My Husband Won’t Share His Bankroll


AAPW: 79 cents on the dollar aside, it doesn't feel equal

by Liz Moorhead, Editor, Ask APW

Q: My husband and I have a wonderful relationship in almost every way, but one area of huge conflict for us is money. When you read articles on “how to manage your finances as a couple” there are usually three options listed: totally separate, totally joint, or yours-mine-ours. That’s fine and all, but what happens when you can’t agree on which framework to choose?

I grew up in a family where my parents had joint everything, made money decisions together, and over the course of their lifetimes earned pretty similar incomes. This is my model for how finances should be handled in a marriage—what’s yours is mine, what’s mine is yours, for richer or for poorer, us against the world, etc.

My husband, on the other hand, wants us to have the yours-mine-ours setup. He earns about ten times what I do, mostly because he has an insanely lucrative finance job while I have a very decent but not insanely lucrative tech job. For him, the ideal setup would be us each paying proportionate shares into a joint account for expenses and then putting the excess into individual accounts.

I find his approach totally anathema to the very idea of marriage as a partnership. It’s not like I want to get at his money so I can go on wild shopping sprees; between us I’m the more frugal one and all I want to do with “our” money is to stash it away in diversified investments. He agrees that this is the case. Interestingly enough, we never fight about spending money at all. It’s all about… I don’t know, control and this idea of “I earned it” on his side versus wanting to feel valued and respected on my side. Mostly, I just hate the fact that we are arguing about this. I feel like his fixation on money is destroying our relationship for no reason at all.

Advice on how to handle this?

—Anonymous

 

A:

Dear Anonymous,

I’d ask him why he doesn’t want to share. It isn’t clear from your letter if you’ve specifically, pointedly asked why and if so, what reason he gave. What exactly is he afraid of here? I know to you it feels like, “I don’t trust you,” and, “You’re not valuable enough to invest my money into,” but I’m guessing he wouldn’t describe his own rationale that way. Ask him. That said…

Separate accounts works for some folks, but it’s obviously not working for you. So, I have three things for you to think about and maybe pass down the old pipeline to him.

1. Who’s really earning it? He’s saying, “I’ve earned it.” But partners in a marriage are so wholly impacted by one another’s careers that in many ways they both are earning that paycheck.  If he’s working longer, harder hours to bring in that money, chances are your life is being impacted. At minimum, you’re seeing him less, but probably also taking on the lion’s share of household maintenance and administrative tasks at home to enable him to do it.

2. What would happen if he lost his job? If you lost yours? If you decided to have kids and one of you stayed home? If one of you decided to go back to school? If one of you left your career to pursue your passion for selling mason jars of artisan pickle brine? There are any number of things that can happen to a seemingly straightforward career trajectory that, whoops, will throw this three-way divided income system through a loop. When one of you can’t or won’t be able to contribute to that joint account, what happens then? Marriage is the kind of partnership that means if someone’s down, the other one picks up the slack. The system he’s proposing makes that difficult.

3. What’s he going to do with all that extra cash? Take himself on vacation? Go out to dinner alone? Buy his own house? Send “his” kids to private school? Either he keeps it for himself, or he constantly “treats” you. And that second one means a forever unequally balanced dynamic of indebtedness.

Marriage involves working as a team, and deciding together how to use your resources is a part of that teamwork.

Also, Feminism

Aside from all of that teamwork stuff, we need to acknowledge the inherent inequalities of the world. Small-time, it’s expensive to be a lady! Tampons, birth control (and don’t get me started on the various paraphernalia I need post-baby) all cost money that guys don’t have to spend. But that birth control stuff that’s basically for you, but also sort of for the two of you, does that fall under Column A: Mine, or Column B: Ours? Actually, how many toiletry sort of things would be in that Ours column? And where do you draw the line between personal and joint?

Larger scale, men make more money. They make more for the same work, and are also hired more for higher-paying jobs (particularly in fields like finance). Hoarding all of that cash means he’s also holding onto all of the power that goes with it, perpetuating that system and bringing it into your home instead of working to shut it down.

Talk, talk, talk

I may be preaching to the choir here, but maybe you can pass these thoughts along to him. Even better, maybe you can bring them up in the presence of a good counselor. Yeah, yeah, it’s “just money,” but the idea of value can be significant in a marriage, and finding an objective ear isn’t a sign of defeat. Whether you find someone or not, make sure you address those ideas about teamwork and trust that we talked about above.

I know that the idea of a giant, secret savings account somewhere doesn’t inspire a ton of trust for me.

If you would like to ask APW a question please don’t be shy! You can email: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.

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  • Amy March

    The part at the end where you say “I feel like his fixation on money is destroying our relationship for no reason at all”? Money is all the reason in a world to destroy a relationship. It’s about power and security and control and your fundamental understanding of what being in a life long marriage means.

    How did you guys talk about money before marriage? Has anything changed? That might be a good thing to look at to see if you can make some progress on understanding each other

    . I’m a books person so I’d also want to really understand my state’s marriage and divorce laws. Is that money he’s keeping for himself really his anyway? Maybe legally it’s not. Same for any debts either of you take on. Not the most romantic take on it, but personally I’d find the knowledge helpful.

    • emilyg25

      Yes, money, religion, and kids are top reasons for marital strife, because, as the questioner notes, money often boils down to philosophy and values.

    • Eenie

      I agree – I was reading this and thinking this isn’t no reason at all for a relationship to “be destroyed”. And is it destroying your relationship? If you get over this hump it will make it stronger. And this is a big one to figure out too.

    • Lindsay Carlisle Shay

      Your last paragraph! Depending on where the LW lives and what legal arrangements they may have made, all that money might be considered marital property anyway (even money earned in a separate account prior to marriage, if they’ve “mingled”). I wouldn’t recommend the LW approach husband and say, “well the law says it’s all both of our money anyway, so give me dollars,” but the knowledge can be really helpful! For me and my husband, acknowledging that all of our money is legally considered marital property meant that our systems were less about yours/mine/ours and more about organizing our money for budgeting purposes.

      • Sarah E

        Yes definitely on “organizing our money for budgeting purposes.” We have combined finances, which we started working towards before marriage. Knowing what he has in the bank account (and why) is not because I want to throw it out the window, but because I’d like to know how we need to plan for holiday travel to our families, emergencies, health care, etc. If I don’t have all the information, I can’t help make a plan. And as the plan-oriented one in our partnership, that matters greatly. It’s nigh impossible to make responsible spending decisions when you’re in the dark about how much you really have to budget and what that money you have is going towards.

    • Meg Keene

      I’m always surprised how often people are living a legal fiction with their marital finances without knowing it. In most places, unless you are unbelievably strict about keeping every penny separate or have a iron clad pre-nup, it’s going to get split up between you in a divorce anyway, whether by community property laws or equitable distribution.

      But facts aside, your first paragraph pretty much sums up the whole issue for me. Money is everything. Not because it’s money, but because yes, it’s power and security and how we care for each other. AND, I think, it’s the most literal expression of our values. We can say we believe XYZ, but where we spend our money tells the real story.

      • Britta

        I’d be so frustrated if I were in this situation. Based on how it’s described, It does seem opposite of the spirit of marriage.

        Without any other info than the asker’s note, I second Liz’s reco to get an outside mediator/expert of some sort involved. We started working with a financial advisor halfway through our engagement and it made everything feel clear, helped us understand different options we had for combining funds, and pushed the responsibility for the performance of the money onto someone else.

        Based on the behavior asker is describing, it might be worthwhile to look into a prenup as a way to assuage or hedge against what seem like some pretty deepseated fears of the fiance. My husband had a few of these, though to a much less severe degree than the fiance here. Now that we have a prenup, we know exactly what will happen in our worst case scenario. It felt like a great gift of peace of mind to give each other and control for variables. I think this type of conversation might help the fiance see things within the legal reality of the state, to Meg’s point, and work through some of his other issues within a “safe” professional context, and give the asker broader, legally-grounded support for what she’s asking for.

        I have recos for both prenup lawyer and financial advisor in Bay Area if anyone is interested.

    • Absolutely re the legal perspective. My husband and I didn’t combine finances until a year or so after we were married, not for any power reasons but simply because it was easier just to maintain the status quo. Then one day he came home from work and asked, “What do you think of setting up a joint checking account and just combining everything financially?” We’re both independent business owners but with him being a lawyer and me being a former-lawyer-turned-photographer, we realized that even though we were maintaining separate personal accounts we were living a complete legal fiction. Once you’re married (in CA at least, and most other community property states) whatever is earned is considered part of the community pot unless you have a very good prenup in place. So even though we were keeping everything separate (again, out of laziness more than anything) it was “what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is yours” in reality. Initially, we still kept separate accounts and gave ourselves a small-but-equal “allowance” each month because I really like buying gifts and treats for sometimes and I don’t necessarily want him to see his birthday present on a bank statement before I give him the gift! But even then, the allowance came from our joint account – we put it all in the community pot first then take out a small amount for each of us to play with separate from our overall household budget. Technically, it’s still “community property” but we do it more for our own organization and so we can do nice things to surprise each other from time to time. Most likely, her husband is fooling himself in thinking that whatever percentage he keeps for his separate account really is his and only his. Not that she should run off and tell him “legally 50% of what you earn is mine anyway so hand it over” but it’s good knowledge to have, I think.

    • Kayla

      Most comments seem to be focused on the power dynamic (which is important too), but I think you’re so right that the security piece is huge.

      It sounds from the letter like LW is primarily concerned with how this money is (or is not) being invested, which goes right to their future financial security.

      If LW doesn’t have transparency into where the money is invested right now, asking for that might be the best place to start. It’s one thing that husband isn’t ready to share control of the money he earns, but I’d hope he’s at least ready to open the books and show LW what his/their finances look like.

      It also sounds like regular sessions for them both with a financial planner could be really beneficial.

    • Barbara J. Miller

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  • Anon

    Wait….from the title of this post I thought finances would be completely separate, but from reading it, this couple just has different methods of sharing. The husband’s way is also the way my partner and I share, and we do it because of the answers to the following questions, which may or may not be relevant to this couple:

    1. How can we split shared expenses fairly? I (female) make more than my partner (male) and I want to know that I am paying more in rent, for meals out, for shared vacations, and yeah, for my birth control. It makes both of us feel better that those expenses are split by default. I pay for 60% of expenses, giving my partner who earns less a greater percentage of his disposable income, without feeling like he can’t contribute enough to our shared goals.

    2. Are there individual expenses that are significant, and/or significantly large? My partner and I both have student loans which we treat as separate debt and pay separately. This wouldn’t work for everyone, but for us it makes sense. We also go on separate vacations and trips relatively often (1-3 times per year each). We contribute separately to individual retirement accounts. We each have individual as well as a shared savings account. It is important to me that my financial identity not be subsumed by marriage, and that I feel free to make purchasing decisions without consulting my partner if I need to buy something not within his priorities (ie, a new suit for work). It is important to him that he can know he is contributing to our expenses, but also has the cash to pay his own expenses and the freedom to buy video games whenever he feels like it. That financial freedom and independence is super important to my feminism.

    There may be these kinds of reasons to stick with the system that your partner likes, or he may think you are grateful for these reasons even while a little uncomfortable with the general situation. Just wanted to put another perspective out there.

    • Anne

      To throw this out there too, though—my husband and I have completely joint finances, and he’s working full time while I’m in grad school (so our incomes are definitely unequal). By default, “he” pays a larger percentage of things like rent, food, etc. just because more of the money in the joint account comes from his earnings. The math should work out exactly the same if you have joint finances and you base spending on income percentages.

      Also…I’m not sure where the idea came from that shared finances mean you need to check with the other person before you spend fun money. Maybe that’s the way it works for some couples with joint accounts, but my husband never needs to check with me before he buys video games just because all the money is in one place, nor do I ask him before I buy something for myself. I just wanted to point out that shared finances doesn’t necessarily mean each person always has to approve the other’s purchases. That said, we don’t have loans (other than a joint mortgage) at the moment, but do have individual retirement accounts (tied to work), so that makes that part easier.

      • Anon

        I don’t think I would actually have to approve video games or anything else, but I wouldn’t want to spend more than a couple hundred dollars from the joint account without at least letting him know. Student loans would come out as a matter of course I guess, but we spend quite a bit individually on plane tickets, clothing, etc.

        I’m not trying to say that this would work for everyone, especially not that it would work for the OP if she is uncomfortable, just that I see our way as “joint” and that it is in line with my feminist values of maintaining some financial independence.

        • Anon

          Also the math related to the student loans (and other spending) means the math is not the same compared to completely joint, and we agreed to keep those separate. Not the reason for this method of sharing, though.

        • Meg Keene

          This is why having individual spending accounts as well as joint accounts is key, I think. Our personal spending is our own, and comes from accounts which we have control of. How much we put in those accounts varies, depending on our earnings or lifestyle at a given point. (Or… does in theory. It’s actually always been the same… but maybe one day we’ll give ourselves a raise :)

          Though we’d be SUPER uncomfortable if the amounts in our spending accounts were not equal but were based on our respective incomes. The idea that one of us has more to spend than the other because we make more would just feel… not good… to us. We both contribute equally to our family, work the same hours, take care of the same home, are raising the same kid. So the fact that the amounts we earn are not totally equal just… doesn’t feel relevant. I know it’s not that way for everyone, but we don’t want to bring that power dynamic into our home…

          • Meredith

            I like your method! Currently we just have joint everything, but we just bought and DIY remodeled our first house (super stressful on a marriage). I think once we finish paying for our house projects we should possibly switch to your method so I feel less guilty spending money on things. Even though my husband doesn’t care, I still feel like I need to be careful.

          • kcaudad

            This is a major part of the reasons why we finally went ‘all in’ with the joint finances. We make similar incomes and need both paychecks to pay all of the bills and debts and fix the house. So, the part about ‘you pay the electric, I’ll pay the water bill’ and ‘you buy the carpet, i’ll buy the couch’ was driving me insane! I think part of this over all discussion is the fact that the letter writer’s household incomes are really high! This would never work for our income levels (we each got $100 spending money per month. )

        • Anne

          Yeah, maybe this is also an income level thing, a bit. Right now, I can’t imagine having the kind of money where it was responsible for us to spend more than a couple hundred dollars on a fun purchase, as kcaudad also mentioned; maybe that will change in the future. I used to feel guilty all the time, having a joint account and being the one who makes less. But then I realized that I will *always* make less, since my husband is a programmer and I’m an academic in the humanities, and that separate+joint finances would always, for the rest of my life, remind me that I’m an “unequal” partner. I guess for me, joint finances were the way to equality, since it feels like a more explicit acceptance that my financial contribution to our marriage will always be smaller, but it’s okay, because we share everything.

      • Alexa

        You might not need to check with the other person, but for me it’s easier to just not be able to see it. I look through all of my accounts and spending at least once a month. I know my husband spends way more than I do on eating out. I also know (rationally) that it’s still well within what we can afford, but it would still really bother me to see all of those charges. It’s easier to just not know the details and avoid the stress of it. *shrug*

        • Anne

          Oh, yeah, that doesn’t bother me at all. We’re both responsible, and I’m the one who likes spending less, but it evens out—I spend more on clothes, he spends more on camera equipment, etc. I suppose if our spending levels were drastically different it might bug me, but they’re not.

  • Jen

    My husband and I do “yours, mine, ours”, although we don’t do percentages- our paychecks get deposited into our own account and then we transfer in the bulk of it to our joint account- minus an agreed upon amount that is the same for both of us. We never felt comfortable with one of us getting more spending money than the other and all of our regular expenses (which includes all toiletries and medication) come from our mutual account. But maybe this solution would be enough for you to feel comfortable with a mutual account and him to feel comfortable with still having some money that is “his”?

