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Kevin O'Leary: Never rely on a joint bank account, even if you're married

CNBC logo CNBC 6/22/2018 Ali Montag

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Even when you're in love, you need to prioritize your own financial future.

That's according to a star of ABC's "Shark Tank" and personal finance author Kevin O'Leary, who tells CNBC Make It that something as simple as a joint checking account with a romantic partner — even a husband or wife — can have long term consequences.

"You need to maintain your own financial identity," O'Leary says.

"This wisdom has been applicable since men were rolling around stones in caves. Your stone, my stone. Your account, my account."

So forget relying on a joint checking account, he says.

"Never merge all of your assets into your significant other's account," O'Leary says. "Really bad idea."

That's because you need to build a credit score and financial history for yourself.

"The reason you want your own account, and particularly your own credit card, is if you pay it off every month — that's the first way you start to build a credit score," O'Leary explains, referring to the metric that determines what kind of interest rate you'll pay on things like mortgages or auto loans. "That makes things for you cheaper later in life."

O'Leary advises each person maintain a personal checking account, then you can open one together for shared expenses like food and rent.

"Here's the methodology for marriage when it comes to bank accounts: Each person has their own, and then you create a joint account," he explains. "You can always have a joint card, you can also have a joint account, but you need to maintain your own financial identity forever."

The joint account should only have enough money to, "maintain your living expenses," while the bulk stays in your separate accounts, he says.

Twenty-eight percent of married millennials already keep their finances separate, according to a 2018 report by Bank of America, compared to 11 percent of Gen Xers and 13 percent of Baby Boomers. Nearly 20 percent of millennial couples surveyed didn't even know how much their partner makes.

But when it comes to money and love, O'Leary says the most important thing to do is get on the same page.

"Make money something you think about together," he advises. "It's going to be part of your life forever anyway, you might as well talk about it early on."

When O'Leary was dating his now-wife, Linda, in the '80s, the pair made sure to align their outlook on money. O'Leary proposed with a tiny diamond from a wholesaler and when they married in 1990, they had a low-cost wedding with pizza and beer. (He later upgraded the ring with a 5.5 carat diamond for their 25-year anniversary.)

While it can be uncomfortable, money conversations aren't something to shrug off O'Leary says: "It's important, because you don't want it to be the thing that makes you fall apart."


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