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His, Her, and Our Finances…

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I’ve been reading a lot of finance books lately and they all seem to agree that, in marriage, the management of finances must be shared equally between the husband and the wife. If the responsibility is left to one person alone, the stress level is increased on the money manager and the relationship suffers.

My husband hasn’t paid a bill since 2004.

Don’t get me wrong. Up until recently, my husband was involved in the decision making. I was simply responsible for organizing how bills were paid. We have always worked our finances together – especially after deciding to pay off debt.

In January, my husband started taking more units in school while still working a full time job with side jobs. In June, he signed up for 5 hour night classes and when he isn’t studying, he’s working. Understandably, actively participating in finances isn’t possible anymore.

I didn’t think it would bother me. I’m a nerd. I live for Excel spreadsheets and I balance my checkbook almost hourly for fun. Take over everything? Sounds fantastic!

It’s been 7 months of sole money management and I’m beginning to get a clear understanding of why this is bad.

He doesn’t have a clue about our money and I’m constantly stressed about making the right decisions. I feel like I’m making mistakes and hurting us financially. It’s not that I can’t handle the finances on my own; I hate the sole responsibility. I’d be closer to a breaking point but I’m coasting through knowing he’ll be out of school by next week to offer a reprieve.

I have a countdown marked on my calendar.

I don’t know how people do it alone. Financial stress seems to permeate every part of your life and the feeling that you alone are responsible for the financial success of two people is, at the very least, hugely uncomfortable. We made some great progress on our finances this month (update tomorrow) but the pessimist in me only focuses on what I could have done better.

I miss my financial partner.

Are you a sole money manager? Or do you share the responsibility? What works best for you?


23 Comments

  • Reply DGR |

    My wife and I have been married 25 years, we’ve had separate checking accounts for the last 8 years, before that she took care of everything, why the change, Chapter 13. Now she deposit money into my account to pay her share of the bills; the act of paying the bills is now on me, which is to bad with online bill pay, it’s the great thing since sliced bread. I’m a lot like you, I have read everything I can about debt, I’m an Excel spread sheet junky, and I have a plan that works. In 2 years I’ll be debt free (43k). The only problem is, my wife could careless. You’re doing a great job from what I tell, and I love reading your blog.

  • Reply Sarah |

    Yep, that’s me. Sole Money Manager of our 3 person family. He doesn’t want to deal with the details and just wants to know our checking balance a few times a week. We are also reducing debt and are credit card debt free. Working on our auto loan now. I feel the same way, stressed about certain decisions, but we discuss everything. If he has a question, I’ll show him Quicken and where the money went, etc. Sometimes I attribute his lack of “drive” for financial details to his being the baby of his family. And I’m the oldest.

  • Reply Chris |

    I found that it was easy for my wife and I to set up a time twice a month to review the finances. We make coffee at the house, review the numbers and discuss any concerns either of us has. This way we’re both involved in the overall decisions, but I can focus on paying the day-to-day bills. Best of luck to you.

  • Reply Jen |

    I’m the sole person responssible… Because I’m single 😉 But, I do have a boyfriend and a good friend I can bounce ideas off of and get second opinions from.

    One worry I have for you is will your husband know what’s going on financially if something, heaven forbid, happens to you? If he doesn’t have time for you to show him where everything is, at the very least make a document or guide that will help him figure out which bills needs to be paid when, etc. so if for some reason he has to take over he can.

  • Reply [email protected] |

    I am the manager, but we do make big decisions together. Also, he always knows in his head what all of our investment balances are, while I always know the day to day stuff. The only time I get frustrated is when he acts shocked about our monthly bills. Because he doesn’t even look at them, he can be a little clueless.

    I’m glad you have just a short time left going solo. It really is better to do it together.

  • Reply T |

    I’m in the opposite boat of the previous commenters (and you, Beks). I have very little connection to our finances, and it makes me insane.

    I live with my boyfriend, and make vastly less income than he does. We consider all the finances joint, and make most financial decisions together. However, most of the money is in an account I don’t have access to, and he pays the bills as they come in, with the exception of my personal credit card (which I pay in full monthly), but I always look at them.

    Oddly, even with all of that I still don’t feel like I have much clue as to the state of our finances. It makes me crazy, and I think it makes him crazy too because he thinks I have more awareness than I do.

    Luckily, we’ve recently requested the bank add me to his accounts, and so that should help. But, wow, I hate being effectively in your husband’s shoes. Does it make him crazy too?

