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Love and marriage ... and money: the do and don’ts of joint bank accounts

A bank survey from several years back suggested one-third of young couples keep completely separate bank accounts.

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Valentine's Day may have people thinking about their relationships and where they are going.

And if the heart turns to taking it further, that may mean the marrying of finances.

For some couples, it will be when they move in together and begin sharing big expenses like rent. For others, it may be when they tie the knot or buy a house together.

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The timing of opening a joint account, a milestone for many people, will depend on your own assessment of your relationship and financial circumstances.

Wade Stayzer of Meridian Credit Union suggests an approach he describes as "Mine, yours and ours" that sees both people maintain their individual accounts, but share a joint account for joint expenses.

"The together money is used to pay those together expenses, but it also provides the autonomy for each individual to be able to do what they want to do," said Stayzer, Meridian's vice-president of sales and service.

"You have your money, your spouse has their money and then you have joint money."

The money for the joint account could come equally from both partners or split in whatever way they decide is fair.

"It could be based on the income that everyone is bringing to the table," he said.

But the key, Stayzer says, is that couples talk openly about money because it's one of the top reasons why they argue.

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"By having the discussion and setting ground rules and understanding how each other likes to operate will help remove some of the stigma around it," he said.

"When we hear horror stories, if you will, it's more when someone had no idea about where the money was going and then all of a sudden there's a nasty surprise."

Christine Canning, head of everyday banking at BMO, says as two-income households have become more common, the conversation about money has become more complicated.

"It's really a good thing because what that means is there's more equality and we're having good conversations, but as with many of these things it's a gift and it's also a responsibility," she said.

"If you're lucky enough that you've got two people with equal incomes, that comes with, 'OK, now we have to have the conversation about how this is going to work."'

A poll done by BMO suggested that 28 per cent of Canadian couples share all of their finances, while 30 per cent said they want to keep come aspects secret from their partner.

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The survey also found that 46 per cent of those asked admitted that they had lied to their partner about their finances at some point in their relationship and 17 per cent said they argued about money at least once a week.

Canning said every couple will have disagreements, but having some ground rules will help bring about productive conversations about money.

"There is a wrong way to do it and it's where you don't have the conversation and you both have completely different points of view about how you should do things," she said.

The BMO poll was done by Pollara between Jan. 21 and Jan. 25 including an online sample of 1,004 adult Canadians who are either married, living common law or have been in a serious relationship for at least two years.

The polling industry's professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

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