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Thread: Should couples have joint or separate bank accounts?

  1. #1
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    Default Should couples have joint or separate bank accounts?

    I've been married for a while now since 2006 and we always have had a joint account. My one friend thinks that joint account is a big mistake.

    How about you guys?
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    Well, no two couples are the same. The system that works for you is the best system.
    My wife and I run the 3 account system. Paycheques come into joint account, and "family" bills come out of that account. We each have a little money in separate personal accounts. That way nobody is nitpicking about "entertainment" costs.
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    I don't think it's a mistake. It just depends on what your situation is. We have separate accounts personally. I have access to my wife's and she has access to mine (minus my Corporation account) - although we have never accessed each other's it's there if ever need be. Would make it easier to have one joint account as all the expenses could just come out of there and no more transferring funds b/w some accounts depending on the situation but ultimately whatever works for each couple really.

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    Totally agree it depends on the couple and there is no right answer.
    As long as you have a system that works for you (joint or not), then that is all that matters.

    If the question of going joint or not is trust related, then the concept is no different than asking whether or not you should have a prenup before marriage.

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    I've always been fascinated by the logic whereby ramming your nethers together to make a baby is fine.

    But combining accounts? Woaaah...step to far.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ExtraSlow View Post
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    Well, no two couples are the same. The system that works for you is the best system.
    My wife and I run the 3 account system. Paycheques come into joint account, and "family" bills come out of that account. We each have a little money in separate personal accounts. That way nobody is nitpicking about "entertainment" costs.
    This is the right answer - there is no one single solution for all couples.

    We share a single account. All bills and household expenses come out of that account as well as discretionary spending for each of us. To be fair, she's a stay-at-home mom, so it's not like she'd have income to deposit into a separate account anyways. And I couldn't imagine her having a separate account that would essentially require her to get an allowance for spending money... That would seem really strange to me, though YMMV.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ExtraSlow View Post
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    Well, no two couples are the same. The system that works for you is the best system.
    My wife and I run the 3 account system. Paycheques come into joint account, and "family" bills come out of that account. We each have a little money in separate personal accounts. That way nobody is nitpicking about "entertainment" costs.
    I agree with this.

    My wife and I run the same system, and it works quite well.

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    3 account. Joint account with all funds goes into. And all bills come out of. and we each have our separate savings accounts. that get filled with whatever is leftover from the Joint account split after bills. All my OT goes into my savings right off the bat. If either of us wants something special you use your savings. Been like this for 15 years.
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    As people are already saying, it very much depends on the couple, your personalities, expectations, incomes, etc. There's a big difference between separate accounts when you make similar money to your SO and when there is a significant income variance. Obviously too if one parent is home with the kid(s), the other needs to bank roll it and not be bitter about it.

    Personally speaking, I think complete joint accounts are a bad idea unless one person makes dramatically more money than the other. Money is the #1 thing couples argue about, and separate accounts are the easiest way to prevent that if done right. Separate accounts allow you to still buy gifts that are surprises, and it eliminates virtually all possible arguments about money because most couples have things they think are frivolous or wasteful that the other buys. When you have a joint account, it can feel like the other person is spending "your" money and vise versa, and there is more of an obligation to discuss every purchase, etc. That loss of financial independence can be a sore spot for some people. With separate accounts you both do whatever you want after the important stuff is taken care of (bills, savings, etc.) and whatever is left over is fair game for hobbies, shopping, etc.

    If there is a major income disparity, then you can't really keep things separate - hopefully this is something you know going in and have discussed at length before any commitments, arriving at whatever agreement/understanding keeps you both happy. Same deal if one person is entering the relationship with significant debt, alimony payments, no savings, etc. - then it's more complicated and you just need to figure out what works for you.

    We pay into a joint account proportionate to our incomes for everything shared such as utilities, RRSP savings, things around the house, bills, etc. For everything else it's separate. Things like bonuses, inheritance, and any other non-guaranteed or unexpected income are used in a way that benefits both of us. That's just what works for us, it is of course not the right solution for everyone.

    Finally, if the worst happens and you get a divorce, it's a lot 'safer' if you don't have all your accounts shared. My cousin's wife drained all their accounts and savings before she divorced him and he had absolutely no recourse because they agreed to share them and the courts determined she was completely within her rights to do so. Separate accounts also protect you from things like garnishing if your SO gets into trouble. Nobody expects these kinds of things going into a relationship, so it's prudent to protect yourself IMO.

