Wednesday, May 19, 2010


The husband is employed. The wife is not. The pay check has his name on it. Is the money his, hers, or theirs?

The latest celebrity couple break-up that may end up in divorce court reminded me of an Oprah show I saw years ago. The socialite wife was defending her reasons for asking for a substantial amount of alimony from her wealthy, soon-to-be ex-husband.

While married, she’d spent much of her life managing his. Their social calendar was full; events to attend, parties to host, volunteering, and fund-raising. She also needed to spend time keeping in shape and staying attractive, i.e. spas, gyms, and shopping. And, their home needed to reflect his position, so she hired decorators, cleaning help, and caterers. She managed it all.

Most of the women in the audience thought she was spoiled and greedy for expecting a sizable divorce settlement – because the money was “his.”

Since becoming a stay-at-home mom, and often being in the company of other stay-at-home moms, I’ve gotten some general pictures of how various couples handle the money.

A few examples (in no particular order) of what different wives/moms have said:

- I pay the bills.

- He pays the bills.

- I’m glad I’m home to get the checks in the mail from his business, because we’d be broke if he gets to cash them.

- He works. It’s his money. He deserves a new car.

- I need to ask my husband if I can buy that.

- I don’t work, so I don’t want to spend too much on myself.

- I’m stressed. I think I’ll go shopping!

- He puts what I need in my account, and if I need more, I’ll tell him to put more in it.

Fortunately, my husband and I agree on most money issues, and the check with his name on it, is deposited into “our” account. I don’t “ask” for money; I’m a little too old for that.

I digress.

The money does not feel like it’s his or mine – just feels like it’s there to take are of ourselves, our home, our children, and our future.

A few years ago, I read a book titled, The Feminine Mistake by Leslie Bennetts. She advocated jobs and careers for women; that skills should not be lost. She also warned that women should not be caught without an income if the husband should leave or die.

While reading it, I was reasonably open-minded and objective – to see her point – and I did see some of it. But did it make me want to change my life; to get an income paying job and be a “working mom” example for my daughters? (I think she touched on that, too.)

No, not yet.

Did it make me afraid?


Without going into personal details, I’ll just say that a few things are “in place” in the case of Husband and me not living out our golden years together.

Many aspects of our lives can be successful based on trust and wisdom, but some people will fail. And if that’s the case, I hope there will be a second chance.

What are some of your opinions on one-income households, joint accounts, separate accounts, alimony, etc?


Bernie said...

I was 42 when my husband passed and it was difficult enough emotionally, I'm not sure what I would of done of I wouldn't of been able to buy groceries or pay bills. It is always good to have a plan and be prepared....:-) Hugs

Unknown said...

I agree with Bernie. You've got to be able to provide for yourself and/or the family if something happens. You just never know. I know of a friend that lost her husband and she was in her 40's. It has really been a tough road for her.

Judy T said...

Yes, women (or stay-at-home men) do need to be willing and able to provide, but this is a decision for most couples to negotiate themselves. I have worked part time (and went to grad school) until now, when my son is 14, but am probably going back to full time in the fall. I have debated the wisdom of this over the years, but the last 14 years have been priceless to me (because of my son and personal endeavors). There has been economic and professional costs, and huge personal and family gains.

Cindy said...

I've pretty much been a mom at home for 28 years while hubby worked outside the home to financially support our family. We always saw it as a joint effort with each of us contributing in different but equally important ways.

We do have two (joint) checking accounts so I can have my own checkbook for personal and household expenses (a set amount of money deposited from hubby's paycheck each week) and he can pay other bills without us having to play checkbook tag.

Anonymous said...

Great post to think about. For the last 5 years I have been a SAHP (Princess) and love it. That being said, Hubby works outside the home, and I work inside as the keeper of the home. He finds tremendous value in the comfortable life we live and my efforts to keep it comfortable. It's all "our" money and he never gives it another thought and neither do I, but we both have the same spending style so that takes away any spending battles.

andrea said...

This is a hard one. I have been a stay at home mom for 15 first everything was in his name only and it fell really bad, almost like a child. Everything is joint now and I actually pay the bills and all that. Still, I often feel like I should have something to fall back on "in case." It's a difficult feeling that you are an adult and not bringing in an income---yet I wouldn't have put my kids in daycare to go back to work for anything.

Rebecca S. said...