    • Katie

      That’s what we do too. We both get the same amount of “fun” money, and all other surplus money, after expenses, goes to joint goals, like vacation funds, retirement, investments. I was married before, and we did it the other way with splitting expenses 50/50, instead of splitting fun money 50/50, and that set-up greatly contributed to the dissolution of the relationship. It was just never OK with me to not be “in it” together, you know? It felt like we were roommates instead of spouses.

    • Ashlah

      This is how we’re hoping to set up our finances soon (currently we contribute the same amount to joint expenses, but I have more spending/saving money). Although this setup has its challenges too, I’m looking forward to feeling more like a team with the players on equal footing.

    • Em

      This is what we do and I LOVE IT. Equal amounts in our “fun/personal money” accounts and the rest in a joint account towards rent, bills, loans, and savings.

      Knowing that we’re both contributing to the “team” as best we’re able, while having equal opportunity to make sure our personal, individual needs/wants/whims are taken care of, feels FANTASTIC.

      • Jen

        I agree. And in our case, I know we will both go through cases of being the higher income earner- including a point where one of us was in school- and doing this means that there is no hard feelings about who currently has more coming in and even better- no math involved in computing percentages of income!

    • Aubry

      Kinda similar for us, though I consider it pretty much merged (just a different perspective?). We each have separate accounts (I have several) and a joint account. Money gets deposited into joint and distributed. We each get weekly spending cash (cause it works better to have physical cash) and any extra goes into my savings (because I wont touch it and he isn’t as good at that stuff) or a bit extra on debt. We are living pretty close to the line right now, so maybe when we have more money it might be a bigger issue of where it goes? But we have the exact same big goals (I might value a new couch a bit more than him, but we both want land) so it’s easy to decide.

      for info, he makes almost exactly double what I do (and with this new job opportunity he has on the horizon he will hopefully double his income!).

  • emmers

    I think Liz has some great advice. This would also make me feel really squicky, just the part about control, and worrying about why my husband wants to maintain a “secret” account, but I can also understand that clearly your husband has his own reasons for wanting this. Maybe this is a place where a couple’s counselor could help. If you’ve both talked about this, but you’re still not any closer to a resolution where you both feel comfortable, a third party might help.

    • Meredith

      I agree. It wouldn’t make me feel as “squicky” (nice word, btw :) ) if he didn’t earn so much more than her. That’s what makes it seem like eventually he’s going to hold this financial power over her. I’m also curious if they have kids yet and how they’ll handle those finances.

      • Meg Keene

        Yeah, to me, the vast difference in earnings makes it… a more complex situation, at the very least. We’re not talking about earning 20% more, and that’s hard. On many many levels.

  • emilyg25

    I was the one who had a hard time giving up control of “my” money. What really helped me was recognizing that we live in a community property state. It doesn’t matter how we divide our money. According to our state, it’s all “ours,” since we’re married. In the event of divorce, it all gets lumped together and divided equally.

    We lump all our money together except for a small, equal, monthly “allowance” that goes into individual accounts to cover stuff like fun splurges and gifts.

    • Ashlyn

      I came here just to suggest a 3-account system like you mention:

      lump all our money together except for a small, equal, monthly “allowance” that goes into individual accounts to cover stuff like fun splurges and gifts. That way actually seems more fair to me…and it will allow her husband to still have his “own” money/account.

      • Meg Keene

        Yes. This is how we’ve always done it, and it’s great. We have 100% control over what’s in our allowance accounts, and we can save it or spend it. So when David wants something that seems absurd to me, my first question is always, “Wait, with what money?” And if the answer is his allowance money, than the conversation is over, because yes. You want a robot who does the dishes? You saved for it? Well, ok then. It allows us to have much of the same autonomy we always had, while still building a collective future.

        And, as if in this example, your collective household income is really high, those allowance accounts can be big! So you can be buying a trip to Europe instead of like, another thing on Amazon Prime.

        • laddibugg

          noooooooooooo robots. That’s how Skynet starts……

        • qj

          Yes. Us too. Right now, because baby + job changes mean that our “allowance” is super tiny – and that’s okay, too!

        • VKD_Vee

          I want the robot. Where do I get the robot?

        • SLC

          My only question here is what’s your criteria for the allowance account? When I brought this up with my husband, his first thought was for each of us to have our own “spending” accounts, but we couldn’t figure out what the money should go towards. For instance, it didn’t seem fair to me to have to use an “allowance” to get my hair and/or nails done, but that’s an expense that he just doesn’t have. So do we use it just for gifts for one another and that new handbag I’ve been wanting?

          • Lauren from NH

            We use it for optional non-together expenses, which for us includes, coffees, lunches out when you could have brought it from home, gifts, some clothes, and for me it does include my nails because I think of that as a luxury item. Yeah so I guess and easier way to term it would be personal luxuries.

          • Sarah E

            We consistently discuss what allowance accounts are for, I’m sure you’ll come up with different agreements about it. We had to chat about whether they were used for joint entertainment (movies together, dinner out) for sure. I really had a big realization when I looked at my running “wishlist” for spending money and realized it was primarily household things– new pans, curtains, bike accessories that make it easier to ride, and I felt like I never had enough, whereas he spent his allowance consistently on lunch out, books, and the occasional video game. That motivated me to make a separate budget category for household stuff, which we can discuss and save toward, leaving lots more fancy-latte money for me. Personally, our haircuts fall into joint accounts, but again- you’ll decide between yourselves what’s joint and what isn’t.

          • BR

            I have zero faith in our ability to track so many budgets. I think this is the real reason operating with the bulk of our money as mine/his works, LOL. Too lazy to try and be ‘fair.’

          • Sarah E

            Oh, it’s not really multiple budgets, but unless I’m spending my personal fun money, I log every purchase. So if we buy new sheets, I just type that into the Household category. Later, if we need lightbulbs, I just add it to the category. The YNAB app makes that tracking really easy (though on the software as a whole, I ignore large swaths of the information it spits out).

            So I feel freedom in not having to track every fancy coffee I buy with my fun money (it just looks like Fun Money category = $X total), but I also feel freedom with having the information at my fingertips on how much we made this month and how much we’ve spent so far, as well as what our general spending pattern is (ex: have our grocery bills been increasing? Have we been going out more as a couple? Do we have room this month for a larger purchase?) Otherwise I just fret about it, restrict myself unecessarily until I snap and drop a bunch of cash, then feel guilty about it.

          • Not Sarah

            This seems a great way to use YNAB over Mint since you’re manually categorizing things, you can categorize them as “Fun Money” instead of “Shopping” when that item would be that, rather than it being “Shopping” based on the store name!

          • Marcela

            I remember reading somewhere about a wife and husband who went to a money manager and it was initially thought that the wife was spendy and the husband was the saver. It turned out that the wife was spending on things for the home and their kids, while he saved up for a new tv.

          • notquitecece

            We decided that grooming and clothes are just life expenses — but if we set the clothing budget at $200 and have already spent that, and I want to buy another shirt just cause it’s awesome, that might come out of spending. Or if he decides we really need another fancy cocktail mixer and I’m not on board — if it’s coming out of his spending money, cool!

        • JJ

          I have a similar question to SLC’s. I am engaged now and just bought a house with my fiance. I was thinking we would keep separate accounts, but now with all the expenses for the house and new bills, etc. it is becoming super hard to keep track of what is fair. Originally we were going to do a joint account for JUST house payments and bills, but now I am thinking the opposite might be better–the joint account for everything but gifts, “luxuries”, and other things that aren’t really needed.

          My question is about different levels of frugality, for example, I don’t really believe in financing vehicles, so I feel that my fiance’s new truck payment should be a him-only expense. Where do you draw the line? What’s a good way to start that conversation?

      • Ash

        Yes. This is what we do but we started more like what LW described each putting a proportional share into the joint account. We found it got more and more complicated the more we classed as joint expenditure and in the end it was easier to lump most of it together and have allowances.

        A lot of that process was about getting comfortable with sharing our money. Now I can’t think why we didn’t do it sooner. Xox

  • kcaudad

    I wish the AskAPW Team would have weighed in with other perspectives on this. It seems that Liz is trying to convert Anonymous’ husband to the joint account system. I understand that it works for Liz’s family and may others (myself and my marriage included), but that does not mean that it is the best solution for Anonymous and her marriage! I hope the comments section is more diverse in the responses on this discussion. I know people who have been married for 30+ years and have had entirely separate finances the whole time. Some because they own small businesses, other for personal security, etc. It works for them. The only issue that I/they see on the horizon is paying for retirements…

    • M

      I think the key here is that it works for THEM. Both of them. Separate finances clearly doesn’t work for her, so it sounds like something has to change for both of them to feel comfortable, equal, and valued in the marriage. I don’t think there’s any problem with separate finances, but it has to work for both people.

      • Sarah E

        True. I definitely think that’s the take-away. There’s been plenty of discussion elsewhere on the site about different money management methods. This particular LW doesn’t like the one she’s got, though, which is the important issue, not necessarily which method it is they finally agree on.

    • Eenie

      I disagree. The letter writer doesn’t want separate accounts. Why would Liz try to convince her otherwise? The advice gives validation to her opinion and focuses on how to communicate that position. The LW just so happened to want joint finances, so the framework is how to communicate why that is important to the LW with the husband.

      • Lauren from NH

        And as pointed out above, completely separate ownership is likely legally unrealistic, unless there is a prenup or postnup the LW failed to mention.

        • Eenie

          Although I think the legal ramifications are important to understand before combining finances, that really wouldn’t matter to me. I’m not planning my finances for divorce, I’m planning them so we feel good about how we handle our finances between the two of us. So if we feel good about them now, we’ll figure something out to deal with the legal ramifications in the future.

          • Lauren from NH

            I see your point. I guess my values just line up with the law so I like that it’s there to back me up. In my marriage, I think our money should be our money and the law makes it my right to share equally in the money earned within it. So in the context of the law and my personal value, I would view it as my rights as a spouse being legally and morally violated if my husband tried to withhold a significant amount of money as his and his alone. Not putting any of that on the LW. There are situations and value systems where it might make good sense to keep major portions separate, but it wouldn’t suit me.

            And I guess to circle back around, if I did want a financial arrangement that was different than the law, I would want it systematized in a sense with a prenup or post nup to make it official. Not because of divorce, but more because money is serious business to me I think how it is or isn’t shared should be very clear and intentional.

          • Amy March

            “with all my worldly goods I thee endow”

          • TeaforTwo

            Funny thing about that: we got married using the vows from the Book of Common Prayer, and so my husband and I did each say “with all my worldly goods I thee endow.” (Although obviously lots of contemporary couples make no such promises in their vows.)

            It’s not legally binding, though. We do have 100% joint accounts, and I meant it when I said it. But the law in our jurisdiction (and we don’t have any kind of prenup) is that all income earned during the course of the marriage is shared, but that each partner gets to keep the assets they had before the marriage.

          • I like your jurisdiction’s take on it.

    • NewHere

      I agree, and am hoping to see some more diverse opinions than “lump everything together and then pay yourselves some separate mad money”. We’re not married yet but are currently taking the opposite approach (everything is separate except equal amounts that we put into an account for joint expenses including toiletries…. Yes all of them). Where it gets tricky is deciding if this set up should change once we get married and if not, are we going to get a prenup to keep things legally separate.

      I think that recognizing both cultural and family biases is key to the overall discussion and the LW should keep that in mind. Initially, I had the same expectations (that we would combine everything) because that’s the culture I grew up in and was modeled by all family members. However, my SO’s parents kept everything separate which to him, seems ‘normal’ and ‘right’. I get that there can be a lot of emotional baggage around money and we’re still struggling to come up with an arrangement that works for us, but defaulting to separate finances might be more about family history than current power. Keep talking about it!

      • Greta

        I don’t think one way is better than another, and I agree that culture and how you were raised probably has significant impact on people and their views/values. I think the most important thing though is honesty and communication. No matter what you decide to do, everyone should know about whats happening, and feel comfortable with it. It’s also important that both people can discuss this frequently, and feel comfortable discussing a change later in life, in one system no longer works as well.

      • Not Sarah

        We’re also considering separate finances and a pre-nup, which seems really unheard of. Ours are more separate than yours in that I pay for some expenses and he pays for others and we don’t use a joint account for joint expenses. It’s interesting though because both of our parents have everything completely merged, yet we’re both on board with this.

  • jubeee

    We will continue to have 2 separate accounts and divide bill accordingly. My fiancee is self employed and his account is both for business and his income. We could get an additional account just for joint expenses but I don’t really see the point, Its as easy to transfer money to him than it is to transfer money to a joint account.

    • Eh

      One of the reasons we got a joint account was so we didn’t have to pay to transfer money between accounts. The extra account doesn’t cost us anything and it saves us transfer fees. When not transferring funds between each other the account is used to hold money that we are saving to pay for renovations to our house.

      • jubeee

        I suspect we might start a joint account if we need to save for a mutual goal, though we aren’t sold on home ownership. We actually did start a joint account for the wedding and it currently has $5 in it because we both are just paying for things as we encounter them. I should add that it costs me nothing to send him money, which is why I want to stay with my online bank forever where as he needs a branch for business reasons.

        • Eh

          Maybe it’s just a Canadian thing. We get nickeled and dimed for everything when it comes to banking. One of the big banks was going to start charging to make payments on loans and mortgages (something like $2 a payment – so between our car loan and our mortgage that would be $48 a year). The bank backed down after the public did not react well.

          • jubeee

            Its not, most American banks have insane fees. I managed to find an online bank with 0 fees and interest yielding checking and higher interest savings! But its online only so inconvenient for anything that isn’t a direct deposit.

          • Eh

            I deal with two online banks and a credit union (plus a investment bank). I don’t have fees at the online banks (a chequeing account/savings account at one and a savings account and joint chequeing account at the other) or the credit union (mortgage plus one joint chequeing account). Sometimes banking is a pain but usually only when I need to do usual things like when we bought our house and I needed to get a certified cheque to pay the down payment. I moved from conventional banks to online banks because they don’t have fees (I was paying $8.50 a month as student at one bank) and they have higher interest rates on savings accounts (interest rates are crappy right now, but I would be getting nothing at a conventional bank). My husband is still with a conventional bank and he pays insane fees every month. I’m trying to convince him he should switch to one of my banks.

      • Eenie

        None of my accounts have a transfer fee. I personally have two different banks (both with a checking and savings account) plus other investments (Roth IRA, HSA, 401K, Emergency Savings account). I know my system would drive some people crazy, but I really enjoy having multiple accounts and managing my money between them all.

        • Eh

          None of my accounts have fees to transfer my own money to myself (I have 6 accounts plus two joint accounts across four different banks). It might just be a Canadian thing, but it costs money to sent money to other people (and I don’t get any “free” transfers with any of my accounts). Depending on the bank it was costing between $2.50 and $3 per transfer. So it just made sense to get a joint account to save money when transferring money.

          • Eenie

            The more you know! Yeah, I can transfer money to anyone else using “quick pay” (having technically tried to transfer money directly to an account not in my name). It’s becoming popular in Europe and slowly catching on in the US. Hopefully Canada figures it out soon too! It’s kind of similar to Venmo except there’s no fees (at least for my bank).

          • Eh

            That would be nice. Hopefully we get something like that here soon.

    • Not Sarah

      We both have our accounts at the same credit union and we set things up so we can instantly transfer money to the other person. I’ve debated changing banks occasionally, but this is far too useful to switch banks. We did end up opening up a joint account, used it for a bit, and now we’re back to not using it again, which is fine.

  • M

    As someone who never even considered separate finances as an option, I’m very curious about what happens when one person loses a job, can’t work for medical reasons, etc with separate finances. I know that this works for some people, it’s just hard for me to understand. I would love for some people who keep their money separate to chime in!

    • jubeee

      Then the other person would pay more for the time being. Keeping finances separate doesn’t mean you abandon your partner when they are in need.

      • Another Meg

        Yes. I think it’s critical that no money arrangement is iron-clad. Life keeps changing, so it’s more like a continual conversation.

