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June 02, 2006


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I can share how we do it...and I think it works quite well.

All of the earnings go in our "master account" – granted my wife stays home with the kids. This account is used to pay all the bills. Each of us has our own account (free checking of course). We each get an allowance every month we can use for whatever purpose we want - no questions asked.

If I get a good bonus - we will sit down and decide together what "bonus" we give ourselves - provided we are on budget elsewhere.

I like the concept of having the individual accounts because:

#1 My wife keeps her check book balanced herself. She does not have to come to me every time she writes a check and makes sure it is written down. If she had to do this, she would feel like I was keeping up with what she is spending it on.
#2 The money is less likely to get spent on things like kid items or other things covered in the budget elsewhere. I really have to push my wife into spending on herself sometimes – hey – she deserves it!
#3 It allows her to save her money up month after month if she wants to buy something big. She has complete control of the balance and doesn’t have to ask me how much she can spend.

I hear many couples talk about how they each pay certain bills – and after that they can spend the rest how they want. Hey – you earned it, you should spend it the way you want, right? Well – that sure doesn’t sound like a JOINT marriage to me.

The separate thing would have never worked for us. We now use an envelope system. We each have an amount for clothing and allowance and can be spent as we please. Other than that, we have a single checking account for the bills and anybody in the family has access to the envelopes (the kids have their own envelope systems). This system has probably produced more financial peace between my wife and I than paying off debt or anything. The only "nagging" about spending is an occasional reminder to the kids that if they spend all their clothing/makeup budget on entertainment, we will not bail them out and buy them clothes. It's been working for two years now and the money stuff gets easier all the time.

I agree with Terry on the "joint marriage" issue, but I have friends for whom that very system has worked for many years. Whatever floats their boat. It's just not the way I want to conduct my joint marriage.

My wife and I have been married for thirteen years, and together for eighteen. We've never had a joint account. (That is until we bought out current house two years ago -- we now have a joint emergency account for the house. It's an old house, and has many problems, and this works well.)

This quote, in particular, really bugs me:

You want financial peace in your house? Accept that the day you get married is the day you stop being financially independent.

Singletary is implying that you can't have a successful marriage if you choose to keep separate finances. This is ignorant and dogmatic.

Though my wife and I keep our finances separate, we've never had a problem with money. We've never had a fight about money. Neither of us resents this situation. It makes perfect sense to us. I buy my stuff, she buys her stuff, and we split the cost on joint stuff. It's just as much a "joint marriage" as those with shared finances.

With many financial decisions, there's no right way or wrong way to do things. There are options, and your job is to pick the one that makes the most sense to you.

I think the bottom line is that everybody's different, and every relationship is different. What works for some people doesn't work for others. My partner and I have some combined resources and some separate resources. We do occasionally squabble about money, but I think we would anyway even if everything was 100% combined or 100% separate.

This question of whether money in marriages and LTRs should be combined or not seems to come up in the PF blog world once a month or so. There's always somebody (who has combined finances with their spouse) who implies that it's not a true marriage or a true partnership unless you share everything. That may be true for some people. Some people may not feel totally committed or "joined" unless all their eggs are in the same basket. Well, bully for them, but why they think their way works for everybody I just don't know.

Well my husband and I are one of those couples that split everything. Right down the middle. I can tell you that after 5 years, I'm am completely unhappy with the situation.

I am my husbands second wife and since they tried the joint thing in his first marriage, he doesn't want to do it in ours. Problem was with their marriage... He would ask her to pay certain bills and she would spend the money on other things. I know this is more of a trust issue then anything, but it stresses me out.

My main issue is that my husband makes a lot more then I do. So when we split things down the middle, then he keeps his earning and I keep mine, it just seems unjust.

We are working through these issues right now but I do not recommend that other couples try it. It is suppose to be a JOINT effort and the way this system is done, there's nothing JOINT about it.

I agee with S.B. Marriage is a Covenant between two people. I've been married for four (4) years and I'm very unhappy. Right now we're trying the 50/50 approach and it's not working!!! My husband makes $60K a year and i make $35K a year. Splitting the bills 50/50 isn't fair to me. I can't match him dollar-for-dollar. Some months when the rent is due, car insurance is due,school tuition is due, etc.. i don't have enough money. I can't ask him for help b/c that'll take him over 50%. That wouldn't be fair to him, right?


