“You do what?” K.L., my friend, was incredulous.
We had known each other a few years and I had not recalled ever seeing him look so surprised. I wondered why he was making such a big deal out of something my wife and I saw as practical and helpful.
I repeated, “I said we keep separate bank accounts and share the bills.”
“What are you roommates?”
Certainly there are many stresses on a marriage. A survey of counseling professionals conducted by Your Tango.com. found that “74 percent of experts polled agree that the number one predictor of divorce is differing values around kids, money and/or sex.” (http://magazine.foxnews.com/love/expert-survey-reveals-number-one-reason-couples-divorce#ixzz2WlNQhWCh).
However, it can be argued that money causes the most stress on a marriage. In fact according to a study by Jeffrey Drew at Utah State University, “Of all these common things couples fight about, money disputes were the best harbingers of divorce. For wives, disagreements over finances and sex were good predictors of divorce, but finance disputes were much stronger predictors. For husbands, financial disagreements were the only type of common disagreement that predicted whether they would get a divorce.” http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/07/money-fights-predict-divorce-rates/
I can also speak based on empirical evidence. My parents had different perspectives when it came to money. Unfortunately, when they had financial challenges on top of their different perspectives, fuel was added to the fire and caused stress.
Between the studies and my empirical evidence, I take the money issue seriously.
My wife and I make around the same amount of money. By the way, I would like it noted that I would be quite fine if she made much more. My manhood would not be offended or threatened if she becomes a mommy warbucks.
Now, that that information is out there, let me get to the bigger issue at hand. My wife and I have different spending habits. She makes no attempt to keep up her checkbook. If you asked her how much she had in her checking account, she may be in the ballpark. She enjoys shopping. And as I have joked before due to her online habits, my children’s first three letters learned were UPS. I always get the receipt when going to the ATM to check my balance, make and follow a strict budget, and shop only when necessary.
Clearly, we are opposites and there is every reason to believe that money could be a real issue in our marriage.
I responded to K.L. “It just works for us. We have different philosophies on money and we make around the same amount.”
“But you are a couple. Isn’t everything both of yours?”
“Of course. But having some independence is a good thing. Besides, I know that S (my wife) likes to shop. I don’t always agree or think it’s necessary (see the bench http://larrydbernstein.com/to-the-bench/). But I also know that she is a wiz at online and rarely pays full price for anything. Anyway, this saves us from arguing over her every purchase. I just bring the UPS packages in the house.”
“And the bills?”
“We split them.”
“What do you divvy everything up at the end of the month?”
“Pretty much. Look, it’s not as if we split it down to the penny or count everything. The point is we have a system, and it works for us.”
“I guess so.”
And that is the point, it works for us.
What about you? How do you handle money issues in your marriage?