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Good Question: Should Couples Have Separate Bank Accounts?

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(credit: CBS) Heather Brown
Heather Brown loves to put her innate curiosity to work to answer yo...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – One of the biggest things couples fight about is money.

A recent study by Harris Interactive for the American Institute of CPAs found the three biggest money-related arguments: wants vs. needs, unexpected expenses and insufficient savings.

So that had us wondering: Should men and women have separate bank accounts?

According to Nicole Middendorf, financial analyst and CEO of Prosperwell Financial, the answer is usually ‘yes.’

“Because, otherwise, I tend to find people fight too much,” she said. “We are generally so busy in our lives that we don’t take the time to communicate, especially about something that’s not fun to communicate about.”

She says whether shared or separate, a couple’s financial happiness more often comes down to budgeting, living within their means and doing what’s best for them.

“Most of the time, I find the people who have the most success have their own spending money and have their separate accounts,” she said. “But the bigger items – the mortgage, the heat, the electricity – come out of a joint account,” she said.

According to a recent survey by American Express, 66 percent of married couples have joint checking accounts, and 51 percent have joint savings accounts.

The same study found that $300 is the average threshold for which a person feels like they need to ask permission from their spouse. This number is up from $245 in 2011.

“Ideally, what you want is a system that works for you and your significant other, so if it’s having a separate account, that’s great,” Middendorf said. “If it’s not, and you can merge everything together, that’s great too.”

As for investment savings accounts, Middendorf says that’s a different story. She recommends to her clients that both people have access to those accounts just in case something happens, like divorce or death, because a family is working together to save.

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