I agree and disagree - I've for the most part have taken care of my girlfriend and child for the past 3yrs - by myself - with some random money input from my S/O - Now she has a job and has gotten a credit card etc, and I'm still recovering from job loss and getting caught up and I can barely get a dime from her without questioning or the whole "well i aint gonna run up my CC" When I need things, like car repairs (which it's our only car) and am recovering. So I think that 50/50 is a good choice, less stress when they cant repay the favors you for them. Why should I give 60% if I cant get 10% back when I need it? Just seems illogical to me. -- just to mention when she has had money she has helped me before, but for jointed things - nothing that I havent helped her with before, and now I need some help I cant get none -- I think very unfair. However, I'll make it; I'll just cut her off down to 50% now, and we're good to go.

My husband and I are newlyweds and I make 31k a year and he makes 37k so we have just been splitting everything except entertainment and rent which he pays a little more for. However he has finished his post doctoral and will be making 75k a year at his new job. I will unfortunatly still be making 31k. So I have done a little research to find the most fair way to settle our finances and I am going to suggest we each put 2/3 of our paycheck into a joint account that goes towards all bills, vacations, and emergencies. I feel very comforable with this situation because in the end we will be saving a ton of money in our joint account and we will still have enough each week to spend on our own personal things. I will not and cannot go 50/50 with him. I think that's horrible for a spouse to do if they are making double what you are.

Jeanne --

How about putting it all in one pile, paying the bills, and dividing what's left equally?

My partner and I have been together now for 7 years. I am happy about everything except for one thing. He sold his house and put a large sum down on the one we live in now. He believes from now on, I just make the rest of the house payments until the house is paid off. I also pay the largest amount of our living expenses as well, food etc. He makes more money than I. We did have wills made up in case one or the other dies, so I am grateful for that. But I dont know if this 50/50 arrangment is right.

I've been married for almost 7 years, and for the past 3, my husband and I have split shared finances 50:50. this was a result of our bad experiences sharing finances, and I felt like he was spending and committing to more because of my income and I was doing without alot. Now I do make 2x as much as him. However, he has done great paying for 1/2, however I find myself getting resentful when scheduling vacations or home improvements because he never offers to pay. I hear the point of view that it isn't fair to split finances 50:50 when one spouse make so much more, but what about considering the level of hard work it takes to get to that place of higher earnings. I mean if you look at our experiences side by side, he could be making more if he wanted to. I chose to work hard and excel in highschool so that I could get into an IVY league college. He goofed off in highschool and therfore wasn't college prepared and went tot he military. I again struggled to pay and excel at college, where my husband ended up at a not very competitive college. I was able to get into an IVY league grad school, where i still am paying an enourmous school loan debt from. My husband didn't choose that path. So my point is, our lives are reflections of choices we make. I put in alot of hard work and $'s towards where I am without help, so I should be entitiled to enjoy my salary. again, I think if he knew how difficult it was for me to get to where I was, he wouldn't want to spend a dime of my money. Instead, i think he feels entitled as my husband and is too accepting of his position as a lower wage earning spouse. And I just have higher expectations for him, even if he doesn't. Am I wrong?

I would just like to throw something into this conversation. I developed a disabling illness
in the course of this 25 year marriage.
My husband is the type that keeps his finances separate (luckily the law sees it differently).
While he makes over $100,000 per year,
I have to pay for my food, medical expenses and clothes with disability and what little I make while
returning to work; having had to make drastic changes in how I accomplish my work. (Note I have two college degrees - 8 years). I now can barely cover my basic needs.
In contrast, I know healthy women that eat, dress, vacation, buy second homes, and put their kids through college (even go to college themselves) all on their husbands salaries.
Once a severe life altering illness is thrown
into the picture your perspective changes.
How much do you REALLY love each other?
Would that person be there for you in times
of need?
I wish I had spent more time finding out
where my husbands loyalties were - to his finances
it turns out. So, I think the true discussion
is what is the need for marriage if you
truly do not love and care for each other?

PS I also know women that make more money
than their husbands but they put all of the money
in one pot and consider it "ours."

My partner and I split our bills based on the ratio of what we contribute to our total income. She makes 40% and I make 60% of our total income. Therefore, she pays 40% of the bills and I pay 60%. While we both feel we have 50/50 ownership of assets, we disagree on how we should liquidate assets we have purhcased together. I say that I should get 60% because that is what I contributed and she says it should 50/50. She will always gain 10% and I will always lose 10% of what we orignally paid.

what bothers me is that we both work and he wants us to each contribute abot 2/3 of our salaries but at the same time i have to take care of the children 100%, take care of the house and chores. im not happy and feel a bit used.

