Joint Accounts


To combine or not to combine – that is the question.   Combining, consolidating or separate accounts – it’s a question that keeps coming up in the lives of friends and colleagues. When my husband and I officially moved in together 12 years ago, we were really poor students who relied heavily on OSAP and a couple of part time jobs to get to the end of the month. If I remember correctly, collectively we made about $1000 a month. The only way to make that work for us was to consolidate our finances. We opened a joint account and have never looked back. When we started out life together we were in our early 20’s and we had nothing, so there was nothing to lose. I sometimes wonder if there would be less ‘issues’ around money if we each had our own accounts. There is and has always been a large disparity between out incomes and I wonder if ‘fairness’ and resentment over perceived or actual lack of fairness would have a negative effect on our relationship. Our money, all of it, is as much his as it is mine, regardless of who made what. I like the sense of unity that gives us.

The more I talk to people the more I realize that our situation may not be as typical as I thought it was. I’ve begun to realize, through talking with family, friends and co-workers that there are as many ways as there are couples to divide expenses. Some keep their finances completely separate, each being financially responsible for a certain portion of the operating expenses of the house, while keeping complete ownership of the remainder. Other couples deposit their portion of the household budget into a joint account and then take care of personal expenses like a car payment and insurance from their individual accounts. I get the motivation to adopt one of the strategies if you are going into a relationship with assets, large savings accounts or if you and your partner have very different money philosophies and behaviours. The right or wrong approach lies with the two people in the relationship.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself and your partner if you currently find yourself at this crossroads:

  • Do you view your money as yours as individual or yours in a collective sense?
  • Do you and your partner have similar spending styles and long term goals?
  • Have you made a plan to deal with how new expenses will be dealt with – i.e. who is responsible for the new dog, paying for daycare and saving for RESP when junior comes along?
  • How will you compromise if one of you feels that something is vitally important and the other doesn’t? – i.e. what if one of you saves a healthy emergency fund but it’s the other partner that suffers a job loss – are you ok forking over that cash or will you be resentful of your partner for having to pay their mistakes
  • How will you decide who is responsible for what – especially if there is a large disparity in incomes?
  • Are the safeguards in place to ensure that you are working towards a common retirement goal?
  • How will you deal with unexpected expenses?

The only right answer is that works for both of the people in the relationship. There are a ton of questions to be asking one another and it is a discussion worth having.

avatarAuthor Bio ~ Lisa (40 Posts)

Lisa is a 35 year old married mom of 2 little ones (5 and 1). She works full time but feels that managing her finances is another full time job. Like most parents she is trying to figure out how to make it all work while maintaining some balance. She spends most of her time with her little ones but enjoys football and cycling. Lisa is also a sucker for reality tv.

13 Responses to “Joint Accounts”

  1. We have a several joint chequing and savings accounts as well as our own individual savings accounts. Each have own credit card but the other can use them (forget what that is called). Previously have had joint loans and line of credit. Many people are against this – including Gail I believe – but it has worked for us for over 40 years. Husband has been main wage earner and I have stayed home with kids when little. I look after the bill paying, savings etc. Seems to work for us.

  2. avatar Leslie P Says:
    May 30, 2014 at 10:14 am

    My husband and I are married 29 years. We have joint accounts for everything. We both have our own credit cards and we are secondary on each others. We also have joint line of credit, but car loans are taken out in whomever’s name the car is in (we have two vehicles). We each have an RSP and TFSA. I think this works for us because when we were married we had nothing – no assets and no debt. We were both working and we started from scratch. He makes more than I do but we don’t differentiate. However, another big plus is we are on the same page financially. I can see how this would not work if you have two people with very different opinions on how to handle money.

  3. We have one joint account for household bills and separate accounts for our bills and variable expenses. We split the household bills (and household purchases) by percentage according to income. Since my husband brings home 65% of the income and I bring home 35% that’s how much we pay as well. Its been working for us and seems a lot more fair considering how much more my husband makes than I do. It also prevents arguments over how we spend our individual money and ensures the bills get paid instead of someone over dipping from a joint account.