Over the years I have done childcare in my home, worked short contracts, temp, and whatever I can do to supplement my husband's income, but also to keep my toe in the working world for the day when I might have to work more. My youngest is only 8 so I only do what I can do during school hours. Whenever I have a long stint of work, however, the management of our home with me at the hub is what ends up being sacrificed a bit, and my husband has realized how important that job is, too. We have joint everything when it comes to finances, and are both careful with money as we've never had an abundance of it.
I do remember hearing a neighbour say she was mad at her husband for buying a $500 golf club without consulting her and so she went out and bought a KitchenAid stand mixer without consulting him. They are now divorced.
Interesting post, Anita. And I don't think that socialite was spoiled. There are lots of women who hold that same position and they are the pillars of that part of society. It couldn't really go on without them.

One Photo said...

We jointly took a decision after our daughter was born that I would stay at home. Before that whatever we earned and had was jointly ours and since she was born nothing has changed, just our respective roles but we each contribute to this life we have now, just in different ways but the rewards, financial and non-financial are in my view to be shared equally.

Just Two Chicks said...

My situation is much like yours, only I'm a stay-at-home mom/ex elementary school teacher who has a wife... some people consider it unacceptable to be a house wife to a man, imagine their reaction when they find out I'm one to a woman. She's very successful and busy running her own high volume/high dollar business. I'm very busy caring for her, our home, and our teen children. Though we are set financially, I do struggle with the money situation as far as not wanting to spend much on myself, etc. I've often wondered if I would feel different had I been married to a man. She gets frustrated when I ask to buy something out of the norm such as a fun outfit. She says "It's OUR money..." So there you go! Funny, I recently did a blog similiar to this, but it was discussing private/home-schooling and the opinions I've heard lately as far as our kids go.

Tracie said...

We have joint accounts and I don't ask to spend money. But he handles all the bill paying due to my lack of money management skills (according to him). I need to start getting more involved with that and be aware of our IRA accts, etc just in case. You never know.

Tabor said...

It is a crapshoot because everyone has different ideas about money. Pre-marital counseling will certainly assist. My husband and I have always had a joint account until I went back to work and opened another account. That was the money for savings and kids college and we still lived off of his account. My daughter does the route where they have three accounts. His, hers and ours and it separated by percentage earned vs. what goes out.

gayle said...

I have been a sahm and a outside working mom......the money has always been ours!!

Anya at Notes of Joy said...

Thanks, Anita, for yet another thought provoking post! I love following your blog! (I have 95 unread posts in my reader... but I clicked on your first this morning :-)

Anita said...

ANYA, What a compliment! Thanks to you and other followers and readers for inspiring me.

To ALL OF YOU: Thank you for sharing your thoughts, opinions, and stories on a subject that has caused strife in many families. I wish everyone the best in living with the choices you've made, or the circumstances that were not planned.


Unknown said...

I should have a plan in place myself, although I don't like having to think about it.

It's his paycheck, but I do so much around here and if he had to pay for daycare....but he doesn't. I'm a SAHM. I plan everything, pay the bills, do the cleaning, laundry, shopping, etc....

scary. yuck.

Anita said...

ERIN - I think a lot of women feel as you do. It 'is' hard taking care of everything and everybody, and trying to to plan the future (insurance, education, healthcare, etc.) at the same time.
Thanks for adding to this conversation.


Abby said...

Hmmm... my opinion... It's OURS! Hands down!

ALL of our accounts are joint accounts. He goes to work and earns the money. I take care of running the household. We are a team. If not for me, he would either have to pay someone to do what I do, or use his free-time to do it.

Maybe I'm old fashioned when it comes to this, but at the same time, I would never stay home and be pampered if not for the kids.

I also think we're setting a good example for our kids about teamwork in a marriage. I also work part-time now. They know I used to be a professional, and chose to be a stay-at-homer. I hope they pick similar wives :).

Robin said...

Ha..we are a four income family...we both have 2 jobs....I dont know any one income families...and I dont really have opinions on what others need to do financially...but I do see a broad variety of for us he gives me his main paycheck and some of his side work $$$...if I need more he just gives it to me...we also put a lot away a month and have a small cash saving at home which we both dip into and put back when we get paid...I also work 2 jobs, a full time and a part time so I combine both my check and his together and pay all the bills..he doesn't want to do it and I dont mind...he also gives the kids money sometimes(cash during the week) and that is how it has always been...I laugh at when we were first married and he only had an allowance of 2$ dollars a day for coffees...that was 22 years ago..after the first was he carries a small wad just to feel like he has some money...Lololol....and I carry the credit cards..he can use them if he wants though...I realize we do things a little differently but it works for us...

