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24 Mar 2017

Our Controversial Stance On Joint Accounts

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by Lindsey Burgess

And why it matters for your relationship...

Don’t become a statistic and be one of those couples who fight about money. Because there are plenty of other important things to fight about, like how to load the dishwasher, whether or not you should ask for directions, and why leaving things out on the bathroom counter even if you use them every day isn’t cool.

Being able to talk about money and budget together, will eliminate fighting, sure, but it might surprise you, and do a whole lot more along the way.

First, you need to learn how to talk about money—to really talk about it.

Then, you need to map out your priorities (yours, as a couple, and as individuals), and find the balance between all three critical sets of priorities.

Now that you’re being intentional about budgeting together, and you’ve established what’s most important, it’s important to commit to a regular Budget Meeting Date Night to help ensure you remain on the same page and making progress toward your goals.

This is really all there is to it. You’ve got this!

But Wait, What About Joint Accounts?

Before you go, you may be wondering about joint accounts (we get this question a lot), and here’s the thing, we are notorious for saying that no one can tell you how you should spend your money because you are the only one who knows what is most important to you. We even go so far as to say that in most cases, there is no financial planner better equipped to advise you, than you and your own budget. But when it comes to budgeting with a partner we take a hard line: If you’ve joined your lives, you should join your finances. Joint accounts all the way! Here’s why:

Trust And Honesty And All That Good Stuff

If you say you want to budget and plan for the future with your partner, and stop fighting/stressing about money but you don’t actually join your money, you risk one or both partners not fully committing to the endeavor.

Assuming you are honest with each other and trust each other, there is no reason not to lay it all on the table. Allow the discussion of your priorities—yours, mine, and ours—to be authentic. You’ve discussed and decided what is most important to you as a couple, and as individuals, which removes the need for artificial safeguards like separate accounts. You’ve committed to budgeting, to giving every dollar a job before you spend it—and you are doing it together—so you’ll both have full access and visibility into the budget, so trust the budget. (And your partner.)

Unnecessary Complexity Is Risky

More accounts mean more transferring, more shuffling, and more to manage. It has nothing to do with your priorities and everything to do with making things more complicated. The more complicated your budget is the less likely you are to stick with it and budgeting is a long game. You will get ahead financially in large part just by sticking with it. Don’t risk quitting because you’ve made it more complicated than it needs to be.

Stay Focused on Priorities

Keeping separate accounts makes it much easier to continue thinking about your money vs. my money. This can be decisive, but even more than that it keeps you focused on the money itself, rather than the priorities that should be driving your decision-making.

Where your money resides or who makes how much is not helpful information. It all comes back to priorities in which case, keep things simple, and spend your energy there.

But Do Not Forget The Fun Money!

We advocate for joining your finances, but the only way it really works is to maintain a healthy respect for individual Fun Money.

Fun Money—money set aside every month for each individual to spend thoughtlessly without answering to the budget, without judgment or nagging or guilt or sarcastic commentary—is really the lynchpin to partners budgeting together successfully.

You’ve joined your money. Great. You are prioritizing together. Awesome. But you also need some freedom. A little bit of margin for each partner to do what they want without discussion or compromise is important. Within the context of the budget, this freedom will help everyone feel equally invested and ensure that your commitment to budgeting is sustainable long-term. And as you make progress toward your goals, it will get even easier to stay motivated! Fun Money for the win!

So, keep talking about money, keep dreaming about what you want and where you’re going, and commit to making budgeting fun on the regular! Your financial future will pay back the effort in spades!

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