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Act like an equal partner. Not a house elf.

I had this sent in as part of my Ask Sherry Anything post, but then it just got too long so I made it a separate post. You can ask any question using the form here and all of my previous Ask Sherry posts are here.

“What do you think about this article?”

ArticleWhen having separate bank accounts is the opposite of independence.

Tagline: What’s independent about having nothing while your husband keeps his pay?

Umm…..

Based on the tagline, it is not independence when you don’t have anything and your husband keeps his pay. If they’re talking about stay-at-home parents, that’s another kettle of fish versus working mothers who are unable to work while their husbands keep all of their pay.

So many angles here to cover, but these are my thoughts.

STAY AT HOME PARENTS SHOULD BE VALUED, BUT AT WHAT PRICE?

I see some of the point of what they are saying — if they are stay at home parents, and there is only ONE partner bringing home the bacon, not valuing the contribution they make to the home in caring for the kids and cooking, etc, is a valid point.

I am not going to get into a discussion about stay at home parents and what is fair or not, because each couple is different and deal with things differently.

What works for you, does not work for someone else.

What I AM going to say, is if anyone has a beef with their spouse about money and how undervalued they feel, they should do something about it.


Do what, you ask?

Well. I may not be popular in stating these options but here goes anyway.

A) Want money? Get a job.

Get a job to get some income (and to basically show how much they do in the home to make it worthwhile for them to stay at home instead).

I find that once a spouse starts working, the other one realizes how much they did at home when things start to slack and food stops appearing on the table in a timely manner (true story).

Even for us, my partner is slowly adjusting to my working now, but he has been picking up the slack in stepping in without asking, to deal with Baby Bun when I am home, doing more loads of laundry when he sees the need, or letting me have my computer time to answer emails and do ALL THESE THINGS I cannot do during the day any more because I am at work.

If you want to make your point heard and taken seriously, and you just say: I want to get a job to get money of my own, they have to then accept that reality, or say: No, stay at home and we’ll work it out.

If you’re on maternity leave, don’t get any money, and can’t go back to work so soon, then I present option B.

B) Talk it out, like a real equal.

If you’re angry about the situation, don’t bottle it up.

Women I find, tend to do this a lot more, as not to bother their spouses, or make their feelings heard because dagnabbit, our best friends and lifelong partners should KNOW how we feel because they should see just how unfair this whole nonsense is.

If you think this, I suggest that BOTH OF YOU should be reading this book and definitely this book. ASAP.

You’re an equal partner in this relationship right?

So act like it.

Take the power back.

They don’t feel valued because they themselves, don’t value what they do enough.

It’s sometimes THAT simple.

Just simply talk to their spouse and hash out a budget that seems fair, talk about shared future goals (new car, new home, more kids) so they don’t feel like they’re underpaid house elves.

If their spouse doesn’t come on board with a new spending plan where they get disposable income from the bank accounts for their own personal use so that they feel valued, then go to option (A) and get a job to show them how much they should be valued.

Bottom line: No one wants to be a house elf, so why are they acting like one?

COMPLAIN. SAY SOMETHING. No one hears you if you don’t say anything. We aren’t mind readers.

“Is it somewhat how you and your partner have arranged things?”

Pretty much.

We have arranged it where it is 100% separate, in that all the JOINT expenses are paid for by us 50/50, but the disposable stuff — treats, eating out, clothing, is all disposable income.

It works for us because we make the same amount of money when we work, and to top it off, we make a LOT of money. It’s quite fair from that point of view.

What complicates things is that we’re both freelancers, so at any given time we could both be not working, or one working and the other not.

Sometimes it isn’t our fault, but also sometimes we turn down work because we don’t tend to take contracts or want to work unless it is for a rate that we want (we don’t undercut ourselves often), so this means that cheaper consultants get taken instead of us, and we tend to be called last, when things are really in a bind and they need real expertise to sort it out and fix it.

This is just the way it is. We’ve accepted it, and we save a lot of money to weather through the storm, although I tend to be very optimistic and I spend freely when I shouldn’t. *cough*

He is more pragmatic about the situation and goes into survival mode IMMEDIATELY when he is off contract. It’s sick how disciplined he is.

“Do you think this would be your life if you didn’t make or save so much money?”

Hmm. Well this is an excellent point.

It kind of was my life after I gave birth to Baby Bun and was eating through my savings while on maternity leave, or at this point last year when I decided to go into Semi-Emergency mode until I got more work coming in (now I have really relaxed…. in a bad way!)

I suppose if we didn’t make so much money, nor save so much, it may be different.

Or not.

I can’t speak about something I haven’t experienced, to be honest.

All I can say is that I have already done that whole liberated woman schtick where I paid for my then mooching boyfriend 100% and indulged him like my now toddler  to the point where I really felt like the mother, which soured the whole experience and idea of pooling our money together.

This is why I do the 50/50 now and I am far happier for it.

I do not feel or want to feel like I need to justify ANYTHING I buy with MY disposable income, and that’s the end of it.

I don’t need to answer to him about wasting my money on clothing, or eating out. I don’t have anyone checking my credit card statements like my friend and exclaiming over them, to make you feel like someone is eying your spending.

It feels like a father doling out an allowance, frankly, and it IS insulting (as per the article’s premise) which is why I work and I pay 50/50.

ON POOLING MONEY TOGETHER

I know couples who do the pooling thing, and “your money is my money, and we’re all in it together”, but then they ended up divorcing or breaking up, and having to sort out through expensive lawyers who got what percentage of what (rather than 50/50), because in some cases the wife made more, or the husband made more, etc, and it was “unfair” that she has to pay for his upkeep now, and vice versa.