    • Not Sarah

      We’re not married, but we plan on separate finances when we get married. We both make similar incomes, have no debt, and have strong levels of savings and similar values on saving vs spending. I own the condo that we live in, so if we do get married and we stay here, I would need to pay ALL expenses for the condo out of my legally separate accounts in order to properly keep the condo separate property and then at that point, we’ll probably have a pre-nup to help with that as well as keeping most other money separate.

      If either of us lost their job, each of us have sufficient savings to live off of for quite while until a new job is found before they would need to be dependent on the other person. That’s mostly from being pretty frugal compared to our incomes.

      • Laura

        I’m interested in this. What if something were to happen (i.e., disability, cognitive impairment during older age) that made it impossible for one of you to work again? Do you have some sort of safeguards in place for those situations, or do you think you would evaluate the separate-ness of your finances? This is where I’ve personally had a hard time envisioning separate finances, so I’m interested to get someone’s perspective.

        • Not Sarah

          In all honesty, we haven’t thought that far ahead (also, we’re not planning on marriage in the near future). To us, the safeguard for those situations is really savings/investments. Also, if we are still married in say 30 years, I would be much less concerned about one person paying for both’s expenses than in 10 years. It’s not like one of us would not take care of the other if necessary, but if not necessary, then separate finances are fine. I also doubt we will ever buy life insurance (we will self-insure) and we each plan to donate our separate estates to charity, not to leave them to each other.

          And to be fair, by separate finances, I mean legally separate. We still know what the other person spends on various things, we’ve agreed on some level of how to share joint spending and what constitutes joint spending, etc. It’s just all legally separate.

    • jspe

      We keep most of our money separate right now, but there’s not a question that, on some level, it’s communal property. Right now significant but non-major medical expenses are covered independently, but if either of us needed a significant medical intervention/life change/etc. I have no doubt we’d pool our resources. We haven’t worked out all of the logistics of an approach similar to what Meg describes. Partially my wife is trying to shield me from her school debt (because that’s what she wants right now – we’ve had a number of conversations where I’ve offered to help pay). But also we’re just comfortable with our accounts as they are.

      It sort of feels like when we were deciding whether or not to move in together. We liked our houses, and we could spend time/nights/leave stuff at the other’s house..but it was still two houses. Then there was a tipping point where it was just more logistically complicated to be separate than together (groceries, laundry, where is that red shirt, etc.).

      For me our money feels the same. It lives in two houses, and mostly belongs to the account owner, and is a bit fungible. But we’re reaching a point where we are splitting up a credit card bill and it’s really annoying – so it might be time for the money to move in together, too. :-)

      • kcaudad

        we reached the tipping point about 6 months into marriage where I, the primary finance person in the relationship, just got sick of trying to keep everything separate. shortly after that, we started merging everything and eventually closed the separate accounts and just gave each person ‘fun’ money and set up ways of saving for big ticket items and shared goals. It’s not like I’m going to have a boatload of money sitting around somewhere and he’s going to be struggling to buy new shoes for himself- we treat all the money as one big pot of money!

    • SuperDaintyKate

      I posted above about keeping partly separate finances for business reasons. I think that the answer is that it’s fluid. As jspe says below, keeping separate accounts doesn’t mean you don’t consider the property communal. If one person gets sick, loses a job, etc, the other person steps up. Financial arrangements can change. What works for you at one point in your life might now work later, so you agree to revisit it when circumstances change. As long as you both share the view that the money is basically communal anyways, renegotiating where the money is kept and who gets to allocate it isn’t the end of the world.

    • Agreed that keeping things separate seems odd to me. I’m currently taking care of the baby. Last month, I earned $40, and bought ALL the groceries. The amount of organising we’d have to do if we had separate bank accounts would be insane.

  • KB

    With the income split you describe, paying proportionate shares will be really tricky – some costs are the same no matter where you are (Internet charges, for example), but others can vary widely – I can see strife if he feels he can afford a certain living arrangement, car, vacation, etc – and you may feel your “percent” is too high.

    I have strong feelings that color my answer here and I know people can make nearly any arrangement work, happily – but the answers above, combined with the fact that he’s essentially setting you up for two different standards of living, seem like good reasons for considering another option.

  • Dawn

    Personally, I would be alarmed if my husband made that much more money than I and wanted to keep it separate. She is inherently vulnerable due to the unequal earning dynamic. The simple fact that he makes so much more money gives him a tremendous amount of power, in general and in the relationship. With great power comes great responsibility. Therefore, I think it is on him to “give in” here, not on her.

    Also — What would happen if one of you got really sick and needed expensive medication or couldn’t work anymore? My sister-in-law has the most expensive medical situation. So, what, she has to spend all of her money on it, while my brother invests his income privately?

    • Laura

      That’s where the separate accounts logic has always broken down for me. When I envision a catastrophic situation (e.g., serious illness, disability, long-term unemployment), no matter whose name is on the banking accounts, I can’t imagine not tackling this with a “your money is my money” mentality. (I don’t know, maybe this has worked for someone and they can explain how?).

      For the day-to-day stuff, I can see how the separate accounts works for people, but it seems like an illusion when it comes to the catastrophic stuff.

      • BR

        So, we do yours/mine/ours and we handle emergencies (in theory) one of two ways. 1) We each maintain an emergency fund. I am adamant that we have separate emergency funds in addition to a joint one because we have different individual debts. Once those get nice and fat we’ll start a joint fund. 2) If something REALLY bad happened and the other couldn’t handle it with savings, of course it all becomes ‘our’ money at the end of the day. I’m not going to let my FH default on a loan because it’s not ‘my’ debt.
        However, this all really stems from having very good incomes and seeing couples/families with poor money-management skills rip themselves apart because they didn’t have a safety net. We take turns paying for dinners out, trips to the movies, etc., but separating our savings sort of forces us to save more than we probably would if we counted on each other to carry the weight.

        • Kate M

          That is interesting to me because that is why we joined accounts:) We both save more if we are able to be accountable to each other. I wished we had done it soon because it was so much more effective for us.

          • BR

            I started savings and forming my thoughts on money management before my FH so I wanted to try separate at first. I figured if it wasn’t working after a while we would revisit the idea, but it seems like we’re on the same page. I’m unfortunately quite attached to financial security because of my personal experiences and can’t personally imagine trying to put emotional decisions on what marriage ‘should’ be over doing what works best to keep us in the black. We’re both STEM people, though, so this highly logical approach to finances doesn’t result in any hurt feelings usually, ha!

      • Sosuli

        I don’t think it’s all necessarily about what accounts you have (separate, joint, both), but equally about how they are used in practice. I know couples that have had a joint account, but when one party has become unemployed the other has taken over sole responsibility over that account and dictated what money can and can’t be used for. Even with a joint account a situation can turn into “our money is MY money, and I make allowances for you.”

        On the other hand, my partner and I (not yet married and I suppose our account situation may change in future) have separate accounts and turn quite naturally to supporting each other in tough times, e.g. “I know you don’t have much money atm, I’ll pay this bill”. So just saying the types of accounts a couple have doesn’t necessarily say much about how well they are working as a unit.

        • emmers

          Truth! We have separate accounts, but we operate like it’s all our money.

          • MDBethann

            We have separate accounts & joint accounts. Mortgage & household bills come out of the joint account. We each pay for our own car payments from our individual accounts (left over from our pre-us days – changing direct deposit is a pain!) & we each pay for our own credit card bills (which have a mix of entertainment & grocery expenses between them, but no big deal). I do all of the charitable giving out of my account, but it’s more my thing anyway. Oh, and we don’t have a huge pay disparity at this point either. If I end up reducing my work hours to spend more time with our daughter, I may ask to revisit things, but so far, it has worked for us. Money is about power, but having separate accounts doesn’t necessarily mean the power isn’t equitable – it all depends on how you use those separate accounts & how frequently you communicate with one another about spending habits.

    • Ashlah

      Your second paragraph is actually what made me realize I want a change in our finances. Currently we contribute an equal amount to our joint account to pay joint bills. We have no joint savings. I make more money, so I have more substantial savings than him in my personal account. However, most of what I save for is for joint stuff anyway (travel, home improvement, future baby costs). When I recently got $3,000 medical bills, it came out of my account. Even though I was having to take money from savings that would have benefited US, it still felt like I was the only one making sacrifices because it was in my account and I was the one doing the budgeting work. So I talked to my husband about how it made me feel like these medical bills were all on me, and that’s not how I want to feel in our marriage. We’re currently working on moving to a system where we deposit all our money jointly, then each get equal spending money. That way, when one of us has an emergency, it’s clear that it’s being taken care of by both of us, not whoever happened to get unlucky.

      • Dawn

        Hi Ashlah- I think that bit about both of you taking care of it is so important. It’s tough enough to be medically expensive without having to feel badly about it too!

  • Jess

    I have always had a really hard time understanding the “it’s all our money” situation. I have always expected to go with the one joint account with a set equal input + individual spending money from the excess. I was raised in a house where my mom made (significantly) more, and have never really understood how someone could feel comfortable not contributing equally in equal terms. In that version of the world, the whole family was expected to give equal effort to housework, yardwork, childcare, and, for adults, career-work.

    This question, answer, and many of the responses (especially regarding money-is-power and marriage being a story of combined efforts and both people enabling contributions to the money pot in sometimes different ways) actually made the one-pot approach make sense to me for the first time. So, thanks!

    • Eenie

      I think the difference in opinion is how you define equal – equal amounts of money or equal percentages of income earned.

      • emmers

        And also, what contributing means, since it’s not always monetary.

        • Jess

          It really isn’t always monetary. And heck, money isn’t always monetary! The power balance thing is real.

      • Jess

        True! And I always looked at it as equal dollar value. Now, I’m not so sure. Equal percentages makes way more sense in a situation where there’s way-way-way more money coming in from one side.

        In the case of housework more time spent earning said money vs. time available. Though this one… I’m still in a strict “if I’m cleaning, you’re cleaning” mindset, and I’m not sure how I feel about being expected to do more of that or care more about it, or to have to be the one to pass up on career opportunities to be the one to do it (clarifying: this is not necessarily a personal expectation in my life, just a societal one that I’ve learned exists).

    • emilyg25

      I think what’s helped me is getting away from a strict definition of “equal” and thinking more about “fair and balanced.” We operate kind of like communists: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

      • emmers

        I love this!

      • Jess

        I’m still adapting to that mentality. I get how it works if there’s a large disparity in income (eg stay-at-home/high-powered career vs low-paying career), or co-owned debt, or large medical expenses.

        For day-to-day, I really struggle with that sense of having to earn something to buy it and the sense that anything I make isn’t exclusively mine.

        I’m driven by being independent right now, so moving over to “we’ll figure out the money side of it together” is a really big thing that I’m trying to wrestle with.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      I guess it depends on how you define equal maybe? We have the “it’s all our money” approach. We just try to be fair keeping in mind that we both have a vested interest in the success of our marriage.

  • Sarah E

    The point about women’s things costing more is so true. That was definitely an issue for me when we were co-habitating with separate accounts, and it continues to weigh on me with our joint account. Not only things like tampons and birth control, but down to haircuts and shampoo. I like and use small-batch made all-natural face wash and accompanying toner and moisturizer. And while I don’t have a giant cabinet of expensive potions, I do like having high quality face stuff that keeps my skin healthy. The hubs doesn’t use facewash, he just uses whatever soap is in the shower. (which– ugh, I don’t know how). At any rate, purchasing my face stuff is expensive. Hubs has a face, too, but doesn’t pay for all the skin care stuff.

    So is that a luxury item for me, or a necessity? What about shampoo that actually takes care of my hair? Makeup? What if the makeup has sunscreen in it to protect my skin? Then we went clothing shopping the other week for some specialty travel items he needed, and I browsed clothing, too. The amount/quality of clothes he could get vs. what I could get for the same price is ridiculous. Plus, I need to buy bras, and they have to actually be a decent enough quality to legit hold my boobs up, not just cover them.

    All of these things tend to cause me strife when budgeting or deciding whether and what to spend, and from where. Even with our separate fun money each month, I’m constantly debating if what I want is a separate fun expense or a joint one. It took a few discussions with him about this in particular, as well as literally putting a line in the budget that says “woman tax” to make me feel better about spending joint money on these types of things without having a mental meltdown over it each time. And that’s with the joint account doing the bulk of the work. If I had to spend more money on those things while I knew he had triple the money elsewhere for. . .what? his own personal use? fancy shaving cream?. . . I would wonder what the point of our partnership was– is it just to have fun personal time together, or are we really building a life together here? For me, and for life building, I need more practical, financial teamwork.

    • Another Meg

      The thing about women’s stuff costing more than men’s. I hate this. Did you know that our deodorant costs more? Our razors? My husband and I are in a similar grooming situation, except my expensive stuff is anti-aging potions. Not a ton, just an eye cream and a night cream. Because aging has made my husband look more like George Clooney and me look more like a Weird Sister. And my bras are well constructed pieces of equipment, so they’re expensive. But I literally can’t go to work without one. It’s in the dress code. So. Family expense.

      “Woman tax” might be the best way to describe all of this that I’ve ever heard.

      • Sarah E

        Yeah, it’s nonsense. For me, the pervasive stereotype of the “high maintenance” woman, with all the shopping and makeup and anti-aging crap (the literal, well-marketed yet absolutely worthless crap) continues to get in my head as something to avoid at all costs even though I’m TOTALLY NOT like that. Yes, I use an expensive razor (thanks for getting me hooked on that, Mom), but I stopped shaving my legs. Only shaving my underarms every couple days means my razors last forever. I use hippie deodorant that costs way more, but not because I’m a woman– because I’m a yuppie-hippie-natural-cream person. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve raced through skincare routines or condensed as much as I could in a suitcase throughout our dating/cohabitation time just to seem less high maintenance, when I’m nowhere near that category, and my husband has consistently told me over the years that he absolutely doesn’t consider me that way. Fuck society on that one.

        But THEN.. . hippie deodorant cream aligns with my values, but it’s double the cost of the regular store-bought stuff, and living frugally aligns with my values, and husband wears deodorant all the time, so shouldn’t I get something comparable, and if I don’t, is that extra? Do I need to discuss my deodorant situation with him? That absurd line of thinking has run through my head before. I’m making progress beating it back.

      • Lorraine

        If it helps, Paula Begoun, the Cosmetic Cop, says you don’t need a separate eye cream at all. For anti-aging, I just use one product, which is one of her serums. I put it mostly around my eyes, but it can go on the face for anti-aging or a makeup primer. Serums make great primers.

    • Anne

      Just had to chime in here with yes, oh my god, BRAS. SO expensive! I, too, need the kind that actually hold my boobs up, and man, that is definitely a woman tax.

      • Not Sarah

        Yup, to me, bras are a need, not a want. I can chastise myself for extra clothing spending in so many other areas, but bras are a need, damnit!

      • La’Marisa-Andrea

        I just bought. $80. For 2. Bras.

        • Dawn

          Sounds like a bargain to me, La’Marisa-Andrea! Pregnancy and nursing and post-baby-body bras…It’s definitely a line in the budget. Not to mention that although I lost most of the weight, my body is shaped differently. I need a wardrobe replacement.

    • BR

      The issue I’ve found in trying to communicate luxury vs. necessity to basically every young man I’ve ever met is that they have no idea how to take care of their skin. They don’t understand that men who age well are ALSO using those products, typically, and even if they do they are totally fine with looking like a ragged old dude by 40 (but of course, women should look pristine until the day they die).

