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Should You Keep Separate Bank Accounts When You Get Married?

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Stock art couple possibly wishing they should have had separate bank accounts.

When you get married, you have three basic options for your money. You can keep entirely separate bank accounts. You can put everything into one joint bank account. Alternatively, you can combine both options and have some separate money and one shared account. What’s the best choice?

Do Millennials Keep Separate Bank Accounts?

CNBC recently reported that more than one-quarter of millennials keep separate bank accounts after getting married. They don’t open a joint account at all. Of course, that still means that three-quarters of them are opening a joint account.

Nevertheless, it represents a growing trend to keep finances separate after marriage. Only about half that many Baby Boomers or GenXers kept entirely separate bank accounts after marriage.

Keeping Separate Bank Accounts is Easier Than Ever

These days, it’s really easy to keep multiple accounts. In the past, let’s say that one partner paid the mortgage. Then the other partner would write a check for their half. Partner A would have to go to the bank to deposit that check. None of that is necessary anymore. If you owe some money to your partner for “your half,” then you can easily use Venmo or Zelle to send them that cash immediately. Moreover, even if you did write a check, they could make a mobile deposit from their phone.

Psychological Pros and Cons of Separate Bank Accounts

Convenience is nice, but it’s not the reason that people keep their money separate after getting married. Mostly, they do it for psychological reasons. There are pros and cons to that.

For example, let’s say that you keep your money separate because you don’t want to control each other’s spending. You know that if you had a joint account, then you would nitpick over every dollar your partner spent in ways that you wouldn’t. Furthermore, you don’t want to justify your own purchases. So, you keep things separate, and that keeps the peace. If that works for you, great. However, for many couples, it just postpones doing the deeper work of developing communication and trust, particularly around issues of control and freedom. Those issues eventually arise in some other aspect of your relationship.

In other words, you may mentally feel better if you keep your money separate. And that’s fine. But make sure that it doesn’t degrade your financial intimacy so much that the rest of your intimacy suffers as well.

Separate Bank Accounts Don’t Help Much Legally

Keeping separate bank accounts may help you in some ways, psychologically. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that it offers legal protection for your money. In most states, when you’re married, your money is married. If you get a divorce, you’re going to have to go through all of the same financial rigamarole of dividing up assets. Having separate bank accounts won’t generally make that any easier.

In fact, if anything, keeping your own bank accounts can make certain legal issues harder. For example, if your partner dies, then you don’t automatically get access to the money in their individual account. You may have to go through wills and court systems to get that money.

Ultimately, whether or not to keep separate bank accounts is up to you and your partner. Do what’s right for your relationship.

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