Can Married Couples Get Joint Access To Utility, Mortgage and Investment Accounts?

So you’re combining your finances with a spouse or family member.

It can be a frustrating and inconvenient process that requires diligence, communication and organization.

How do you manage joint account access in a way that's safe and easy for all parties involved? That's what a listener of the Clark Howard Podcast recently asked.

How To Manage Joint Access for Password-Protected Accounts

How do you maintain best security practices while also juggling the need for two or more people to access financial accounts?

That's what one listener wondered on the Dec. 14 episode of the podcast.

Mike in California said: "I am recently married. My wife and I have shared accounts for our monthly expenses and savings, but we also want to ensure we both have access to other accounts like our utility, mortgage, retirement and investment accounts.

"I've discovered how hard it is to ensure we both have access to everything now that two-factor authentication is such a big deal. I keep a shared note that we both have access to, but that doesn't seem very secure. Do you have any tips for co-managing accounts? Or do you know of any services that allow a family to share a phone number?"

Clark has gone on record several times this year to call two-factor authentication a temporary fix to the password problem. He predicts that biometrics — eye scans and fingerprints, for example — will eventually eliminate passwords altogether.

“I had this happen in my own life earlier today with my daughter being locked out of one of our household accounts. And needing a code. And I wasn’t able to respond in time because the code was only good for 15 minutes,” Clark says.

“This is a problem with every couple, every family. You’re doing the best you can and what you’re doing with the shared file I think makes sense. Yes, you have to maintain it properly any time a password changes. But I think it’s the right strategy for you to use.”

The Problem With Modern Password Solutions

Other modern solutions are imperfect or totally flawed. Password manager LastPass, which exists to save and secure passwords across multiple accounts, suffered not one but two breaches this year.

If you don't continually churn your passwords across all your various financial sites, it's fair to assume that your information will make its way to the dark web at some point with all the breaches these days. But that's not exactly feasible as well.

Saving your passwords anywhere digitally puts them at risk. In areas ripe with online scams, for example — like crypto — scammers socially engineer participants, tricking them into thinking that a link is legitimate or coming from a friend.

They can eventually gain access to your files this way. That includes any passwords you have saved on your machine, or via a shared file such as Google Drive.

Two-factor authentication isn't perfect. SIM swapping is one risk. Using text for 2FA isn't as secure as using an authenticator app.

Adding multiple people that need access to the same login credentials adds yet another layer of complexity.

Ways To Increase Your Security or Your Convenience

So far, the answers may not be exactly comforting. But there are other things you can do to stay secure and eliminate as much hassle as possible.

First, it's a good idea to freeze your credit at the three major credit bureaus. That way, no matter what, no one should be able to open a new line of credit in your name.

You should be banking with an FDIC-insured institution that provides consumer protection. And avoiding payment apps such as Zelle that don't offer any protection.

Those things can all give you peace of mind.

Many of the financial accounts that you share with your new bride may offer you the opportunity to attach your two-factor authentication to both of your cell phone numbers. Especially if you elect to run 2FA through an authenticator app. Not every account will offer you this option. But check company by company.

Unless you’re deep into crypto or NFTs, the chances of someone targeting you digitally where you and your wife may be storing shared files with passwords is minimal.

There’s some push and pull in terms of prioritizing convenience or security depending on how many assets you have and your risk profile.

If an account doesn’t let you attach your number and your wife’s number to an authenticator app with 2FA, it may be a good idea to split your accounts. Attach half of them to your number and half to hers. And whenever the other person wants or needs to access those accounts, deal with the inconvenience of needing to send them the code.

“You’re having inconvenience because of the fear of what hackers may do trying to steal money, steal information, whatever,” Clark says. “It’s just a hassle factor that is part of modern life.”

Final Thoughts

Finding a solution that allows you and your spouse or family members to access utilities, financial accounts and other important information can be a major annoyance. Especially if you’re at all security conscious.

However, two-factor authentication is crucial for accounts with significant assets. And it’s a good idea to consider doing it through something other than text.

Also, you may be able to attach multiple phone numbers to your 2FA.

There should be a newer and better way of protecting and accessing online accounts at some point in the future. Until then, you’ll often need to pick between the lesser of two evils — security and convenience.

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