In this economy, it's a practical matter - stay together because 2 can live cheaper than 1.

Suze Orman suggests each partner putting in a % of their salary into a joint checking acct to be used for all shared bills. My husband and I do this and it works great for us. We each put in 60% of our salary. It is true that I make twice as much and so my share is much higher.. But I am not resentful because he works just as many hours as I do...The fact that I get paid more is just corporate america's judgement... and not a relevant estimation of either of our true worth.

I haven't heard anyone speak on second marriages, joint account, husband makes more yearly but brings home less from f/t due to $750 CS mo & ins & loan repayment, yet it's 50/50 living in the house I owned before marriage. I have a teen and he has two (diff mothers), one grown & other is 10. What suggestions do you have regarding best ways to do finances?

browneye --

I'll post your question soon -- stay tuned.

Oh, Browneye. I feel your pain. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't have married him (and his kids and ex).

My husband and I split bills as follows: she pays them all. The thing is, when I was working, she made a lot more money, and could pay for everything. We split proportionally, but why? She had it covered on her own even if I didn't contribute!

Now I stay at home. I help out around the house and buy groceries and have coffees at the local starbucks. It's not my fault she chose to work harder, I'm not about to get some low paying job when I can just chill and spend her money.

I make more than my husband. my base salary 75,000, his base salary 45,000. I work hard to bring in additional income in addition to my base salary. He does not do anything to try to increase his income. It's not fair to me to have to pay his part. So we split everything 50/50 . He doesn't like it. He believes that I should pay more. But I told him that While he's sleeping, I'm working. He needs to do something to make more money but he chooses to do nothing. So I keep my money and he has his. I go on vacations with my friends and when he saves enough for his half of our vacations, we go together. I believe that every one can work hard but one partner should not have to do without for the other.

I am in a committed relationship (not married yet, but engaged, got the ring :)) and we are currently living together. I have lived with people before (and usually took care of the bills) but he has never lived with anyone before (I'm 35, he's 33).

Right now I have the 'steady' income (unless I miss work, I'm hourly) .. menaing I make a pre-determined amount every bi-weekly.

My fiance works on commission. He (as a general rule) does generally bring home triple what I make, and he also gets paid weekly, so nice) .. BUT .. there are weeks when his business is slow that he may end up bringing home lot less. His checks can range anywhere from $200 (lowest so far) all the way up to $1900 (highest so far) per week.

When we moved in together, knowing I made the steady income (and he was new at his job), I set the bills up as follows:

I pay all the utilities, half of our house(+HO ins/prop taxes) payment (we just bought a house), and the bills I brought into the relationship.

He pays half the house(+ HO ins/prop taxes) payment, the bills be brought into the relationship, and our groceries.

After the bills are paid (by whoever they fall on according to the rules set above), the agreement was that should I (or he) need anything, or we need anything for the house he would pay for it (since he basically has all the 'extra' income sitting in his bank account, since 90% of my income is tied up with utilities and house note).

He is also responsible for alloting part of each paycheck (if allowable, obviously if he makes $200 it's not feasible) into a savings account; so that in the occurance that either of us get sick (since neither are salary) that we still have money to cover the monthly bills .. or if we want to buy something large (like our new TV).

The problem lies not with me, but lately with him. We made the agreement that should I need to purchase something that I could (within reason of course) make the puchase .. lately though, he has been giving me grief about it.

He has basically been trying to micro-manage my spending. He has online banking and after going to the store on one trip, them over charging me then having reverse the charge and re-charge me .. he called me (about 15 minutes later) wanting to know what I was spending money on .. meaning .. he was literally on his phone watching what I was doing as I was doing it (he has online banking).

Basically I now feel like I have to 'ask permission' in order to spend something, then I also feel the need to justify my expenditures once I make them. I don't think I should have to feel this way.

I thought this setup was working until this happened. Now, since this happened(knowing that he was/has been 'watching over my shoulder' while I was out with 'his' debit card) he is completely freaking out about the money situation, and I am seriously re-considering the way that we have things set up.

He offered to give me $150/week to spend, gave it to me .. then hounded me everyday about how much of it I had already spent and constantly asking what I spent it on; although I never question him about his daily spending habits, I honestly don't care .. we make enough money (between us) to be able to buy what we want.