      • Sarah E

        YUP. Aside from the whole how-to-care-for-skin (and mostly I’m just annoyed my hubs doesn’t complain about skin problems and only uses SOAP), it’s the whole, how does this affect me later? Men get away with all sorts of grooming things that women are derided for. Don’t even get me started on plucking eyebrows. I’m a major proponent of a nicely-shaped brow, but that’s not even a consideration for 99% of men. And if I don’t spend the time on my appearance, I pay for it later in social costs or even job opportunities- so doesn’t it really hurt both of us when I don’t look good?? WTF

    • SEM

      Your post just described every thought that went through my head the first few months my (now) husband and I joined our finances. We moved in together after getting engaged and we pooled our income into a joint account in a mine/yours/ours arrangement.

      Except it turned out we had different ideas of when the joint account should be used and when our personal “fun” account should be used. I was on the more stingy side and it made me crazy when he would used the joint account to buy lunch out during the day, which to me is a luxury and all kinds of other random things. It seemed he used the joint account for every expense he had and I wondered why he even had his own “fun” account if he was just going to use the joint account for everything. Meanwhile I used my “fun” account for anything that wasn’t 100% for both of us (makeup, hair products, bras). We had countless fights about every expense and it pretty much negated the seeming benefit of having the separate “fun” accounts so we just pooled everything into one account, with one, agreed upon budget and it’s SO much easier emotionally, as well as logistically (the former was the deciding factor, not the latter).

      One thing that had kept me as a stickler for separate accounts right until the end of our separate accounts was the issue of gifts. I hated the idea that he’d see what I’d spent on a gift and where before he even got it so I opened a credit card that we did not connect to our Mint.com account that he couldn’t see the statement for (at his suggestion) so I could buy him gifts and he wouldn’t know how much I spent until after he got them, which is fine with me. We have a very, very detailed budget that he put together using figures we both agreed upon (and that I love him even more for), so each penny is accounted later so it’s really just an illusion for me so I can truly surprise him. When he buys my gifts I just avoid looking at our Mint account because I don’t want to ruin the surprise.

      Financial security and transparency is super important to both of us, so we worked very hard to find an arrangement that works for both of us.

  • snf100

    We have a joint checking account and separate retirement and investment accounts that we both started before we were married so it made sense to keep them as such even though we recognize that when we do retire the money will be pooled together for that purpose. While my husband manages the money in the sense that our budget spreadsheet is on his computer, we try to pay the bills together so that we are both aware of whats going on in our financial life. We also earn the sameish amount so obviously our bills would be divided relatively equally, and we have similar spending habits so no one feels cheated about spending. The only issue is when we online order gifts for the other, we can both see what store and the price, so we try and warn each other about online secret purchases to keep some element of surprise.

  • Anna

    Hey Friend, I totally feel you on the money situation. I am personally the investor in the (dating) relationship, and I make 2x what my boyfriend makes. That said, it’s important to note what a man really wants with his own account. Maybe he thinks you’re not a good investor and are more generous than he is, and he wants to make sure that his (yours/yours plural) hard-earned cash gets invested properly. Maybe he has a friend whose wife spent all their money on shoes, or his parents had a rough time with money when he was a kid. None of this has to do with you directly. I think it’s important to have a talk that shows 1) you respect his decisions about money and you think he’s done so well thus far 2) you want to be heard and to make big decisions (ex over $500) together, even if he’s just including you as a courtesy and 3) the relationship comes first above money differences. For instance, when I get paid, the next day, I have investments (=savings) automatically leave my account. If he has that type of system, you’re not trying to get in the way of that. That’s smart for both of you! Show him you respect him and want to be valued as an equal partner. Then, be open to try different systems that protect your combined assets (regardless of whose name is on the account) and make you feel like a team. It’s not about the dollars. It’s about the love, respect and team-building.

    • Amy March

      But what if she doesn’t respect what he’s done with his money so far, because what he has done is elected to keep it from her and their marriage?

      Maybe this was unintentional, but the emphasis on knowing what a MAN really wants with his own account, coupled with the suggestions that maybe he’s just a patronizing jerk who assumes you’ll get in the way of his investments, or maybe a friend’s wife is super spendy on shoes, but you should totally approach him as though everything he’s done is reasonable and reassure him that you’re not like those women is shocking to me.

      Nope. If that’s what he thinks he gets zero respect from me.

    • Jess

      That discussion about what the needs are (savings systems? investments? not wanting to have everything taken? Which did actually happen to a girlfriend of mine. He drained their accounts and left) makes sense – and can be talked through to find a more comfortable solution.

      Money is super emotional for some people. I really understand being hesitant to share it regardless of marital status.

      This said, if he’s actually being withholding and using it as a power thing… not so cool.

  • Greta

    I guess what I just keep coming back to is why? What is LW’s husband doing with all this extra money? Is he investing it/saving it for retirement? If so, will the LW get to share in that money when they retire? Is he buying super expensive things with it, like luxury cars and houses? Is he saving it for a home or a second home? Is he going on epic vacations? Does LW get to benefit from any of these things? Does LW get any say in any of these things?

    With such a large disparity of income, I’m imagining a significant amount of money that is building up on his end. I think how he wants to spend it could answer a lot of these questions.

    • Cathi

      “If so, will the LW get to share in that money when they retire?”

      While I know exactly zero about the realities/legalities surrounding retirement accounts, I do have personal experience with seeing them handled. Specifically, my parents divorced 25 years ago. 25! My dad remarried 20 years ago. When he turned 65, not only did a portion of his Social Security payment start going to my mom, but when he retired his pension was also allocated partially to my mom.

      I have noooo idea if this was something written into the divorce settlement or if that’s just how marriage/divorce laws work in my state. What it makes me wonder is related to something Amy March brought up upthread: if he is anxious about his own future and worried about the LW “taking” his wealth in a hypothetical divorce (which isn’t unreasonable or mistrustful! But it is something they should talk about) and he’s thinking he’s ensuring a “safe” future by keeping his money separate, especially in retirement accounts… is he really? Or is he just living a fantasy that he’s keeping himself “safe”?

      And if so, how does that make him feel? How would [possibly] knowing that it’s gonna get split 50/50 no matter what (or whatever the case may be) change his perception of the money now?

      • kcaudad

        that is probably the state law or the divorce agreement. but, I know several people who are able to draw on their ex-husband or ex-wife’s retirement accounts or pensions even thought they have been divorced for decades! But, it’s not always the case with divorce in general.

      • diana

        Fun facts I have learned in Financial Planning classes- your stepmom and your dad aren’t complaining because your mom pulling on his Social Security doesn’t actually affect the amount he gets! (Can’t speak to his pension, those can be set up lots of ways). So, I if I am married back to back to 3 different people for at least 10 years each, and we have all divorced over the years, those three people can pull on my Social Security if the amount is more than they would be able to get on their own. (otherwise there is no advantage, just pull your own SS benefit) They give up this right if they get remarried. There are lots of crazy rules and strategies for Social Security in terms of being a widow, spouse, or ex-spouse. I may be butchering this. Maybe a post is in order as the APW community ages? Meg- put this on the docket for 10-20 years out!

      • LC

        I’m a financial planner and Diana hit the nail on the head with the social security. An ex spouse drawing on your benefit does not reduce your benefit at all.

        With regards to the pension, if it is a qualified plan (which I’m guess it would be) then the division of assets would have to be determined at the time of the divorce. In order for pension funds to be distributed to an ex-spouse they usually need to have what’s called a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) directing the split in benefits, and QDROs are usually part of the divorce decree.

    • SuperDaintyKate

      I feel the need to jump in here in defense of LW’s husband, and this looks like a spot to do it. I’m married to someone who works in Finance. The thing about some financial jobs (particularly in venture capital) is that you need to have that money free to put into deals– that’s literally what the business is. When the accounts are mingled, the money needed for business purposes becomes, at the very least, subject to a discussion about the choices that the person in finance is making in the day to day operation of their business. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want my husband questioning the decisions I make in my legal practice. So for some people in finance, keeping large sums of money separate is essential. It’s like keeping money in your business to deal with business expenses.

      I’m not saying that that’s what’s going on here, or that LW shouldn’t feel the way that she does or that they shouldn’t work on a different way of allocating funds so that she feels valued. I just want to highlight the importance of what Liz said about digging into the reasons behind his wishes. If the money needs to be kept separate for business purposes, it’s very logical.

      In case it’s of interest to the LW, we do a modified yours-mine-ours, where in addition to the proportional contributions to the joint account, he makes lump-sum contributions to my spending money and a joint investment account that I run. The rest of his finances are completely separate because that’s how he participates in the business world. We have also agreed to revisit the entire situation if/when our circumstances change (kids; illness; etc.).

      • NatalieN

        Thanks for this – I think this gives good perspective given his job background. Not saying that’s what’s happening, but it’s important to look at all parties involved as if they had the best intentions

      • Kate m

        The letter did not make it sound as though he was doing it for business related expenses or investment possibilities. I could be wrong, but it changes the entire tone of the conversation if you are talking business owner and investment/start-up money/venture capital. Most salaries are not tied to investment opportunities. As someone with a financial background, I can tell you that I tend to make the final decision about how our money is invested, in stock options, retirement planning etc. but since it is both of our futures and our family budget, we have conversations about how much we are investing and the levels of risk. The question above made it sound as though we are discussing take home salary only.

  • laddibugg

    My partner and I are talking about this now, and I”ve realized that I do not want a joint account for the majority of our money, at least in the beginning. I think it’s best we have our own separate accounts, and a small household account. That being said, I suggested we have access to each others accounts –as in, we link our accounts to whatever financial aggregating service we choose to use, and that we know each other’s PINs.

    The complete separation of finances bothers me…as mentioned what are you doing with ‘your’ money? I know it’s probably rare now, but back in the day, men had whole other families because their wives had no idea of the finances (my dad was a product of one!)

  • Alexa

    For what it’s worth, my husband and I have a similar set-up to the questioner: he makes way more money than I do, each us have our paychecks direct deposited into our personal accounts that we had before we got married, and then we have a shared account. We are also incredibly lucky in that we are easily able to live well within out incomes (we both tend towards being fairly frugal), so we don’t have a lot of cases where we have to make hard decisions about how to spend/not spend money.

    So, most of his money is in his private account that I can’t see, and maybe it’s weird, but I’m fine with that. We talk together about big purchases, and periodically he puts large chunks as extra towards our mortgage. I know he sometimes loans significant amounts of money to his family, and honestly, as long as it’s within our means, I don’t necessarily want to know all the details of that. (I can get obsessive about numbers in general, so sometimes money stresses me out even when I know we can afford xyz, it just sounds like a lot of money.)

    Of course, if the questioner isn’t okay with keeping things that way then that’s a problem, but I definitely don’t think her husband’s way is inherently unreasonable. I hope they can find a compromise that works better for both of them.

  • Hannah

    Just to offer a different perspective, my partner and I keep separate finances. We split our mortgage, utilities and food costs 50/50. Everything else we just buy for ourselves with our own money. We’re a couple because we want to be, not because we’re financially dependent on each other and it would be too hard to separate. Maybe the OP’s husband has that kind of mindset?

    We would have to change things if one of us ever compromised on our individual careers for the good of us as a couple. To me, if one person is somehow sacrificing, and that enables the other to earn what they do, the pay belongs to both of them. If the OPs husband didn’t agree there… I’m not sure I could ever reach a compromise with that.

    • jubeee

      This is my approach/mindset as well. I think it has partially to do with supporting myself for 14 years before meeting him. I don’t need to share finances in order to live the life I’ve grown accustomed to but together we can get a bit more out of it. I am fine with keeping things mostly separate and sharing the big stuff (housing, vacations) together.

    • qj

      I’m with you on the sacrifice/compromise/joint salary thing here – we didn’t feel the need to combine our finances (we just paid 50% for things out of a joint-expenses account that we contributed to equally) *until* we started making career decisions to prioritize living together in the same place over the most lucrative career options for us. We didn’t join accounts because we didn’t really see the need to – we made the same amount of money, didn’t have any debt, and spent/invested very similarly, so we didn’t feel like it made any difference whether our accounts were joint/separate.

      Now that the financial effects of those career decisions are about to go into effect (i.e. I’m about to deliver the baby and am wrapping up my current contract without a next gig immediately on the horizon), we’ve totally combined our finances and shifted things around. If I’d taken the job elsewhere, I’d have much higher (current) salary, but we wouldn’t be in the same geographic region AND definitely wouldn’t have decided to have the baby, so it feels like it’s absolutely the equitable/fair/right thing to do to combine everything and divvy it up differently than we’d done before, since they’re decisions we made as a family.

  • Rose

    My husband and I have the yours-mine-ours system. Since we got married, we’ve had a “joint living” account that goes to pay for costs we will never recoup (food, rent, joint toiletries, pet stuff), that we contribute to in proportion to our incomes – so for example, when we got married, I made a little more than double what he did, so when our budget for those expenses was $2000, I contributed $1400 and he contributed $600 to the joint living account. When we eventually bought a home and then a car, we started a “joint house and car” account that we contribute to 50-50, on the theory that if we needed to, we could sell those assets, recoup some money, and split that money 50-50. Maybe the latter wouldn’t work so well if one partner never made a decent income, but I don’t see why the former wouldn’t work for everyone – in the LW’s case, she’d just pay 1/11th of their expenses. The rest of our money goes into our individual accounts to do with what we like. If one of us ever lost a job, then the logic of the “joint living” account dictates that the person who still had an income would be funding 100% of the joint living expenses. We haven’t made a call on what would happen with the joint house and car expenses, but I think the nature of a marriage as a partnership means that if necessary, both of us would be willing to tap into our individual savings for the good of the family – there’s just no reason to treat that money as joint unless it’s necessary.
    I find the whole reference to “secret” accounts in these yours-mine-ours systems crazy. Just because it’s his money doesn’t mean I don’t know about it. In fact, we keep a spreadsheet where we do a monthly check-in of everything we have, including individual savings and 401ks, because of course you can’t make a plan for a family unit without knowing everything owned by the people in the family unit.

    • Rose

      Also, I wouldn’t describe our system as a legal fiction. We don’t live in a community property state. We do have a prenup delineating the treatment of joint vs. individual accounts and other assets. And we don’t have any circumstances (i.e. one of having supported the other, ever) that I think would cause a family law court to decide that the arrangement in the prenup is unfair. So even if our prenup is not “ironclad”, it’s an agreement that we think is fair, so I don’t think we’d ever finding ourselves arguing against it, such that a court would have a reason to disregard it.

    • Alexa

      My issue in this situation would be that if she pays 1/11 of their expenses and he pays 10/11, he still ends up with vastly more spending/personal money than she does. Now, depending on how they use/save their money that doesn’t have to be a problem exactly (for example, even before we got married my husband generally paid for both of us when we went out to expensive restaurants with his friends; they were out of my price range & he wanted to go, so it just made sense), but if they have very different spending habits I could see that being extremely awkward/uncomfortable for her (at best).

      • Rose

        But he also earns vastly more spending/personal money than she does. Now one doesn’t always earn more money by working longer hours or working a more stressful job or having spent a lot more time (and money) on education, but that is sometimes the case, and it’s not clear to me why it’s inherently unfair for him to end up with more money when he earned more money.

        • Amy March

          For me, the answer is because they are married. And married means you can’t afford to jet off to Ibiza while I take a staycation, and you don’t get to amass wealth while I penny pinch. I just view that as being incompatible with my fundamental understanding of marriage, which obviously differs for others.

          • Rose

            Well, I would hope they would occasionally take a vacation together, because I do view spending time together as part of being married, but I don’t see why (if he has the vacation time) he couldn’t also occasionally jet off to Ibiza alone. In my job where I made more, I also had more vacation time than my husband did, so sometimes I did take off on my own, which I don’t think did or should have inspired resentment.
            My father made a lot more money than my mom, and they had joint finances, and I don’t think the joining of their finances eliminated the feeling that he had somewhat more power in the relationship than he did (although she did actually do a lot more of the vacationing alone with their joint money). Same deal for my sister-in-law’s marriage, where her breadwinner husband clearly controls their family’s decision-making, even though it is ostensibly joint money. So I don’t see how, if there’s an underlying power disparity, joining finances is going to eliminate it. There may be a power imbalance in the LW’s relationship, but I doubt separate finances are the only reason for it, and that joining finances is going to magically eliminate it.

