Here’s something to think about: Somewhere out there, in this great big world, is a person you are going to like so much, you want to get a joint checking account with them. I mean, whoa, there isn’t much closer you can get than to comingle your finances.
"What if you both racked up credit card debt, but your un-significant other no longer wants to make payments?"
But before you do the joint checking tango, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Just because you’re together, doesn’t mean your finances have to be. There is no rule that says a long term relationship, or even a marriage, must constitute joint finances. If it’s not something you are comfortable with, for whatever reason, then don’t do it. Your partner should never pressure you into anything you’re not ready for… financially or otherwise.
2. If the relationship ends, un-mingling your finances can be a process. You will have to get someone’s name removed from the account, which will require both of you to go to the credit union. That also means that the lucky dog gets to change his or her direct deposit, automatic bill payments, etc…not a super fast process.
3. Getting your name removed from a loan is cumbersome. You will basically have to refinance any loan over into one person’s name. What if the person who is keeping the asset (like, the car) doesn’t qualify for a loan by themselves?
What if you both racked up credit card debt, but your un-significant other no longer wants to make payments? Before taking out joint credit, you may want to ask yourself if you think the relationship will last longer than the loan term. #JustSaying.
4. Communicate! Typically, one person ends up as the financial wizard of any relationship. They will probably pay the bills, manage the account balance, make savings transfers, and more. What this means, time and again, is that the other person frequently has no idea what is going on. Sometimes that’s by choice (my husband couldn't care less) but sometimes that can lead to feelings of mistrust or resentment. Make sure both parties know what is going on, and are involved in decisions.
5. Consider keeping a separate account. In addition to your joint account, each party could have their own account, for play money or discretionary spending. I have seen couples who do this very successfully, and some who aren’t so great at it.
The logic would be that this way, you can both spend on yourself without A) needing to ask the other person if it’s okay or B) jeopardizing your ability to pay upcoming bills and expenses. And bonus- it’s also a handy way to ensure you can buy gifts for each other on the sly.
There are other things for you both to consider before taking this step, but hopefully this will be a good jumping-off point for you. You can get other ideas on how to manage your checking accounts by checking out our courses.
May you and your partner live long, happy, financially prosperous lives together.