People Who Know Me Would Say: said...

When a marriage is in tact, it's whatever works for both parties. When one party controls the other, it makes me sad...but, if it works for them, c'est la vie.

When a marriage ends, it's for the lawyers to hash out.

In my opinion, running a household and raising a family is equal to or more valuable than going to work at the office from 9 to 5.

diney said...

We've always had a joint account and I have my own account too, and I pay the bills and check the statements etc. Everything in both accounts is 'ours' without doubt. My son and future daughter in law get married next week and they have been attending church based classes to discuss all matters related to marriage, one of which was how to discuss and handle finances. I think this is a great idea to discuss before marriage, to set out what both parties want.

Buckeroomama said...

We each have our own, but we also have a joint one.

Nakamuras on Saipan said...

Financially, I've never had the luxury of not having to work outside the home. I can't even imagine what it would be like not to have to juggle all the home responsibilities and also a full time job. In my first marriage he controlled everything-even my paycheck. I was blessed the second time around with a husband who respects me - we have one account that is "ours" but we do consult one another if either of us wants to purchase something that is over $50.00. We live on a budget. If we don't have the money for whatever item is wanted then..we save for it. Thinking about it, I'm not resentful having had to work all my least I know that is something happens I can stand on my own two feet and not have to worry about how I'll make ends meet.

Anita said...

ABBY - If I didn't have children, I'd be employed, too. In the case of the socialite who was not raising children, she appeared quite busy taking care of her husband, even though she had the pampered look...but I would not want to spend my life doing that, either.

SMARTEE - I admire people who roll up there sleeves and do what they gotta do!

PJ - Yes, running a household IS a very valuable contribution, and I don't say that in a patronizing way. It's just a fact. To all of us who do a good job at it, whether we are employed or not, we know how time consuming it can be. :)

DINEY - I went to one of the premarital classes, too. I'd advise it for every couple planning marriage. And not just a one-time, hour long course. It takes several classes to get the most out of it.
Congratulations on your growing family!

BUCKEROOMAMA - For many, that system eliminates a lot of confusion.

NAKAMURAS - Yes, it can be a "luxury" some days to not have to go to a job. But, as a stay-at-home mom who knows so many other stay-at-home moms, and who has read the blogs of SAHMs, we don't seem to dominate the happiness scale. You would think we would...we have flexibility, we don't have to rush to get dressed and made up in the morning...
That just tells me that contentment comes from within, regardless of our responsibilites.
I'm proud of the 15 professional years I worked, and the part time jobs I had as a child and in college. I think you are too, and you should be. It's not easy, but it's quite an accomplishment!

Haddock said...

Many aspects of our lives can be successful based on trust and wisdom, ,,,,,, very true.

Jenny said...

Hi Anita, such a good post. It was hard for me when I married my second husband because after a few years (and a few Grands) we decided I would be a full-time Grandma. Sometimes I really hate not having money of "my own" but my husband always says that running a home is a joint effort not just defined by who has their name on the checks. I like him!

Tracey said...

Great question. And comments.

Hubband makes the money and pays the bills. I do almost all of the purchasing for the family (because he is too busy working). Big purchases are a joint decision.

I ask for and get a few dollars in cash a week. Any more and I would just squander it on coffee drinks and the like. I am bad with money and I know this so we have set it up in such a way that, yes, I ask him for money. But, I want it that way.

There is another book called the Two Income Trap that talks about the extra expenses (financial, familial, and marital) of both spouses working that I found to be an interesting read.

I am a stay-at-home mom who is also a lawyer. I have never worked as a lawyer but keep my bar card current just in case Hubband 'gets hit by a bus.' That is important to me. It took awhile to convince him that a back up plan was different than an exit strategy.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

Perhaps naive, I've always thought of us as a team, that unchanging regardless of which one of us was making the money. I have never contributed anywhere near what he has, but I've always felt it was all our money.

If I had to make it all on my own, I know I could. Probably not live like I do now, but I could take care of myself. I suppose.

Arlee Bird said...

