When Two Becomes ONE

A joint account may be a smart option for managing shared expenses, but it also can cause disputes. So why not lay down some ground rules first?

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

A joint account may be a smart option for managing shared expenses, but it also can cause disputes. So why not lay down some ground rules first? 

So, you’ve reached that stage in your relationship where you’re comfortable sharing your financial habits with each other and have decided to set up a joint account. 

But before you go ahead with it, it’s a good idea to draw some boundaries. After all, money matters can be tricky, and you wouldn’t want them to affect your relationship, right? 

How to get started 

1. Fix the contribution amounts

Elsa Lim, finance coach and founder of www.moneyfitcoach.com, suggests discussing who should be the primary and secondary contributors, and how often the account should be topped up. 

“Women must learn to talk about money and tell their partners what they expect out of the arrangement—without arguing and feeling embarrassed, pressured or intimidated,” she says. 

2. Establish the types of expenses covered 

Elsa warns that the both of you might not always see eye to eye when it comes to expenses, so it’s important for the both of you to establish the types of expenses that the joint account covers. 

“You also have to be clear about what spending habits you will not tolerate, such as gambling or other unhealthy addictions,” she says. For hobby expenses, Elsa recommends setting up separate personal accounts. 

3. Manage roles and responsibilities 

Everyone has their strengths, and Elsa advises playing them to your advantage. 

“Perhaps you’re good at budgeting while your boyfriend is good at investing. Or perhaps he’s a spender while you’re a saver. You may decide that all investment matters come under his care while the household budget comes under yours,” she says. 

She adds that ground rules and acceptable spending should be established, particularly if one partner is a bigger spender than the other. 

4. Save the (money) date 

Elsa suggests making regular appointments with your partner to discuss financial matters. 

“These are ‘date’ nights where you and your partner discuss and track all matters pertaining to money management, family expenses and spending plans. Agree to create a safe space to talk about all matters of financial concern and review,” says Elsa. 

Three women tell us how a joint account has been working for them 

“I thought having a joint account with my husband would make it easier to manage our finances and promote transparency between us. Also, it’d help us save money that can be used for household stuff and renovations because I know what our money is spent on and how much we each put into the account. But it can be a tricky matter, especially when one of us needs to put in an amount that is different from what was promised.” 
- Germaine Tan, 30, UI/UX Designer. She also keeps a personal savings account. 

“My husband and I started our joint account to save up for trips and other indulgences. As time passed and our responsibilities increased, we started saving a higher amount that we used to pay for our engagement, wedding and new home. The whole experience has been rewarding, and we learnt to manage our finances towards a common goal.” 
- Felicia Lim, 27, Manager. She also keeps a personal savings account. 

“I have two accounts: one is for my personal spending and the other is a joint account I share with my fiancé to save for our wedding. We figured that it would be good to put all our savings into the joint account every month. There were a few misunderstandings along the way but we learnt to compromise and better trust each other. It’s actually a good exercise for new couples who are in it for the long term.” 
- Eliyya Hamid, 26, Hotel Executive. 

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