Joint Checking Accounts: The Best Next Step? 

October 12, 2023

Age has its privileges – but as true as that is, it does still have its challenges. We all hope to live long, healthy lives but the reality is that as we age, it can become more difficult to keep track of the many details. Thankfully, there are a few things we can do to help ease into our golden years with less stress, and updating our bank accounts might be one of them.

Transparency is key when it comes to finances and aging minds. If day-to-day finances become challenging, it might be time to consider opening a shared bank account with a joint checking account. When both parties have access to bill paying and money management, it gives both seniors and their adult children or caregivers a clear view of what’s happening and can help avoid mistakes and accounting errors. 

When Awkward Becomes Necessary

Starting this conversation can be a little awkward, but if misplacing financial documents, bouncing checks, or forgetting to pay bills, becomes an issue, it might be time. 

These risky monetary behaviors can be exacerbated by significant life changes. For example, losing a spouse or partner can make finances more confusing and stressful – especially if that spouse was the main money-handler. Battling an illness or physical ailment can also impact our ability to stay on top of finances promptly. 

Those suffering from memory loss – even in the early stages – could also use some assistance when it comes to managing their debts, bills, and investments. If this is the case, it’s also important to make sure that taxes are handled on time, and completely. (Failure to file taxes on time can be a huge headache that we all want to avoid!)

How It Could Help

With a joint checking account, it is easy to set up recurring and automatic payments for basic needs. Utility bills, medication costs, and caregiver costs can be covered each month with just a few computer clicks. And with a joint account, two sets of eyes reviewing everything also makes it easier to catch overspending or any potential fraudulent activity.

Thinking long-term, this can also make covering medical issues, hospitalizations, and/or long-term care easier to handle. If one person on the account should fall ill, the other can access funds instead of covering costs out-of-pocket.  

And, in case of death, already having access to these accounts can help ease the stress of having to involve lawyers or the court system as plans are finalized and personal property is handled. 

Complications to Consider

There are other points to consider, such as repayment of debt and/or Medicaid ramifications  – so it is important to speak with a financial professional to assess your individual and familial situation as you chart your best plan of action. 

One other important note is family tensions… Anytime family and money mix, things can get stressful. When it comes to siblings and other close family members, consider broaching this subject with them as well, so everyone is aware of the plan and no one is caught off-guard or feels slighted. 

As with any major life decision, remember to be patient, to be open to your loved ones’ feelings, and to respect their wishes. There tend to be many feelings involved when it comes to aging, money, and change, which may include feeling a loss of independence or even embarrassment. Keeping the lines of communication is your best bet, and may help you tackle many sensitive topics in the future.