I kept telling myself that my fiancee and I had completely practical reasons as we opened a joint checking account last week.
And yet, as I sat there staring at a computer screen with an account that had both my name and someone else’s on it, full of money that belonged to me and another person, the symbolism felt hugely surreal.
That’s because setting up a joint account is a bigger deal than just numbers on a page and a much bigger deal than just a logistical convenience. It’s a window deep into our relationship! I’ll explain.
As I mentioned, this was a totally evolutionary, completely practical step for us. It was years ago that we started spending the majority of our discretionary time and money with each other. And it’s been months since we started receiving engagement gifts addressed to the both of us. This is in addition to other little things we’ve long considered “ours,” including a subscription to Try The World and groceries we plan to eat together.
Now that we’re engaged, actively planning a wedding, and starting to decide what we want the rest of our shared lives together to look like, it makes sense to have an account to pay for all those coming joint expenses.
How we’ll make it work
The basics are pretty…um…basic. Between the two of us, we’ve now got three bank accounts — one His, one Hers, and one Ours.
As an added bonus, by opening up a joint account with her at USAA, she was automatically made a member of the bank that normally only allows military or their direct relatives. To be honest, I totally thought she would have to wait until we were legally married for this.
With each paycheck, we’ll automatically deposit an even amount that combined, will be enough to cover our joint expenses. For the immediate future, that’s mostly rent, utilities, and groceries.
And while all of these expenses are pretty similar to those in any roommate situation I’ve been in before, we’d get the benefits of dealing with easier math in two other ways:
First, we’ll never again have to keep track of whose turn it is to pay when we eat out or grab drinks.
Second, it’s very easy to say,
Hey, the joint account is looking pretty sad after buying those plane tickets for our friend’s wedding; let’s each put in $50 so it doesn’t get too low when we go grocery shopping.
Compare this to what we do now which involves saying something like,
Well, you paid for my train ticket, but that was less expensive than the nachos we split and so maybe I should pay for the groceries? Uf!
Even after we’re married, we’ll keep this three-account system going. The only difference will be that as we continue to combine our lives together, a bigger proportion will go to this joint account relative to our individual accounts. But this is all math that can be solved in future discussions.
More than math
What’s interesting is that as new as I am to this, married friends have, in the past, asked about different financial vehicles to use for their own joint money. What becomes quickly apparent, however, is that just below the surface, it invariably turns out that they’re dealing with ideological differences. This means that they’re actually asking relationship questions rather than — or at least in addition to — the personal finance questions.
In the end, when it comes to joining our finances, as much as we might tell ourselves that it’s just a question of practicality, it really is one of communication and trust. In other words, the biggest hurdles we’ll face won’t be chasing a slightly higher interest rate or dividing our rent in half to determine our contributions; rather, they’ll be jointly deciding what we’ll need to change about our individual long-term goals and short-term spending habits to make all this sharing work with our joint goals. No amount of personal finance tweaking can make up for couples who refuse to get on the same page.
Luckily, one of the things I’ve always loved about our relationship is our willingness to talk things through and work together to solve our issues. This should be helpful as this surreal feeling becomes our wedded reality 🙂
What did you do or what do you plan to do to make your transition to joint accounts as seamless as possible?