Most people, especially women, should consider having both a bank account and credit card in your own name – and only your name. I don’t have a crystal ball nor do most people – so you don’t know what the future holds. As a proactive measure then, it is wise to make sure you have financial resources – a bank account and a credit card, at your disposal should events in your life ever take an unexpected turn. The hope, of course, is that nothing will ever happen, but just in case…..
Your bank account should have, at minimum, emergency money that is available to you alone. And you should have this account whether or not you have a job outside the home. I can’t tell you how many stories I have heard of relationships gone wrong where a partner or spouse emptied joint accounts and cancelled joint credit cards, leaving someone without access to money to pay bills or hire an attorney, etc. If the account is in only your name, no other individual can empty it without notice.
Your credit card should be a national card (not a store or gas card) that has no authorized users – so you have total control over its use. If you use your credit card wisely, it can also help you build or maintain good credit. A few cautions on credit cards: make purchases at least a few times a year and pay them off as soon as you get the bill; and only make credit card purchases that you already have the money set aside to buy. Credit cards are for convenience, not to extend your current income (paying interest means you have less income to use in the future). When choosing a credit card – check into whether you have a local bank or credit union that offers a good option, or a secured credit card if you are building or rebuilding credit? Websites you can use to compare or research credit cards include: http://www.bankrate.com; http://www.consumer-action.org/ and http://www.cardratings.com.
The purpose of these individual accounts is not to hide money or purchases from your spouse, but to be able to establish an emergency account in your own name and to establish credit in your own name with both under your complete control. An added benefit of having an account in your own name is that it can reduce conflict over money – if each spouse or partner has a certain amount of discretionary money at their own disposal that is not under scrutiny of the other – but that is the subject of another entry…