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Marital Finances Our Way

April 11th, 2014 at 05:22 am

My wife and I fight too much. But it is almost never about money. We do not argue about our money because in our approach to marital finances there is no such thing as "our" money. We have chosen a different way. A way that for 20 years has kept each of us free of financial domination by the other. A way that has allowed each of us to remain king or queen of our respective monetary castles while still delivering to both of us tremendous financial progress. Here is how we have managed our marital finances for the past 2 decades.

My money, her money. My income goes into my bank accounts. My wife's income goes into her bank accounts. We each have signature authorization over the other's accounts, but in practice each of us has total control over his or her money. That means no complaining by her about the $500 I may spend on a telescope. No head shaking by me about the $700 she just spent on little houses for her pet rabbits. And no having to ask permission of the other to buy what we want to (which we do using our own individual credit cards).

Our expenses. We share equally all of our household expenses. We each carry our own weight by contributing 50% of all costs associated with housing, food, home maintenance and repair, entertainment and vacations. We do this through a joint bill paying checking account into which we each deposit a set amount of money each month. We have parity.

Our joint assets. We own together our home and other real estate. We have also owned boats and vehicles together. In every case, we have made the buying (and selling) decisions on an equal partner basis, never proceeding without complete and voluntary agreement by both of us. Sometimes I have not liked that. Sometimes she hasn't. But because we both carry equal financial weight and have equal financial control, there has never been a question of one of us steamrolling the other.

Resolving financial disagreements. What new refrigerator do we buy? Do we repair the roof or replace it? Do we remodel the kitchen? These are all real life examples of joint spending decisions we have had to make -- and initially disagreed on. She convinced me on the refrigerator she wanted. We brought in a professional inspector to decide which of us was right about the roof. (She was.) And we resolved the kitchen remodeling issue by I paying for what I wanted done (the counters) and she paying for the additional changes (the cabinets) that she wanted but I did not.

Resolving nonfinancial disputes. Sometimes our approach to marital finances has helped even here. Like the time I caught hell for letting one of our cats scratch a library table she had purchased. I got out of that trouble by offering to buy her out of the table, which she agreed to. Like the time she wanted to keep a construction scaffold I knew we would never use again. She got me to go along with keeping the scaffold by buying me out of it. (We've never used that scaffold since, by the way.)

My wife and I both realize that ours is not the accepted "all for one and one for all" approach to marital finances. But we also are very aware of the fact that too many failed marriages fail due to financial control issues. That, at least, is not likely to happen to us.

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15 Responses to “Marital Finances Our Way”

  1. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    Are you of equal income?

  2. creditcardfree Says:

    Glad that has worked well for both of you.

  3. Retired To Win Says:

    Hi, Joan...

    I think I know where you are going with your question.

    Now we are of equal income (or very close to it). Previously, my wife's income was about 50% higher than mine. So, yes, then she would put into the joint bill paying account 50% more than I did, so that the expense-paying proportions were 2/3 her and 1/3 me.

  4. Permanent Temp Says:

    Love love love this and will keep it in mind for the future. My husband and I are the same way about the money but I like how you resolved these disputes. I will keep this in mind for if we buy a house.

    My parents fought all the time about joint expenses and my husband tried to push for them too. It's such as bad idea in our case. We consult with each other about things but we do not combine them. It's been much better that way.

  5. Retired To Win Says:

    Hi, Permanent Temp!

    My parents fought about joint expenses, too, but my father controlled the money and my mother was powerless. Once, my father presented us with a house -- fait accompli -- that no one in the family but him had looked at before he acquired it.

    Not good. NOT Good.

  6. Retired To Win Says:

    "April 11th, 2014 at 05:52 am
    creditcardfree Says:
    Glad that has worked well for both of you."


    We think it works better than the standard alternative! Big Grin

  7. snafu Says:

    DH & I are at the opposite end of the spectrum. We are youngest from large families where you need good negotiating skills to be heard. We both began careers that demanded negotiations and I taught that 'Coping Effectively With Difficult People,' [Branson] course which was a fun money maker.