          • Sarah E

            I think what you’re getting at here is the same thing Liz was getting at in her response, just from a different angle. I didn’t read the joint finance system as a solution to the power imbalance, but a way to explore the power imbalance. Her first questions on why her husband feels so strongly about separate finances gets at the same thing you mention: the underlying power disparity that may exist in the relationship. Because you’re right, it may be expressed through finances, but it certainly has roots in values that run deeper.

          • Meg

            I don’t think there is anything wrong with separate vacations, but if one person is getting to go on them and the other “doesn’t have enough money to”, that’s kinda weird.

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            Agreed.

          • The thing is, marriage could totally look like that. I could have a career that sends me to Paris for fashion week, while my partner doesn’t get any vacation time so can’t come along. And vacation time could look like I’m too burnt out to get on any more airplanes, while my partner can’t wait to get out of town for a week. I could work a job in a corporate culture that demands wearing designer clothes, while the partner works in a field where a t shirt and jeans from target will do.

            (yes, this is a tangent from LW’s money question, but a relationship between two people whose careers/lifestyles are very different will have significant inequality. and some of these differences might be much harder to bridge than money, which can be quantified, added and divided, unlike personal time or personal energy levels.)

        • Alexa

          It isn’t necessarily unfair (though as someone who works in public education, I definitely don’t assume getting paid more=more stress, longer hours, or better education; I can out of school teaching with a master’s degree working longer, more stressful hours for less than half the pay my husband received for the systems job he got with his bachelor’s degree). But my issues with our capitalist society aside, I do think having a big difference in spending potential within a marriage sets up a wonky power dynamic.

          I mean, I get frustrated that society makes it awkward for me to offer to help out friends if I want us to go do something they can’t afford or if they’re just in a tight spot financially. It was way nicer in our relationship when we hit the point that we didn’t think of things that way any more, and that happened long before we actually got married. I’m totally fine with largely separate accounts, but actually treating it as his money vs. my money when we’re married and are supposed to be a family? That seems really weird to me… (Which is way more significant because of the huge pay disparity in both my case and the op’s case. If it was 50/50 or even 60/40 or whatever I don’t think it would matter as much, ’cause you’re still living basically the same lifestyle.)

          • emmers

            Teachers work hard for the money. So hard!

        • emmers

          I earn less than my partner, and probably always will, because my field is less lucrative, even though I have more education than my husband does right now. I’d have less spending money than my husband if we didn’t balance things.

          For me, there are two reasons I’d feel uncomfortable/eventually resentful if our personal money was vastly different. One is that when my husband is doing things like studying for tests that will increase his salary, I take on a lot of extra chores, to make life easier for him. If we have kids, I’ll probably also do a lot more of the daycare drop off types of things, since my job is more flexible. So, I am giving him a benefit that contributes towards him being able to do his job that earns more money.

          For me, it’s a partnership. Like, when we weren’t married and he was in school and was short on money, I paid towards his student loans. I still do. And though I don’t make as much money as him, we’re able to buy a house because we’re using some of my savings that I saved when I lived more frugally before getting married.

          The other reason is that I would feel uncomfortable, is that, even though we have a really strong relationship, I would wonder in the back of my mind if he was keeping things separate because he didn’t trust me for some reason. That would eat at me.

          But if having separate finances works for both partners, that’s great! It’s just if it doesn’t work for one partner, that is really, really hard.

        • Liz

          I mean, yeah, sometimes. But there are loads of jobs that are long hours, high stress, and very little pay- and many of them are the professions predominantly considered “female” (teachers, nurses, serving staff). If we lived in an ideal society where 1. women were making as much as men, 2. women were hired for the same upper-level positions at the same rate as men, and 3. “hard work” was fairly rewarded with high pay… sure, yeah, I’d be in the “he earned it” camp. But there are too many other factors that make me question if that’s the case. And that’s apart from the first point up at the top there- that if he’s working long hours, she’s also “working” long hours, or sacrificing in some way to make that possible.

          • Violet

            I feel like I’m not able to contribute much to this thread, even though I find it fascinating, because while I agree with what you said, what if that’s not the specific situation? My partner is choosing a stupidly stressful career because he wants to make a stupidly large amount of money. A career that I feel like, as a smart woman and as his company has a lot of initiatives around hiring women, I could totally get… if I wanted to. But I chose a career that makes less, because I value my sleep and whatnot. His company pays for his meals, so I don’t pick up extra slack there. If I weren’t around, he could easily pay a de minimis amount of his overall salary to have someone clean his apartment. I sacrifice by not seeing him, but I benefit by living in a nicer apartment than I could afford to live in without his higher contribution to rent. I don’t even know what I’m trying to say, except that, in some cases, if he works harder for his higher salary, I dunno, he can keep it. It’s not like I want it for anything, anyway. And whenever things come up that change the situation (our various forays into graduate school, upcoming ideas of kids, etc.) we talk and rebalance how we do things to make sure we both feel like we have the money we want for our various goals. I just can’t seem to get anywhere with myself when I try to figure out how to quantify in dollars various sacrifices and efforts made for the team.
            Sorry so rambly.

          • BR

            Right there with you. I think the discussion around people who not only earn similar salaries but work in similar industries just has to be entirely separate from all this. It doesn’t seem compatible at all with most of the conversations here.

    • We’re doing separate accounts. For one thing, we currently live in two different countries (hello immigration) so a joint account would be impractical. We intend to keep separate accounts after we move in together, because one of us will be an American living abroad, and Americans get taxed on their worldwide income (ie. including interest income from your joint bank account) even when they don’t reside in the US, and Canadians always file individual tax returns, so… basically keeping things separate will make taxes much less complicated to file.

      It’s suggested in some of the comments that joining finances is part of the definition of marriage, legally

  • Kate M

    I think the reason most married couples end up with the shared accounts is because most of us end up with major joint purchases together, and having kids also f’s with separate accounts as well. First it iswork to divide mortgages, household expenses, childcare, car payments and groceries by % and where do you draw the line? I make twice my husbands salary. So maybe I contribute twice as much to house payments, but he eats more than I do so does he pay more or do I? I am about to go on maternity leave for the second time and unfortunately 5 weeks of it is unpaid. But the kid is both of ours, same argument for paying for the medical expenses associated with it. As the higher earner, I never wanted him to feel like I am in a position of authority over him, and money does that. I check with him before I make any extra purchases over $100 and he does the same. If we need it, we don’t check. In marriage you agree to share your lives, and they are intrinsically joined. That doesn’t mean you are no longer and individual, it adds to who you are. I guess I don’t understand why money is the one aspect that people view differently, we both have incomes that combine to a joint place. Our bank account is very much a map of our combined life.
    That being said, we do have our own separate accounts for fun money, and we are not answerable to each other for how we spend it. But it is a predetermined amount decided by us both based on our financial goals.

    • GBee

      This is how I feel. I would never split finances 50/50 because there are too many factors at play. Just because you split finances down the middle or by % doesn’t mean it’s actually equal or fair.

  • DH

    I don’t like how the response immediately puts the onus on the husband to explain why he wants to be so selfish as to consider what he earns his, but completely takes the wife at her word that money isn’t really important to her and that it’s all about feeling valued. I think the question should be turned around. In this day and age, where this women admits that she herself earns her own very good income, why should she be fixated on the idea that her husband has to hand over all of his money for her to “feel valued”? I think that mindset is just a modern gloss on the old notion that the husband is obligated to take care of the wife. And I think the fact that this feeling is based on how her parents – a prior generation conducted themselves, hints that its a reflexive rather than considered position. I call double standard – particularly when invoking feminism in the response to justify this mindset. It doesn’t appear that this type of analysis would be given if the gender roles were reversed. And I think its particularly disingenuous to imply that husband is being selfish when the wife acknowledged that they would pay expenses proportionate to income, which means he’s paying all of their household expenses at a 10 to 1 ratio. Ignoring that fact leads to the red herring argument that just because the money is his, that’s somehow incompatible with him covering the bills if she loses her job.

    Plus, I think its wrong to completely zero in on this money is power thing and automatically assume the husband is holding all the cards unless all the money goes into a single pot. That’s completely untrue for two big reasons. 1) She makes her own decent salary. So, as long as she’s willing to live on what that affords, she can always decline whatever his money buys – which would be no problem if she really was frugal and uninterested in his money. That’s not to say that he won’t buy extra stuff to elevate their
    lifestyle, but he can’t hold it over her head if she truly doesn’t care. 2) Even if they did put it into a single pot, no one is ever actually going to forget that the husband is putting into the pot 10
    times what the wife is. His paycheck still goes to him and the decision to put each check into the account is always going to be voluntary (absent divorce and legal confrontation). And even if he never takes a stand and withholds the money, the argument that he’s paying the cost to be the boss will always be under the surface if he chooses to make it no matter what account the money is in. The idea that any specific financial arrangement is thwarting that potential dynamic is a fiction.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      I absolutely disagree here. Money is not a fiction all in our minds. Money most definitely affects power dynamics in relationships particularly when it is so uneven and I do think it would be an issue if the roles were reversed and she was the one doing the hoarding. Feminism doesn’t demand that women don’t care about the money their spouses make. Feminism demands a marriage that is egalatarian and that both parties are on an equal playing field. She doesn’t feel that’s happening here and her feelings on that are completely valid. Finally, I don’t think she should be demonized for wanting to feel like they are sharing one hundred percent even if she has no interest in spending the money he earns (though if that was the reason I would be ok with this too if she views all money earned as THEIR money). Him paying into the household doesn’t mean he isn’t selfish. Maybe he isn’t but I don’t think paying into the household and taking up slack if she were ever out of work gets him off the hook.

      • DH

        I never said the money is a fiction. But what I do think is a fiction is that if wife is uncomfortable with the power dynamic regarding money, that putting things into a joint account is going to really change the underlying dynamic. But what I think is the real concern is that for these people, who both have good incomes, the money issue is an abstract argument. It’s not haves and have nots, it’s have and have more. We’re not really talking about a situation where basic needs are not being met or hard choices made. Plenty of people live happily in relationships with a yours-mine-ours set up like the husband wants. No one – including this letter writer has to like or want that just because other people do it – but putting the onus on the husband as if what he’s asking for is automatically suspect without having the wife examine why she is placing so much emphasis on the issue in terms of feeling valued and respected is unfair to the husband. There is no right or wrong answer and his vision of how a marriage should function is entitled to just as much respect as hers. But I don’t think that’s reflected in the answer provided. They BOTH should examine where their positions on this issue are coming from, not just the husband.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          I dont think the issue here though is that he makes more. It’s he makes more and he doesn’t share it and the amount of significant. If she makes $100k he makes close to a million that she doesn’t have access to. So the power dynamics that result are very different from merely making more.

          I think the husband is entitled to his own vision of marriage but I don’t think that putting the onus on the husband to explain why he doesn’t want to share his income in a marriage is unfair. I think the stark differences in what they earn introduced a whole lot of different factors.

          • DH

            I don’t think its fair to claim he’s not willing to share his money. She said he agreed to pay expenses in proportion to income. So for every dollar of her money spent on their household, he’s spending ten. If they max out her income, they’ll be maxing out his too. He’s clearly willing to allow for the disparity. The general tenor of the discussion seems to be that this is a hang up on the part of the husband and it needs challenging. But the LW acknowledged upfront that yours-mine-ours is one of the primary modes of marriage these days. If the only issue is that the wife thinks its anathema to her idea of marriage that husband have his own money “that she doesn’t have access to” even though there has been no practical issue identified with that set up, then I think she needs to also consider in what ways this reflects her own hang ups rather than simply trying to argue that her husband should be taking on her conception of marriage over his own.

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            I don’t think she needs to do that. I think she’s entitled to this view of marriage as the husband is entitled to his view. Note: we don’t know what the husband’s view actually is, only hers. I don’t think a practical issue needs to be identified. It’s about a fundamental principle (we’re married, we’re a team, we share everything, etc). Maybe if they discuss why he likes the set up the way he does, she can examine if the set up facilitates the view of marriage that she has. At the end of the day, I don’t think she needs to interrogate why she wants her marriage to be a particular way further than what she’s already stated. If ultimately their views are incompatible, then it doesn’t seem like a workable marriage.

            I’m not going to debate the term “share.” Obviously the LW doesn’t see each person paying a portion of the expenses in proportion to their income “sharing” and how she see this issue in her marriage is the viewpoint that matters.

          • DH

            Yes, they are both entitled to their views, but yet there remains a clear conflict, and by posing the question LW is clearly interested in finding a solution. So it seems to me as though further self reflection is appropriate on both their parts. I can’t imagine approaching a conflict like this in my marriage with the attitude that there is no need to examine the basis for my principles. In this case, we know nothing of how this woman came to have this principle other than the fact that it was modeled by her parents. And she hasn’t really articulated a reason for this view other than the fact that it is somehow important to her feeling valued, which is a statement that raises as many whys as it answers. (Why, for example, to borrow your phrasing does being a team necessarily mean sharing everything?) So, if she’s going to put her husband on the spot to justify his view on the subject, then I think its only fair that she make sure that she has fully examined her own view. It may be that she has, but it’s not something that should be assumed. Just because you agree with where she came out, doesn’t mean she’s not being closed minded. Given that she knows the yours-mine-ours system works for some others, she may well find that there is space in her mind for a different or more nuanced understanding of marriage. In my lifetime I’ve had more than one viewpoint I thought was fundamental ultimately fall by the wayside with careful self-examination. Marriages quite often challenge assumptions and that doesn’t necessarily make them unworkable when the people involved have the self-awareness to let those assumptions be challenged and to consider them critically.

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            We are going to have to agree to disagree on this one. I don’t think she’s being close minded because she views partnership looking a particular way. She hasn’t indicated she isn’t open or closed off to other views and part of the issue here is that she doesn’t know why her husband treats money in this fashion. So in a discussion with him she may very well see other possibilities. If she weren’t open to what he had to say that’s a different story. But I do think more introspection is required on her part before approaching him with this? No.

          • The Original Letter Writer

            Hi, this is the original letter writer here. DH, I just want to let you know that you were absolutely correct. Because of the way my parents modeled finances, I had always grown up thinking that “one pot” was the only right way to do a marriage. Just as you say, it was one of those viewpoints that I’d never even questioned since it such a basic assumption for me… until I got married to someone who felt differently.

            Now of course I’m entitled to my opinion, but I’m embarrassed to say that because this was an unexamined assumption for me, previously my tone in our discussions had been rather… obnoxious. My tone had been closer to “this is the right way to do things, what is wrong with you” rather than “this is how I would like to do things, but I understand that you have a different and equally valid viewpoint.”

            I’ve read somewhere (maybe on APW) that marriage is a people-growing machine. I really felt the truth of that in this discussion with my husband — we both had to 1) critically examine our own feelings, 2) be able to express them to the other person, and 3) be able to listen. All three of those things were really hard to do, but I’m so glad we did them and I feel like our marriage is so much stronger now because of it.

          • White People Are Shit

            The issue *is* that he makes more.

            He isn’t required to share it.

            Because it’s his, and it doesn’t matter the amount, because it’s HIS.

