While browsing through Facebook the other night, I came across a posting from a woman who said she was “hiding” a purchase that she had made from her husband.
Nobody tell my husband, she wrote. I have to butter him up first!
I know it was meant to be a semi-joke, but her posting got me thinking about finances and money in a marriage. I know of a lot wives who have no clue how much money their husband makes or how much money they even have in their bank accounts. Some of them don’t know how to access the bank accounts or take out money on their own.
At first glance, I worried about the implications of a husband managing all the money–I wondered if his wife would feel a slight disillusion of a power balance–would she feel like the money earned was not “hers?” Is it an unhealthy dynamic for a husband to manage all the money and the wife to feel like she has to “hide” things from her husband?
But then I wondered if perhaps, it’s just the norm for one spouse to kind of take on the responsibility of finances. In our marriage, that person is me. I don’t remember ever having the discussion about who would be the one to manage our money, but I distinctly remember standing in the bank with Ben shortly after we were married and transferring all his accounts to mine.
I handle all our accounts–the credit cards, the bank accounts, savings, savings for the kids’, retirement, school loans, phone bills, electricity bills, gas bills, life insurance, mortgage–all of it.
If we have cash on hand, it’s because I’ve taken it out of the bank.
Although I’ve gone over how to access all of our accounts with Ben because I want to make sure he knows how to, in the event that I die or something, I am extremely doubtful if he would be able to mange all of our money.
In a way, it’s extremely stressful to be the one in charge of the money. Because I’m the one that checks the accounts, I’m the one who knows if we have enough to pay the bills that month. And if we don’t? Well, then, I’m the one that needs to come up with that money. So I can definitely see the appeal of being the one that gets to close a blind eye, so to speak.
But on the other hand, I couldn’t imagine not knowing what our financial situation was. It’s probably just my personality, but it would drive me nuts not knowing exactly what was going on.
Every marriage is different and every spouse has his/her own strengths, but this got me back to thinking of that ol’ premarital money class we were required to take. (Although ours was a bit rushed on account of me being, oh, yeah, pregnant.) I’ve heard of some couples that keep separate checking accounts, some that divvy up the bills in joint accounts and have “fun” money on the side.
But I will say the practical side of me wonders a bit for wives, especially those who don’t work, who don’t take an active participation in their finances. Does it create an unhealthy balance? What happens if, god forbid, their husbands get injured or pass away? Could they access their money?
I know they say money woes (along with small children, haha!) are the #1 causes for divorce, so this has obviously got to be an important discussion to have. Should both spouses be actively involved in the finances? Or do you think it’s normal for one spouse to be the money-manager in a marriage? And if it’s just one spouse, should it be the husband or the wife?