The Key to Happiness in Your Relationship May Be a Joint Bank Account, New Study Claims
Researchers say that couples who pooled their money were happier than those that didn't.
It may be true that money can't buy happiness, but how you hold it might. A recently published study looked into one aspect of money matters, specifically the way that your bank account can impact satisfaction in your relationship. As it turns out, couples who decided to pool their funds were consistently happier than those who didn't—and relationship experts say that makes a lot of sense. Read on to find out how a joint bank account could bring you and your partner more joy.
Many couples cite finances as a source of stress.
Money can be a sore spot for some couples—in fact, according to Fidelity Investments' 2021 Couples & Money Study, 1 in 5 couples believe that money is the biggest challenge in their relationship. On an individual level, almost a quarter of the 3,426 surveyed individuals said they were frustrated by their partner's money habits, but they won't bring it up in order to avoid an argument.
One discussion you and your partner might be putting off is how to manage your money, whether that's keeping your income and savings separate or pooling everything together. Some think it's a no-brainer to open a joint account with a committed partner or spouse, but Martin Gasparian, owner and attorney at Maison Law, says that people have their reasons for wanting to keep their funds separate.
"Many of us are secretive about our income and worth," he tells Best Life. "For some, it might be that they don't want to boast about their wealth, whereas others might avoid sharing due to their embarrassment of how little they have."
However, if you're able to move past their insecurities and share your financial status with your partner, new research suggests you'll be glad you did.
If you're considering opening a joint bank account with your partner, take the plunge.
According to a study published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, couples who have joint accounts and pool all of their money are happier than those who don't.
Researchers from Cornell University and the University of Colorado (UC) came to this conclusion after evaluating data from six individual studies, with 38,534 participants in total. According to graphics shared with Yahoo Finance Live, the majority of couples studied—65.9 percent—had joint accounts, while 23.6 percent pooled some finances, and 10.5 percent kept all finances separate.
"We studied thousands of couples and looked both at their transaction data, as well as surveys over many years studying their relationship satisfaction," Joe Gladstone, lead study author and assistant professor of marketing at UC Boulder, said during an interview with Yahoo Finance Live. "And what we found is that couples who have joint accounts, they stay together longer. They're more satisfied in those relationships."
When asked if those who have joint accounts were simply happier to begin with, Gladstone explained that researchers studied couples over several years, looking at what happens right before and right after they decide to pool their money.
"It does seem to be the case that it's not that these couples are just different from each other, and that it is the act of pooling money itself that seems to be driving this effect on happiness," he said. According to the study's abstract, for those with "scarce financial resources," the positive effect of a joint account was even stronger.
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Experts say a shared account keeps the lines of communication open.
The reason these couples are happier is more difficult to discern. Couples probably aren't opening a joint account with an explicit goal of improving happiness, according to Gladstone, but do so instead for the sake of convenience. Positive effects manifest after the account is opened, which couples might not have originally considered.
"I don't have a single metric to represent that," Gladstone said during the Yahoo Finance interview. "But it is a meaningful, significant, and consistent effect."
Experts suggest that this sense of contentment is probably related to trust. "Deciding to have a joint account can imply to the other party that you are comfortable with them and that you trust them with your wealth," Gasparian says.
Aviva Pinto, CDFA, CDS, managing director of Wealthspire Advisors, echoes this, explaining that a joint account can establish "peace of mind."
"Discussing the finances as a couple is a great form of open communication that leads to trust and understanding," she says. "Everyone has access to all the information, nothing is hidden. Everyone knows what is going on. Issues that arise can be handled jointly (spending too much, not saving, etc.). Everything is in one place which makes budgeting and financial planning easier."
Researchers haven't looked into potential negative effects yet.
Divorce was also brought up during the Yahoo Finance interview—as it can be an issue to divide finances when partners go their separate ways—but Gladstone says that researchers have yet to explore that as a potential downside. He did note, however, that couples with joint accounts spend money differently, mostly on "sensible utilitarian stuff," as opposed to more fun and frivolous purchases. This may be due to the need to justify their spending to the partner, which encourages them to spend more sensibly.
Gladstone conceded that this restraint could be perceived negatively, as couples may not be investing in material items that make them happy. "But at least in terms of people's financial well-being, [it's] probably good," he said of responsible spending. "But that's not the same thing as what brings us joy and happiness."
Best Life offers the most up-to-date financial information from top experts and the latest news and research, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the money you're spending, saving, or investing, always consult your financial advisor directly.