    • Sarah E

      Regarding her own salary, as a reason you give that she has power over lifestyle. . . While it may be true that she could “decline” to use the big screen TV or luxury car or other fancy gifts, I think that point falls short when thinking about lifestyle in terms of where you actually live. Perhaps with his extra income, he chooses to “elevate their lifestyle” by purchasing (or arguing for the purchase) of a much more expensive living space. How does she decline that? How does that purchase not impact her, in terms of what she needs to pay for from her own salary? It’s unlikely she’ll choose to set up her own household elsewhere. If the living space is expensive due to location, it highly impacts her personal transportation costs as well. Whether she cares about the mountainside chaillet or penthouse suite or not, if they’re choosing to live together, the husband’s unilateral choice to “upgrade” is a choice that deeply affects her personal finances. This choice, as well as the smaller lifestyle choices a couple must make, need to be made together, weighing both sides. Sure, the agreement to put a paycheck in a joint account is voluntary– but so is marriage. It’s making sure each person in the marriage has signed up for the same future, the same values,

      Again, as the LW herself states, it’s not that she wants her husband to hand over all his money TO her (in order to care for her, pamper her, whatever nonsense), but rather that his money be entirely shared WITH her to be decided jointly how to spend, save, and invest, just as I would expect someone shares their whole self in marriage, not withholding aspects of their person.

      • Violet

        Exactly what you said regarding lifestyle. Exactly. I’m not going to restrict my husband to an apartment within my price range, because that would limit him. But he’s not going to make me spend more money than I can on a nicer apartment, because that would limit me. It’s discussing things so that everyone ends up benefiting. Straight up opt-out of your partner’s lifestyle “upgrade” or whatever is not usually the question at hand, because it’s rarely so simple.

      • La’Marisa-Andrea

        I would also add that the whole pay in proportion to your income in a scenario such as this one as “fair” where the disparity is so great borders on ridiculous for the reasons you stated. It’s not just lifestyle choices that are impacted — it’s really your entire life together as a couple. I don’t think LW’s position and her view of marriage is unreasonable. I just feel that if you aren’t prepared to share your entire life with someone, then don’t get married. Otherwise, what’s the point?

      • White People Are Shit

        This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

        If she wants more money, she can go out and get it herself. She is not entitled to her husbands money.

        The only was that his money would impact her life if that she was *depending on him*.

  • Megan

    I make less and I’m the person more apt to spend and I’m the one with student loan debt, which sometimes makes it feel like I shouldn’t be allowed to be in favor of communal money. Like, of course its easy for me to advocate for that because I’m the one who would be “benefitting” (for lack of a better term). Sometimes it feels like all I ever hear are stories of “I think it should be communal and I make less, but its ok because I’m very frugal.” What about us non-super frugal folks? Sometimes is so so so hard to figure out how to express that I feel like marriage should be being a team, money included, without it coming off on some level as that I just want to take all of my partners money.

    • emilyg25

      I am you. It helps because we have our “allowances,” so I just go crazy with that. My husband and I each get a set amount of money every month. He pretty much saves his. I pretty much spend mine on shoes. We have a budget for our family money (which I actually manage). I dunno, it’s just not a big deal for us. Probably because it’s not a big deal to him. None of those details (income, spend/save, debt) changes the fact that we’re a family and operate as a team.

      • Megan

        So interesting! I also manage our joint budget every month. He’s more big picture – investments, etc. – and I’m the one making sure all our bills are paid on time and that we’re contributing enough to our joint accounts to cover everything. He’s always had enough money to cover whatever he’s wanted to spend on, so he’s not used to watching every penny like I am. While I’ve never had any excess cash to invest and know nothing about those items. So it turns out to be a a pretty good balance. Just, as everyone has been saying, money=power and these topics can be so touchy to talk about. It’s been a long, long time and tons of talking, but I think we’re getting to a good, balanced place

    • emmers

      I’m frugal and make less, but I actually appreciate having a more spendy partner. He make sure that we’re not eating ramen all the time, and can actually enjoy our joint money, when I’d be more apt to want to save it all.

      • Megan

        That’s reassuring to hear. :) I usually get some resistance at first, but then when we spend on nice things, he always comes around that it was worth it.

      • Alexa

        Definitely agree with this. I spent college getting deeply entrenched in a “save as much as possible, eat cheaply, avoid activities that cost money as much as possible, spend only what you absolutely need to” mind set. Thanks to my partner (and the fact that we’re lucky enough to both have solid jobs), I’m learning to find a more reasonable happy medium.

      • qj

        When we combined our finances, my partner and I realized that between us, we have a totally balanced approach to short- and long-term investing, saving, and spending — mostly because my partners’ assets were almost *entirely* invested and mine were almost *entirely* in earmarked savings accounts. I, too, am glad for a partner who is both willing to spend some money to enjoy things AND who’s willing to invest money differently than me. (I’d keep it all under the mattress if possible, which is clearly not the best strategy). ;)

    • Ashlah

      My husband is the one who makes less, spends more, and has student loan debt. I make more, spend less, and paid off my debt last year. And I’m the one who wants to combine! I don’t like feeling like I have more spending power than my husband. It’s uncomfortable for me, and I feel like we should both benefit (or struggle) to the same degree, regardless of who is bringing in the paychecks. It’s possible your partner would feel the same way!

  • Kayjayoh

    What is a good online source of information on how your state treats married property, etc? I know you can look directly at the state statutes, but that is often messy an incomprehensible if you aren’t a lawyer.

    • raccooncity

      Not helpful to everyone, but if you live in Ontario, Canada, (which obviously YOU don’t….sorry) CLEO has great basic legal information on lots of issues.

      http://www.cleo.on.ca/en

    • emilyg25

      I just googled “[state] divorce law.”

      • Kayjayoh

        Hmm. But will that also show you things like joint responsibility for debt during a marriage? I discovered, belatedly, how annoying WI property laws made it for trying to file taxes married filing separately and having moved to another state.

        • emilyg25

          Hmm, I dunno. I think it’s generally rather complicated and varies case by case?

    • april

      General overview – if you live in a community property state (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_property ) all marital property is divided equally between spouses while marital debt is divided “equitably” (which essentially means that you’d have to come to an agreement on how to fairly divide the debt or a judge would decide for you). If you don’t live in a community property state, the general rule is that marital property and marital debt are both divided equitably – so again, either you and your spouse come to an agreement on how to divide everything or a judge would decide by considering a number of factors (typically spelled out in statute or case law) such as how much each spouse earned or spent, whether one person was the primary homemaker, who has custody of the children, whether alimony is being sought, etc. Keep in mind that marital property and debt is generally defined to exclude property or debt acquired before the marriage as well as gifts or inheritances from third parties provided they have been kept separate from marital property (i.e., not deposited in a joint account).

      And the lawyer in me has to remind you that this post is informational only and not intended as legal advice ;)

      • Kayjayoh

        All that seems to relate to how assets are divided in the case of a divorce. Which is not what I’m looking to know. I’m looking to know how to law treats these thing *while* you are married. For example, I think I remember that in Wisconsin, you can’t get a credit card without the knowledge of your spouse.

  • Daisy

    My husband and I are in a “yours is mine and mine is yours” scenario. We have separate accounts but we never use them and and our paychecks go into a joint account where we pay everything out of. We combine all of our accounts on Mint and Personal Capital to help track our spending/net worth so there’s 100% transparency. I understand that this doesn’t work for everyone (and it makes shopping for presents a real bitch) but it works for us.

    I have a friend whose has separate accounts, her payroll goes into hers, his goes into his, and they pay separate bills and the remainder is free for the other to spend how they wish. After they had a baby, theres a lot more of transferring funds between accounts to help cover expenses. To me, I always felt it would be a logistical nightmare, trying to figure out whose paying what and trying to make it “fair” (especially if the incomes are very different between spouses). And also, if you go on vacation or go out to dinner, who decides whose paying? Will there be arguments because someone always pays and therefore has less disposable income to spend at the end of the month? What about things without fixed costs (like grocery shopping, unforeseen car maintenances, house maintenances, etc?).

    I hope I am not coming across as judgmental because I am not trying to be at all! I respect that people know and will do what works best in their marriage. It’s your life, you must do what you feel is right. I am just very curious. I feel like the second scenario would be hard for me because I would start feeling resentful or would start keeping a tally if I felt like I was paying “too much” out of my share (and my husband is definitely the primary breadwinner in our relationship).

    • Alex Bacon

      The way your friend has her accounts set up is pretty much how my husband and I have our accounts set up. It’s a holdover from pre-marriage. We have a joint account that is only for rent (our largest single expense by far) and a joint savings account which we contribute to when we have surplus. (We’re actually terrible about it, but getting better.) But we have bills split up between what I pay each month and what he pays each month. I pay our energy and water bills, my two student loans, my two credit cards and my phone and car payments. He pays our internet and car/renters insurance and for netflix and hulu plus his phone payment, credit card and student loan. We each pay for our own gas and car maintenance and clothes and fun things. When we go out to eat I usually pay because I make more money. When we buy groceries, I usually pay. As for vacationing, most of our vacation expenses came out of the joint savings account. Meals, plane tickets, etc. Little souveniers and my fancy coffee I bought while there came out of my personal spending. Up until recently I made significantly more money. Now he’s making more and is chipping in more because he can. There have been frustrations but in general (so far) we’ve been fairly happy with the setup. I think we’re going to move more toward a Rent/bills account+household account and then each have our own spending accounts, but that’s a whole logistical thing I’m not sure we’re ready to take on yet.

  • La’Marisa-Andrea

    Aw LW I feel for you. I definitely think the first point of attack in this situation is find out from your husband exactly why he feels this way and how he thinks the current arrangement fosters that. Depending on what his deal is, you may be able to come to a compromise that addresses his need to maintain separate money and yours to feel like you are indeed sharing the finances in this marriage. As an aside, I think you should also look into the marital assets laws in your state if you have not already just for your own knowledge. I’m not a proponent of planning for divorce but I do think women should make sure they are taking care of themselves and setting themselves up for good outcomes as much as possible in the event the unspeakable happens (illness, death, divorce etc). I’m rooting for you!

  • Emily

    I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this before – but perhaps he just doesn’t want how much money he has to be a factor in their relationship. As someone who works in high finance its definitely a sticking point with my now husband – we have had to have numerous conversations around his feelings and the fact that he doesn’t have to make up for the difference in our incomes (he like the LW has a good job – just not one that pays anywhere near as well as mine does) in dishes done and rooms cleaned. Maybe her husband is afraid that it will make her feel like she has to be / act differently if she knows the full extent of their differences.

    Another issue is if you are in finance there are very strict rules around investing – what broker you can use, what you can trade, when you can buy it, when you can sell it, how you can get approval to buy or sell it. He may keep his personal money separately invested in order to deal with this.

    I think the takeaway is that the LW should talk to her husband and find out why he wants things this way. I can see an explanation involving a nefarious “I have more control / power / more for me this way,” but at least in my case i keep telling my husband that I earned it, but it will make our life better and allow us to reach our goals – there may be a perfectly valid / innocuous reason for the separate accounts (we currently have a yours-mine-ours setup, largely to make it easier to file taxes separately)

  • Lauren from NH

    I know I am breaking the rules by going off topic, but I am excited to see the little tweaks being made to the navigation bar on the site this morning. Very practical too ;)

    • Lauren from NH

      Also since the contact button seems to have disappeared, can I make a request for a post on what is legally/financially affected after you are officially married. By that I mean who do I need to inform if anyone? Car insurance, beneficiaries on accounts, can a car be owned jointly, I guess maybe one spouse joins the other’s health insurance….all that kind of stuff. There are tons of internet pages on what happens when you change your name, but I am struggling to find clear info sans name change. Thanks in advance!

      • Eh

        YES! That stuff is still giving me a headache and we’ve been married for almost two years. One thing is that it is specific to laws where you live. Where I live in Canada we have common-law relationships and depending on how long you live together (usually between 1 and 3 years) you qualify for different things (usually you get the same benefits as if you were married – but you don’t get discounts that are specific to being married, e.g., for car insurance). We lived together just over a year before we were married so my husband was able to join my health benefits through work before we were married (which was great since he needed some dental work done before the wedding). I didn’t add him as beneficiaries on accounts or insurance until we were married. My work managed so mess this up and a year after we were married he still wasn’t my beneficiary on my pension.

      • Sarah E

        When we were married, the courthouse gave us a checklist along with our license– primarily for name-changing, which isn’t relevant to us, but also for marital status. I don’t think a car can be titled to two people. But at our credit union, we could make our personal accounts “payable on death” or POD to anyone with just a signature and that person’s address, so that’s what we did. I’m not sure how much else would really be necessary. We had a consultation with a very helpful, friendly estate lawyer who guided us on most of what we needed– ex, we went to draw up wills, but since our assets are so small, she informed us we really didn’t need them yet, we could just stick with drawing up healthcare Power of Attorney papers.

        • Eh

          Where I live a car can be titled to two people but I’ve never tried to add a name to a title after the fact (i.e., we jointly bought the car). My name is first so my credit rating (which is slightly better) determined the interest and conditions of the loan, and I am primary on the insurance so my driving record determined our insurance rate (I’ve been driving longer so it made sense).

        • Lauren from NH

          A checklist would be lovely!

      • Kayla

        Such a good idea. I got married 9 months ago, and I still don’t know half this stuff.

    • Amy March

      I’ll join your off topic ness and point out that now on mobile the menu field takes up a ton of room on the screen, and includes a lot of white space.

  • Laura C

    I have an emotional response to this whole overarching question, in that I don’t feel like I could be married to someone, to promise to join our lives, and not also join our money. How does that work, emotionally? “I will share my life, my hopes, my dreams, my sorrows, my griefs with you, in sickness and in health, till death do us part, but my money is a different story.” I don’t think I judge people for whom that works, but I profoundly don’t get it.

    Also, when we moved in together, he was in law school and I was at my current job. Now he’s at a big firm and makes close to twice what I make, but in a few months he’ll be clerking and make a little less than I make. And of course he has student loan debt, while I have no debts. It would be a nightmare to figure out how to keep our money theoretically separate through all of these changes, even if it made sense to me emotionally.

    • Eh

      I think it’s more about the attitude of who controls the money. I make twice as much as my husband and we have a yours-mine-ours set up right now. (Note: We are considering more of a joint set up but that involves switching a lot of automatic payments which is more work than we want to take on right now.) More than two-thirds of the bills come out of my account – so that’s “our money” (even though it comes from my account). Money from my account also goes into our “emergency fund” (no money from my husband’s account goes into this account) – so that’s more of “our money”. And anything I have left over at the end of the month either goes into our joint account for house renovations (which my husband goes contribute a small amount to) or to a savings account we have to buy stuff for our daughter who is due in August (which I am the only one that contributes money to) – which is again “our money”. We don’t have a set budget for how much each of us is to contribute to our joint accounts on a monthly basis or how much we can each spend on ourselves each month (though we have an agreement to discuss large purchases). The one thing that we have kept theoretically separate is my husband’s student loans; however that is taken into consideration by the fact that he doesn’t contribute to our emergency fund, etc. When his student loan is paid off that money will be allocated to something else.

    • Jenna

      My husband and I have to have a yours-mine-ours setup right now, because we live in a country where joint accounts are not really a thing (I have heard they are possible but rare). But we earn about the same (I outearn him slightly, but not enough to be significant). We have our own accounts but still treat it like “our” money.

  • Fiona

    My husband is a new immigrant, so I’m currently the wage-earner in our relationship. He’s infinitely more qualified than I am (he’s a lawyer–I have a bachelor’s), but he can’t legally work right now. After a couple months of his feeling inadequate because I control all the money, we made a budget that involved putting whatever either of us earns in a joint account (because we pay bills together anyway), and each of us gets a bit of “no judgement money” every month to do whatever we’d like with no judgement. That has helped enormously. I still make the big financial decisions, but it feels a lot more equal for each of us now that whatever we earn goes into a pot, but we still have a bit of independence (with equal amounts) to get whatever we’d like. It has made the playing field so much more equal between us (yay feminist marriage!).

    • Fiona

      Bear in mind that this works well because neither of us has much in the way of assets, and we also have no debt, so we’re starting from an almost entirely neutral playing field.

