So you’ve found that special someone that makes your heart skip a beat, the one you can imagine building a life with. Maybe you’ve even exchanged ‘I do’s’.
This type of commitment is so exciting that many couples are wooed by all the possibilities without thinking about the financial demands of a shared future. This can be a big mistake: unfortunately, money-related conflicts are one of the key reasons many marriages end in divorce.
You and your significant other don’t need to be a statistic, though. Joint decisions about finances, including how they should be managed, are key to making a relationship last.
One thing many couples consider is opening a joint savings account to make saving easier in a relationship. But is this always a good idea, and if so, how can you make a joint savings account work?
I asked registered psychologist and couples therapist Brett Nydahl for her take on how to decide whether a joint savings account is a smart decision for a couple. Read on to find out what she had to share.
So, What Does it Really Mean to Join Financial Forces? 🧑🤝🧑
Before merging part of your finances in a joint savings account, make sure you’ve had the right conversations, done the research, and are on the same page about the terms or purpose of the joint account.
Cover these talking points before getting (financially) serious:
- Each partner’s financial history (debt, beliefs and fears included)
- The culture and attitudes around money management that you were both raised in
- The role money has played in each of your lives
It can be uncomfortable to discuss these things, but a necessary sharing moment to have.
This can also serve as a launch point for sharing and discussing where each of you are now as individuals in your spending habits and saving behaviours, or risk appetites when investing.
Then: Do you share the same goals with regard to what the money in the joint savings account will be used for? If there are any doubts or hesitation on either partner’s part, a joint savings account may not be for you right now.
How Shared Financial Goals Can Benefit Couples 👏
Say you both want to go on a holiday twice a year, or buy a property together. Here’s how these shared savings goals can be great for the relationship:
- It can strengthen your bond. “Shared financial goals and responsibilities create trust and security in a relationship,” explains Brett.
- It can help you avoid one partner feeling isolated or controlled. “Issues of control and dependence are lessened,” says Brett. “No one person holds the purse strings or is expected to take all the responsibility for the family finances while the other partner is merely a passenger.”
- When you invest, your money grows together. Pooling your money and investing it bolsters its ability to gain compound interest and grow (compared to saving separately without exposure to growth), bringing you closer to your shared goals.
How to Set Your Shared Goals 💸
Before putting your money into a joint investment or savings account, keep these steps in mind:
- Communicate clearly and honestly. It’s important to iron out differences in your goals and desires and find a compromise on what is a) accessible within your budget and b) what you really want.
- Agree on the split in contributions. You may have reasons not to contribute equally to your shared goals. Now is the time to raise this, discuss and agree on each partner’s portion.
- Choose a savings or investment vehicle. Research together to find the solution that is suited to your risk appetite, term and investment strategy. Choose the option best suited to your needs, ideally one that is easily accessible to you both.
- Monitor and celebrate the milestones. Who says you can only break out the bubbly when you reach your end goal? Celebrate along the way as you pass various savings milestones together to motivate and inspire you to reach the finish line.
Is Now the Right Time to Open a Joint Savings Account?
Brett offers some key signs to look out for to understand whether you’re ready to take the step of opening a joint savings account together as a couple, or should keep things separate for now.
Tools to Overcome Financial Conflicts as a Couple ✌️
You’re both human, after all, so along the way there are bound to be some sticky financial situations that can lead to conflict.
Here are three common scenarios, and Brett’s tips for solving them:
What if your personal goals are more urgent right now?
“You need to decide upfront how much should go towards the shared investment, taking into account any personal requirements. For example, if one person is saving for further education so that they can earn more, this may take precedence over saving for a larger goal, which will take longer to materialise.”
What if you disagree on basic money principles?
“Open and clear discussion always helps when dealing with finances, as does ongoing feedback sessions where you can ‘check in’ and make sure you both are still on the same page,” says Brett. “Life constantly changes, and goals may change accordingly, so flexibility and regular recalibration can prevent frustration.”
What if one (or both) of you is an impulsive spender?
“Making sure that both joint account holders are required to sign before accessing the joint funds would prevent any unpleasant surprises!”