Opening a Joint Account as a Couple

Header image

Joint accounts are a useful tool for managing finances with your partner, but opening one can also represent an important step in the relationship. 

Sharing details of your finances with someone else – even someone you are very close with – requires trust, and making spending decisions collaboratively can change the nature of conversations around money, and even help to bring couples closer together.

According to our findings, 42% of Brits have a joint account with their partner, with this rising to more than half (58%) if we include those respondents that have previously had one. 

Image

Using consumer sentiment data, we explore the factors that prompt couples to open a joint account, the ways in which different ages and genders choose to contribute to the account, and the effect that using one has on managing money within relationships.

Opening a joint account

Just 17% of joint account holders viewed opening the account as a big step in their relationship. However pooling financial resources with your partner is an important decision – making it an option that may be better explored once the relationship is in a settled place.

This could be why Brits were with their partners for just over three and a half years (3.6), on average, before opening an account, with over three quarters (78%) together at least a year, and nearly a fifth (19%) together for six years or more. 

Time in relationship before opening a joint account

Image

But while 11% took the step purely to show commitment to each other, important life events appear to be a more prominent trigger. Of those surveyed, 39% opened a joint account because they got married, 27% did so when they moved in with their partner and 22% made the decision once they had arranged to buy a property together.

Top five reasons for opening a joint account

Image

Major life events such as getting married or buying a house can often require you to make important spending decisions with your partner. With that in mind it’s perhaps unsurprising that 59% felt opening a joint account was a natural step for them to take. 

For some, however, opening the account was more than just a practical consideration, and it often also assumed a more emotional significance.

Although 8% of those that opened a joint account said they felt anxious sharing details of their finances with their partner, and 5% felt they took one out too soon, taking this step was more commonly seen as  positive. Nearly three in 10 (29%) said they were happy their partner was willing to work together and 18% believed that collaborating financially would strengthen their relationship.

Image

Spending on the account

Even if you open a joint account you may still want to retain control over some of your income. This seems to be the prevailing approach, with joint account holders putting under half their salary (44%) into the account, on average.

Percentage of salary joint account holders put into the account

Image

This potentially explains why more than half (56%) of those surveyed felt financially independent even after opening a joint account, although that wasn’t the case across the board. A quarter (26%) said they did not feel independent, and it’s important to remember that making joint decisions may mean you no longer have the same freedom to spend your money how you would like.

In fact 55% of joint account holders claimed that only one person in the relationship – either them or their partner - spent money from the account, compared to just 40% who said that both did. This was mostly because it was easier for one person to look after the account (33%), but in some instances the couple believed that one person in the relationship made better financial decisions than the other (22%). 

Regardless of who managed payments from the joint account, most people were inclined to communicate details of their spending with their partner. Of those surveyed, 63% regularly told their partner when they spent money on the account, and a diligent 36% did so every time, while only 16% did so rarely or not at all.

Manging money as a couple

Opening a joint account can have a positive effect on the way you manage money in your relationship. Nearly two thirds (59%) claimed that managing money together was easier after opening the account, while 38% said it was much easier.

For those that felt a joint account made managing money together easier, the focus was on working collaboratively with their partner. Almost half (47%) said it was easier to track how much they were spending collectively, and a third (34%) said they were able to make better decisions together. A similar proportion (33%) said they felt more like a team.

For the 8% who said it made money management more difficult, however, the lack of teamwork seemed to be the issue. Half of these respondents said their partner spent money without consulting them, and three in 10 said they argued more about money than they used to.

Despite most people finding things easier after opening a joint account, the majority (61%) didn’t notice any change in the nature of conversations with their partner about money. This could be because most couples that open an account are already having constructive and open conversations about their finances.

When conversations did change, however, it was far more likely to be for the better, with 30% finding them more positive and 16% much more positive, compared to just 9% who said they were more negative.

Image

Image

How men and women differ

When it came to opening a joint account with their partner men were slightly more apprehensive. They were more likely to consider it a big step than women (20% of men vs 15% of women responding to our survey), more likely to feel anxious sharing details about their finances (10% vs 6%) and more likely to feel that they had opened the account too soon (8% vs 2%).

In terms of contributing to the account, however, they were committed to paying their share. 

