Say you are ready to buy something frivolous. If there were a picture of your spouse on the credit card, would it stop you?

What if a text message from your spouse popped up on your phone before the transaction was complete? Would that make you hesitate?

It might make you want to toss the phone aside, but two researchers from academia say it also might help you save money.

Dr. Emily N. Garbinsky of the University of Notre Dame and Dr. Joe J. Gladstone of the University of Cambridge recently completed a white paper on the psychology of spending and saving, titled “The Consumption Consequences of Couples Pooling Financial Resources.” The conclusions can be useful for financial advisors working with couples with money issues, Garbinsky says.

“We propose that the ease with which purchases can be justified to one’s partner will play a driving role when spending from a joint account rather than from a separate account,” says Garbinsky, an assistant professor in the Mendoza College of Business.

“We were not trying to make recommendations on whether couples should have joint accounts or separate accounts. Nor were we trying to tell advisors what they should tell clients,” Garbinsky says. “Rather, we were trying to show that whether they pool their money can have an effect on how they spend it.

“However, we have been getting so many questions about what we would recommend that I think we will look into that next,” she adds.

The paper received the BMO Wealth Management Best Paper Award in Consumer Finance from the CFP Board Center for Financial Planning. The Best Paper Awards were presented at the Academic Research Colloquium held in February.

When spouses pool finances in a joint account, the partners spend less on frivolous or luxury items than spouses spending from separate accounts, the study concludes.

“But the mere act of pooling funds is not enough to keep people from overspending,” Garbinsky says. “There has to be an active participation by both partners. You can’t have a joint account that only one person pays attention to. But if they have to justify expenditures to each other, they may spend less.

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