Joint bank accounts: the pros and cons

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Naomi Caine

Naomi CaineHow intimate are you with your partner? You probably share a bed with your loved one, but do you also share a bank account?

I only ask because surprisingly few couples are prepared to tie the financial knot. More than half (53%) don’t pay their salaries into a joint bank account and nearly a quarter (22%) have secret accounts that their partners know nothing about, according to research by Nationwide Building Society.

I can understand people’s reluctance to pool their cash. If you earn more than your other half, you must occasionally feel a twinge of resentment when he unwraps his latest online purchase, or sets off for a night in the pub. Or is that just me? What if hubby is the main breadwinner? It’s hard enough to be a homemaker these days without having to ask permission to buy a new dress.

And imagine the arguments! If you’re a spendthrift and your husband is a tight wad, a joint account could soon lead to separate lives.

But I suppose you have to question a relationship that cannot tolerate at least some financial intimacy, which is why I’m a fan of the mix and match approach.

In our house, we have a joint account for the mortgage, household bills and family expenses. But we each have our separate accounts for those little personal purchases. It seems to work for us. Well, we’re still together and rarely argue about money.

But before you rcouple accountingush to the bank to declare your undying financial commitment, I would recommend that you first agree some rules about the joint account.

You should, for example, decide whether you will both pay in equal amounts. Also be clear at the outset how the money in the joint account will be spent. You might consider lunch with your friends from toddler group as a household expense; your partner might have other ideas.

And there’s no shame in checking the bank statements each month. You are liable for any debts in the joint account, even if they were run up by your other half, so it’s only sensible to keep tabs on the monthly transactions.  See. I told you it was intimate.

Naomi Caine was editor of The Sunday Times Money section for six years before she moved out of London to bring up a young family. She now juggles two children with a freelance career, and has written for a variety of publications, including MSN, Yahoo, The Times, The Sunday Times, Which? Money, Money Week and The Sunday Herald.