Many couples decide to open a joint bank account once they get married, while others maintain separate accounts to manage their finances. There is no right or wrong decision, but if you are going to open a joint account, there are several factors to consider regarding how much each spouse should contribute.
Weighing Your Options
Financial planners say that having a joint checking account with your spouse promotes trust and open communication about financial goals, and helps eliminate secrets about money.
"I believe all money should come into one account and all bills should be paid from it because it provides a clear picture of finances," says Kelsa Dickey, a financial coach and owner of Fiscal Fitness Phoenix.
Separate accounts afford more autonomy for each partner, which can be helpful, especially if the partners are older when they get married and are used to managing their own finances. By managing his or her own account, each spouse also maintains the skill to manage finances, which is important should something happen to either one of them.
Your choices aren't limited to separate accounts or a joint account, though: you can also have both. For example, a joint account can be used for household or necessary expenses while each spouse's individual account can be used for "fun" expenses, like lunch with friends, a shopping spree or other purchases not related to running the home.
Deciding on Your Contributions
Start by creating a budget so that both of you know what's coming in, what's going out and when to pay bills. You should also discuss how much money to put toward savings and for emergency funds, says Erin Ellis, a financial educator at Philadelphia Federal Credit Union. This way, you have a clear picture of your combined finances.
A September 2012 article in LearnVest written by contributor Alden Wicker lists six ways for couples to approach their finances once married:
- "We're All Equals Here" - Both spouses contribute equal amounts to their joint account and keep individual accounts for the rest of their income. The joint account is used to pay for the rent or mortgage, utilities, groceries, and other shared expenses only.
- "To Each According to His or Her Earnings" - Like the first approach, both spouses retain individual accounts and a joint checking account for household expenses only. However, the spouses contribute a set percentage (ideally less than 50 percent) of their income rather than a dollar amount to the joint account.
- "I've Got It" - When only one spouse earns an income, or a substantially larger income than the other, it may make more sense for the top earner to put all of his or her income into a joint account to pay for all expenses.
- "Pick Your Bill" - Each spouse chooses bills to pay, and the total for each set of bills should be equal or close to the same amount. Here, a joint checking account isn't necessary because both partners are still equal in splitting the household expenses.
- "What's Mine Is Yours" - Both spouses completely combine their finances, with a joint checking account for all expenses and a joint savings account to put money away as one sum each month.
- "Act as If" - Spouses use one partner's income for all household expenses and spending money, and put the other partner's income into savings. This way, the couple lives on a budget within their means while being able to put away substantial savings each month.
No matter what you decide, Williams says the most important things are to be open and honest with each other, and to be in agreement on the contributions made so conflicts don't arise.