How to Switch Bank Accounts

Considering Opening a Joint Savings Account? Read This First.

There’s a reason so many of us dream about meeting that special someone. Sharing life with the right person means sharing the good and the bad with someone who gets it… someone who “gets” you. But does sharing a life mean sharing a bank account? 

What is a Joint Savings Account?

A joint savings account is a bank account that functions as a normal bank account, usually checking or savings, except that two or more people jointly own and manage the account. Just like an individual savings account, depositing into the account can offer compounding interest. The joint account may be used to achieve common short-term goals, such as funding a vacation or paying for recurring bills, or a joint life project like buying a second home. 

In any case, when evaluating whether a joint savings account is right for you, it is important to ensure that it will not affect your personal long-term financial plans. If you’re considering opening a joint account, start by considering the careful planning and transparent discussion you need to have with the potential co-owner of your account. 

Why Consider a Joint Savings Account?

Many joint plans, such as buying a summer home, taking a vacation, or starting a new life with someone require sound financial planning. As you plan a specific strategy to achieve joint goals, your financial advisor may propose the creation of a joint savings account

Better Results

Joint savings accounts can ease the process of managing shared finances and working towards shared goals. Since all owners have equal access to the account, there is more transparency and accountability around deposits and withdrawals. According to Ryan Bayonett, a CFP, and member of Zoe’s Advisor Network, “Couples that join their finances usually have much better results when it comes to financial and retirement planning.” Psychologically, it’s viewed as a joint effort in which both parties have skin in the game instead of a “theirs vs mine” approach. 

“Couples that join their finances usually have much better results when it comes to financial and retirement planning.” 

Safety

Another perk is it’s a little safer! The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC, typically insures joint savings accounts for a higher amount than individual accounts. For an account with two co-owners, for example, the FDIC insures a maximum of $500,000, while an individual account would only be insured up to $250,000. 

Why Not Consider a Joint Savings Account?

For some, considering joint savings can become a financial headache. Don’t forget it’s a big switch from a solo account! If you ever want to make any changes, both people have to be on board and sign everything together. 

Difficult Conversations

Taking the leap towards a joint savings account will also mean sitting down to have tough conversations around how you spend your hard-earned money. This means it’ll be crucial you have clear conversations around the specifics of joining your accounts. As Andres Garcia-Amaya, Zoe’s Founder & CEO notes, “while it can be an exciting step in uniting your financial lives, the emotions you or your partner tie to their personal finances might lead to things being left unsaid.”

“While it can be an exciting step in uniting your financial lives, the emotions you or your partner tie to their personal finances might lead to things being left unsaid.”

That said, utilizing a financial planner with a holistic understanding of both of your lives can ease communication and ensure all parameters are properly stipulated between you and your soon-to-be account co-owner. 

Potential Oversights

A joint savings account might also leave you to lose sight of other accounts. Couples tend to choose one account to work off of, so the other one may end up incurring low balance or overdraft fees due to oversight.

Incurring Debt

If your partner has a large amount of debt, you may not want to take on the burden of paying off that debt. Merging bank accounts will likely make you responsible for payable on-debt provisions. 

I Want In: Best Practices for Opening A Joint Savings Account 

Be Transparent and Disciplined from the Start

The joint account should only be opened after the potential co-owners have agreed on its objective and established clear management rules. 

As discussed, talking about money and managing finances can create stress in even the best relationships. An APA study found that monetary concerns are a priority for Americans. Joint accounts have an important feature: All co-owners have equal withdrawal rights, so the rules for making withdrawals must be very well established and communication must be clear. Let’s not forget that financial infidelity can end any relationship -even a marriage

Five Questions to Consider

In addition to establishing trust, and ensuring you open your account at a reliable banking institution, you’ll need to discuss these four key questions with the co-owner of your savings account: 

1. What is the purpose of our account? 

Start by clearly delineating the joint objectives for which you’ll be creating a joint account. Answering how the money will be used can avoid future headaches and give you both a goal to work towards. 

2. How much money will be in our account monthly? 

Answering this question jointly is especially useful if it is an account to pay shared expenses. By knowing the total amount that must be reached to cover expenses, you can distribute contribution quantities evenly among both parties.

3. How often will we contribute to this account?

Set the dates or frequencies on which contributions will be made. This will provide a clear panorama of the flow of money in the account and how each co-owner will contribute to saving.

4. What are the rules for withdrawals? 

Set ground rules for when, why, and how much someone can withdraw from the account.  Talking about these scenarios in advance will help avoid unexpected surprises when looking over a bank statement.

5. Are partial withdrawals allowed? 

Can one or both partners dabble into the joint account under extraordinary circumstances? If so, discuss potential consequences. Communication is very important to prevent major disagreements between you both. 

Keep an Eye on the Horizon – And Your Account Balance

Deciding to share an account with a partner is a decision you shouldn’t take lightly. Be sure to honestly discuss with your potential if you’re aligned on the financial goals you are saving towards. If your financial goals do not coincide, chances are your joint account balance will lead to fights and headaches. However, if both you and your partner have “skin in the game,” the benefits of a joint saving account based on trust and a shared dream can bring countless benefits.