Ask Chuck: Should My Wife and I Have a Joint Bank Account?
I am engaged to be married late this summer. My father recently asked if we are planning to have joint accounts like he and mom have for decades. I didn’t have an answer. We have friends with joint accounts and some with separate ones. We want to start off right. What do you recommend?
Separate or Unified?
Congratulations on your engagement and upcoming wedding! I’m glad you’re thinking about and asking this question now so you can get started off on the right foot in your marriage.
Larry Burkett, the founder of Crown, believed that separate banking accounts “makes about as much sense as maintaining separate houses.” Why? Marriage is about becoming one. One in everything – name, address, bed, money…the list does not end.
When finances are kept separate, a “his-money-her-money” philosophy develops which can lead to a “him-versus-her” mentality. This should not be present in marriage. It’s God’s money that you manage together.
There are different reasons why people defend having separate accounts. A few popular reasons I hear today are for protection in the event of dishonesty, for debt problems, or for previous divorce issues. Another is that one spouse is typically a sloppy manager of their account (overdrafts and penalties) and the other does not want to put up with it.
The foundation of every marriage is trust. Before you make your vows, be sure there is absolute trust in each other and an ability to discuss any areas of concern. Money is a key area for discussion.
If there is a hint of financial problems or distrust prior to marriage, delay the wedding, and resolve the issues. When transparency and trust is impossible, I suggest breaking the engagement. Marriage requires open hearts, accountable to God and one another.
Certainly, there is no Bible verse that commands couples to have joint checking accounts or that the bills must be paid by the wife or husband. But lying is prohibited; there is no place for secret accounts in healthy marriages, because when separate accounts are discovered, betrayal and lack of trust result.
Ted Rossman, industry analyst for CreditCards.com believes financial infidelity is on the rise. According to a recent survey, millennials are nearly twice as likely to hide money or accounts from partners than other age groups. Technology provides the ability to conceal.
Why Have Joint Accounts
- Simplifies bill paying
- Eases estate planning because the surviving spouse has access
- Saves money on commissions for joint brokerage accounts
- Trust is established; the books are open for both to see
- Humility: desire to love, serve, and yield rights to your spouse
- Accountability: expected and desired
- Cooperation: honesty, respect, and open communication for common good
- Patience and forgiveness: mistakes will be made
After you’re married, and not before, combine your finances. You can open a new checking account and savings account. Or, simply add your name to all of your spouse’s existing accounts (or vice versa).
Then, redirect direct deposits and automatic debits to the new accounts. Stop using your old accounts. However, do not close them until all payments have cleared and automated debits and deposits are working at the new accounts. Once activity has ceased and checks cleared, close all previous accounts and transfer the funds to your joint accounts.
Offense and Defense
After you establish your accounts, it is important to work together as a team towards your financial goals. In our home, my wife is better at managing the budget, paying the bills and keeping track of the details than I am. I call that our “financial defense.” Ann is in charge of the defense. I am in charge of the “financial offense” which is earning our income and overseeing our investments. We collaborate on any decisions involving our offense or defense but have different areas of responsibility. This has worked well for us.
Two Becoming One
Money is a means by which God reveals our strengths and weaknesses. It leads us to depend on Him and grants us the opportunity to bear fruit of the Spirit when working together. In short, it can make us more Christ-like. As each is conformed more and more into His image, they will become more unified in all areas of their life, including the stewardship of their resources.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians gives specific instructions for a blessed marriage relationship (5:22-33). Verse 33 is a helpful reminder when dealing with money and marriage, especially when disagreements arise:
However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:33 ESV)
I recommend the following to strengthen your money and marriage relationship:
- Money Problems, Marriage Solutions
- MoneyLife Personal Finance Study
- Free Personal Finance Resources
- Free Money & Marriage Articles
The key to protect your marriage is to build your marriage on the Word of God, honor one another, and seek to glorify God with all He entrusts to you.
Originally published on the Christian Post, May 17, 2019