Frontiers of Adulting: Joint Bank Accounts for the Fiercely Independent
How do you share money with someone after years of only saving and spending for yourself?
If you’re anything like me, you were taught to be an independent person; equipped to fend for and support themselves in all aspect — physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially — because you never know what may happen. (Apocalypse!)
A little extreme, sure…but then again my father is a fierce business man (who went from farm boy in rural Japan to COO in New York City) and a modernist who doesn’t care if his children are male or female, but that they are their own people who are successful and independent.
Cocktail this with my mother who is an incredibly creative soul and also a modernist who cares less about her daughter getting married and more about her daughter living the life she wants for herself.
These variables along with my own inborn nature created the person you see (read) before you. After my first taste of financial independence that summer of my 16th year when my best friend and I thought that getting jobs at the local mall would be fun (we got jobs at a Hot Topic, people) and the revelation that I would no longer have to stash part of my lunch money away every day in order to afford a pack of cigarettes (they were much cheaper back then — by the way, I quit a while ago) and I was sold.
I was all about earning my keep. My first serious job as a waitress, I worked incredibly hard, saved up all my money and blew it all during the holidays on my friends and family because it felt so good. I had earned those gifts…those gifts meant so much more than any gifts I had given before (with my stashed-away lunch money.)
And this continued until I was out on my own.
Fast forward many years, many failed relationships, one successful relationship, a marriage, a dog, a mortgage, and a daughter later and we’re in the present. Charles and I, both financially independent, but happy to have someone to share the burden of 30 years of debt with, were pretty chuffed to be working towards home ownership and taking steps to being adult-like.
Part of being adult-like is diving, head-first, into the void of marital transparency and efficiency. In short, we needed to do some financial planning. This involved sitting down to discuss where we both were financially, what our monthly financial needs were as a household, what our personal financial commitments were all in the name of making things easier. This all happened pre-baby, by the way, because if it had happened post-baby, I doubt our brains would have had the capacity to compute all the info.
…and this is where my main piece of advice to you comes in…
If you’re all about financial independence and are married to a person who is also all about it and the subject of a joint account comes up, do not immediately shoot the idea down. Instead, try out a joint account while both keeping your own personal accounts. Trust me on this one.
The “keeping our personal accounts” spin was based on my selfish needs to purchase various items for myself without having to ask Charles or feel guilty.
So, here’s what you do:
Calculate the total financial needs of your household for the month…we included things like mortgage payments, insurance payments, groceries and household miscellany, dog walkers, dog needs, a going-out-to-dinner fund, cable, electric, gas, Netfix…all of the stuff you share. Now, split it according to your individual monthly earnings. (Be sensitive if there’s a massive income gap between the two of you…you’re trying to lessen any possible resentments and make things smoother in the end.)
Out of Sight, Peace of Mind
Next, set up direct deposit with your company, funnel your household expenses into your joint account and the rest into your personal account. Saving and contributing money is always easier when you don’t see it first.
For good measure, try tacking on some extra money to your monthly household contribution. If you both do that, you can save up some funds for random needs…like a Shark. (The vacuum. Not the animal…also, I just got one and it’s awesome.)
Live Independently, but Grow Together
Do you know what happens now? You both have access to that joint account and instead of playing who-paid-for-this-last-time, you just both dip into that account for the household needs. Suddenly, things like resentment, tallying up who paid for what, and all that unnecessary stress flies out the window while still giving you your own personal pool of money to pull from for surprise gifts for each other because you’re relationship just got SO MUCH EASIER!
Joint accounts aren’t just effective, efficient ways to deal with household finances, though they’re totally awesome that way. There’s actually more. They are a great signifier of trust, honesty, and commitment to another person.
Listen, I believe in privacy. You’re never gonna find me snooping around on my husband’s phone or trolling his email account to see who he’s been talking to. He would never do that to me either. I’m not the type of person to freely let him brush his teeth while I’m going to the bathroom. (Sorry, but we’re old school like that. We find it unnecessary.) BUT building a family with someone requires financial transparency and if that’s not happening, you need to take a step back and reassess your situation.
Even if you’re not earning for the household, you should know the financial state of your family. (Did you know that in Japan, even though being a housewife is common, the housewife is generally the one who controls the flow of money?)
So, what’s the moral of this particular story? Unless you’re running a drug cartel and want to keep your spouse out of the know (and, likely, out of harm’s way) or you’re a secret agent with several different identities and bank accounts…unless the knowledge of your finances may put your loved ones in danger, consider the joint bank account.
It turns out that even if you’ve been used to hoarding your own money and dealing with your own bills, there might come a time when it may hinder your good marriage vibes. Rest assured, your financial independence can stay intact.