Updated on Thursday, December 17, 2020
Some couples love a night out on the town, while others prefer takeout and a TV remote. And these differences can apply to finances, too, as couples decide whether to keep their money separate or open a joint account.
MagnifyMoney analyzed the most recent Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances to see how couples â€” married and cohabitating, straight and gay â€” handle their checking accounts. One discovery was that men have $1,191 more in their checking accounts than their wives and live-in girlfriends. Hereâ€™s what else we learned.
In straight relationships where both partners have their own checking accounts, men had an average balance of $7,872, while women had an average balance of $6,681 â€” a 15.1% difference.
To be considered a partner when not married, the couple â€” per the Survey of Consumer Finances â€” needed to be in the same â€śeconomic unit,â€ť and neither party could be considered economically independent.
The difference in the amount of money that married men and women have in their individual checking accounts shrinks to just $85, or a 1.6% difference between the two spouses.
That contrast spikes to $2,927 for couples who live together ($6,613 for men, versus $3,686 for women) â€” a difference of 44.3%. This insight shows that married couples tend to be pretty equitable, while men who live with their girlfriends have nearly two-thirds of the funds if the coupleâ€™s individual accounts were combined.
Nearly 4 in 10 straight women â€” whether married or living with their partner â€” have more money in their individual accounts than their male partner does. That means that women and men only have an equal amount of funds in their checking accounts 9% of the time.
DepositAccounts founder Ken Tumin believes the gender wage gap may be causing the large differences between unmarried couples who are living together.
Since women â€” on average â€” earn less than men, Tumin said, one of the consequences is likely to be that women have smaller individual checking account balances than men.
â€śMarried couples may do more sharing of income and expenses,â€ť Tumin said. But â€śunmarried couples may have less trust and do less sharing,â€ť he added, which could result in more use of individual checking accounts than joint checking accounts.
If each partner continues to use direct deposit with their individual checking accounts, the gender wage gap, per Tumin, would generally allow for men to have larger checking balances.
Married straight couples with joint checking accounts have an average balance of $18,334 in those accounts, while cohabitating couples with these accounts have an average balance of just $2,298. This is likely because even if unmarried couples have a joint account that helps them manage shared household expenses, they may not have combined all their finances into one account.
Nearly three-fourths of straight couples (72.3%) have joint checking accounts. Out of all straight couples (whether married or not), just more than 1 in 3 men and women have their own checking accounts.
Only 10.7% of couples only have accounts in one personâ€™s name, which is split pretty evenly across both genders.
While the majority of married couples (81.9%) have joint accounts, there is still a solid amount of husbands and wives who each have independent accounts (more than 28% each). Many people assume once you get married that you have to combine your finances, but that isnâ€™t a hard-and-fast rule. Some couples may find they prefer to continue managing their finances separately even after they tie the knot.
Even though 21.9% of cohabiting couples have joint checking accounts, men (72%) are slightly more likely than women (70.3%) to have an independent checking account. Cohabitating couples have an almost identical percentage of individual accounts in both the manâ€™s and womanâ€™s name.
Overall, women and men tend to keep their own accounts at about the same rates. Men arenâ€™t more likely to have their own checking account than women, but they are more likely to have a higher balance in their account.
There is a pretty even split among same-sex couples who do and donâ€™t have joint checking accounts. In fact, 51.6% of lesbian couples have joint accounts, while 45.8% of gay couples do. Overall, 48.5% of same-sex couples have joint checking accounts.
Both partners have individual accounts 41.6% of the time, while 29.7% of lesbian and gay couples only have accounts in one partnerâ€™s name. When it comes to having an individual account for only one partner and no joint account, 37.2% of lesbian couples and 23.2% of gay couples fall into that category.
Honestly, it depends. If youâ€™re leaning toward opening a joint checking account with your partner, one of the following situations may sound familiar.
On the flip side, there are certain scenarios that may make a couple decide against opening a joint checking account. If either of these situations applies to you, you may find it better to keep a separate checking account for the time being.
Using microdata from the Federal Reserveâ€™s 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances, analysts calculated the types of checking accounts held by couples with at least one account, as well as the average balances in the respective accounts. The analysis was limited to accounts that were held jointly or individually by partners, excluding accounts held by other family members or jointly with people outside of the couple.