With wedding season upon us, now is the time that many couples are getting serious about whether or not to merge finances, and how to do it.
Recent research from TD Bank found that 82 percent of Americans in serious relationships maintain joint bank accounts with their partners, but also that 42 percent of such individuals have separate accounts in addition to their joint accounts.
There is no one right way to manage money with your partner. That being said, there are some things that every couple should take into consideration as they approach marriage and go about exploring their financial options.
Find a bank that works for both of you.
TD Bank research found that Americans consider convenience to be one of the most valuable aspects of their financial institutions, specifically regarding bank locations, ATMs and hours. Therefore, when merging finances with a partner, it's important to have an open discussion about your schedules and habits. Are there locations that are convenient to where both of you work? Does one or both of you have a job that would make evening banking hours a big benefit? Finding a bank that is convenient for both of you may not be easy, but our research shows that it's very important.
Consider how merging finances may change your financial situation.
It may seem obvious, but it's important to consider that when you merge finances with your partner, combined incomes could change your financial situation. If you're fortunate enough to maintain higher minimum balances in a joint account with your soon-to-be husband or wife, then you should explore premium bank accounts. At many banks, such accounts allow customers to reap the benefits of high-end features like paying interest on your balance and reimbursing for out-of-network ATM fees.
Same-sex newlyweds should pay particular attention to this advice, as a 2012 study found that LGBT people tend to earn more than their heterosexual counterparts. Premium joint accounts may be the best option for same-sex couples who have the ability to keep a higher balance in their accounts.
Choose accounts that are aligned with your aspirations.
For many couples, marriage triggers other significant life events, like buying a home or having children. If you and your partner are heading towards these major milestones, you should take them into consideration when choosing a financial institution or bank account. For example, if home buying is in the near future, try to find a bank that offers rate discounts to customers who link a checking account with a mortgage. Doing so could help you save hundreds of dollars a year.
Have an open conversation about how to manage your money.
As I previously mentioned, there is no one right way to manage money with your partner, and also no one right time to merge finances. In fact, TD Bank research shows that millennials are starting joint accounts earlier in their relationships than previous generations: While 88 percent of people 55 and older waited until marriage to merge finances, only 70 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds did the same. Millennials are also increasingly banking online and with smartphone apps.
If it makes sense for you and your partner, take advantage of these technological banking advancements, which allow you to monitor your balance and review account transactions anytime. At many banks, you can even set up email alerts so you won't be caught off-guard if one of your partner's transactions leads to a low balance. In addition, online bill pay also can help manage your joint monthly costs, giving all account holders one place where they can review their monthly financial obligations.
Carefully choosing the financial institution and bank accounts that make the most sense for you and your fiancé can help to ensure a financially successful shared future. Open conversations on preferences and needs are crucial to this process, so be sure to have them before your big day. There might not be one right way for every couple to merge finances, but there is a right way for you and your husband- or wife-to-be.