We’re Getting Married: Do We Need Joint Accounts?


bride & groom

Planning a wedding? Well then, you’ve got enough on your mind. But print out this article for after the vows. It’s about something you’ll need to discuss with your brand- new spouse once housekeeping begins: Do we need joint accounts?

A financial team
You are more than just roommates now; you’re a financial team. So it makes sense to combine assets and put everything in joint accounts, right? Perhaps. At least one joint account—for shared household expenses —can make sense. Both partners can contribute to the fund, either equally or on a ratio based on their earnings. Each can also maintain a separate account for personal expenses.

Maintaining a joint account can have its challenges, though —especially if each spouse is spending from it. Sharing details of every transaction is important, and having one spouse or the other in charge of “balancing the books”is a good idea. Of course, be prepared for the occasional, “Now, what is this $67 charge for?”

Joint savings and investment accounts are also a way for a couple to feel as if they are building a future together —though IRAs will remain separate, by law. Assets gained before the partners became a couple, such as inheritances, usually remain separate as well, with beneficiary designations in wills and retirement accounts easily changed to reflect the new relationship.

Dealing with debt
Debt can be another matter. Shared debt for a new sofa to replace that ragged futon is fine, but the financial baggage from the past should continue to be held separately — including such things as student loans, car loans and credit card balances. As debt is retired, new purchases can be combined for joint benefit.

It is often assumed that credit is automatically combined after marriage, but that is not necessarily the case. Separate credit cards can be maintained and paid individually, while a joint credit card can be issued for spouses to share. This is especially important if one or the other has a checkered credit history. Keeping that scarred score quarantined will allow the other partner to maintain their buying power.

Spouses are not generally responsible for the individual debts of their partner, unless payments are for “family expenses”—in that case, in some states, both spouses can be held responsible. Spousal debt can also be transferred to a marital partner in community property states.

By the numbers
In years past, it was common for married couples to enter into a total money merger upon marriage. These days, it’s more common for couples that have joint bank accounts to also maintain individual accounts. Combining assets into a joint account can allow for a higher balance, which credit unions often reward with premium perks and fee discounts.But keeping separate accounts can allow for a bit of independence.

The question of single or joint accounts —or both —may come down to a single question: Which one of you is the most adept at handling money? For some married couples, the answer can be obvious. He can’t add single-digit numbers in his head, while she can compute the tax on a purchase while reaching in her purse for the exact change.

Usually, the fewer the accounts, the fewer the fees —and perhaps the better the interest rate on deposits. And, if both spouses work, combining paychecks into joint accounts can enable a turbo-charged savings plan: pay bills with one salary; save the other.

As newlyweds, the possibilities are endless.

Note:  Members 1st FCU has partnered with GreenPath, a financial management program to help individuals and couples who may have budgeting, debt management and trouble managing their checking accounts.  In addition, stop by any branch location to pick up a copy of our brochure, “His, Hers, Mine, Ours” that offers additional insight when couples decide to marry.

 Guest Blogger: Hal Bundrick, NerdWallet

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