Money Confessions: Are Joint Savings Accounts Relationship Wreckers Or Boosters?

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Couples come forth and bare their thoughts on combining their money along with their lives. 

Many a quip have been made about marriage, or relationships in general, like ‘what’s yours is mine, what’s mine is yours’. Said in jest or not, the underlying possession in question is often money – one of the top causes of separation in Singapore.

To defy the statistics, it’d behoove you to get real about money and financial values with your partner, no matter how sensitive. Don’t forget that you guys will be sharing a roof  – plus bills – and you are no longer operating as a single entity. Some questions to pore over would include whether it is better off setting up a joint savings account, what it should be used for, and what are the common life goals you two share.  

Even then, co-owning a pot of gold presents its own set of problems to really test the relationship. Let’s hear these couples’ two cents on joint accounts, and how they try to avoid splitting hairs over splitting bills.  


#1: Joint focus on needs over wants  

K.H. Ong, 31, Software engineer
H.Q. Chew, 30, Teacher

K.H.: We don’t have a joint account yet, but would want to set one up with my soon-to-be wife. It is easier to calculate our combined expenses at the end of the month, and it also allows us to set common goals for big ticket investments, like housing, renovations and actual investments. Other than that, it should go towards paying common expenses like internet bills and groceries. 

If you were to think about it, since both parties have to be agreeable to use the sum within, it trains us to be focused on needs more than wants. 

H.Q.: If we were to set up a joint account, I feel the contribution would have to be a percentage of our respective salaries, not a 50-50 split. In the long run, it’ll be very tiring to keep up. 


#2: A shared responsibility for our financial goals

Samantha T., 26, Account manager

My fiance and I first set up a joint account when we both started working, with the purpose of boosting the interest rates of our DBS Multiplier accounts. Our salaries and also the dividends from the stocks we have individually are credited into this single account. We then transfer the money out into our individual accounts because on its own, the joint account earns just 0.05% p.a.

When we get married, our plan is to top up and use the account for joint expenses, such as utility bills, groceries and other household necessities. Other expenses such as meals, cab rides and small purchases would continue to be on a ‘sometimes you pay, sometimes I pay’ basis which works for us since neither of us spends excessively anyway. 

What we don’t use the account for is to grow our savings. As we are both very prudent with money, the money in the joint account is kept at a minimum. We prefer to keep spare cash in high-yield savings accounts or investments that reap higher returns.

With a joint account, it’s the start of a shared responsibility for our future and also a reminder that our financial decisions don’t just affect ourselves. 


#3: Not seeing eye to eye on savings and spending 

Manfred Lee, 37, Communications consultant

My wife and I rarely talk about finances as it has always been a contentious subject between us. It has always been a sensitive subject because both of us don’t see eye to eye on how to save and spend. For example, while I’m willing to go for cheaper alternatives, my wife is more willing to shell out for convenience. 

However, since getting married, there have been many unforeseen financial responsibilities. From unexpected medical complications to family commitments, I’ve found myself paying for most of these expenses solely. I’ve even had to pay off the hospital bills in installments. 

While we do have a joint account, we don’t contribute to it equally even though we both earn the same amount of money. I suspect that I am not privy to her other financial commitments like her own personal debts and spending. Our joint account pays for all our utilities, groceries and housing loan, but the outlay is more than the input on some months.

This means I have barely seen my savings increase these past few years, especially since I have previously committed to some investments before we had gotten married. While that may be the only saving grace, it doesn’t leave a lot of liquid cash in case of emergencies. 

Make sure to squirrel away money into savings and accommodate liquid investment plans for rainy days and unforeseen events. You never know when you’ll need access to capital when you need it. This also doubles up as marriage advice too: actively engage your spouse in financial planning, even if they are reluctant to.


#4: Keeping it flexible with separate accounts

Darren Ng, 31, Software engineer

My wife and I set up a joint account two years ago as part of the bank loan we have taken for our house. Since then, we have never really used it even though we meant to. We contributed equally to it when we set it up and wanted to use it to pay for groceries and bills. 

However, since we moved in, we realised this was not necessary as we could split the bills equally between ourselves and pay from our own bank accounts. With the advancement in payment services, we can also simply PayNow each other if we want to help each other out. We chose to only keep slightly more than the minimum sum as we think we should place our monies in places with better returns. 

My wife and I did not experience any issues so far (and hopefully not in the future) but we could see how complications might occur for joint accounts: who contributes more, what constitutes the usage of monies in the joint account, what happens when one person needs money from the joint account – you know, questions like that.  

