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What to think about when setting up a joint account

Before opening a joint account, it’s worthwhile having a chat about how you can make the account work for both of your finances. Here are some questions and pointers to consider.

What’s the purpose?

First things first. What are you opening the account for? Generally speaking, it’ll be for one of two reasons – either to save money or to manage spending and everyday expenses.

 

It’s important to know upfront what you’ll be using the account for, as that will help set the ground rules for how you’ll be using the account. Some people open up one joint everyday account for paying bills as well as another joint savings account for longer term savings.

How much will each of you put in?

You may decide both of you will deposit the same amount into the account; on the other hand if you earn different amounts you may decide to put in amounts that are representative of this. There are no set rules, but it’s important you choose a method that works best for both of you.

Will the account have full or joint authority?

Joint accounts can be set with two different access levels:

 

  • Both to sign – with this type of account both account holders will need to sign for any withdrawals.

 

  • Either to sign – as the name suggests, either of the account holders could access money in the account without needing the approval (or the knowledge) or the other account holder.

 

Generally speaking, most joint accounts will automatically allow both account holders to get money out of the account without needing permission from the other person. If you want an account where both of you will need to agree, you’ll likely need to set this up.

Will you still have your own accounts?

When combining finances some people choose to keep their financial independence by still maintaining your own accounts. This could be wise, particularly when first joining finances together.

Communicating and setting the ground rules

Aside from the practicalities of how you’ll operate your account, it’s also important to have a talk about you general attitude to money.

 

There’s every chance your partner may have quite a different attitude to money - one of you may be more of a ‘saver’ while one might be more of a ‘spender’.

 

 It’s important to have a conversation upfront with how you’ll negotiate your different views about money. What happens if one of you wants to make an impulse withdrawal from a savings account when you have an agreed goal in mind?

 

Having ground rules upfront could help deal with any issues later on. Agree on spending and withdrawal limits as well as on any savings goals you both want to achieve.

 

If the account is for paying bills, know upfront who will be responsible for ensuring they get paid (setting up automatic payments could also be a good way to make sure your bills get paid on time).

More on setting goals

One of the advantages of having a joint account (particularly a savings account) is your combined savings could help you reach goals sooner. Having clear goals to start off with – both long and short term – is a great way to work towards building your financial wealth; chances are it’ll also be good for your relationship.

 

Have a conversation about what you want to achieve, both in the short term (perhaps a holiday) and in the long term (maybe a deposit on a house). Some savings accounts such as a Westpac Life account have features that enable you to set and track different savings goals within the one account.

Checking in regularly

It’s a good idea also to regularly check in with how your joint finances are going. If it’s a savings account, check how your progress is going and how close you are to reaching your goals. Once you’ve starting kicking your goals, perhaps it’s time to set some more. Or perhaps you need to adjust (either up or down) the amount of money you’re putting in. Whatever the case is, keeping the lines of communication can go a long way to ensuring the successful management of your joint account.

Things you should know

This information does not take into account your personal circumstances and is general in nature. It is intended as an overview only and it should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter or relied upon as such.