  • Reply chacha |

    I am the sole money manager and have been since day one. Sometimes it sucks, but most of the time, I enjoy it because I’m kind of a control freak. Right now it’s easier because my husband is laid off which resulted in him acting more frugal than me. When we were both working I felt like the “bad guy” about discretionary spending, wanting to be more thrifty and him wanting to spend some hard-earned money.

  • Reply Jenn |

    My husband and I split responsibilities. He pays the monthly bills from our joint accounts as they come in, and I track our expenses, income and progress toward financial goals (like saving up for a house DP). We’ve always made big financial decisions together, but I often come up with the ideas (like a plan for debt repayment). This seems to work well for us, since we’re both involved and neither gets overwhelmed!

  • Reply Dan |

    My wife and I try to discuss major purchases and we go over our finances once a month. I pay the bills, typically, because I work from home and it’s easy for me to schedule bill pay.

    I’m definitely more of the savings nerd–there’s a bit of tension because she is more of an easy spender.

  • Reply MrsPrettyinPink |

    My husband and I are divorcing because among other things he is also loose with money. I envy couples who have worked it out and come to a place of greater understanding about financial goals. I have been struggling through bill paying by myself. Ever since we have been married. It has gotten better only because I have made sacrifices, and buckled down to pay things while he shops til he has nothing left in his pockets. Its sickening and sad, but we had to get separate bank accounts just to stay afloat. Now today money was taken from my savings account to cover his negative balances. I was furious. The tension is terrible. My credit score is shot and I just want out of this mess. I know there is a light on the other side of this financial pain.

  • Reply Kathryn |

    I’m glad to hear I am not the only one who thinks excel spreadsheets are fun! My hobby has become running the numbers in different ways to find ways to pay off debt more efficiently and faster. My husband, on the other hand, is happy to just have the numbers input into the spreadsheet to make a graph showing a line modeling the debt reduction. We’ve been married 18 years and I have always handled the bills, making joint decisions on the big items. About 3 years ago I discovered Dave Ramsey and about 18 months ago my husband came on board and we finally began discussing money management and financial goals. I do all of our banking/bill paying online so about every 3-4 months he and I will sit down together and he will log in to each account and pay the bill, he has all the info so if something were to happen to me he knows what to do. I also have ING Direct accounts set up for items like auto maintenance, home repairs,clothing etc. At any point in time he can ask me if we have enough money for a purchase that he wants or needs to make and I can show him exactly what we have. He didn’t even blink an eye when I told him not to expect a dime from his bonus-I had it spent on paper, on purpose. 😉 I can go on for hours about our finances, but his eyes glaze over after about 5 minutes, yet having the spreadsheets and savings accounts means I get to plan and micro-manage our finances and he can see at a glance what we have, our projected goals, and have an understanding of what a change in income/payment amount will mean to our plan.

  • Reply Rose M |

    My ex-husband was awful with money so I had no choice but to handle that responsibility. My new husband is a finance guy, retired auditor and I still take care of the finances. He recognizes I’m a bit of a control freak and trusts me. Our savings accounts are joint and we each have our own checking accounts and our own credit cards – but are debt free other than a small mortgage. It’s really about good communication, regardless of who writes the checks or does online bill pay.

  • Reply Eddie |

    I’m the family bookkeeper, and my wife takes “minimal” interest in the overall information and budgeting unless it involves something major like a purchase.

    Personally, I take pride in managing the finances to get us a well-off as possible for retirement (a mere 10 years away), but I wish she would take a more active “interest’ in what I do and am accomplishing, and salt away a bit more of her mad-money to get there faster.

  • Reply Claire in CA, USA |

    I am the sole money manager. I’m not that good at it, but dh won’t take the time to help me with it. Our marriage definitely suffers for it. Resentment runs very high when you feel like you are the only one carrying the day-to-day burden, and even moreso when making ends meet is hit and miss each month.

  • Reply MomsManyProjects |

    I’m the sole financial person in our family, but I don’t have any real stress over it other than when hubby says he has no clue what we have. Then I yell at him that he’s always welcome to look at it and yet he has no interest in it. It was a hard job when we had less money and more debts, but it’s been easier (even through layoffs) since I’ve saved money and paid things off. I just tell hubby we’re broke and put the extra money away! 😉

  • Reply MakingAMillionDollars |

    I have handled all of our money for years and feel I have done a great job at it if I do say so myself. We have no debt and have a nice retirement account and invest regularly. My wife trusts me to handle most all the finances, but likes to be in the loop and have me sit down and go through what is going on and decisions I am making. This is really key for a marriage and communication about your money is very important so the other person never get surprised. We also have always had separate accounts and for me personally has always worked out the best to avoid fights about money. We each have key items that we are responsible for and have agreed on, but each of us has our own money to spend as we wish, which is important to keep your independence and not have to always answer to the other person. I am going on 25 years of marriage so something must be working :). I enjoyed your post.