I guess it depends on what kind of arrangement a couple has when they go into a marraige. My mother never worked for a paycheck and my father just turned his check over to her and she managed everything. As long as she took care of things at home and had food on the table he was happy. Now so many families have two incomes.

Alimony depends on the circumstance I guess-- no set rule for all situations.

Tossing It Out

Anonymous said...

I've never gotten the seperate account thing in marriage. It all goes into the same account here. I tease and say that what is his is mine, mine is mine, and ours is mine...all in the name of love, of course! However, you are smart to have things in place.

Stephanie said...

I gave up my career to stay home with the kids. It was a hard choice. I loved my job.
He knows I work harder now than I ever did...then he ever will! lol
The money is ours. We own a business TOGETHER. Both of our names our on it, but I don't work there.
I still stand firm that all money is ours. He agrees so I guess we are okay!

Hilary said...

My dad was a VP for a large bank for 35 years, working his way up from a teller to the corner office, as it were. He always told me to have my own money, and I do. We have a joint account and we each have separate accounts for "running money" -- the stuff that is more miscellany than household expenses (Starbucks runs, etc.). While it may not work for some, it works for us.

Anita said...

HADDOCK - Thank you for agreeing with me, at least part of what I said. :)
And, welcome to my blog!
Please visit again.

JENNY - If you're doing what's best for your family, yourself included, then it sounds like a good plan. Thanks for commenting!

TRACY - When one spouse is "bad" with money, it "is" a good thing when the other manages it. You sound comfortable with the arrangement you have with your husband.
I like your comparison of "back up plan vs. exit strategy." :)
Thanks for the mention of the book - I'll have to Google it.
Also, you added a very good and honest comment that adds another dimension to the conversation.

MIDLIFE JOBHUNTER - I feel the same about my husband and I being a "team." It takes a lot of input from both of us. Thanks for your thoughts and opinion.

ARLEE BIRD - Your description of your parents is almost similar to mine. My mom worked when she married my stepfather, but she expected his check turned over to her! And he expected a meal on the table! :)
Thanks for telling us about another household setup.

SUZICATE - That's funny, I say the same thing...and like you, it's in the name of love. :) Thanks for adding your personal setup.

MODERN MOM - My name is on everything too. Personally, I need that to be the case, too. Giving up a job and skills is no small thing. And raising kids/managing a household is major. Glad your business takes care of your family! Thanks for commenting.

HILARY - I'd listen to a banker! :) The three-account family seems to be popular nowadays. It makes perfect sense to me if it cuts out confusion and helps with budgeting. Thanks for commenting.

Annie Z said...

Really interesting topic! Having been a single for all of my life, I am finding it hard to adjust to D being the 2/3 the provider to my 1/3 - roughly speaking. We made a mutual decision that I would cut back a little on my work, in order to reduce my stress levels and help prepare to be parents. I still feel guilty that I am not an equal provider. However, we do have the overall opinion the same as you, Anita. The money is there to help provide and care for both us with whatever is needed.

Tammy @BeatriceBanks said...

Interesting post, you're good at these Anita. I'm staying home now during a time when we probably need 2nd income the most but we feel the stability I can provide for our children, while hubby's in school and gone a lot, is worth more than the $. Because my children are all so far apart in ages, I've managed to work as teacher then quit to stay home with each until he/she started school. A decision I'll never regret. Money is "ours", he pays bills, and we both ask each other about spending money if it's over and beyond the necessities. This is a respect issue in my opinion and it goes both ways. Have my own little ck acct from ebay earnings, etc. I usually manage to buy kids' clothes and all of my hobbies like home decor, from that acct. Just gives me a sense of independence and financial contribution to the family even though my hub doesn't expect it. We're very compatible and think alike about money. I'm blessed!

Anita said...

NEWMUM - Isn't it interesting how we make a decision that benefits us, and still have concerns about it. :) Hope you get over your guilt. What is the roles were reversed? Hmmm...
Overall, sounds like the two of you are comfortable with the handling of the finances.
Thanks for sharing. Even though you aren't married yet, your feelings blend with everyone else's.

TAMMY - Thank you for the compliment. :) I love discussing "life" issues - be it serious, humorous, or trivia. The sincere and honest comments I get from you and the others make me crave the next topic!

It seems that you have had the opportunity to experience a LOT of different financial arrangements because your life is forever changing. :)
You are indeed blessed to be in sync with your husband!
Thanks for sharing your situation and thoughts.