Ready to take your relationship to the next level? When it comes to relationship milestones, combining finances might not seem very exciting. Getting married or buying a house usually come with parties! A shared bank account is still a big commitment, and it can cause a few headaches for even the best of couples.
While joint accounts and shared finances are typically seen as a step taken by newly married couples or couples in a long-term commitment, there are also advantages to a unified approach to money management for parents and children. Whether a child is starting a summer job for the first time or going away to college, shared access to their new bank account has several advantages. In addition to giving parents some oversight into their children’s spending habits, parents can easily transfer funds between accounts even if their student is away at school.
Check out some tips and tools to help keep the transition smooth.
A Beginner’s Guide to Combining Finances
STEP 1: TALK TO YOUR PARTNER OR CHILD
For couples: If you haven’t done it already, it’s time to sit down for a frank discussion about your financial expectations. Each couple will handle joint money management differently, so the key is making (financially responsible!) decisions that will work for you. Here are a few questions to discuss:
- Will one of you primarily handle financial concerns, or will you try to split responsibilities evenly?
- Who will be responsible for making sure bills are paid on time?
- Do you want to share bank accounts or maintain separate accounts?
- If you want a joint account, do you want to keep one of your existing accounts or open an entirely new account?
- What amount of debt do each of you hold?
- What is your estimated credit score?
- How do you normally budget each week? Each month?
- What are your financial goals? e.g., Getting out of debt, purchasing a home, putting money away in your 401k, etc.
- Do you want to file taxes jointly or separately?
Consider this an opportunity to take a fresh look at your approach to personal finance, and look for ways to combine your personal strengths and best financial habits! Remember, if you’re considering opening a joint bank account, there are potential downsides. In addition to some smaller downsides like disagreements over how much one person spends during the week, it could lead to more serious consequences. For example, if the relationship ever ends, both parties have equal access to the account and could spend that shared money reckless. Additionally, both account holders may face legal ramifications if one of the account holders runs into problems with credit or debt.
For Families: If your child is opening a bank account for the first time, now is a great time to discuss responsible spending and saving habits. Make sure you’re on the same page as to where money will be coming from and what it will be spent on, and set expectations for how often you’ll be checking in.
STEP 2: OPENING A JOINT ACCOUNT
For Couples: After evaluating all of your options and discussing with your partner, if you are in favor of a shared bank account, it’s time to stop by your preferred bank branch. If you’re not currently at the same bank, you’ll have to decide which bank you want to continue with, or take the opportunity to look into new banks. If you’re opening a new checking account online, there will usually be the option to specify that you’re applying jointly.
For Families: While the process for opening a joint account with a child can be very similar to opening an account for a couple, there are a few key differences. Since you likely won’t be giving your child joint access to your own account, you’ll need to open a new account. Children under the age of 18 may need a co-owner for their account, depending on the account, and opening a new account for a minor usually takes places in-person at your local bank branch. This offers a great opportunity to continue to teach your kids about money management as you discuss how bank accounts work with your bank representative.
STEP 3: MONEY MANAGEMENT FOR COUPLES, DIGITIZED
One of the best tools for sharing finances, budgets, and financial goals? Your phone. In addition to your bank’s mobile app, there are a number of popular financial apps to utilize to streamline and improve your fiscal management. Whether you’re sharing finances for the first time in a relationship or teaching a teen how to budget, financial management apps may help to promote efficiency and effectiveness.
Your Bank’s Mobile App: If you decide to move forward with a joint or linked account, take the time to both sign up for online banking, and download the bank’s mobile app, if they have one. Even if you’ve decided that one of you will be primarily managing your finances, it’s important for both of you to have access to your financial information and balances. While you’re already engaging in some financial housekeeping, check out your bank’s app to see what features they offer to help you streamline. With options like bill pay, remote deposit capture, and text or email alerts, you can often save yourself some work and more easily monitor and manage your accounts. If you’re monitoring a student account, you can customize a low balance alert to keep you in the loop.
LearnVest: An app of the same name as its popular financial blog counterpart, LearnVest has a lot of great features, allowing you to create budgets, track expenses and set goals. The competitive advantage comes in if you’re willing to pay for the premium upgrade, which gives you access to a Certified Financial Planner to assist in helping to guide financial well-being.
MVelopes: Heard of the popular envelope system for budgeting? Essentially you stick to your budget by splitting your monthly spending allowance in cash between several envelopes labeled for specific uses – groceries, eating out, bills, etc. While many people have found success with this system, it can be limiting due to its cash-only nature. Enter MVelopes. In addition to digitizing the envelope system, you can also utilize financial coaching and education features to help improve your financial planning and management.
Venmo: If you’re not planning to directly share accounts, Venmo is essential. Venmo has simplified sending and receiving money, whether you and your coworkers are contributing to lunch, or you and your roommate are splitting the utility bill.