|Love, honor and share a bank account
Alternative financial arrangements
For every recommendation, though, there are exceptions.
Durling has seen a number of systems work well for
couples. What matters is that the husband and wife agree on the
system they're going to use. And one person has to agree to take
primary responsibility for making sure the bills get paid.
"The two keys are communication and being meticulous,"
she says. "There has to be trust involved and the primary person
has to be open for both people to look at the checkbook."
Candace Bahr is a California financial adviser for
high-net-worth clients and co-founder of WIFE, the Women's Institute
for Financial Education. She and her husband have been married for
26 years and are both highly competent when it comes to financial
"We thought we were both in charge," she
says. That's not always a recipe for success with shared finances.
Now, they switch off, with each person taking primary
responsibility for the checkbook for a full year. That way, you
see not only the bills that come every month, but also those that
come quarterly and annually, such as life insurance premiums and
"If one person handles it, it's so easy for the
other person not to be in touch," Bahr says. "This way,
you have to hand it back to the other person in good order. We've
done it this way for 10 years."
When sharing won't work
And the experts acknowledge that there are some people you
don't want your name next to on a checking account.
Does your mate have excessive amounts of debt? Does
he have a legal judgment against him that gives the court the right
to seize his assets? Does she owe the Internal Revenue Service?
Has she filed for bankruptcy? Has he co-signed on a loan that he's
now responsible to repay? In these situations, talk to a lawyer
before you put both your names on anything.
Then there are the people who think they can't be
overdrawn because there are still checks in the checkbook. And don't
forget about those folks who just can't be bothered to write down
deposits and debit card payments.
"When shouldn't you have a joint checking account?
When your husband doesn't know how to do the math and has a tendency
to add checks rather than subtract them," says Eva Rosenberg,
a CPA and tax educator known on the Internet as Tax Mama.
"I was shocked when my 5-year-older husband
did that for the first time and all our checks went bouncing. He
did that several times. I tried to work this out for about three
years. I couldn't do it for four. I had to leave him. For a very
bright man, he was very stupid."
Pat Curry is a freelance writer
based in Georgia.