  8. Retired To Win Says:

    April 11th, 2014 at 05:06 pm
    "snafu Says:
    DH & I are at the opposite end of the spectrum. We are youngest from large families where you need good negotiating skills to be heard. We both began careers that demanded negotiations and I taught that 'Coping Effectively With Difficult People,' [Branson] course which was a fun money maker."


    So... what are you saying, Snafu? That in your house the finances work out of a communal pot but that works out fine for you and your spouse because you are both good negotiators? Is that what you are saying?

  9. Eagle Says:

    Technically speaking I bring home the bacon and my wife is a SAHM. Yet she works just as hard if not harder than I do by taking care of our home and our kids. Even when she worked we discussed things together and agreed upon the budget, purchases, goals, etc. Have "adult allowances" has helped us a lot in our marriage.

    I think it's really weird to "buy" the table from your wife. This approach seems more like two people who are roomates than a team of equal partners. But whatever works for you guys I guess.

  10. Retired To Win Says:

    April 14th, 2014 at 05:01 am
    Eagle Says:
    ... I think it's really weird to "buy" the table from your wife. This approach seems more like two people who are roomates than a team of equal partners. But whatever works for you guys I guess.


    Hi, Eagle...

    IMHO, it is definitely NOT weird if it stops an argument dead in its tracks! Wink

    And a partnership is definitely how we see our marital finances. (Not to start a row, but a communal one-pot-for-all is not the only kind of marital partnership there is or that works.)

  11. Retired To Win Says:

    April 14th, 2014 at 05:01 am
    Eagle Says:
    ... I think it's really weird to "buy" the table from your wife.


    Hi again, Eagle...

    I forgot to point out that while you put the word b-u-y in quotation marks... I did not.

    My wife had actually completely by herself found the table, decided to buy the table and paid for the table out of her own money. She used it in her craft room, then did not need it anymore, generously let me use it in my reading room -- and then I stepped in the dog poo by having the cat sneak in and scratch it. So, yes, I BOUGHT it from her to make my booboo right.

    IF your wife had bought an item out of that allowance you referred to, and you messed it up, wouldn't you make it right by either giving her the money for a new one or buying a new one? And the difference is... what???

  12. Retired To Win Says:

    This blog post has triggered a very lively discussion of the topic over at the SavingAdvice forum section.

    You can follow (and join in) the thread at:
    How Do You Handle Your Marital Finances?

  13. Retired To Win Says:

    Here is a question that has been nagging me for days.

    Why hasn't anyone brought up the question of how in the world our marital finance approach would work if one spouse has NO income?

    (I'll give this a couple of days and then set down what I think.)

  14. ThriftoRama Says:

    That's all great, until life throws you a curveball. What about when you have a baby and one of you has to stay home to raise it, or work part time because day care is too expensive? What about if one of you gets cancer or some other illness and suddenly can work as much or at all, or amasses huge medical debt?

    IN theory, separate is great, but if you are building a real life together, sometimes 'ours' versus 'mine' works better.

    I know many couples who had babies and suddenly they're arguing about which one of them is going to buy diapers or formula out of their own money. It's hard enough without living like roommates.

  15. Eagle Says:

    ThriftoRama: "IN theory, separate is great, but if you are building a real life together, sometimes 'ours' versus 'mine' works better."

    Yes exactly I agree with you.

    It's also interesting considering a loss of job or some form of illness... And to the point about babies... You're right it's tough enough (sleepless nights, feedings, etc) to raise a baby without trying to say who has to pay for diapers and wipes. Yes, one person on the savings advice thread put it this way:

    "What about the spouse who takes a few years off work to raise a kid, then reenters the workforce at a loss of those years of career growth. That loss in income is a real thing but it's unquantifiable."

    Truth ^^

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