Caroline Moss is an author and host of the podcast "Gee Thanks, Just Bought It," which helps people find the products they need to make life easier, better and more productive. Now with this column, "Asking for a Friend," she's helping people with the advice they need to make life easier, better and more productive. To submit a question, email us at email@example.com or click here.
At a recent gathering with friends, the conversation turned to how we manage our finances in our marriages. There were about five of us in the conversation, and I was the only one who had not merged finances with my spouse. In fact, we don’t share our finances at all. We are completely independent and split everything, from our mortgage to the grocery bill, down the middle. We inherited a house from a family member, so we did not have to figure out that major finance together and I recognize the privilege in that. But my friends seemed shocked that this was how my spouse and I operate financially.
Is there a right way to manage money when you’re married?
Up until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, a bank could refuse to give a woman a credit card in her own name. Before the 1960s, money was designated to be a husband’s job, and the “purse strings” were controlled by men. Women could not have their own bank accounts. That time was not that long ago, and we are really only two generations of women out from such a foreign concept as not being able to have a way to both make and access their own money without the permission of a husband or father, depending on who was considered the “man of the house.”
It is likely that your friends are surrounded by other more traditional couples — parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, mentors; think people older than they are — who believe that there is only one true way to financially operate in a marriage.
But why would it matter how you and your spouse handle finances if you both agree on the way you want to handle them? Do you feel like the split down the middle on all bills is fair? If yes, great! Who cares what others say?! If you don’t, then the only person you need to discuss this with is your spouse. Do you trust that your spouse is responsible with his/her/their own money? If yes, no issue! If not, then the only person you need to discuss this with is your spouse. See a pattern?
Though it may sound funny to say so, finances are intimate! Like sex, no one outside your marriage gets to tell you if what you’re doing is right or wrong if you're both happy, unless it’s legitimately illegal. (Don’t commit tax fraud together and call it a bonding activity!)
If you’re cool with how you money, and your spouse is cool with how you money, then politely smile and nod the next time your friends want to tell you what you should be doing and think of a few different quick topics to change the subject. May I suggest the current season of "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills?"
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