Whether or not to open up a joint bank account can be an emotional decision. If you want to do it, but your partner says no, it might feel like they don’t trust you. If your partner is gung-ho about a joint account, and you’re on the fence, it can feel like they’re pressuring you into making a financial decision you’re not comfortable with. Fortunately, making financial decisions as a couple doesn’t have to be a traumatic process. Here are a few tips to help you move forward:
Check your emotions at the door. Money is an emotional subject for most people. However, you’ll need to leave your financial baggage at the door to consider it rationally. Your partner may have a different idea of what they want their finances to look like, and that’s okay. Keep the conversation rational and strategic to decide what’s best for your financial future.
Don’t rush into it. Remember that financial decisions, like other decisions in life, don’t have to be made right away. You’re allowed to take time to think about it, separately and together. It needs to be the right decision for both of you. Even if you’re not comfortable with the idea right now, perhaps it may make more sense down the road to combine finances.
Set goals together. You should have at least one honest discussion about your financial goals and how they overlap with your partner’s goals. If one partner comes into the relationship with debt, for example, you’ll want to discuss – together – what the best strategies are for paying it off. Perhaps this might leave one partner with less money to contribute to household expenses, and you need to decide sooner rather than later if you’re okay with that.
The discretionary debate. One strongly-advocated money management tactic is the “yours, mine and ours” approach. Each partner kicks in a set amount to a joint account each month, but also maintains their own bank account for discretionary spending. However, depending on how you balance the books, this can leave one partner with significantly more money each month than the other, which can leave the poorer partner feeling powerless. You can remedy this by discussing different options – perhaps you could contribute an income-proportionate amount of money each month, rather than splitting common expenses 50/50.
Balance your budget. Even if you’re not used to budgeting, it’s critical that couples jumping in to a joint account work together to develop a strategy. Come up with a budget for all your major expenses and important savings accounts. Figure out the best way to pay off any debts together. Discuss major spending goals – for example, one partner may want to save up for a larger TV, while the other partner is more interested in smaller, short-term goals. That’s okay – just make sure you decide as a couple how to handle these expenditures.
Credit history 101. In order for both partners to continue building credit, you’ll want to make sure some bills are in each partner’s name. Putting all the financial control (and bill-paying duties) on one partner’s shoulders can significantly limit the other person’s ability to build solid credit. For major purchases, like buying a home, you’ll want to make sure you both have excellent credit. Additionally, in the event that you’re split up, you don’t want to find yourself with no credit history.
Although these tips are designed to help you decide how to pool your finances, remember that no two couples are alike. What works for most people may not be right for you – that’s a decision only you and your partner can make. Keep these rules in mind, but try to stay flexible and open to pursuing alternative solutions together.
About the Author: Carly Lance is a blog coordinator for Personal Bankruptcy Canada, a company that helps “good people with bad debt”. Frugal may be her middle name, but Carly does it with class – which is why she loves to write about saving money, to help others learn from her cheap (but classy!) ways.