43 answers

Financial Freedom in Marriage

In a marriage where both partners work, what is the best way to manage money? Put it in joint account, joint and separate, or just separate and share expenses? If the husband manages all finances and all money goes to joint account, how much freedom can a wife have to keep some money for herself?

If the wife wants to keep some money for herself in a seperate account (less than 10% of her income) as security as she fears someday if husband asks her to leave or removes her from his credit/debit cards or something happens she will have no immediate financial backup. Husband has strong objection to keeping a separate account. He thinks it is secrecy and trust issue and break in foundation of marriage. He thinks that in order to stay in marriage and honor his feelings and appreciate him, wife must keep money in a joint account and spend within his prescribed limits.

What do you think is reasonable? How much financial freedom and security each partner should have in a marriage?
Thanks much,

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So What Happened?™

Thanks everyone for taking the time to write such detailed responses. I really appreciate it. It does make sense to combine finances and keep it simple. At the same time, two partners in marriage are also individual beings and deserve to have some freedom to spend money the way they want after all the family expenses are taken care of. I feel that both partners should have a little bit of free money either by a separate account or another mechanism.

In the situation, I described in my question, there is no financial hardship and all expenses are manageable. There is no debt except minimal home mortgage. The primary reason wife wants a separate account is to manage her personal expenses (clothing, shoes, hair cuts, skin care, small gifts for her side of family, etc.) and not being nagged for it. The wife feels she spends within limits (buys things cheap on sale, no high end designer stuff, no spa or nail salon visits, no going out for lunch or coffee).

The husband knows how much his wife makes and can easily figure out how much money is being put away in separate account by direct deposit plan. She of course will transfer additional money to joint account whenever there is family need. Husband still thinks if he does not get to know the wife’s expenses, it is still a secret. He thinks that what if there is an emergency and he needs ‘that’ money, he won’t have access to it. The wife says that if she is alive, she will of course make that money available. If she is no longer alive, it will be his money by default. I don’t understand what kind of emergency can lead to such a situation if the family has good health insurance, good credit, decent saving, and retirement fund. There does seem to be some other underlying issue. Again, I appreciate all the insight you all have offered. My very best to you.

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Well, my husband and I have 2 accounts but both accounts are joint. One is seen as mine, while the other is seen as family. I stay at home and "my" account gets 600 for food and house hold maintenance each month. I can keep anything over that and don't have to account for it at all unless I need more to feed family and keep the house running (though I do get a raise when he gets one at work...)

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We have...errr... checking the website 7 checking and 6 savings accounts (I'm so used to moving things around / using them I don't often think of the number).

Checking / Debit:
1 - Deposit Account (where all paychecks, tax returns, ANY income money gets deposited into *EXCEPT* student loans and scholarships) - money ONLY goes into this account and then we transfer it into our other acounts

2 - Mortgage and Bill Pay (just like it sounds)

3 - Joint Account (where all FAMILY money goes... grocery, gas, house, trips, etc.) Every single dollar spent from this account HAS to be checked with the other person before it's spent

4 - His account

5 - My account

6- Kiddo's Account

7 - School expenses & Income - We actually only have 1 school account open currently, but when all 3 of us were in school we had 3 school accounts.

SAVINGS

1 - OSF - Oh Shoot Fund (for things like car repairs, medical expenses, home repairs, yikes! forgot their birthday was this month... you know all the THINGS that crop up on a monthly basis, this is the safety net for them)

2 - Long term savings

3 - School savings (we dep any leftover financial aid AS WELL as a set amount from each paycheck for kiddo's school)

4 - Mine : linked to my debit

5 - His : ditto

6 - Kiddo's : ditto

EVERY single paycheck (or money influx) we sort the money into the different accounts. Mine & His are inviolate. The other person has no say on it whatsoever as to when or how it's spent. They are EQUAL amounts. This way, everything is above board, but we each also have "private" money in addition to family money.

For the record however, I'm a big fan of BOTH partners putting aside a certain amount of money every month into a "homewrecking hussy account". Preferably a numbered or named account in a strict banking law nation. UBS is a great bank, for example. I put some of my personal money into such an account fairly often. It's my personal money, I can spend it how I please. As long as I withdraw it and have it wired NOT from my account, the location is secret from anyone *except* the US govt. (Switzerland cooperates with the US, it's not like a Caymen account... it's just untouchable by anyone but me or the govt., no one else can lay a finger on it and the govt has to show cause, and the Swiss are quite strict about cause.) As long as I stay within the legal limits the US places on such accounts (under 10k), I'm perfectly within my rights to do so. In such an event as the marriage collapsing I'm protected, and in such an event as our 50th wedding anniversary we can take a year long trip around the world.

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R.:

It truly sounds like your marriage is in trouble. Money is the most common reason for couples to fight.

We have a joint account - I don't work. We have one credit card that is paid of each month, a mortgage, no car payments. I do the bills and balance the checkbook because I'm HOME. We review it each month together.

We have two accounts that each of us get $200 every two weeks in - this is OUR money to play with. If I chose to go gambling with it - so be it. If i chose to spend it all on a pair of shoes - great - but that's it!! :) the joint account is for the house (gas, electric, water, etc.) and if I use my $200 in a sloppy way - then that's my bad. the credit card is for EMERGENCIES ONLY.

It sounds like your husband is trying TOTAL CONTROL. And that's not a marriage. A marriage, in my opinion, is a partnership - and both parties need to agree to ways to handle situations.

If you fear your husband is going to ask you to leave - ask yourself if you are better off with our without him. If the answer is without- leave. DO not pass go and do not stop. If the answer is with - you need to find a compromise that you both are willing to work with.

