Many couples find it challenging discussing money matters, which can explain why the management of finances after marriage can become a sore spot.
“Each of us comes from a different background, so we look at finances very differently. We won’t understand what the other party wants and needs and how they spend without communicating about it,” says Mr P Thirunal Karasu, veteran mediator, marriage solemniser and volunteer for Families for Life.
For some, starting a joint account in the bank ensures a level of equity and clarity in managing family expenses, but before you embark on this step, here are some things to keep in mind.
Understand the purpose
“You need to know very clearly why you want to have a joint account and different couples will have different needs,” said Mr Thirunal who shares bank accounts with his wife and even children
Some keep just one joint current account to pay for day-to-day expenses like groceries while others have a second one for savings and investments, he explains. Some families even have a third account for fixed monthly payments through GIRO such as for school fees and utilities.
Find a framework that works
Typically, spouses have different salaries, so they need to agree on a percentage contribution that works for both parties, says Mr Thirunal.
Also, having a joint account doesn’t mean giving up autonomy over your money. After all, many continue to maintain their own account while giving a portion of earnings to the family each month.
Be transparent and positive
From your monthly salary to spending patterns, throwing these out in the open from the get-go is the first step to minising future disputes. Some people may think nothing of spending on lavish meals while others are more frugal and focused on growing the nest egg, says Mr Thirunal.
However, such differences can be a positive thing too. Spouses, or even unmarried couples who have plans for the future, can support each other and point out blind spots in spending patterns. Over time, with such transparency, having a joint account can actually enhance a relationship, he adds.
The only drawback happens when a relationship becomes strained or if a couple decides to separate. For an amicable resolution, both parties need to agree on the amount that each person will withdraw from the account based on earlier contributions. Says Mr Thirunal, “Again, you need to sit down and communicate.”
The content of this article was adapted from a Your Money interview on MONEYFM 89.3. For more tips on managing family relationships, visit www.familiesforlife.sg or check out #AskFFL on the Families for Life Facebook page