‘Darling, should we open a joint account?’ It’s surely one of the least sexy questions you’ll ever ask your other half, but it’s one of the most important financial decisions you will ever face as a couple.
The key things to consider before taking the plunge together are your earnings, the dynamic of your relationship and your respective financial situations. For many couples, having a joint account certainly makes life a lot easier. As you take more complex financial decisions together like buying a home or getting married, it allows you both to see just how much money is coming in and going out. That way, you can make joint decisions about how to spend, save and generally keep your household finances on track.
It’s not just about practical considerations. Uniting your resources seems like a natural progression for many loved-up couples – a concrete statement that “what’s mine is yours”. It may symbolise your intent to keep no secrets from each other and maintain absolute openness in the relationship.
On the other hand, the decision to open up your finances to someone else can be nerve-racking. Your partner will be able to see how you manage money, in a way that you might not feel comfortable with – and vice versa. You may feel that you have to start justifying your spending decisions, or you may be concerned that your partner is not leaving enough money in the account for important bills. It’s vital to keep talking about these issues but you’ll need to try to keep it unemotional and focus on finding a solution that’s workable for both of you.
One way to avoid conflict is to have a joint account you use to pay all shared expenses, and then have separate “play” accounts. That way, you can both spend the rest of your incomes as you like. But to make any joint account work, you have to make sure that neither party is tempted to empty the account or run up overdrafts. And bear in mind that your credit score will be tarnished if you open a joint account with someone with a poor borrowing history.
Remember that if you do take out a joint account, you are jointly liable for it. That means if your partner runs up an overdraft, you will be jointly responsible for repaying it. If there is a risk of this happening, you have to be confident that your partner won't be "missing in action" if you break up, leaving you to pick up the bill.
So if in doubt, leave it for now. It may not seem romantic, but if you have any nagging nerves about the relationship, separating your finances will be a whole lot easier if you’ve mostly kept them apart in the first place.
Whatever your spending habits are right now, Virgin Money customers can get help with budgeting via our clever Virgin Money mobile app.