I would suggest marriage counseling and find out the root of this distrust (were either of you married before and had financial troubles?) does he have reason to suspect you to be spending or whatever his concern is?

It all depends upon your personal financial situation. We made sure that when we married, we could do it all on one income - my husbands...so when I did work - my money was swwwwweeeeettttt!!! now that I don't work, we have rules for spending...but it's a decision we make together!

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Rachel:

I am a SAHM, while I worked - this is what we did:

1. joint account for all house bills (mortgage, car payments, credit cards, insurance, etc.)
2. single account for each of us and a set amount of money goes into it each payday - that's "Free" money - for us to do with as we please.

Now that I am not working - I still get $200 every two weeks in my account. but we have no credit card debt nor do we have car payments anymore. only the mortgage and insurance.

I personally think if you believe that one day your husband will ask you to leave - your marriage is in trouble - that's MY opinion - it may not be true as I could be misreading your question. However, if your husband states that you MUST put your paycheck into joint account and spend only what he tells you - that's control, that's not a partnership or marriage.

In my home, it is MY responsibility to write the checks out and put the receipts in Quicken so we can track our progress. Hubby signs the checks so he knows what's going on. I balance the checkbooks each month and he brings home the bacon...there aren't any financial secrets in my home - if hubby feels this way - I would suggest counseling so you two can learn how to communicate about money, where your financial future lies and how you both plan to achieve the financial goals you have....

If he has set spending limits for YOU, they must apply to HIM as well, it's not a one way street.

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well we joined together meaning everything was joined. I know that this is becoming less common, my hubby works, I stay home with the kids. All money goes to a joint account, I pay the bill (the financial person) he calls to make sure he can charge anything over $20...we are not rich so this is a rule and any purchase over $100 we have to agree and talk about. Works for us. Oh and yes when we married I also married a school loan, he did not. But um really we are together so his money is mine and vic-versa, his or my debt is each others also. I don't see why it wouldn't be. But again that is just me.

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I really think that it depends on the people as to how finances are handled. My husband and I each have our own separate checking & savings accounts - then we have joint checking & savings accounts. We also have a completely separate minor account that we set up for our son right after he was born that we both deposit money into. Before we were married we lived together and split up the bills... my husband makes more than me so he takes care of more of the bills. We have our joint accounts that we typically have some money from each paycheck go into... and then we use THAT account for our "fun" stuff (vacations, special purchases, etc).
I am VERY big on always balancing my checkbook and keeping track of stuff... while my husband is the complete opposite. He "balances" his checkbook in his head. Somehow it seems to work out for him though, because <knock on wood> he doesn't overdraw his account... but that is definitely not how I want to handle finances! So, I think it would be very difficult for us to combine all our money into one account.
I honestly don't think I could handle living the way you're talking about. There should be enough trust in a relationship where you can spend YOUR money on what you want to. He should honor YOUR feelings and appreciate you enough to know that you're not going to stray from the marriage or anything radical like that. It's one thing for you to watch over a child's expenses when they are first starting to make/spend money on things for themselves, but you are a grown woman!
Is there something that happened to him in a previous relationship or just in life that has caused him to be controlling like this?

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Well, my husband and I have 2 accounts but both accounts are joint. One is seen as mine, while the other is seen as family. I stay at home and "my" account gets 600 for food and house hold maintenance each month. I can keep anything over that and don't have to account for it at all unless I need more to feed family and keep the house running (though I do get a raise when he gets one at work...)

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I handle the money. I deposit the money, pay bills, set up savings... I even control how much money my husband has a week on his debit card for gas/lunch/extras, but bills and shopping goes into my account. They are all joint accounts, so he can move cash over if he needs, but he usually doesn't.

Basically, we have a joint account for bills, then we both have our own little personal accounts we budget for so we can spend, and then we have a savings and soon we will have savings for our children's funds.

Now, with both of you working, the money should be seen as both of yours. However, if you feel you need a separate account for your personal emergency fund, then go for it. I have one and do not ever anticipate leaving my husband, but it is still comforting to have one as anything can happen. If you feel you are being oppressed and controlled economically, then you certainly have a reason to have an emergency fund, and it is also recommended by professionals.

But, if you can both budget and agree upon where/how the money is wisely spent and you feel safe with him, then perhaps you don't need one.

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I think that in an ideal world, married people would remain happily married forever and there would be no need for concerns about husbands leaving or removing the wife from accounts. I think that in an ideal world, husbands and wives would make all decisions jointly after respectful discussions, taking both partner's opinions into consideration.

We don't live in an ideal world, however.

So I would say that I think what is reasonable depends upon the parties involved and what THEY both think is reasonable. I also think, that this issue is one that is, unfortunately, not discussed often enough PRIOR to getting married and often isn't discussed until a disagreement or some trust issue rears its ugly head.

A financial advisor once told my spouse and myself that we should have a retirement vehicle (fund, IRA whatever) set up solely in my name, just for the fact of the mental sense of ownership. So I felt like I had my own finances separate from him as a backup or whatever. So maybe that is something you could consider. We did it, (a Roth IRA) but it doesn't and hasn't changed how I feel about our finances either way. I don't earn an income. I quit when we had our first child. But we discuss expenses outside the normal ones, and he doesn't tell me what to spend on groceries. We generally discuss things like "___ has been asking for a new pair of sneaker, but I don't think he really needs any. What do you think?" or vacations and Xmas budgets, etc. We don't go buy new cars or take out credit without talking extensively with the other. And we never do something the other is adamantly against when it comes to money.

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