Joint or separate bank accounts? That is the question.
Or is it?
It’s certainly an emotionally charged question, especially for younger couples just starting out. And it’s one that gets a lot of attention. If you listen to a lot of the media, it would be pretty easy to feel like your decision around joint vs. separate accounts is really a question of whether you’re in this relationship together or not.
Which is a pretty heavy question.
And a ridiculous one. To be honest, it’s a lot of BS.
The only thing that HAS to be joint
There are many couples who’ve had success joining their finances.
There are many other couples who’ve had success keeping things separate.
But there’s one thing that every happy couple has in common.
That’s the only thing that truly matters. Whose name is on the bank account that pays the life insurance premium? Who cares? That only matters if you let it.
But you don’t really have a choice when it comes to setting goals. A happy family depends on those being done together.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you always have to agree on everything. Sometimes the process to get to those joint goals is a little messy. You’ll disagree, argue, and maybe even hurt some feelings along the way.
But eventually you’ll have to compromise and move forward with a common vision (check here to get some help doing that). That’s really the only way to give your family a secure and free financial future.
But whether you do that with joint or separate bank accounts is largely irrelevant.
Don’t get sucked into the hype
The financial news has one job to do: attract an audience.
And what’s the primary strategy for doing that? Voicing strong opinions on “controversial” topics.
They don’t have to be important topics. They don’t even have to be informed opinions. All they have to do is stir an emotional reaction from their audience.
The joint vs. separate account debate is a prime example of this. At it’s core, it’s really just a question of logistics. But the media knows that they can draw an audience by playing up the emotional aspects of the decision, so they frame it as a referendum on your relationship. And as a young couple figuring out a lot of the financial stuff together for the first time, it’s easy to get sucked into that line of thinking.
But you can know better.
You can recognize that having joint bank accounts doesn’t mean you have joint goals.
You can also recognize that having separate bank accounts doesn’t mean you’re working against each other.
You can choose not to confuse the tactic (joint or separate accounts) with the desired outcome (your common goals).
You can be smart enough to recognize what’s truly important and not get stressed about the rest.
Focus on the goals
At some point you actually do have to make some decisions about whether to keep your accounts joint, separate, or some combination of the two. And in Thursday’s post I’ll talk about some of the different ways you can do that.
But those decisions are essentially just logistics. They’re tactics. And they can be helpful. But they’re not the focus.
The focus is your goals. If you can get on the same page there, then the rest of it is just a question of how you can best work towards them.
There’s no morality in it. No referendum on your relationship. Just a question of logistics.