Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Yours, Mine, and Ours..........Finances, That is!

On Veterans Day of this year, it will be ten years since my husband passed away. Sometimes it is hard to believe and it feels like the time has been much shorter. As I've been reflecting on this time with my family, I've begun writing a series of articles on both preparation for widowhood and dealing with the ramifications of that.....soon to come.

Meanwhile though, I've realized that many of the so called traditional financial rules and behaviors for money management for couples has gone out the window-for a variety of reasons, most of them good I am sure. For example, I shared with someone recently that I never actually filed my will for probate because I never needed it.

You see, my husband and I owned everything jointly, with rights of survivorship-with one exception. Joint checking accounts, joint savings accounts. I was the only beneficiary of his life insurance and vice versa. I was the only beneficiary of his 401K (by law with the feds you cannot name a beneficiary other than the spouse without the spouses permission). My husband purchased our home without me, but we lived in Virginia where spousal survivorship was a given. In fact, the only things we did not share jointly and manage jointly were our cars.

This made life more easy for me than I can say. While I did have to send death certificates to the account corporate offices, never was anything frozen and never did I not have access to all funds and everything I owned-I just had to forward the death certificate and remove my husband's name (eventually).

This also made our financial life easy for the many years we were together. We each always knew how much the other made (or in my case often did not make). It was easy to do a quick check on where our finances were as we only had three accounts (checking, savings, investments). And as a wife married to a husband who traveled for his job a fair amount, I was always able to access all of our accounts with no power of attorney or other issues.

This was the only kind of "couples finance" that either of us really knew. Both our parents had always owned things jointly-one joint account for checking and so on. It was the way of the world.

The world it seems, has changed. My daughter and her husband, for example, have separate checking accounts as well as a joint account for paying bills. One partner (in this case him) pays the bills from money they both separately contribute to the pot. And they are not alone, even among married couples. Not only that, but from what I have seen more and more boomer couples are moving to the yours, mine and ours model of finances.

I have to confess, while I feel everyone should do what works for them,  I don't really get it. I can surely see exceptions-second marriages with children and inheritances involved would certainly change the equation, I expect. Other than that though, it often seems like a trust issue for me. I mean, I'm the first to admit that we all have spending styles and different priorities. I also understand that some folks come to marriage with debt or other issues. (I came to my second marriage deeply in debt with more bounced checks than I care to think about in order to keep things afloat after my first husband took everything and left, after all).

In my case, both my husband and I had a certain amount budgeted for month that was ours to spend as we wanted, we no questions asked-and believe me, there was more than one time when one of us looked askance at the other as of to say "really, you bought THAT?". How much we allowed for personal spending depended on the times-early on in our marriage my husband changed careers and went back to almost minimum wage. In those days, the extra cash can best be described as what Dave Ramsey would call blow money. But because we had good communication and trust, it always worked for us.

The world is changing, and apparently the financial rules are as well. There are more divorces and "partnerships". People remarry, and second marriages often either minor or adult children from previous marriages. More and more, women are in the work force as much as men.

The bottom line I suppose is that as the rules and lifestyle change, money habits change as well. Personally, given the choice. I would still stick to the "old system". But we are all different, and what works, works.

What about you? Do you have separate accounts? Deal with everything jointly? Or are you perhaps somewhere in the middle.


  1. I will be giving a budget class to three professional women in a month.Two of the women make more then their husbands. One of the issues they have is "where does the money for the child come from?" I will be suggesting a "virtual envelope" for child expenses (besides all of the other envelopes for all housing expenses, basic food, basic autos) . I will also be suggesting that the third account is done on percentage instead of half and half.
    The most interesting part of giving these classes is ---how many women (or their husbands) who would like to be home raising their children instead of working outside of the home. They are so obsessed about----RETIREMENT! Gosh, I never gave retirement a thought during our early child raising years. All three are worried about being "left" and "poor". Wow! Years of divorce are showing in the psyche of this generation- big time!

    What do my husband and I do? We both have a good amount of "whatever you want" money- no judgement. Most of it is inheritance money. We also do the monthly stipend. When we were first married that amount was $25 a month. A bit more now.
    He brings in all of the actual income. We have a good amount in savings. I have kept the books for our whole marriage. Savings have been between 10-25% most of our marriage. Lots of trust.
    BTW- have you ever checked into the VA? You may be due a stipend for your service related medical issues.

  2. After 20 years I got tired of being the only one worried about money and bill paying (his is self employed and I have always had a steady income). AS of this year I still pay the bills but we have separate accounts. AS long as his bills get paid and half the rent, the rest is his to do what he wants. He has all the big expenses and I take care of savings as well as my bills.

  3. I agree with you in having shared assets and money, and my husband and I share everything in our 45 year marriage. Otherwise it can be unfair as a couple if one person makes a lot more money and the couple splits paying the expenses 50 /50. We, like you, put it all in one pot.

  4. Everything here is jointly owned, including the cars. We each have a Power Of Attorney on each other, should one of us becomes incapacitated and needs to sell a jointly owned asset. There really is no need for a will but we have them anyway. So, the kids won't fight. LOL!
    We used to have a system where hubby earns almost all of the money and I managed it. Now, in retirement, I still manage the money BUT hubby is included in all the decisions. I don't go it alone anymore.

  5. Been married since forever. We have been through "hardly any money" to "some" to "more" to "now we have a LOT of student debts" to.. "now we have jobs and can buy a house," to "now we can buy a vacation home," to "now we are retired and want to simplify. " Since we were married so young and have been through it all together, we have never had separate accounts.We have gone back and forth with who manages the money.When Ken was in professional school,I managed. When he got a great position he managed.Now retired, we kinda do it together.We have been in this for the long run.No thought of anyone running off. Now we have Family trusts to protect our assets and leave assets to our son. We splurge here and there. Still,we try to live frugally, like in the early days. But we have a lot more leeway financially.Still ,our old "careful" habits remain!

  6. My husband and I got married right after we graduated from college and owned everything jointly throughout our 30 year marriage until he passed away six years ago. Like you, the only changes I had to make were sending death certificates to remove his name from some accounts.
    He did get a certain amount into a separate savings account every month so he could save up to periodically buy an expensive woodworking tool. My "sewing and book" purchases were just absorbed into the monthly budget.
    I never understood the few friends that had "his and her" bills. Maybe if we'd lived separately and worked before we got married we would have viewed it differently?? I'm sure that getting married later in life and after divorce may affect the current thinking also. It just seems kind of sad to me.

  7. What happened with your first marriage is probably one of the reasons why people currently separate their finances.

  8. Harvey and I have always had joint accounts and the mortgage was in both our names (didn't have to be as the province of Saskatchewan has a homestead law where the house is automatically the wife's in the case of death). As far as investment money that is all Right of Survivor.

    We too have money of our own to spend as we like each month. Makes life so much easier.

    God bless.

    1. The Homestead Act in Saskatchewan addresses the use and occupation of a homestead/house/residence in the sole name of a deceased spouse. It does not deal in any manner with ownership rights or the transfer of title.

      Some investments will pass to a specific named beneficiary (where the nature of the investment allows the designation of a beneficiary) but an investment does not pass by right of survivorship unless it is in joint ownership.

  9. Great article. Very valid points.
    Thank you-Melissa


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