If You're Ready For A Joint Savings Account With Your Significant Other, Here's How You'll Know
With factors such as economic history, current income, spending habits, organization, and personal preferences at play, no two couples will treat money the same way. Every individual and couple are going to handle their finances differently. Sharing money with a partner in any sense might not be your cup of tea and that's OK. But if you and your partner are committed to a long-term future together, it might be the right choice for you. One choice you'll be tasked with making is deciding whether to open a joint savings account with your significant other. For some, sharing money with a partner will always be a "no" because it can feel messy or like your partner will take your bank account for granted. People shoot down the idea of a joint bank account for similar reasons, security concerns, and the belief that you'll never be able too surprise your partner with gifts.
That being said, consider this: Just because you have a joint savings account with bae doesn't mean you can't also have your own separate checking and savings accounts. And there are certainly a few instances where sharing funds in the form of joint savings can go a long way. But to figure out whether a joint savings account is the best option for you and your partner, it's crucial to talk it out. Here's some advice from money experts on how to figure out if a joint savings account is right for you and how to have that money conversation with your partner.
When is the right time to have the money talk?
"Money is complicated and that's why so many couples break up because of it. Not taking the time to get on the same page can lead to disastrous results," says Patricia Stallworth, a certified financial planner with Financial Wealth Partners. "If you can't talk openly and honestly about money, your relationship will always be on thin ice." As important as the money discussion is, don't let that scare you from having it.
If you've recently started seeing someone or just took the conversation from Tinder to text message, don't panic. "It definitely should not be a first-date conversation topic," says Paige Pritchard, blogger at The Purposeful Penny. But if you've DTRed and it starts getting more serious, don't be afraid to bring money up, Pritchard says. For some couples, the "Money Talk" can come three months in. For others, it can take a year. Again, it's important to do what feels right for the pace of your relationship. "Neither of you should feel embarrassed or hesitant to talk about money, as it’s a huge part of any relationship. If your partner won’t talk to you openly about finances, that’s a red flag," Pritchard says. It could indicate that there are some green skeletons in their closet.
"Before opening a joint account get 'financially naked' with your significant other," Pritchard says. This means an open and honest convo about your current financial state: investments, savings, salary, debt, and spending habits. By disclosing this information to each other, you can check and see whether you and your partner are financially aligned, Pritchard says.
What kinds of money topics should you discuss with your partner?
When it comes to joint savings accounts, Stallworth is in agreement with Pritchard. "I don't suggest opening a joint account until you have had the 'money talk,'" Stallworth says. Beyond disclosing your financial health, you and your partner should also talk about: Your goals A.K.A. your financial aspirations, your feelings about credit and debt (this might involve pulling up a credit report), your money story (your attitudes and beliefs about money), and your money management styles.
If you're going to have a joint savings account, that last one is particularly important! Management style includes how you run about checking and savings accounts, as well as boundaries on how money is spent. When having this convo with your partner, it's important to approach it from a non-judgmental standpoint. You want to have a relationship where your partner doesn't feel shame about their money past and money present, and feels comfortable coming to you with anything.
So, how do you have the money talk?
Stallworth offers a money quiz on her site. After downloading or printing the PDF, you can go through and answer questions as if you were your partner, and vice versa. Then you review answers with them to see how well you know each other, as far as spending and saving habits go. This can be a low-pressure, light-hearted way to ease into your money talk.
Another way to approach this convo is to have what Kara Stevens, financial wellness blogger at The Frugal Feminista, calls a "money date." Start by telling your partner that you want to get on the same page financially, and list the pros and cons of opening a joint savings account. "During the money date, you'll come up with next steps for each person, which may include holding off on a joint account until other life and financial commitments are made," Stevens says. Other aspects to discuss when considering a joint savings account are how and when the two of you will make contributions it, where to house the account and what savings goals you want to accomplish with the account.
What are some encouraging signs it's time for a joint savings account?
Say you've had your money date. If you find that you want to shoulder household expenses together, take on a joint debt, or save up for a house down payment, then a joint savings account is probably a step in the right direction for you. "Combining two incomes to tackle a financial goal can be a powerful thing," Pritchard says. "And working together to reach a certain financial milestone can absolutely strengthen your relationship as well."
For example, Pritchard explains, she and her husband decided to combine their finances while they were in a committed relationship, but before they got engaged. They did this because they knew they would get married eventually. "And we didn’t want to postpone working toward our goal of paying off our student loans and saving up for a home until we got married," Pritchard says. "We both felt comfortable, fully trusted each other, and we both had complete transparency into where our money was coming from and where it was going." If you have a concrete goal and feel as sure of your partner as Pritchard did, then you're definitely on the right track.
What are some red flags?
On the other hand, say you've had your money date and some issues have come to light. For example, if there isn't any long-term commitment between you and your partner, you haven't nailed down any withdrawal or deposit rules, or someone has a pattern of impulsive financial behavior? You're probably not in the best place with your partner to open up a joint savings account, Steven says. Debt is also another obstacle that determine whether you and your partner should have a joint savings account, particularly if you haven't made a game plan for how you're going to deal with debt.
Another red flag is if there's a lack of trust in your relationship. "If your partner has misled you or been dishonest in the past about another aspect of your relationship, they could also do the same with your shared finances and you should protect yourself and your money accordingly," Pritchard says. When in relationships, some people tend to worry about emotional or physical infidelity. "However, financial infidelity should be just as much of a concern. Ask yourself, 'Do I fully trust this person to have complete access to my money?'" Pritchard recommends. If you answer no or hesitate, then a joint savings account or any other form of shared finances should be off the table.
So, what's next?
If you and your partner are facing an issue like reckless spending or zero game plan for debt, not all is lost! It's just a matter taking the necessary baby steps to get more financially aligned. "For instance, if one of you is a frugal saver and the other is a liberal spender, it’s likely to cause issues in your relationship — especially with combined accounts," Pritchard says. "You can start by both contributing equally toward a savings goal or funding a trip to go on together."
As for working on trust, the best way to work on building trust in a relationship is through communication. Talk to your partner and be upfront about expectations. If your trust has already been broken, then outline for your partner why you feel the way you do about whatever incident or behavior that caused your trust to be broken. That way you can move forward and make a game plan for the future.
Vulnerability in any form can be intimidating. And being "financially naked" with your partner is definitely up there on the list. But having this conversation about your money story, current debt and savings situation, and financial dreams will ultimately healthier for your relationship. You'll know where your partner is coming from on financial issues. You'll have more transparency between you two. And finally, you'll be one step closer to making those financial aspirations of yours a reality with a ride-or-die by your side.