How Many Financial Accounts and Companies Are Too Many?

Written by |

“Mo Money Mo Problems” is a 1997 song by The Notorious B.I.G. The chorus includes this line: “It’s like the more money we come across, the more problems we see.”

Although calling more money a “problem” may be an exaggeration for most people, there’s some logic to that thought.

For example, if you live in a $5 million mansion and drive a $300,000 car, you’ll probably be more concerned, or even worried, about security than someone living in a cheap apartment driving a common 15-year-old sedan.

Perhaps a better way to translate that Notorious B.I.G. song into financial reality is “more money, more complexity.” More money means higher stakes, more options and, in many cases, more accounts.

How many different financial companies can you do business with before your finances are too complex? What is the right number of accounts?

Ultimately, you’ll have to answer those questions for yourself. But money expert Clark Howard has an opinion about what’s “normal,” especially if you have significant assets.

I Hold Accounts With 3 Different Financial Providers. Is That Too Many?

I have four accounts with cash across three different companies. Is that too complex?

That’s what a listener recently asked Clark.

Asked Kelly in Iowa: “My wife and I have been stashing cash for new siding, replacing her 10-year-old car, extra emergency funds in case of a recession, etc.

“We have cash in our regular checking account at our credit union. We have some at a high-interest savings account at Wealthfront. We have some in a Schwab account to use their debit card without foreign transaction fees while traveling. And we have some in a money market fund at Schwab.

“Please help us figure out how to simplify. How do you balance these different accounts?”

The great thing about personal finance is that you get to be an individual. There’s no single solution for handling your money, saving for retirement or determining the lifestyle you want to live.

If you feel like four different accounts are more than you’d like to handle when it comes to storing liquid cash, figure out which of the accounts is least important to you and close it.

Advertisement

However, the number of accounts you hold isn’t as important as the purpose of those accounts. If there’s a logical reason for holding each of them, don’t fret too much.

“You named three providers, right? The credit union, Wealthfront and Schwab?” Clark says.

“As things go in life for people managing money as wisely as you can, three may be a really solid number. I wouldn’t feel bad about having accounts at three different financial institutions. Gives you more flexibility.

“I would say three sounds really efficient because you’re doing each for a specific benefit. So I think you’re OK with what you’ve got right now.”

Why You’d Want To Close a Financial Account

Clark understands the desire to simplify your finances.

He loves credit unions. But because he was a member at multiple places, he recently closed a credit union account he’d held since 1990.

“I was consumed with a case of the guilts,” Clark says. “But it was just adding another complication in my life. So I get it.”

Christa, Clark’s podcast producer, says she holds accounts at six different financial institutions.

“That’s a lot to keep track of,” Clark says.

We don’t know from Kelly’s question whether he and his wife have even more financial accounts at more companies for investing, saving for a child’s education or some other purpose. It’s possible he only mentioned the accounts with some sort of spending and saving function.

That last word seems to be key for Clark, though. If the accounts have a purpose that you can easily explain, you’re in a good place.

Final Thoughts

The more assets you have, the more complex your financial life becomes.

That includes the number of accounts you have open and the number of financial companies with which you work.

Advertisement

If you feel overwhelmed managing so many accounts, consider closing one or two. Especially if some of your accounts are superfluous because they’re so similar.

But Clark says that working with three different financial institutions seems totally normal. Especially for people with real assets.

The Latest From The Podcast