    • Eh

      When we get around or reorganizing our finances we are definitely going to have “no judgment money”. When we moved in together we agreed that if we were going to spend over a certain amount that we would discuss it. A couple of times my husband has not discussed it. One was related to a house renovation that he expected could come out of the joint account but it was way more than we had agreed to (we worked it out but I was pretty frustrated). Another time he bought a PS4 shortly after telling me he wasn’t going to but then it was on sale (since Target in Canada went out of business and was liquidating everything). My husband had been saving money for a new computer but at Christmas I bought him a tablet so in the end he put some of the money that was for the computer towards the PS4. If we had “no judgment money” I don’t think I would have been upset that he spent so much money without discussing it with me or that he bought the PS4 (and if I was upset I would have to get over it since it was from the “no judgment money”).

  • Jess

    I’m curious what your take would be if the gender roles were reversed. My husband and I both have great jobs, but he is in the non-profit sector, and I am not, and I make more than twice what he makes. Like the writer’s husband, I wanted 3 separate accounts — one joint, while we each maintain a private account too. I felt this was because I want to be able to buy clothes, go out with my girlfriends, and travel without him without feeling guilty or like I am unfairly spending our money. If one of the unfortunate scenarios you mention ever arose, of course I would have his back 100%.

    • notquitecece

      But shouldn’t your husband get to do that stuff, too? Would you really want him to be scrimping to contribute to the joint account (and maybe buy gifts and a few meals out of his personal account) while you’re able enjoy the surplus on your side?

      This seems like it’s much less about “fairness” than about how it will practically play out in the long run — even if it’s more “fair” for you (or OP’s husband) to have more money because your salary is higher, it’s going to wear on the relationship to have different levels of money-stress or slightly different standards of living.

  • K

    I have a (single) male friend in finance who thinks this is
    the way to manage money. What the LW wrote is so similar to what he has said
    that it makes me suspect that (a big) part of the issue is how (macho) finance
    guys talk about money at work.

    • Not Sarah

      Yup, my boyfriend’s (male tech) coworkers did not understand why he let me pay for things/we split things. That is why I’m dating him and not his coworkers. Then again, they’re all dating/married to women who make much less money than them, rather than comparable amounts.

    • Amy March

      Yup. And when I hear them talking about it, it’s usually served up with a bonus side dish of steaming hot misogyny.

    • Violet

      Wait wait wait, the only thing we hear about his opinion from LW is this one sentence: “For him, the ideal setup would be us each paying proportionate shares
      into a joint account for expenses and then putting the excess into
      individual accounts.” That is a fairly common approach that lots of people (particular dual-income couples) have, not just a stereotype of macho finance guys.

      • K

        The order of magnitude changes things, in my perspective.
        His excess could easily be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and her excess might be in the tens of
        thousands.

        • Violet

          So because he makes so much more money, he can’t have the same mindset about joint finances as many other people do, without being stereotyped as a macho finance guy? I mean, sure , maybe he is (whatever that means, exactly), but I don’t see how we can assume that from the teeny tiny amount of info on his take given. In fact, a big part of Liz’s advice is find out more about where they’re both coming from with how they arrived at their differing mindsets.

          • GBee

            I personally can’t imagine ever being okay living a life 10x more comfortable than my partner, so to me the amount does matter. A few thousand doesn’t really impact your lifestyle, but 100k does. Even if I save/invest all of my “extra” income, I could never deny my partner the security my savings/investments provide. But, I’m pro joint accounts so I’m sure this clouds my judgement!

          • Violet

            Making 10x more money does not usually equate to living a 10x more comfortable lifestyle than your spouse, especially if you live together. And when it comes to security of finances, there’s the feeling of security (which LW says s/he doesn’t have, and that’s what they have to figure out) versus actual (according to the law, how much of his 10x is technically LW’s anyway? Does LW need a portion of that in his/her own account or a joint account to be financially secure?).
            All I was trying to point out is that when someone writes in about trying to figure out how to make something work with their loved life partner, drawing a parallel about that partner’s personality or characteristics to a maligned stereotype often isn’t fair, nor is it productive to helping either LW with the original issue or other readers who may also be interested in figuring out how to have good systems and communication about money.

          • Kayla

            I think “makes me suspect” is a totally fair thing to say. We’d be foolish to think we know anything about this guy beyond what’s in the letter, but we sure can have hunches.

          • Violet

            Of course we can have hunches. But I’m wondering the purpose of stating that hunch in the comment section, if it doesn’t add something helpful for LW or other readers.

          • Kayla

            Because it does (or at least might) add something helpful. If LW’s husband is strongly influenced by the culture he works in, that should be part of the discussion.

            Of course, I am on Team Throw This Out There and See If It Sticks. So I’m biased. :)

          • Violet

            Haha, I know you are. ; ) I think that if someone threw out a stereotype about the LW, (e.g., “Just saying, she sounds like one of those whiny UES bonus wives.”) there’d be NO WAY that comment would stand. Saying, “I wonder if his approach to personal finances comes from his job in finance. That could be part of the discussion worth exploring,” would be a much better way to add that to the discussion than what is, essentially, name-calling.

  • Sarah

    I haven’t made it all the way down to the beginning of the comments, so perhaps someone has already suggested this, but it seems to me that if the issue at the core of the LW’s question is one of making joint long-range financial plans, why not…just do that. She says she wants to make investments and save money – awesome! Does the husband actively NOT want that? To me, that’s much more relevant than the arrangement/ownership of the accounts themselves.

    So, they already have a joint checking account, why not open joint investment, savings, and vacation accounts? Set up the joint accounts you want, contribute in proportion to your incomes, and then call it a day. Would that not meet everyone’s needs?

    Als, I find the closing sentence of the letter a bit confusing “I feel like his fixation on money is destroying our relationship for no reason at all.” Is it HIS fixation, or hers? From the what she describes in her letter (which, obviously is not everything), it sounds like she’s the one who’s not happy with the current set up. And the current set up is a completely legit choice, as illustrated by many comments below from couples with the yours-mine-ours approach.

    I just wonder where the stress is actually coming from, and therefore where the change actually needs to happen. Is it the fact that the account exists that’s the problem, the fact that she doesn’t know the amount that’s in it, or the fact that she can’t control how it’s used? Really unpacking what the core issue is will probably help her decide how to approach the issue with her partner, and examine where her reaction is coming from.

    • raccooncity

      The ability to NOT fixate on money is a sign of financial privilege. It may be that her husband doesn’t worry about finances as much as she does, or doesn’t even care at all about where he stands in relation to his wife in terms of ‘extra’ money, but that is precisely because he doesn’t need to – changing the status quo wouldn’t benefit him at all.

      There’s a valid discussion to be had between these two people about their values in regards to money-sharing between spouses and their own philosophies, but it’s incredibly unfair to say that the person who is experiencing inequity (which is laid out by others in other comments) in the status quo necessarily has ‘issues’ any more than the person who is comfortable with the current situation.

      • Violet

        I’d just want to suggest some nuance to your first point. It might be a sign of financial privilege to not fixate on money. But it might also be a different orientation to money. My partner makes a “privileged” amount of money, but due to a rough upbringing, I don’t think he will ever NOT fixate on money. On the other side, there are plenty of people in dire financial situations who don’t fixate on it, either because they’re feeling so hopeless they figure what’s the point, or it’s a personal temperament not to worry about it, etc. So while I don’t disagree with you, that’s not always the whole story.

        • raccooncity

          My mom is the same as your partner – she was so poor as a child that she still worries about every dollar (which is different than managing your money well) even now that she earns enough to put her in country’s top decile of household income. That said, her attitudes were born from the oppressive nature of poverty. The fact that they still hold now that she’s wealthy is a testament to how terrible those times were.

          I agree with you that people are complicated and that individuals can be very different than the groups they’re in, but in general, not thinking about (x), is a sign that you have privilege in that area, whether it be financial status, race, sexual orientation, ability, etc. Individual experience and the intersection of different identities can affect someone’s experience a lot, though, as I think you pointed out very eloquently.

      • Sarah

        My intention was simply to point out that when starting an emotional conversation with a partner, both parties would benefit from some self reflection. I’m not saying at all that the issues belong to one or the other partner – it’s impossible to know that from one letter – just to ask if they have considered the origins of their feelings and reactions. She is the one who will have to take a moment to check in with herself and answer yes or no to that question, and request that her partner take a moment to do the same. I trust that this woman and her partner are smart, kind, loving people who will figure this out. I don’t think either one of them is acting selfish or crazy – they just have different values in this area and will work through them together.

        I also second what Violet says – I make much less money than my partner, we have a modified yours-mine-ours account system (basically what I describe in my original comment), and I almost never think about money because I don’t like to. I trust both of us to do what is necessary to run our household and family and meet everyone’s needs – and I think that could be accomplished with a range of account set ups. It’s really the values and goals that need to be agreed on, I don’t see a connection to a privilege of higher income from here.

  • Jenna

    I have to say, reading this, I thought of The Joy Luck Club and the husband with his accounts and credits always trying to make things “fair” even though he earned 7 times what she did.

    • Violet

      Yes. Even though we have our own accounts in addition to our joint account, anytime either of us starts to get too nitpicky about who’s paying how much for what, I think “I am not having a breakdown over ice cream on the grocery list as a ‘joint’ expense.” (I think, if I recall correctly, that’s only in the movie, to illustrate in the book how his quest for equality is inequitable.) That cues me to then say, “Uh, it’s all our money, technically,” and then we shake ourselves out of it and move on.

  • egerth

    What I have trouble with is that earnings seem so arbitrary to me. The market values some kinds of work (finance, tech) more than others (teaching, social work) and some kinds of people (men, tall people) more than others. But why should that dictate how we treat money in our relationship?

    As college-educated people, my husband and I have the luxury of pursuing largely the kind of work we’re passionate about / enjoy / find some meaning in (or some combination of those things). It’s an incredibly privileged position to be in, but it’s one we share and so it seems to silly me to divide what we earn along the lines the market does. We both work hard; it’s just one job happens to pay more. Our real goal is to together earn enough to live on while supporting each other in trying to lead happy, fulfilled lives.

    So I guess I get deciding to separate your finances to some degree because you have different spending habits and you want to be feel free from judgement about how you spend. But separating it out because you have different earnings? That I can’t wrap my head around.

    • Sarah E

      YES A MILLION TIMES.

      This is what I don’t get about the “I earned it, it’s mine now” philosophy. What if I don’t think you DID earn it? What if I think your work is really worth half/double that amount? Money is so so so arbitrary as an entire concept. It’s a tool to use, it’s a way to trade for goods and services, but the cash value of an hour’s labor is just plucked out of the air– sure, based on this calculation and that, but seriously?

      The arbitrary nature of money pervades my point of view on nearly everything, living in this capitalist society: minimum wage, poverty, taxes, cost of living, food. . . I’m not ready to just sign up for the nearest hippie commune, but I try not to labor under any false impressions about the man behind the curtain.

      • BSM

        YES. I love this comment.

      • raccooncity

        LOL – the first time my spouse (who works in a very business-y realm in Toronto’s equivalent of wall street) got one of those massive bonuses they’re so well known for, he came home with eyes as wide as saucers about it.

        I immediately was like “you realize you didn’t earn that, right” – he earns his very fair salary and works hard for it, but bonuses are tied only to the company’s performance that year. Which, while all the employees working hard together would be a contributing factor, it’s usually just the whims of the economy.

        My social worker sensibilities couldn’t let that one slide. It makes no sense that his income can either be less than/equal to mine or nearly double mine depending on something we have no control over. “earned” is a weird word in this case. If he got to keep his bonuses separately and claimed he earned them I’d side-eye him to death.

        • notquitecece

          thanks for “side-eye him to death.” <3

  • Brieanna Boyce

    I know I have no right to contribute, (I’m not married or anything) but maybe this is HIS thing. What I mean by that is whether you’re in a committed relationship, marriage, living together, etc. There’s typically one thing a person latches onto in their life. Maybe when he pictured marriage he pictured love,life, and kind of forgot about money, maybe he needs to soak that in. He doesn’t sound like he doesn’t trust you (I’m not trying to invalidate your feelings that he isn’t. I would feel the same way too, I’m just trying to provide a different perspective.) When I moved in with my ex HIS thing was space, I’m kind of a slob and I also tend to very quickly make myself at home and spread myself everywhere. My thing was independent sleep schedules, I sleep horribly weird hours and he wanted me to sleep normal hours. Or maybe he sees it in a more “straight forward” (short term) sense. “Why do you need the money I earned?” “I would give you the money so what’s the big deal?” and “Why we’re doing fine now/in the past?” I know that subconsciously that’s still kind of a me, mine, thing but maybe he’s not consciously aware of it. Maybe it’s just one of those emotional hurdles you need to help him with. In another point of view can there be a compromise? Like what if you guys have two seperate accounts then a third joint account that you both put a certain amount of money into each month. That way you’re both contributing the same amount into the joint one. I get for unexpected stuff you’d still have to go into “his” money but that might be a step in the right direction. Do you have direct access to his account? Can you look up his balance? Can you see what he’s spending on? Does he have to approve of you, or be there to look at that info? and yeah, everything in the article too. Just be honest open, and painfully,stupidly, and impossible to misinterpret clear. Best of luck! You two have lots of talking to do!

    • emmers

      We had discussions about this part :”I would give you the money so what’s the big deal?” a lot. Because he totally would give me whatever money I ask for, even to do things like buy a fun perfume.

      I had to explain that if I have to ask for money, I feel weird about it, and just won’t do it unless I absolutely have to (i.e. there’s a car repair or something), and will instead short myself and go without. Because of that, though we still have separate accounts, we’ve been really intentional about balancing who pays for what so that I end up having more “spending money” that I don’t have to ask him for. It’s a process!

  • 39bride

    I don’t have much to add except our own experience that seeing it as “our” money has really helped us through a tumultuous first few years of marriage. We didn’t live together before we got married, and so combining our money was part of consciously combining our lives–getting married for the first time at an “older” age made us acutely aware that the combining could be a challenge. We didn’t have a “yours, mine & ours” about our new home, so it didn’t make sense to us to have that attitude about money.

    Going in, he made about 30% more than me, but neither of us could’ve had our lifestyle individually. Seven months later, I lost my job. It was a couple months into our belt-tightening, remaking the budget, mostly-homemade, selling-the-wedding-dress-for-$800 life that I suddenly realized this experience had been tremendously easy on our relationship. I think it was because the idea that “I’m not contributing my part to the finances” never occurred to me or my partner. It had always been our money; now there was just less of it. When our only TV died, he wanted to dig further into our savings than I did, so we talked a lot about our values and compromised on size and cost.

    Since then, I’ve been employed about six months out of two years. With that and the addition of our nieces, I’ve turned into Susie Homemaker but I’ve never felt an imbalance of power due to finances. Society may not put a value on what I contribute to the household, but my partner does. We know that the carefully budgeting, planning and homemaking I do allows him to continue to focus on and excel at his job, and we are hoping for a big promotion that will finally give us some breathing room. And when the nieces are ready and the right job comes along, I will return to the workforce knowing that both of us are worth much more than the job and money we contribute to the family.

    Certainly this doesn’t work for everyone, but seeing money as “ours” (including a period where we gave each other “allowances”) has been a bedrock part of learning to combine our lives after almost two decades of independence.

  • Abby

    Can I please just say what a lovely/special/funny/insightful community this is? I don’t comment a lot because I spend so much time reading all of your comments and find myself agreeing with you all.

    Although we don’t have joint accounts now, we plan to when we get married and that plan has been the source of many discussions.

    I want to keep things separate, he wants to join everything. Oddly enough, he will make substantially more than me in a few years time. Maybe I’m too proud, who really knows. What I do know is that we never stop communicating about money. It’s important to us both for various reasons and he’s willing to compromise and negotiate and find a plan that makes us both comfortable. We both put everything on the table regarding our incomes, debts, financial intentions and hopes. I know that even though we haven’t settled on a plan, his willingness to communicate openly is why I’m convinced that whatever solution we pick will work.

