A couple joining financial forces is usually to reach a common savings goal or share expenses such as living together.
This is a common step for married couples. However, more unmarried couples are making the move to combine their households. According to the U.S. Census, the number of unmarried couples living together almost tripled between 1996-2017, from 6 million to 17 millions. Unmarried couples might have questions about managing their money, whether they are looking to live together or share other financial goals.
A joint bank account can help you to reduce your expenses and make it easier to pay for things together. You should consider the pros and cons when opening a joint bank accounts with your partner.
The benefits of a joint account
For managing your regular expenses and long-term financial goals, joint accounts are useful. You may want to share the cost of your rent and utilities, or you might want to pool your savings to buy a house, a wedding, or a vacation. If you have clear guidelines about how much each partner will contribute, how the account will be used, and what to do if the relationship ends, a joint account could be a good place to start.
Taylor Kovar is a certified financial advisor and CEO at TheMoneyCouple.com. He advises unmarried couples to be cautious about opening a joint bank account. Unmarried couples don’t have the same legal protections as married couples who have legal co-ownership over assets they acquire after getting married. He believes that it is safer to keep your own accounts, and then open a joint account where you and your partner can both contribute.
Kovar states that “there needs to be very transparent tracking of the account.” Both parties should have access to the account at all time. Both of you should agree on the purpose of the account. This will allow you to both know what happened and help you both resolve any disagreements.
Drawbacks to using a joint account
A joint account has one major drawback: How will we deal with this account if it breaks up?
It is difficult enough to part ways, but it can be more difficult if there are shared assets. Kovar suggests that the easiest way to manage a joint account after a breakup is to divide it in half. If one partner contributed more to the account, perhaps due to a higher income, it might be a good idea for Kovar to divide it in half based on how much each partner contributed.
April Lee, the financial blogger behind HassleFreeSavings.com, is grateful that she and her former long-term partner never commingled their finances, especially when it came to the house that she purchased but that they both lived in. After their split, Lee sought legal counsel to file a lawsuit for property ownership, but he was unable to prove that he had contributed financially to the purchase of the house.
Lee states that Lee couldn’t prove that even one penny went toward joint assets. “It saved my bacon .”
Creating a joint account
You will need to search for accounts that are co-owned if you want to open a joint bank account with your partner. After you have made your decision, you can check with the bank for the documents and identification you will need in order to be joint owners of the account.
Ask your bank to establish a withdrawal limit. If one person wishes to withdraw more than the limit, the other must approve.
After the joint account has been set up, you can use it for anything that you and your partner have agreed to. You might use the account to pay your online bills. Perhaps you have outlined the amount you each will contribute to a trip to Hawaii. Once you are ready, you will deposit funds into your account.
It is up to you to decide whether or not to open a joint bank account with your partner. You have other options than opening a joint account with your partner. These include giving money to one another to cover expenses. Although this setup requires additional steps, it can help to keep your funds safe and separate. However, if you are ready to open a joint bank account with your partner, it is important that you both agree on what the goals are.
This article is by NerdWallet. It was originally published in The Associated Press.