I opened a high-yield savings account to pay for my wedding the week I got engaged, and liked it so much we quickly opened another
Courtesy of Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez
- My now-husband and I have always been open and honest about money.
- When we got engaged, I immediately started thinking through logistics - mapping out all of the major goals we had for the next five years and the estimated amount of money needed to afford them.
- We started putting a plan of action in place by opening our first shared bank account - a high-yield online savings account.
- We chose a high-yield savings account for its high interest rates, lack of fees or minimums, and responsive customer service.
- Once we opened the first account to pay for our wedding, we realized we need another one to save money for life's unexpected expenses. You could call it an emergency fund, but we call it our "life fund."
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When my now-husband asked me where I wanted to go on our first date I remember saying, "I don't care, as long as it's cheap. I'm on a budget."
Six years later he asked me to marry him, and I opened up our first shared bank account that week so we could start saving for our wedding.
Money has been a constant source of conversation throughout our relationship - not because we're overly fixated on it, but because we've always been open and honest about the way money touches our lives, both separately and together.
When we started dating, money affected how much money we felt comfortable spending on going out. When we moved in together, it affected where we could afford to apartment hunt and how we were going to share our newly joint living costs. When we faced challenges, like my medical bills not covered by insurance and his apartment getting broken into, money became a safety net.
It's not that money affected us any more or less than anyone else, it was just something we talked about a lot more than anyone else. And when we got engaged was no different.
I immediately started thinking through logistics - mapping out all of the major goals we had for the next five years and the estimated amount of money needed to afford them. We started putting a plan of action in place by opening our first shared bank account - a high-yield online savings account.
Why we chose a high-yield savings account for our goals
Well, for starters, our biggest and most near-term financial goal post-engagement was to pay for our wedding - so a savings account dedicated to funding the milestone seemed like a natural place to start joining our finances.
To maximize our money with higher interest rates without locking it up in a CD or risking it in investment accounts, we opted for high-yield online savings. We agreed we would each contribute a lump sum that we'd already had in our individual savings to get the account funded.
When choosing our first shared savings account, we had a few criteria:
High interest rates
According to the FDIC, the national average interest rate on savings is just 0.09% APY. Many traditional brick-and-mortar banks offer even less on their savings accounts. So we decided to explore online-only savings accounts which typically offer higher rates.
When we opened our joint savings account we were getting 2.0% APY on our balance. While rates fluctuate (and have admittedly fallen since we got married) we opted for an account with rates that are consistently higher than savings accounts at most traditional brick and mortar banks in order to maximize our return.
No fees or minimums
Our other requirement when choosing our first shared savings account was one that wouldn't penalize us for actually using our savings with fees or required minimum balances.
With our first joint account dedicated to our wedding savings, we knew that depleting that account was kind of the point of it, so we didn't want to be penalized with fees or limited by account minimums.
Responsive customer service
Even though we wanted an online-only bank to maximize our savings, we still wanted access to responsive customer service, so we chose a savings account where we could call into customer service 24/7.
Once we finished our research and jointly chose an account, we each connected our individual accounts to our new shared savings and scheduled our first transfer.
While working through this process, my fiancé and I realized that being engaged and planning our wedding wasn't just about figuring out how to pay for our ceremony and reception, it was about building a shared financial foundation for the rest of our lives.
It wasn't long until we figured we'd need at least one more shared savings account. This one we called our "life fund," though the "proper" name would be our emergency fund - a savings buffer we're working to build up with at least three to six months worth of shared household expenses. We opted for another high-yield online savings for this account to maximize growth without risking any loss.
We decided to share some of our money - but not all
Taking into account changes post-marriage, like joining my husband's health insurance plan, and added costs like life insurance, we calculated our essential monthly shared living costs at roughly $3,000 each month.
We decided to contribute $2,000 per month per person to a shared checking account. The extra money would serve as a buffer for irregular, non-emergency expenses like car maintenance, and any additional overflow would get transferred into our newly shared savings accounts.
Unlike those who advocate combining all money in shared accounts or keeping money totally separate, we're of the philosophy that there's no one right way to approach to combining finances - we just had to decide what made sense to us.
To start, it was this hybrid of joint checking and savings accounts for shared expenses and savings goals that link to our individual checking and savings accounts that we each use how we please.
Like any other system, we don't think this is the singular "right" way to combine finances. It might not even be the way we manage our money in the future - especially if and when we experience major life changes, like one of us having to take a leave of absence from the workforce. But it's a system that worked well for us as we started the process of combining our money and continues to do so today.
Stefanie O'Connell Rodriguez is a nationally recognized millennial money expert and author of the book, "The Broke and Beautiful Life." She is also the founder of Statement Cards, a greeting card company that celebrates women's financial wins - from getting a raise to paying off their student loans.
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