5 Tips for Newlyweds Merging Bank Accounts
If you're a newlywed and you sometimes find it surreal that you're married, look at your joint bank account. That, other than the fact that you're sharing a bed and a bathroom with someone, is probably the biggest sign that your single days are over.
It can be an adjustment, two spouses merging money into a joint bank account.
So if you and your significant other have recently opened one -- or if you're planning to and searching for the best joint bank account -- you'll want to come up with some joint bank account rules, like the ones that follow.
-- Talk about your finances.
-- Keep a joint bank account, but also separate accounts.
-- Talk to a banker about your joint account.
-- Figure out how to manage your account.
-- Keep a budget.
Talk About Your Finances
Every financial and marital expert will tell you to talk about money. Don't open a joint bank account and expect everything to go well. Have a conversation about how budgeting for couples is different from budgeting solo.
"Many couples pick a system for managing money together without thinking critically about whether it fits them," says Sam Schultz, co-founder of Honeyfi, an app that helps couples save money and pay down debt.
He says that a lot of couples completely merge their finances because that's how their parents did it.
"But, like it or not, money will play a central role in your relationship with your spouse, so you should explore your options before making any decision about how to integrate finances. Google it. Talk to your friends. Talk to your partner. Think through the pros and cons. And after you pick a system, check in every month or two, and if something feels off, consider switching to a different system," Schultz says.
[Read: Best Checking Accounts.]
Keep a Joint Bank Account, But Also Separate Accounts
Many experts will tell you that opening a joint bank account is a good idea -- but for some couples, so is keeping your own individual accounts.
"Just because two people get married doesn't mean they need to merge all of their money," says Stephanie Genkin, a certified financial planner and founder of My Financial Planner, an investment advisor in New York. Genkin is also a certified divorce financial analyst, so she has seen what happens when couples don't play nice with their finances.
Genkin says some couples should consider setting up a joint checking account for shared expenses such as the mortgage, groceries and utilities -- and automatically transferring most of their paychecks into the joint account. But you could still each have your own individual accounts, where you use that money for whatever you want.
That requires some trust that your partner isn't using that money for, say, an affair, but if you fear your spouse would go that route, the marriage may be doomed from the start. The idea behind individual accounts is simply having freedom to buy things that your partner wouldn't buy.
"Many people don't want to justify a purchase like a new pair of leather boots or a better sound system to their spouse. Having some money in separate accounts can help keep the peace," Genkin says.
Genkin also recommends newlyweds create a joint savings account.
"Any cash gifts from the wedding can be deposited in a shared account. They can also automate regular savings to help them save for shared goals, which could be anything from travel to a down payment on a house or a new car," she says.
[Read: Best Savings Accounts.]
Talk to a Banker About Your Joint Account
With so many online banks, that likely happens less, but it wouldn't hurt to ask a bank manager or teller if they have any thoughts about opening a joint bank account with your spouse.
For instance, they might offer the type of advice financial advisor Jay Abolofia would. Abolofia is also the founder of Lyon Financial Planning in Weston, Massachusetts.
"In most instances, I advise newlyweds to fully merge their finances by opening joint bank accounts," Abolofia says.
But if you keep an individual bank account open for your own personal spending or business purposes, he says, "This is OK as long as they retitle the accounts to payable on death to their spouse. This way the assets fully avoid probate if the account owner were to pass away."
You may also pick up some other intel that persuades you to open an account with your spouse -- or not to.
For instance, it may be helpful to know that your spouse could spend all the money in your joint bank account. Of course, you have that right, too.
You might also decide it's beneficial to combine forces into one account if your bank requires a minimum balance or monthly direct deposit to eliminate a monthly fee. Both of your paychecks may make it easier to meet such requirements.
Figure Out How to Manage Your Account
"Don't forget to pay attention to your accounts," says Ryan Bayonnet, a certified financial planner and founder of Hyland Financial Planning in Green, Ohio.
It may be especially important if you have multiple accounts, like a joint bank account and an individual one.
"Couples tend to choose one account to work off of, so the other one may end up incurring low balance or overdraft fees due to (lack of) oversight," Bayonnet says. He adds that it's also especially important to monitor the joint bank account early in the marriage, when you and your partner aren't likely used to sharing the same money pile and will be more prone to making mistakes.
[Read: Best Money Market Accounts.]
Keep a Budget
Sure, everybody should make a budget no matter what, but budgeting for couples becomes all the more important when you are working from one account. If you're both spending freely without consulting the other, you could find that you're spending more than you're bringing in.
There are a number of budgeting for couples apps that may be worth checking out, including HomeBudget, Honeydue and Goodbudget. They categorize expenses and bills and offer reminders on when payments are due. Many of these apps are free, though you may have to put something in your budget for a budgeting-for-couples app, depending on which one you land on. HomeBudget, for instance, is $4.99-$5.99 for mobile devices, a one-time cost, and desktop versions are $14.99-$19.99 per month.
Budgeting isn't fun, and it can be weird sharing a joint bank account, but it beats worrying and fretting over money all by yourself.
More From US News & World Report