  4. Our faith informs everything we do and everything we are. When you deeply agree about the pivotal and foundational things in life, the rest becomes a whole lot easier to deal with. We have a singular joint account. He’s the type of person who feels more secure with a bit of cash in his pocket (he contents himself with very little)…and, because I take care of the books, my sense of control is stronger…so, I don’t even want to have the ching-ching on me.

    Our budget is tight…so we target things we can do to honor who each person is in our family…we want every one to thrive. Sometimes (especially when “thankfulness” sinks a little low in the pot) we get a bit of a poverty spirit. But growing character comes from the stuff of life…and so, we grow :)

  5. The year before we were married we combined our finances into one account. It just made the most sense for us. We have common goals that we are working towards and we started with nothing, so everything we have built, we have built together.

  6. We have separate accounts and talk to each other once a week about finances. We’re on the same page, both of us savers. We decided this route after having one of my accounts compromised with the student loan issues. Safety in multiple baskets. No matter which way you do it, communication is the key.

  7. We have been together for 11 years, living together for 6? We have one joint chequing account that our paychecks get deposited into and several joint savings accounts plus we each have our own EF in a TFSA and MF’s. We also each have our own credit cards.
    Currently for work reasons we are living separately, hopefully for just one more year. Because of that we have set up separate chequing accounts that every month we get a stipend deposited into from the main chequing. This our money to spend on gas, groceries, entertainment, etc.

    We look at it as our money, we talk about what do it, how to manage and then agree how to go forward. We take into account our goals, things we want to do and major purchases we want. I think it helps us that our pay checks and salaries are very similar. He brings in slightly more on his pay, but I have pension deductions, I also work more OT, but he does sometimes too. It balances out.

  8. Nothing really to add to the above other than that my wife and I just celebrated our 45th anniversary and have always had joint accounts. Cause and effect come into this equation but not exactly sure how.

  9. Joint accounts can work until one person runs up the credit cards, empties the accounts and takes off on their own or with a new partner, leaving the previous partner with no money and lots of debt. This can happen to anyone, even someone who believes the marriage is strong.

  10. My Fiance and I just bought our first home last month but we’ve kept our separate accounts because our pays are very different. The Mortgage is in both names as well as our LOC but the payments come out of my checking account and he has auto payments going to my account. We have all bills equally proportional to our pays as he make 15,000 more a year then I do. The only bill we don’t share is our cell phones. We talk weekly about finances and are both on the same page about everything (this way money is “mixed up”) we both prefer this way and are saving towards the same goals (getting married)

  11. One important thing is to have either two equal emergency funds, one in each name, or one joint EF both can access. If DH is in an accident and the EF is in his name only you’re up the creek!

  12. My hubby and I started our first joint account because like you, we didn’t have 2 cents to rub together and the only way to survive was to pool it. We have always taken the view that it is all both our money. We know what we can spend without discussing it with the other and it has never been a problem. For the first 15 years or so of our relationship, hubby made a lot more $ then I did. I kept going back to school. Then when I finally finished school, my income rose, a lot, and now I make about 2X what he does. This still isn’t a problem. It is all our money. Our priorities over money are the same. We rarely disagree on it, we discuss it almost daily and have found a wonderful way to make our joint life work!

  13. Hubby and I have been together for 25 years. Most of those years were spent going to university, living on student loans, and having a very limited budget. We always had one joint account, in order to avoid paying service charges on extra accounts. When we finished university, I didn’t earn any money for a number of years because I was home with children (interesting point is that, while this decision is in opposition to financial advice, it is completely in line with parenting advice). Hubby’s income paid all the bills AND repaid my student loans. My income now combines with his in our joint account to eliminate all remaining debts.

    We do each have TFSA and RRSP, and our children have a very healthy RESP portfolio waiting for them. Our investment advisor commented on our success rate with the income we had been earning, and commended us on teaching our children how to budget and invest.

    While I appreciate the impact of one partner leaving another “high and dry”, I think there needs to be trust in a relationship. I don’t agree with signing a pre-nup because that sends the message that the relationship may not work. I am not being naive, because my parents did divorce and my mother was left in financial distress. By the same token, my hubby and I learned from their mistakes and have much better communication about money . . . bottom line, I trust him and he trusts me.

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