    So maybe open up the dialogue, lay everything on the table and ask him to do the same? And most importantly hang in there.

    • notquitecece

      Yes, I think the most important thing — by far! — is being open about it. Putting everything on the table and being clear about how you’ll do planning is crucial. Who has which accounts is not as important as operating as a team.

    • Ella

      My experience was that at first, it was just easier to keep things separate. We had been living together for a while, our bank accounts were set up to do different things, pay different bills, and it was just easier. About a year into marriage we finally merged and it’s been great, too. For us, now we have three accounts: 1 joint, 1 just for travel $$, 1 just for emergency savings. It’s made it really easy to see where we are in terms of finances.

  • Hannah K.

    We’ve been married for 3 years and have never gotten around to getting a joint account. We both have separate accounts, and have divided responsibilities for the bills (i.e., there’s some I pay, some he pays) in a way that kind of maps onto the difference in our salaries (I earn more, so I pay more). It’s nice that neither person gets stuck having to be responsible for making sure that all the monthly bills get paid, and there’s never any worry that somebody is going to bounce a check because of debits s/he didn’t know about. Most of our non-bill expenses are charged to a joint credit card, and at the end of the cycle, we each kick in our share based on what we spent. We’re probably more intentional if we’ve been traveling together to make sure that those expenses are 50/50. Typically, he writes me a check about once a month for the credit card, which takes about a nanosecond to deposit using my banking app. We started out this way when we moved in together about 5 years ago, and it just seems to work with minimal stress.

    But we talk A LOT about our financial goals, like retirement savings, paying extra on our mortgage, paying off his car & student loans more quickly, etc. We have similar spending styles (neither of us are big spenders, and we talk in advance if we’re going to make a large purchase), so we’ve been fortunate have a good emergency fund between our two savings accounts. There’s transparency in what we have in our accounts, which I think it part of why this works. Conceptually, there’s an understanding and mutual respect that we are in this financial life together, even though practically speaking we haven’t merged into a joint account.

    • Hope

      This is almost exactly what we do with separate accounts and some separate bills. The joint credit card covers most of our shared living expenses.

  • LL

    I agree that the important thing to determine is WHY he wants it separate. And know that it might not be an easy thing for him to determine, so give it a few conversations.

    I make more money than my husband. I’m completely happy with our financial choices and setup (we do the ours, yours/mine thing, with everything going into the joint account and then equal allowances into our personal accounts), but I still get twinges of “Hey, this is MY money.”

    I feel guilty about those twinges, and deservedly so. I make more because we moved to a city where my industry dominates and his has a pretty small footprint. I have a sizable student loan payment, while he has no debt. It’s really all even in the end. Yet there’s still this prideful little voice that sometimes wants the credit, and the control, for contributing more dollars.

    It was important for me to figure out why I feel that way sometimes. For me, I really think it’s just pride. I’m proud of my career, and my salary is one reflection of my accomplishments. If I didn’t trust my husband, or wanted financial control to correct some other inequality in our relationship, it would be a more serious issue. Pride- that I can acknowledge and dismiss.

    • Eh

      At the beginning I had those twinges too (I also make more than my husband). Owning a house and a car (something we didn’t have until we bought a house) and having a baby due in August has given me perspective about it. (If anything the twinges are now occasionally of resentment that I contribute a much higher proportion to the joint savings accounts and then I have to remind myself we agreed that he could put extra money on his student loan.)

      The one thing my husband has a hard time wrapping his head around is retirement savings. Currently all of the retirement savings are in my name (I have a pension through work and a retirement savings account). Our plan is that when his student loan is paid off he will put money into an account for retirement savings. He feels like he is far behind other people our age because he doesn’t have any retirement savings (he’s 30 – and I think if he asked his friends most of them wouldn’t have much saved for retirement unless they have a pension through work). I also remind him that he will benefit from “my” pension and “my” retirement savings, and that tax-wise it makes more sense right now for me to save money for retirement because I pay more taxes.

  • TeaforTwo

    #3 is exactly why we have joint accounts. We have each taken turns being the primary earner in our relationship, and will probably switch roles a few more times over the course of our marriage. But I just don’t see the point in keeping everything separate: It’s not like I would want to retire 20 years before my partner, or go on vacations that he could never afford to join me on, or eat a 12 course tasting menu while he sips ice water and picks at a salad.

    Sure, we have separate friends and activities, but for the most part…we like spending time together. So most of our expenses could be considered joint expenses. Having more of a vote, or having nicer stuff or more freedom than my partner would feel really strange to me, and I wouldn’t enjoy it as much.

  • newyork22

    We have separate accounts and have been charging each other back for the main expenses for years, so we maintained the separate system even after marriage because we effectively saw each other as partners whether or not we had a joint account. The other reason we maintained this system is that hubby is risk-averse and does not like seeing investments decrease in value. So I’m now the Chief Investment Officer for the family and he maintains the liquid assets of our emergency funds. Every now and again he’ll hit the cap of what we need liquid assets for and transfers over the balance to me for investment. This only works though because we track through YNAB so he can see how our investment balances are doing and I can see that our savings account is intact.

  • Eh

    #2 – my in laws have their finances totally joint. To the point that they joke about who is paying for supper when they are at a restaurant and paying with their joint credit card. My FIL is currently unemployed (since December). (Note: both of them have had stints of unemployment but this has been the longest.) Around the same time my MIL got a promotion at work that almost makes up for the lost income. Her new job also involves commuting an hour each way. Since he’s been laid off, my FIL gets a small allowance and has to have larger purchases approved by my MIL (a few months ago she told him that he had to use his jar of change to buy an ereader). Even though they don’t need him to work she wants him to work so they have a bit more discretionary income. Which I understand but the other day he suggested that the allowance was punishment for not working (which is very different than their previous attitude towards finances). Right now she is benefitting from him being at home because supper is ready when she gets home and he cleans while she is at work so they don’t have to do those things in the evenings and weekends and they get to spend that time together (he said that is out the window if he is working). My FIL doesn’t really want to work since he wants to retire in the next four years. He also has got used to spending lots of time with my MIL so he is very picky about hours of work (he won’t work evenings, midnight a or weekends).

    Anyways, it is interesting how sometimes when circumstances change people change their attitudes towards household finances.

    • notquitecece

      Wow, what a great example of how this is a thing you have to keep talking about throughout life.

      • Eh

        I think an open discussion needs to happen when ever circumstances change. Those changes being positive or negative. I had a temporary raise last year so that money went into our savings, my husband got a small bonus last year so we agreed half would be fun money and half would pay down debt, he got a temporary raise this year and agreed that would go towards paying down debt. I am going on mat leave for six months and then he is going on parental leave for six months and we will have to figure out how to rejig our finances during those times. I think there is a bit of resentment and other stuff going on about the work and money situation from both my MIL and FIL.

        • notquitecece

          Yeah — those of us who lived alone or were single for awhile are used to just sort of letting everything work itself out (if we’re lucky enough that it works…), and I think the shift to a partnership requires a lot more communication and conscious choices about money.

  • Karen

    I support the husband… if there’s plenty of money going to the joint expenses, why shouldn’t he get to keep the money he earns? If you need more money in the joint expense account, that’s one thing, but… my husband and I both had our own careers and salaries before we even met, so why shouldn’t we get to keep getting what we’re earning? If life circumstances change (parental leave, etc.) we can adjust at that time, but if the guy in the original post earns $300,000 and puts $30,000 in the joint account, and she earns $30,000 and puts $3,000 in the joint account, AND $33,000 is plenty for the joint expenses, then I really don’t see what the problem is.

    • Ashlah

      The problem is that she is unhappy/uncomfortable with him having (based on your hypothetical situation) $243,000 more personal money than her. If they were both okay with that situation, then it wouldn’t be a problem, but marriage involves finding solutions that both partners find acceptable. She’s uncomfortable, and frankly I would be too (as *either* spouse). I would feel lesser if my husband had 10x the money as me, and I would feel like a jerk if I had 10x the money as my husband. Again, if both parties in the relationship are okay with this, then that’s their prerogative. But this letter writer is not, and her husband needs to work with her to come up with a viable solution for *both* of them.

  • Elemjay

    There is no one way of dealing with finances – but I do think it has to work for both parties. So I agree the OP needs to keep talking on this one – she shouldn’t just accept it.
    NB you can try to keep it separate but that gets super hard/ ridiculous as you add in things like children and periods of unemployment/ illness etc to the mix. And of course there’s the “it’s all our money” divorce thing. So if you think about it, the chances over time of falling into one of these categories is pretty high (kids or divorce or unemployment) – keeping separate finances is likely to be the exception (and very much an illusion) as life continues.

  • S

    I agree with the OP, I don’t see how marriage can work if you don’t think about your incomes as ‘our’ money, regardless of what accounts it’s held in. When we moved across the country so I could start an awesome job, it took my now-fiance ~5 months to get a job of his own. Our bank accounts were, and are still, 100% separate. But during that time I paid for not only all of our joint expenses, but gave him money when his account was running low and he needed cash for when I wasn’t around, and even forced him to go on a small shopping spree (that I paid for) when I discovered at the start of summer he had no shorts and no sandals to wear. Even now that he has a job, I still make ~3x what he does. Our bank accounts are totally separate, but I don’t really think of it as ‘my’ vs ‘his’ money.

    But then, him being a boy, he has ingrained that he should be the breadwinner, which still leads to a few issues. He insists on splitting the rent 50:50. He really likes to pay when we
    go out to dinner. But I buy all the groceries every week, and pay the
    majority of our bills, so it’s easy enough to let him think he’s doing
    well by covering the kinda pricey meal out every so often. When I have a business trip to Europe, and say that he should fly in at the end and we can take vacation there, he says plane tickets are too expensive, and doesn’t want me to buy him an expensive plane ticket (nevermind that that’s what I want, and that the reason for the trip is that my plane ticket was free to me…) Which has resulted in my travelling on my own, which is perfectly fine (especially since he also has less vacation time than I do, so it’s not like money is the only reason he declined the trip). But it can get a little tiresome.

    Once we’re married I’d like to have at least an ‘our’ account so that budgetting for things like vacation is more transparent as to the total available, and less transparent as to the % contribution.

  • The Original Letter Writer

    Hi, this is the original letter writer.

    First of all, I’m super happy to see how much conversation and sharing this post generated! I love that people took my letter as a jumping-off point to share their own experiences and perspectives on managing money in their relationships. This is my favorite thing about APW. In real life there’s only a few small handful of people with whom I feel comfortable enough to discuss a super-sensitive topic like this, but here I can get hundreds of insightful, intelligent, and honest opinions.

    Second of all, I think the overarching advice here — TALK ABOUT IT — was spot on. I submitted this letter to APW about two months ago, and since I feel like we have made a ton of progress on this issue. Since then we have talked and talked but most importantly we have listened, which maybe we weren’t doing before. Maybe we were just each talking and not really hearing the other. Anyways, just wanted to share an updates on this situation for those of you who are curious:

    From my husband’s point of view, the main issue at stake here is decision-making power. His dad owns a company which he built from nothing to a $100M+ business. One of my husband’s most intense emotional memories from the early days of this business, when he was a teenager, was watching his parents fight about money. Specifically, his dad would want to invest in the business with family money and his mother would not, feeling it was too risky.

    In the end his dad won and the business flourished, but (to be fair to his mom) it could’ve gone the other way as well. Baby businesses are risky. Anyways, watching this whole dynamic play out left my husband with a deep-seated fear of giving up decision making power. He feels like he earned a substantial amount of money before we ever met (true) and that he should get to decide what to do with it. If he wants to invest in something, he doesn’t want me telling him that it’s too risky or not a good idea. Which, in fact, are both things that I have told him in the past, so it’s a totally legitimate fear.

    We’ve had conversations that go like this:
    Him: “I’m thinking of investing in xyz stock”
    Me: “No, that’s risky and stupid. Why not an index fund?”.

    Regardless of whether or not I’m right, the point is he felt like I was removing his agency over money he had earned. After he was able to elucidate all of this to me, it finally made a lot of sense and I was really able to sympathize with his point of view.

    There were a lot of posts on here about spending money and the importance of having separate accounts so that your partner can buy things you may think are stupid and vice versa. I think this is basically the same thing, except we’re talking about investment decisions rather than spending decisions. Oddly enough, as I mentioned before when it comes to spending and lifestyle we have absolutely zero disagreements. We live a lifestyle that we could support on my income alone, we’re both frugal, and there are never been a single moment when I felt like he would spend money on himself and not on me (or vice versa).

    The solution we came up with in the end is this — all the savings we each accumulated before we got married are ours separately. He can do whatever he wants with his, whether it’s making stock bets or starting a business or even going to Vegas and putting it all on red. Same goes for me. All earnings from after our wedding are joint, go into a joint account, and we decide together what to do with it.

    Of course, there is a pretty dramatic inequality here because his “individual” pre-wedding savings are more than 10x mine. Theoretically speaking, that means he has more options than I do. But realistically speaking, I don’t think it will affect our lifestyle and in a decade or two (fingers crossed), our joint pot will dwarf his individual pot anyways. Most importantly, this system makes us both feel happy and safe, which is all that matters.

    • Emfourty Gasmask

      Get fucked you parasite

  • Excellent and informative post.

  • Chandana

    My boyfriend and I are currently at yours-mine-ours, and we’ve agreed that if/when we get married it’ll become a joint pool – maybe with both of us receiving separate but equal allowances on a monthly basis. It’s interesting that you point out your parents were all in, partly because they earned similar incomes. This is exactly it for me and my boyfriend – we’ve been together since university and are both management consultants so expect to be earning similar incomes for a long time. Also because we’ve been together since university I 100% see that he’s contributed to my income and me to his through emotional and physical (doing chores etc.) support. We both realise we wouldn’t be where we are today without the other person so our income streams ought to be shared. I just want the long term, formal commitment of marriage before I actually give him the keys to my savings!
    I don’t think a marriage is a marriage without fiscal union. I feel like if he keeps his ‘extra’ money then he’s saying you don’t contribute to his life at all and therefore don’t deserve access to that ‘extra’ money (and vice versa). It also strikes me as uncaring and unloving as he’s maintaining this ‘inferior/superior’ relationship where he’s in a position to always treat you to things and you have to constantly be grateful. Urgh, it’s just bad. Plain bad. I wonder if he’s really thought through all the implications of his choice?

  • Natanya

    It is his money. Your parents earned an equal income. Their situation was different. Your husband makes much more than you. He earned the money and deserves to use or save it as he chooses. He should provide for all of your needs and comfort but that does not change the fact that the money belongs to him.

  • mj

    With the usual caveat that there is no one right way and a it’s all about what’s right for the people involved, it sucks when the people involved don’t see things the same way. I’m personally on board with marriage as mini socialism (as Meg put it in another post), and totally see where the OP is coming from. That said, it’s entirely possible that is thinking of this as being about money and not realizing how it’s about power. I think there are guys out there who’d share his ideas about money while they would be really uncomfortable with the idea of an imbalance of power in their relationships, and that they’d likely recoil at the idea that they are more valuable/valued than their spouses. I know it’s kind of obvious, but it might just be that he hasn’t thought of those kinds of implications in his ideas of managing finances. I think the OP should talk to him specifically about power dynamics and how those concepts make her feel, see how he feels about them, and take it from there. I think if the conversation stays about *money* as opposed to what the money separation means/feels like it means, they’re likely to go around in circles on the topic. With the topic being opened up to the implications of various financial situations and the feelings around them, they could have new paths to follow.

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  • Nomad

    Sorry but these days people are very untrust worthy. I have seen military guys come home to nothing because their wives wiped them out and left.

  • Uncl Dolan

    Wow I am so thankful my wife is not a parasite like you.

  • Cris Corcoran

    This is why men should avoid marriage.

    Ladies, you aren’t owed anything.

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