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    Also, if you have been running a certain way for a few years, and NOW want to change, either you already have trust issues, or you are going to create them. Very tough to switch without some really awkward conversations.
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    9 year relationship and no plans to share bank account. We see no need to have a joint account.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ExtraSlow View Post
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    Also, if you have been running a certain way for a few years, and NOW want to change, either you already have trust issues, or you are going to create them. Very tough to switch without some really awkward conversations.
    Perhaps. But there are scenarios that make the change positive. If a couple was lazy in the beginning of their relationship and find new efficiencies for changing (ex: going from separate to joint to realize efficiencies of bill payments), or maybe they decide to keep the joint account but open separate accounts too because different banks offer different benefits.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Disoblige View Post
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    Perhaps. But there are scenarios that make the change positive. If a couple was lazy in the beginning of their relationship and find new efficiencies for changing (ex: going from separate to joint to realize efficiencies of bill payments), or maybe they decide to keep the joint account but open separate accounts too because different banks offer different benefits.
    Maybe, I'm just saying if @R!zz0 has a buddy going through a messy divorce and giving him advice, then he has to be careful how he approaches this. If his motivation is just to have a way to hide money from his spouse in the event of a divorce, that's going to become obvious and could be ugly.
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    Depends on your relationship, how you manage your finances, who is the decision maker etc. There is no right or wrong answer. If it works then it works.
    My parents always have had separate accounts. I have had clients who's accounts are joint. Either works.

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    My wife and I have had our own accounts and another joint account which our mortgage comes out of. Money is transferred into the joint every month so the bills can be paid. Everything else is ours to use at our discretion (TFSA/RRSP, discretionary spending, etc).

    We've been running the 3-account system for 5 years ago even though we just got married last year.

    That said, we've been discussing how to combine our finances. My wife is looking to go back to school later this year for her graduate degree which means her income will drop substantially. Now that we're married, it's not really about 50/50 contributions anymore but how we can make each other's goals come true. Her lack of income inevitably means that I have to pick up the slack. We've also had some lengthy discussions on how we're going to build wealth for retirement and if our financial goals are one and the same, I don't see the benefit of maintaining two separate accounts. If goals change, couples should be addressing and negotiating that together anyway. From what I've read, the single account system works best if the couple dedicates time each month to outlining a set budget that they stick to.

    I think there's a lot of little things that play into the success of a single account. If you've been doing things for a certain way, don't be in a rush to change them. If you set your foundations right and you both understand and agree with why you're making changes, no one should feel like they're being roped into something they're uncomfortable with. We haven't made the switch to a 1-account system yet but I'm interested in seeing how we'll manage once we make the switch.

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    We keep our own accounts and contribute a % of total bills and costs to a shared account based on income. With savings mixed in as well based on discussion. The rest is free for personal use.

    The wife finally passed me in income this year, so win-win!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by ExtraSlow View Post
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    Maybe, I'm just saying if @R!zz0 has a buddy going through a messy divorce and giving him advice, then he has to be careful how he approaches this. If his motivation is just to have a way to hide money from his spouse in the event of a divorce, that's going to become obvious and could be ugly.
    No he's actually just starting out and thinking marriage. he asked me if i had a joint account and i said yes. He asked if i had any issues, i said no. I don't stop my wife from spending and she doesn't stop me.
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    We have had a joint bank account for last 15 years. Set it up before we got married. Easy to keep track of everything in one spot. At that time we were dink, went to single income about 10 years ago. Still works well.

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    Well, sounds fine then. I really like the 3-account system, I think it's nice and flexible, but still has reasonable accountability for keeping spending in check. It's worked great for my wife and I. Interesting that some people have 2 accounts and have the paycheques coming into the joint account (like me) and some have the paycheques doing into the individual accounts. One way makes it easier to "hide" money from the spouse, which I know some guys like to do.
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    My wife has her own accounts. I pay all the bills etc and let her how what she “owes” me on a monthly basis just to square things up. Due to income disparity I essentially eat all big expenses and all of my ridiculous purchases on Hobby’s and cars etc.

    Works well because it keeps us actually looking at what we are spending money on. Essentially a bastardized 3 account system.

    I could care less if it all came out of one account but would probably just lead to more arguments on spending “priorities” etc.

    Ie me buying cars vs her wanting a new house lol.
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