When people get married, they have several decisions to make. Some of those decisions center on finances…and these financial decisions reflect beliefs about power and trust. With that in mind, researchers have completed studies to discover the impact of having a joint account versus separate accounts in a marriage.
A longitudinal study published in March of 2023, assigned newlywed or engaged couples to one of three conditions for managing their finances: 1) merge money into a joint account, 2) maintain separate accounts, or 3) manage their finances in any way they want. Couples who pooled their finances into a joint account reported increases in their perceived relationship quality over a 2-year period. The other two groups reported an expected decline in relationship satisfaction over the first 2 years of marriage. The research supported three potential reasons that pooling money in a joint account would lead to greater relationship satisfaction:
- It promoted financial goal agreement. The couples felt like they were on the same team as they created shared goals and priorities.
- It improved how married couples felt about the way in which they handled their money. Both these points remind me of how important communication is within a marriage. When a couple pools their money in a joint account, they must communicate goals and desires about finances with one another. They have to discuss expenditures and determine priorities around those expenditures. Perhaps, this communication increased their sense of being a team, of working together, and increased their positive feelings about how they managed their money.
- It increased each person’s willingness to do things for the other without expecting something in return. That’s an interesting result to me. It seems slightly removed from pure financial matters. However, it makes sense. Communication about finances allows the couple to learn about what money means to their spouse and about their spouse’s priorities, especially around finances in this case. Communicating to work toward common goals will increase their trust in their spouse. As a result of this growing interpersonal knowledge and trust, each one will grow in their willingness to do things for the other without expecting a “tit-for-tat” response.
This study also suggests that the act of pooling money in a joint account actually contributed to a happier and more enduring relationship. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Money in and of itself does not create happiness. However, how we communicate about money and how we enact our priorities through money can impact our happiness and the intimacy in our relationship. By putting finances into a joint account, a couple puts themselves in apposition to learn better ways of communicating about priorities and values while working as a team to move toward those priorities with their finances. So, would you like a happier marriage? Consider a joint account.