Most families do not share all their resources, but family members very often pool a fraction of their income for joint spending and keep some resources for their individual use. When a family decides to share income and to cover expenditures jointly, we expect that they would also share their savings in a similar way. The joint decision-making over the spending and saving would leave the shares of the individual spending and the individual saving of the family members more or less equal.

New research uses anonymised ING transactional data to find out more about joint and individual savings in Dutch families.

The authors do indeed find that families share their savings on joint bank accounts as 40% of the families in the sample pool all their financial savings, while 47.5% of families pool their savings partially. They keep on average 43% of their financial assets on joint accounts and the rest on their individual accounts.

The analysis confirms that the larger the joint savings are, the smaller the gap is in the individual savings of partners within total savings, given that joint savings are joint.

But the picture is different comparing only the individual savings of couples. The study reveals that families that use individual bank accounts show rather unequal accumulation of individual savings between partners. In more than 50% of the households that pool partially, one household member holds most of the individual assets on their account. 

Moreover, the distribution of individual savings is even more unequal in families that use both joint and individual accounts than it is in families that only use individual accounts. The analysis shows that an increase of 10 percentage points in the share of joint savings is associated with an increase of 1.4 percentage points in the gap in the individual savings of the partners.

But the researchers do not find any systematic gender differences in individual savings – there are more or less equal numbers of men and women who do not own any individual account in a family.

The findings indicate that joint savings in themselves are shared equally by couples but the sharing is not reflected in how the individual savings are divided. Couples may focus on their contributions to joint savings, while individual savings seem to be an individual choice between spending and saving rather than a joint decision about the division of the individual savings. Partners may differ in their individual spending and so in the long term they may hold different amounts of savings.

The study also finds that the distribution of individual savings is somewhat more uneven than that of individual spending, as the savings accumulate over a longer period.

Full pooling would be the way to achieve equality of all assets, and joint financial management is also related to increased financial wellbeing. But it is counteracted by the present trend of individualisation in society. Marriage has become less popular in the Netherlands over the past 50 years, and the number of marriages registered has declined by 50% since 1970. This trend is more prevalent among younger generations. 

Moreover, the divorce rate in the Netherlands for first marriages doubled from 19.3% in 1975 to 38.8% in 2017, and the financial situation of the partners after a divorce depends a lot on their financial arrangements during the marriage. The results of this study indicate that the financial circumstances of the partners may diverge a lot, making one partner more vulnerable to financial problems.

Younger couples in their 20s strive particularly for independence and so are less inclined to pool their resources. The study finds that when younger couples pool their savings partially, the gap in individual savings for them is significantly larger than the gap for older couples.

There appears to be a generational shift in financial management that is associated with more independence and more mental equality within couples, though at the same time less sharing may lead to more inequality in financial matters.



‘Joint and individual savings within families: evidence from bank accounts’ by Merike Kukk 

The study is available on the we-page of Bank of Estonia:


The study is also introduced on the web-page of Think Forward Initiative:


Corresponding author:

Merike Kukk, Associate Professor, Tallinn University of Technology and Bank of Estonia, e-mail: merike.kukk@taltech.ee

Homepage: www.taltech.ee/person/merike-kukk