Since day one of my relationship with my wife our finances have been mixed, in so much as I paid for everything for a good while, and then one day she paid for something, and then it was a bit of a blur. I still remember the day when I allowed her to pay for something, it was for a pair of Spectacles near her home town in New York. But even then we weren’t really mingling our finances, it was more a case of being on a very long first date.
After a while things started to blur increasingly, this happened when we started having shared responsibilities, such as the rent on our Apartment in Tokyo, and the need to buy groceries etc. At that point, we retained our debt separately, mine that was carried through from old Credit Card bills that were following me around the world, and hers from College. I cleared off my cards whilst in Japan, and we let her student loans plod along because the general thinking was that Student Loans were a good thing (their interest is tax deductible). However we eventually paid off those too, from our shared money.
In between we also bought an apartment for cash, I forget the split of where the money came from, I just sold some stocks and she brought some money in from her stocks and we bought a place, it probably wasn’t 50/50 but it really doesn’t matter.
I used to hear of people who lived together but had separate accounts and be so confused by how they could think like this, but in reality as long as the intent to share the responsibilities remains consistent there really is no difference between having separate accounts and joint and intermingled ones.
The reason today I am thinking of splitting our finances is because of a desire to reset the balance in terms of internal control of money, and knowledge of its location and limitations. A real danger, especially when one half of a relationship finds money and savings interesting (that would be me, as you might have guessed since I write a blog about money) is that they can take over the reins too much in terms of controlling the money and budgets. This can leave the other half dependent and also create a degree of apathy towards finances.
Looking forward, there is a good chance that there will be times in our shared lives that my wife will need to be in control of the money, whether it be through my incapacitation, death, or that she gets sick of me (which could include death if I really misbehave). At which point, if I have merged all the accounts and become dominant in decision making then overall we are in a very weak position, where my spouse won’t have the skills necessary to manage either our joint or her own financial plan.
I was inspired to write this from a shocking story of domestic violence that I have just seen on the television, where the spokesperson from Safe Horizon talked of one of the primary reasons for women not leaving the home was through financial dependence, whilst of course some of the could be interpreted as their not being the bread winner in the family, it could also stem from this reliance, or dominance of one side of the relationship in such matters that create a scenario where a woman is fearful to leave due to ignorance and doubt.
By separating our finances we could put control back into each others realm, and in doing so ensure that we both felt comfortable making the big decisions about money, it is too easy for one to rely on the other. It will be something that I will discuss with my wife this week.
For victims of Domestic Violence, please contact http://www.safehorizon.org/ and if you are outside of New York, please use their additional resources page here: http://www.safehorizon.org/index/get-help-8/additional-resources-47.html