Deciding how to manage finances is often a key component of a marital relationship. Some couples opt to keep separate checking accounts, while others prefer joint ownership. Still, others choose a middle ground that allows for some financial independence. All approaches have their upsides and drawbacks, and, fortunately, are very easy to alter if desired.
You can visit your bank to add your spouse to your bank account. This process usually requires having your spouse show identification and setting up access for deposits and withdrawals.
Setting Up a Joint Account
If you decide you want to add your partner's name to an existing checking account, it's a relatively simple procedure. You can add another person to the account, making it a joint account with all access and privileges. This usually requires a trip to a bank branch where your spouse will be asked to show identification. You may choose to have checks printed with both names on the account, and your spouse likely will want a debit card to make it easier to withdraw funds from the account.
Once the account has been updated, your spouse can opt to use the jointly held account for direct paycheck deposits and to set up automatic withdrawals or automated bill-paying processes. In short, when you add your spouse to your existing checking account, you give him or her the same access to the account that you enjoyed as an individual account holder.
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Benefits of a Shared Account
There are a variety of reasons it makes good financial sense to add your spouse to your existing checking account. This approach makes it easier to pool money for paying bills, making investments, establishing household budgets and devising savings strategies. With two people depositing funds into the account, the higher resulting balance also may allow you to save on fees sometimes associated with lower balances. A jointly held account also makes partners accountable to one another for spending habits, and it allows both parties to monitor income and outflow of shared funds.
Downsides of a Shared Account
If you don't want your spouse to know about every purchase you make, or how you opt to spend your money, a shared account might lead to marital woes. This can be especially crucial in a couple dynamic in which one spouse earns much more than the other. Some couples simply prefer to manage their own money. Individual accounts might be appropriate if one spouse has poor money-management habits or a significant personal debt load. Unpaid debts can also hold both parties responsible, even if only one spouse caused it.
Making Compromises on Accounts
When it comes to managing marital finances, there's no one-size-fits-all approach that works for everyone, and there are a variety of compromise practices that can allow you to tailor financial management strategies. There are two "in-between" approaches. First, you could have independent accounts that are linked, allowing for easy transfer of funds between accounts. The other option is to have independent accounts for personal use that are paired with a joint account in which each spouse deposits a pre-specified amount of funds to cover shared expenses.
However you decide to manage your finances, keep in mind that married couples with shared finances share equal responsibility for how money is managed. An overdrafted joint account is the responsibility of both people on the account, and a joint bank loan that goes unpaid can have a negative impact on both individuals' credit scores. Careful joint oversight is important for this financial partnership to be a success.
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Lisa McQuerrey has been an award-winning writer and author for more than 25 years. She specializes in business, finance, workplace/career and education. Publications she’s written for include Southwest Exchange and InBusiness Las Vegas.