with your spouse-to-be before walking down the aisle. Talk about things like:
- Financial habits (spender vs. saver, budgeter vs. freewheeler)
- Short- and long-term financial goals
- Personal preferences
- Debt obligations
- Current banking situation
Also consider who will be responsible for paying the bills, how much you want to save and even which bank you'll use (umm...I have a recommendation, and opening a new account is as easy as clicking the button below!). You'll be glad to have this conversation behind you as you start your new life together!