He honestly acts like we are destitute sometimes, and that too is driving me/us bonkers. He also, IMO, trys to put too much into savings at a time; which is why it seems like to him we are always 'out of money'.

I came online, and here, looking for a logical way to split up our bills (since the way I had it set up seems to be failing miserably and causing our relationship uneeded stress) .. so that he isn't always upset because I'm spending money (admitedly, I do go to the store fairly often, buying this and that as we need it), and me getting upset in return; because I don't have any money to spend (the monthly bills I pay take almost all of what I make) and will always have to 'ask' him for it and feel the need to justify why I'm asking (which I never thought would be an issue until he made it an issue).

So I guess my question is .. does anyone have any ideas on how to relieve some pressure on this situation?

Also, what is a good % to put into saving monthly (on average)? So that he isn't stressing himself out (and in return me) about how much he should or shouldnt' be putting away.

Jennie --

I'll post your question as a "help a reader" post later in November. Stay tuned for what advice the readers have.

I am not surprised by a lot of post from marriages that are not going to stand the test of time. All I hear in most is, me, me, me,. Marriage is 1+1 =1 not 1+1=2 or greater. That is the mystery of marriage. No matter who you are, where you have been or what you have, once you are married, mine becomes ours, just as Michelle Singletary echoed this. However, I do not agree with her view of 1+1 =>2. If that’s the case, then no need to be married except she is not referring to the literal interpretation which in that case can mean “ Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor (Ecc 4:9-12).The bible also say “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and they two shall become one” (Gen 2:24 & Mark 10:7). What has happened is, we have like most things tried to secularize marriage and other God giving foundations such as family, society, government etc. You leave and cleave, meaning you leave your past, your 1st, 2nd marriage, relationships and cleave to your spouse only. You don’t do it partially, but as a whole. If you make more than your spouse, yes you might think you deserve more, but remember that it is no longer me, me, me, but ours, ours, ours. When an individual goes into a marriage with the idea of I deserve more or I am worth more than his/her spouse, there is a fundamental problem. She also said it well, “Accept that the day you get married is the day you stop being financially independent.” A lot of people who still believe in 50/50 or percentages have either witnessed divorce or grew up in a broken home or came into the marriage with the thought of “incase of divorce”. If you don’t come into the marriage with such thoughts, you will know that “it is ours” helps both parties work harder, willing to help and live a better life. Please I am not advocating that joint finances will work for all, but both parties have to realize that even though they have separate accounts, they should still know the money is not really theirs, but ours. Go ask couples who have been married for 20-40 years, they will tell you been on the same page really matters, respecting one another’s opinions, caring and been content are the essentials of a long lasting marriage. You have to be willing to compromise and make sacrifices. There are so many ways things can be dissected, such as should the person who stay home to do all the work spend more than the person who works only 8hrs to bring home the bacon? They key is balance. Because I make 90% of the income doesn’t mean I deserve more than my spouse staying at home most of the time to save us on daycare cost. On the flip side, it doesn’t mean she deserves more than I do because she does majority of the work at home. I realize she is doing us a huge favor by saving us a lot of money, and she too realizes I wake up as early as 5 and don’t come home sometimes till 7pm to make the money. We still make decisions together; I help when I get home and she still goes out and work part-time. While we can both spend small amounts, no huge amounts get spent without both approvals. And most importantly, we know divorce is not an option and we have to work through most issues because we are imperfect beings. Here are my suggestions on how couples should handle their “income and paying bills issue”
For 1st time married couples
Know what works best for you, be it Joint account for all bills to include debts and savings and separate account for individual “blow money” like my wife and I call it or Joint account for ALL things to include individual “blow money”, savings and so on The key is, knowing that all I come into the marriage with is no longer just mine, to include debts, assets and maybe a child from wedlock but ours.
FMF echoed this well, “How about putting it all in one pile, paying the bills, and dividing what's left equally?” This even cements what marriage ought to be the best way possible.
For 2nd timers or more
Again, be willing to accept your new spouse and their “burden” from old marriage(s) and talk more regularly about the fact that “been on the same page” is equally as important as making it work. Let the past go and try to work on the present and future. Try either the joint route or separate route no matter what works or didn’t work in previous marriage(s)
Not Married
If you are not married, you shouldn’t be staying together and if situation or condition forces you too, then you can’t assume “ours” until you say I do. In the mean time, pay a % of your income into a joint account to pay your share of the joint bills and the rest is yours to keep or blow.

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