Men, on average, put in more than twice as much as women (£1,240 vs £614) – which may in part be explained by a median gender pay gap in the UK of 17.3% (ONS, 2019) - and these figures also represented a higher proportion of their salary (47% vs 40%).

Image

Men also claimed to have paid in a higher percentage of their salary than their partners (47% for them vs 42% for their partner), on average, while women claimed the opposite (40% vs 42%). Additionally, women were twice as likely as men to put nothing into the account (8% vs 3%).

Despite generally putting in more money, and a higher percentage of their salary, the data suggests men were more content than women to let their partner look after the account. A fifth of men (21%) let their partner manage all payments, compared to just 12% of women, while twice as many men (8% vs 4%) admitted leaving spending to their partner because they made better financial decisions.

Men were also a little more open in communicating their spending, with 69% regularly telling their partner when they spent money on the account, of which 39% did so every time. In contrast, only 57% of women regularly told their partner, and only 33% each time they spent on the account.

Image

While the majority found that joint accounts made managing their money easier, some women and men did express concerns about their partner’s behaviour. 

Of those that felt opening a joint account made managing money together more difficult, 59% of women suggested that their partner spent money without consulting them, compared to just 40% of men. A quarter of men (24%), meanwhile, suggested their partner criticised their spending decisions while only 8% of women made the same complaint.

Ultimately, however, opening a joint account was far more likely to be seen as beneficial by both genders. 

Women were three times (24% vs 8%) and men four times (37% vs 9%) as likely to claim the account made conversations more positive, rather than more negative. Furthermore, both were at least six times as likely (60% vs 9% for men and 59% vs 7% for women) to say that it had made managing money together with their partner easier, rather than more difficult.

Differences by age

Similarly to men and women, those in different age groups also had somewhat contrasting experiences with joint accounts. This is especially true when comparing the younger and older generations.

Looking at the data, 18 to 34 year olds were more than twice as likely to consider opening a joint account as being a big step than those aged 55+ (26% vs 10%) and  four times as likely to feel anxious sharing details of their finances (17% vs 4%). This younger age group were also more likely to feel like they had taken the step too soon (11% vs 1%).

Image

With older generations a little less apprehensive about the process it’s perhaps unsurprising that 68% of those aged 55+ felt opening a joint account was a natural step, compared to just 43% of 18- to 34 year olds.

Interestingly, however, it was the younger age groups that experienced the most positive changes after opening an account. 

Nearly half (47%) of those aged 18 to 34 claimed that conversations about money with their partner were more positive after opening a joint account, compared to just under a quarter (22%) of those aged 55+. A greater proportion of 18 to 34 year olds also suggested managing money together was easier after opening their joint account (68% vs 56%).

Image

Whether for better or worse it was the younger generations that experienced the biggest changes after the account was opened. Nearly two thirds (59%) of those aged 18 to 34 saw a difference in the nature of their conversations once using the account (either more positive or negative) compared to almost one third (30%) of those aged 55+. 

One possible explanation is that those aged 55+ are more likely to be in longer, settled relationships in which open conversations around money were already commonplace. The data, however, contradicts this somewhat, and those aged 55+ were actually more than twice as likely to have opened a joint account in the first year of their relationship than respondents aged 18 to 34 (31% vs 15%).

Image

On balance, however, the findings from our survey reveal that joint accounts are felt to be a force for good in a relationship. All age groups were at least twice as likely to say the account made conversations around money more positive, rather than more negative, and at least seven times as likely to say the account made managing money easier, rather than more difficult.

Things to consider before opening a joint account

Opening a joint account with your partner can be a useful way to pay household bills or save for a big life event, and may even help you to work together better as a couple. But allowing your partner access to your money is a big decision, and conversations around what that money should be spent on and who is allowed to spend it can sometimes be difficult.

Before you and your partner decide to open a joint account you should consider some of the following questions:

1

How comfortable are you both giving each other access to your money?

2

Are you confident that your partner can make considered financial and spending decisions?

3

Is the relationship in a stable, settled place?

4

How much will you and your partner contribute?

5

What will the joint account primarily be used for?

For more information you can check our guide page here.

Ready to compare current accounts?

Find the right bank account for you

Compare now

 

Sources

MoneySuperMarket survey of 2,002 nationally representative adults (conducted by Opinium - 05/11/19 - 07/11/19)

Office for National Statistics - Gender pay gap in the UK: 2019 

Find this helpful? You can share this article