  • Reply CanadianKate |

    I’m sole money manager and have been since day one. It is part of my job description (household manager.)

    He has input on all expenses and decisions but hates having anything to do with money. An example of how little he likes financial transactions – the only time he bought a car, he went in, picked one out, asked how much and leased it for the asking amount (this was prior to me being in his life.) My first financial task after we got together was to buy out the lease (this was back in the days of 15 – 18% interest on loans.) We sold other possessions and scrimped to come up with the cash to buy out of that lease.

    All money is joint, we each draw a monthly allowance that can be spent as we wish without accountability to the other. But if something is of benefit to the family, it becomes a household expense which we agree upon. In the old days we also drew up our budget together (we don’t budget now, just track all expenses in Quicken.)

    All bank, investment and credit card accounts (except for personal ones for holding/spending the allowance money) are joint. The house is in my name only because he was on the board of directors of a company with inadequate director’s insurance for a while and I was worried the house might be in danger if the corporation was sued.

    This method has worked really well for us. He respects my not allowing him to ‘keep up with the Jones’ and I am thrilled with his encouraging me to spend on luxuries now that we have enough money to last us the rest of our lives. We have one item we don’t scrimp on (our vacation), the rest of our purchases are used or modest and we live in a modest house.

    Just last week I had to drag him to a meeting with a financial planner, re: retirement and he was uncomfortable most of the time. He figures he pays me (and the advisers) to handle our money and doesn’t see why he needs to be there as well. I figure it is payback since I am constantly at his side at business events and also don’t understand most of what is going on. Sometimes, even if you don’t understand stuff completely, you are still their to support your spouse.

    But when the skill sets are so obviously complimentary (he makes the money, I spend it wisely) it makes sense for us each to work our strengths.

    (In the event of my untimely demise, we have an accountant and financial advisers he knows he can work with instead of me.)

  • Reply Vicki |

    Being single mom, I am the sole manager, however, I am starting to train my soon-to-be 14 year old on budgeting. When I was with my ex (both of them) neither one of them can budget or listen to the numbers. It was very hard. Both of them did not want to deal with the bills. And what is bad, I let them get away with it and that is why I am in debt. I let it happen to me.

  • Reply divine and debt free |

    I am the sole manager because I am single. One day when I am married this will be something we do together, I hope he isn’t a nerd when it comes to finances because I am the nerd and I probably wouldn’t enjoy two nerds in the house lol.

    I want my husband to have input even if its us sitting down for 5 or 10 minutes. I think its key to every good relationship

  • Reply Little House |

    I do all the number crunching in my family. I pay the bills, balance the books, make financial decisions about where our money is going. I like being in charge. But it can be stressful at times. However, when something big is coming up, I call in for help. Last year, my husband joined forces with me to pay off our credit card debt. When big decisions are being made, he helps me figure it out so I’m not solely responsible. But the day to day stuff is on me alone.

  • Reply Starr |

    I am the financial boss. But I refuse to be dictator. Because my husband would gladly put all responsibility in my hands so as to avoid any blame when there’s a goof-up, we’ve divided the work so that I do the number crunching and then I tell him what bills to pay. It’s a first step for us. I would love if he would get as excited as I do over my spreadsheets!

  • Reply Jack-of-all-Trades |

    Most times, the two life partners have different spending habits and appetite, one is usually more responsible financially than the other. In some cases, maybe it’s better to have a joint account, in order to keep easier track of the family spending. In order to have a financial freedom, each of us also has his own individual bank account . If you choose to have a joint account (as my husband and I do) it can help you and your partner see more clearer your mutual financial goals, whether it’s saving for a house or just saving for a vacation to Italy. The interests rates will be higher, too. By pooling your money together, you can keep your eye on the bigger picture. But, on the other hand, if you know that your wife or husband has some bad spending habits, an addiction to shopping expensive and unnecessary things, it’s wiser to have individual accounts. Bad habits are hard, if not impossible, to change.

So, what do you think ?