Could a Joint Bank Account Be the Secret to a Longer, Happier Marriage? Study Says Yes

Could a joint account help you and your partner save more and fight less over money?

By: Amanda Mushro
Close up of bride and groom dolls near savings jar

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Close up of bride and groom dolls near savings jar

Photo by: JGI/Jamie Grill

JGI/Jamie Grill

If you’ve ever argued with your partner over money, spending, and finances, you aren’t alone. These arguments can quickly drive a wedge between couples and there isn’t always an easy solution that works for each person. However, one study suggests that there is a simple way to ensure that money won’t be the cause of a breakup and all you need to do is make a trip to your local bank.

According to researchers from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, couples who combine their finances and have a joint bank account report they are happier in their relationships. The authors of the study say that "married couples with joint bank accounts argued less about money, felt more confident about household financial management, and reported better overall relationship satisfaction." They also added that "couples sharing resources also felt more unified and committed to shared goals."

"When we surveyed people of varying relationship lengths, those who had merged accounts reported higher levels of communality within their marriage compared to people with separate accounts, or even those who partially merged their finances," says Jenny Olson, an assistant professor of Marketing at Kelley. "Considering the significant shifts we observed over two years, this is compelling evidence for the benefits of merging finances. It certainly warrants a discussion with your partner."

For the study, researchers worked with 230 couples who were either engaged or newly married. For each couple, this would be their first marriage and everyone said they were open to changing up how they manage their finances. The couples were followed for over two years, and when the study started, each person had separate bank accounts.

The couples in the study had a mean age of participants was 28 years old and had a median household income of $50,000. The couples had known each other for an average of about five years and had been romantically involved for an average of three years.

Researchers started by randomly assigning some couples to keep their separate bank accounts, but others were told to open a joint bank account. Also, a third group was allowed to make the decision on which type of account they wanted.

What researchers found was couples with joint bank accounts "reported substantially higher relationship quality two years later than those who maintained separate accounts."

According to Olsen, merging bank accounts promotes greater financial goal alignment and transparency, and creates a communal understanding in the marriage.

"A communal relationship is one where partners respond to each other’s needs because there’s a need. 'I want to help you because you need it. I’m not keeping track,'" she said. "There’s a 'we' perspective, which we theorized would be related to a joint bank account."

For the couples with separate accounts, Olson said they viewed financial decision-making as more of an exchange.

"It’s 'I help you because you’re going to help me later,'" she said. "They’re prepaying for later favors, and that’s tit-for-tat, which we see a bit more with separate accounts. It’s 'I’ve got the Netflix bill and you pay the doctor.'...They’re not working together like those with joint accounts — who have the same pool of money — and that’s more common in business-type relationships."

So, if you are looking to ease some of the arguing over money in your relationship, you might want to consider a joint account as a first step to making money matters easier. While it won’t fix all financial issues in a relationship, working as a team with your partner to meet your goals will be beneficial to everyone.

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