We are fortunate in that both of us earn about the same amount and lead similar lifestyles, hence it was an easy decision to split bills equally. We have also agreed to have our separate savings to pay for any unforeseen expenses. If any of us needs financial help, the other party can still help with his/her own savings. This minimises complications regarding the joint account. At the end of the day, we feel there is no right or wrong; the key is open communication regarding finances.


#5: A change of mind over the DINK lifestyle in Singapore

Jayeeta Mazumder, 35, Lifestyle content manager

If you asked us this question a few years ago, we’d probably say a resounding ‘no’. We loved leading independent lives as a couple. We had jobs that would take us around the world, we liked spending on dining, travel and shopping on our own accord, and we definitely liked being answerable to no one. We kept our savings accounts separate for the first 5 years of our married life and we don’t regret that decision one bit. 

Over the last two years, though, our priorities started evolving. We moved to Singapore with a DINK (double income no kids) lifestyle. It meant a higher cost of living — higher rent, utility bills, groceries, transportation, and so on. It was time to think strategically about our joint expenses, and it made sense to have a joint source of funds. We use our joint savings to invest and plan towards retirement with our financial advisor. As a couple pursuing financial freedom, it gives us a sense of control and calm over our future. We also put aside a fixed amount for our travels (yes, even during this post-pandemic era) because we wouldn’t want to scrimp on small joys when we’re retired. 

We realise that each couple’s financial journey is purely circumstantial. Had our priorities not changed, would we go for a joint account? Probably not. But now that we do, we absolutely vouch for it because the gains are a lot higher than losses. Eventually, if you’re open and communicative with your spouse about your financial expectations, you set yourselves up for a successful financial future together.


#6: Transparency that eliminates arguments

Maggie R.,  33, Marketing manager

Before I was married, we had gotten a joint account together to manage rent, income from our Airbnb adventures and save up together for big expenses, such as flights to the US and more. We agreed on a small monthly amount to add into this account and maintained separate bank accounts for all other things in our life, such as savings and retirement, and would alternate payments when it came to outings together or with our friends. 

Once we moved to Singapore, our situation changed, with us moving for his career and me being on the job market. At this point, we merged our monies into a single joint account and never looked back. Fast forward three years later, we’re married and maintain the same financial process. We still maintain separate accounts in the US and Australia for investments or other expenditures, but the joint account for our living expenses and day-to-day spending gives us a level of transparency and openness that takes away all of the arguments and disagreements. 

Everyone’s financial situations differ, but aligning on your financial goals with full trust and transparency helped to create a positive financial situation in our relationship. 


#7: Balance of spending and saving

Dahlia Tan, 29, Art director

We set up the joint savings account the moment we got our BTO queue number. We know that we are both committed to move toward another stage of life where many big spending will be coming along. 

The first two years, we saved about 10% of our income. In our 3rd year, we saved 20% of our income. Our earning power is quite similar, so there’s no dispute over who should contribute more.

We used the account mainly for our joint expenses. From travelling to joint spendings such as parents’ birthdays and gifts. A huge chunk was used for the wedding we just had back in December. Moving forward, we will be anticipating another huge spending end of 2021 when our BTO arrives.

One of the pitfalls of a joint account, I feel, is the danger of overspending. To prevent this, everytime we hit $10,000, we will open a fixed deposit account to prevent overspending. Therefore, this joint account functions very much like a spending account, and we know we have safely kept some money aside.


#8 There’s room for both joint and personal savings accounts

Hazel Cheng, 29, Web content writer 

Stepping into the 12th year of courtship with my soon-to-be husband, it’s a wonder we haven’t really talked about opening a joint savings account. I don’t blame him for not broaching the subject — I’m stellar at spending, he’s wonderful at saving. 

Don’t get me wrong, we are very transparent with each other about our finances. In fact, in order to take advantage of higher interest rates that some savings accounts offer, we’ve started pooling some of our savings together recently although the UOB One account is legally my savings account. 

Each month, each of us contributes a specific sum of money to the account. We have an excel spreadsheet detailing how much shared savings we’ve mustered, say, by March 2022. It keeps the tracking part of our shared savings a little more manageable, though I must concede that it is a nightmare on my end. I never really know how money there is in the account that’s fully mine to spend and use until I squint at the excel spreadsheet and punch in the calculator. We really need to figure a better way out, don’t we? 

As for an actual joint savings account, I reckon we’ll open one when our BTO is ready. It will definitely be convenient for splitting home and kid-related expenses. However, there should be ‘rules’. For example, how much each one is contributing and what kind of expenses can be paid for using funds from the joint savings account. We will still have our own personal savings accounts for sure. 

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