Should couples open a joint bank account?

Thursday March 14 2019

Before opening the account, make sure you agree

Before opening the account, make sure you agree on the uses of your joint venture. Determine your monthly budget, and decide what will be done with the account if your relationship changes, or if one of you passes away. NET PHOTO 

By Christine Katende

Experts say a joint bank account helps to show a couple’s transparency; that they have nothing to hide from each other, which ultimately helps the couple to keep track of their joint monthly spending, budgeting for regular costs and saving for the future, as well as other financial commitments.
Jonathan Okiru, a marriage counsellor with Family Life Network, says as a couple, it is imperative to agree on how much you will each deposit on the joint account and how frequently.
Daniel and Ruth Mulamula, have been married for 29 years and one thing Daniel is proud of is the openness they exercise as a couple.
“I was a public servant when we got married. My wife was a teacher, but we agreed to open a joint account which we had to contribute to at the end of every month,” he reveals, adding: “We decided to save the biggest percentage of our salaries and when the savings grew, we still discussed and agreed on what to do and how to spend the money,” he says. The couple have since achieved their dreams of educating their children, setting up a business and buying land.

Purpose
“This account is opened for a specific purpose, goal or assignment, which should be clear to both if they are to reach their desired goal,” Okiru notes.
Mulamula reveals that when he conceived the idea, he wanted the family to develop without constraints. “I had several discussions with my wife and I realised we both wanted to achieve the same goals. That made it easy to decide on how much we would contribute and what to prioritise,” he shares.

Discipline
As the expert states, it is important to remember that the account is not personal, Mulamula also says none of them would use the savings for personal needs. Financial discipline is key, Okiru emphasizes.
Unlike the Mulamulas, Raphael and his partner were not yet ready to have a joint account because they literally did not have the said discipline. The couple kept withdrawing money anyhow and after some time, they stopped saving altogether.
“It started well, where each of us contributed Shs250,000 every month with the goal of saving up enough money to buy a car,” he recalls, adding, “When we bought the car, my wife suggested that I allow her get some money from the account to pay her sister’s tuition. Instead of growing the account, we continued to withdraw from it and disagreements ensued when I would sometimes refuse her to withdraw the money.”

In case of disagreement
According to the moneyadviceservice.org.uk, in case of a disagreement, cancel the mandate. This will freeze the account so no one, including you, will be able to withdraw money. Your bank will only unlock the account once everyone agrees on how to split the money. And if you cannot reach an agreement, the only option might be to let the courts decide who gets what.
Transparency
However, just as discipline should be exercised in this aspect, it is essential for couples to have financial transparency, says Okiru.
“It is easier to operate a joint account when both parties are financially transparent. You also need to agree on how often the money will be withdrawn from the account,” he notes.
Okiru says since it is difficult to find both parties excellent in financial management, the couple should agree on who will take on administrative roles and the one with more knowledge in that area should take the lead, not forgetting to agree on how often to review the financial statements.
“In order to avoid conflicts, seek financial knowledge or assistance from your bankers before opening a joint account,” he advises.
However, everything has to be agreed upon and put into writing so that there are no grey areas.
Above all, Okiru cautions couples to respect all the guidelines set for the joint account if the set goal for the account is to be realised.
Expert tips
Evelyn Kharono Lufafa, a counselling psychologist, gives tips on how to succeed.
•Bring up the topic during courtship and talk through it.
•Lay ground rules on how the account will be run.
• Agree on what you want it for, is it for mortgage, buying a car or Vacation?
•Before opening the account, work out what is fair for both of you because having a joint account is a convenient way to share costs. However, let the couple runs both joint and separate accounts to cater for the differences in spending.

Would you open a joint bank account with your spouse?
“I would. It creates trust and puts a check on expenditure. It also improves saving and thus family development since there is an agreement or approval before spending.”
Edith Mugoya, engaged

“Yes, because it helps to save for key expenditures such as rent, school fees and unexpected medical bills. All this is possible because access to the account is limited and one person cannot withdraw the money without the other’s knowledge.”
Solomon Bitaroho, married
“We have an operating joint account but again, each of us has their own just because our jobs are different. I do not withdraw money from the joint account to give to my family and friends.”
Moses Bulamu, married

ckatende@ug.nationmedia.com

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