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Should newlyweds combine bank accounts?

David Brancaccio Jun 15, 2018
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Do you think Prince Harry and Megan Markle have a joint bank account? 
Steve Parsons - WPA Pool/Getty Images

It’s wedding season, and while personal finance isn’t the most romantic thing, it’s important to talk about this time of year.

To get some tips on nuptials and money, we spoke with Beth Kobliner, a personal finance writer and author of the book “Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties.” This transcript has condensed and edited for clarity.

Beth Kobliner: I think the most important thing for couples who were just starting out is the notion of having bigger discussions. The average age for a woman marrying is 28. Twenty-five years ago it was only 24. For men, the average age is 30, what used to be just 26. So they’re entering marriage with more assets and more financial baggage. So having those conversations about what are your values? Do we want to buy a home together, or do we just want to travel a lot together? Do we want to have kids? Do want to go back to grad school? Those big conversations will dictate what you do with your money.

David Brancaccio: You can just see this, right? “Do you have any bankruptcies in your past?” It’s a valid thing to know.

Kobliner: It’s valid question. Do you have high student loan debt? Do you have credit card debt you haven’t told me about? When it comes to their financial lives, people are squeamish and it’s important not to be and to have these conversations before you get married and throughout your marriage.

Brancaccio: I’m just glad that Mary Brancaccio did not base her decision to get married based on my credit rating back in the Pleistocene era when we got married, but I had no bankruptcies at least. Now one of our cherished producers here is getting married any day now, and she asked me if she should combine the pairs bank accounts into one conjugal account. What’s the answer to that? 

Kobliner: I strongly think that people should have conversations about this to see how they feel because there’s no one right answer. But generally speaking it’s good to have three accounts: a yours, mine and our account. So you have the joint account for mutual goals — we’re saving for a down payment on a home, we’re trying to get a car, whatever — but then you have your own account that you could spend money freely on smaller items. I think marriage in some ways, and this sounds very unromantic, is a catalyst for getting your personal finances together. Looking over everything: Do I have too much credit card debt? How do I cut back? And this is the time to talk openly about it.

Brancaccio: Just not the night before the wedding.

Kobliner: Probably not a good idea.

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