24 Responses to "Realities of Account Ownership"

  1. Emily too says:

    I hadn’t even thought about changing retirement account beneficiaries as a way of making them more joint. I figured those were just inherently separate but come retirement we’d do our best to share!

    I really have no problem viewing our individual non-retirement savings accounts that we brought into the marriage as joint funds, even though keeping them in the old accounts helps to keep the pots separate. For example, I built up my savings as an emergency fund, and it’s easiest just to let it sit as long as we don’t need it. It is important to talk about what you envision for these accounts, though.

    1. Emily says:

      Who is your retirement beneficiary currently? Of course if you are still alive and married you can share, but we’re talking about the other possibilities!

      It’s pretty easy to add your spouse’s name to an old account just to make it officially joint! No need to migrate it anywhere.

      1. Emily too says:

        I’m actually not sure who my retirement beneficiary is. It might be my parents – they set it up for me with the minimum contribution as a college graduation present. I should look into this.

        It turned out it wasn’t that easy to add my spouse’s name to other accounts, though – my old accounts are at a small credit union in my hometown, and when we got married, it turned out we both had to be there physically in person to add him. We don’t visit my hometown much, and when we do it tends to be on short weekend and holiday trips when the bank isn’t open, so it’s something we’ve had in mind for a while but haven’t been able to take care of. (I used to work at this credit union and have always had great experiences there, so I trust them a lot and want to support them. Not being able to change accounts remotely is what made us go for a larger national credit union for joint accounts instead of starting our new ones at the local one, though.)

        1. Emily says:

          It might be your parents or you might not have one – check up on it! Changing mine from my siblings to Kyle was pretty straightforward with Vanguard.

          That’s too bad that they don’t make through-the-mail exceptions to their account holder verification process!

  2. My girlfriend and I have actual joint accounts, in which we are also each other’s beneficiaries if needed. As far as breaking up might go, we already talked about all that before we moved in together (and way before we go joint accounts) and made an agreement for what we’d do if a breakup happened. I guess that’s a bit abnormal for people our age (we were 19 and 21 at the time), but it just made sense.
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    1. Emily says:

      The thing that I think about with breakups, especially of currently very committed couples (married or otherwise) is that in order to get to a breakup, something BIG would have had to change, and if something BIG changes, can you be confident that you with both still be in agreement about what to do with your assets? In the case of my marriage, we have agreed that the only sufficient grounds for divorce are the Biblical grounds (adultery or a non-Christian spouse abandoning the Christian spouse). So that means for Kyle and I to get to considering divorce, one of us would have to commit adultery or become an unbeliever and leave the other. Those things are so removed from our current realities as to be unthinkable – and if those could change, it’s certainly possible that our goodwill toward each other could evaporate as well. But if we ever DID get to that state, there are laws in place to protect each of us. And that’s what I’m concerned about for unmarried couples who pool money. Of course you don’t think that you’ll break up and you have a plan in place for the case you do. But given that you got to the point that you want to break up, as unlikely as you think that is, what is the chance that one of you will choose not to honor your plan? What would prevent you from taking more than half – especially if you believe it’s justified? Just food for thought.

  3. All of or joint accounts have both or names on them Plus, I am an authorized name on her credit card.
    Only my separate checking account stands alone and that is by design to protect our assets as much as possible from over-zealous creditors.

    That said, joint accounts can be dangerous I’m the event of a divorce. I’ve known more than a few people to chine hone from work with their house, and their bank account, empty.
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    1. Emily says:

      That is a good point about protecting assets from creditors! Will you guys make everything joint when you get out of individual debt?

      1. Yes, that’s the plan. There won’t be any need for that checking account, so I will just close it.
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  4. We are in a community property state, so I just assume that whatever we make during our marriage will be split 50/50 (outside of inheritance/trusts, etc.). I’m fine with that arrangement, and haven’t really looked into what paperwork we need to do, if any.
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    1. Emily says:

      It’s probably something you’ll want to look into if you ever move out of your community property state!

  5. I guess I have never really put this much thought into it. My wife and I try to list everything as jointly as possible, and she mostly leaves the financial decisions to me. But we of course think of it all as “our” money.
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    1. Emily says:

      You’re probably doing as best you can if you have listed everything possible as joint since you think of your money as completely joint. I hope your beneficiaries are in line as well!

  6. We have each other as beneficiaries on our retirement accounts, but I don’t know if it would be necessary to create a joint retirement account, though probably easier to deal with if something were to happen.
    Grayson @ Debt RoundUp recently posted..Money and Morality – How Much is Yours Worth?

    1. Emily says:

      I guess it depends on how you want to handle your money in retirement given that you practice partial pooling currently. If you wanted to keep the savings separate until one of you dies and just pool some of your withdrawals, definitely a joint account wouldn’t be useful for you.

  7. We live in a community property state, so everything would be split 50/50. I have added my hubby to my retirement accounts as a beneficiary.

    1. Emily says:

      Sounds like you’re on top of this issue!

  8. Sara says:

    Are you guys in a covenant marriage? I can’t remember which states recognize them…

    Liam’s mother is his beneficiary, and that won’t change once we’re legally married. I’m not sure whether I’ll ever name him, as mine because if we were to die simultaneously I don’t want his family to lay claim to anything that was mine.

    I have no good advice for other non-married couples, because our financial situation is pretty unique. The way I look at it is that if we were to split up and I was left with nothing, I have a family who could easily absorb the burden of helping me rebound. His family has nothing and they are so tied up in his financial plans that even if there was bad blood between the two of us I wouldn’t want to deprive his family of anything, because each dollar matters to them.
    Sara recently posted..Asset calculation, Spring 2013

    1. Emily says:

      No, not legally – it’s not available in our state. If we moved somewhere that it was legal and were able to switch it I would definitely consider it. But we do consider our marriage a convenant religiously.

      You might want to look more into how you can name beneficiaries on your retirement accounts… I seems to recall there were degrees, so if Liam were your #1 I think you might also be able to designate one of your family members as a #2 if you and he die simultaneously. I’m not positive, though.

      Your assessment sounds reasonable based on your feelings now, but what if you change your mind about being okay with Liam’s family getting your money – for instance, if they contribute to the reason for your breakup? After you get married (you’re engaged, right?) would you want your 50% or still be okay with walking away with nothing?

      1. Sara says:

        Yes, but you have a right to be skeptical without knowing many details That’s why I don’t offer advice to anyone else. They actually have nothing, and I will always have my degree/career (and family money, though I don’t talk about that piece).

        1. Emily says:

          Very true – it’s so difficult to know even your own relational dynamics fully, you can’t get a good picture from strangers over the internet! I do like things black and white and think that rules of thumb are very useful. If people think that exceptions should be made, that’s their decision! I just want individuals to think through these issues before making themselves vulnerable to their SOs.

  9. […] even added each other’s names to our vestigial accounts from before we were married.  The only accounts that are not in both of our names are our IRAs (not possible, but we think of them as pooled) and some credit cards we applied for […]

  10. […] because there really is a lot of gray area.  I delved into this a bit when I wrote about the realities of account ownership, which detailed the possible difference between how you might think of an account and how it […]

  11. […] other through job transitions or if one spouse needed or wanted to stop working.  So why keep up the façade of separate finances before that […]

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