I also know couples who stay together and do the whole income pooling thing, but occasionally feel resentful when their other half goes out and buys a fancy sound system that they can’t really afford, or the other half decides that they absolutely MUST upgrade and have a pool installed to swim in ($70,000 expense), and they end up bickering over that.

I have heard plenty of stay-at-home parents rant about that at playgroup because even though they don’t bring in the money, it STRESSES them out to see the debt racked up from free fall spending.

“SO SAY SOMETHING THEN”, I say silently.

I’ve also heard working mothers complain about their working spouses spending freely and not taking into account the needs of the whole family. A husband the other day, went out and decided to lease a new car. She asked him if he thought about having to fund their retirement accounts this year because that new car lease now took up half of what they were socking away.


She was frustrated, she was angry, and felt like now she had to cut in other places (vacation) to fund the retirement just because of a decision he made on his own.

Obviously this happens to every couple if you aren’t both on the same money page and see shared goals, but it is surprising (and shocking) how little couples discuss money and joint goals.

I mean, lots of things happen on BOTH sides of the coin. I am not saying my side or anyone’s way of doing things is the best way, but for our situation which is the only one I have to deal with, what we do is the most equitable and fair way to divvy up the expenses.

TALKING ABOUT MONEY & SHARED GOALS

For instance, we are also each responsible for our own retirement funds, and we do talk about our joint money goals together which is why we ended up deciding that we needed at a minimum, $1 million dollars in liquid assets saved per person, to jointly live a moderate life when we retire.

I know I am not excited about a “moderate lifestyle”, so I am actually planning $2 million for myself. Plus I’m younger, so I can save more having started much earlier than he did.

So, now we’re both working towards these goals together, but also separately as we are both on different income paths. He plans on retiring soon, I am not so sure. I want to keep working because I’d be bored out of mind and I clearly enjoy shopping a lot more than he does and I need money to fund my habit. He wouldn’t (and doesn’t) understand why I want so many pairs of boots and things. LOL

In our case, it’s not that we don’t bicker at all about money, we definitely do fight about money, but I find our fights are more like strong hints such as:

  • We have to be careful spending so much money on Baby Bun. He doesn’t need so many toys and books, he is happy with a tissue box. (My partner)
  • WOW our food bills are through the roof, we have to start cutting back on indulging ourselves each night, this is getting expensive (Me to my partner)

Sometimes these hints are silent, and it is just my budgeting tool with a tracking history sent from previous years, circled in red. *cough*

We fight less about money in the end because we have more of it to waste / burn than many other families because we both make very high incomes when we work, as sick and sad as it sounds.

http://bit.ly/2rcFjnb

I am not as concerned when he goes out and spends on a new Bose sound system for the home (*eyes the system on the desk right now*) that I am automatically implicated in paying 50% for, because I have that extra disposable income, and I do see it as something useful for us.

Come to think of it, I DO recall mentioning that the sound sucks on our laptops when we play videos on the monitors and I guess he took it to heart to fix the problem.

WE KNOW WE BOTH DON’T WORK ALL THE TIME

When either one of us is NOT working, we are cognizant of the lack of income coming in (as if we don’t get reminded every day about it to each other LOL), so we do tend to be careful about what we spend as “joint” income as the other will have to pay half.

This is why we both save so much when we do work.

I spend a lot more than he does and am not as frugal as he is, but I do save a significant amount when I work. I am not THAT crazy. I mean, in 2015, I banked $250,000.

I’m spendy, but not that stupid.

This is the reality of our careers, that we are constantly reminded that we have to be careful about our money as freelancers.

Actually, a lot of freelancers who see our situation are envious of us because they know what we bring in together as an income (very close to what they do). They tend to be men, and they tend to be the primary breadwinners (or the only ones), which puts a lot of pressure on them to do it all.

I can understand that, having been there, but I can also understand that they WANT to be the breadwinners too, otherwise they would have said something to their wives and fixed the situation.

To each their own.

I WOULDN’T LEAVE HIM OUT IN THE COLD

Lastly, I wouldn’t leave him out in the cold. If he retires and needs money due to unforeseen circumstances AND he can TRULY no longer work again (health problem, no one will hire him bla bla bla), I’m not going to say:

“NYAH NYAHHHHHH THAT IS YOUR PROBLEM …!!!!!”

Ridiculous.

I’ll just pay for everything then, if he has exhausted all of his options. *shrug* That’s what partners do. He would do the same for me.

What we don’t want to encourage between us, is laziness.

Laziness in the household (which is why he does so much at home as listed here), and laziness in contributing to the family expenses (read: working).

Laziness is not on the same equal level as not being able to work at all for other reasons.

Laziness means you REFUSE to work even though you could.

So. What did I think about that article?

I am hearing a complaint of folks who feel like they are not equals, and that’s their own personal problem not their partner’s (at this point).

Solve that by recognizing your worth as an equal contributor to the household (or force them to see that through getting a job, slacking on chores, etc), because bitching is just that when you don’t do anything about it, or worse, your spouse doesn’t even know you feel that way.

No one is a mind reader.

Act like an equal partner. Not a house elf.

You can ask any question using the form here and all of my previous Ask Sherry posts are here.

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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K (savings rate = 85%). I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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Posted on December 17, 2015

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9 Comments

  1. ArianaAuburn

    Not being a house elf or trying to achieve 50/50 in a relationship is SUPER HARD! Life throws so many curve balls at you that either you or your partner are forced to do more than the other. The key word is: APPRECIATION. I have learned that appreciating what your partner does is SUPER IMPORTANT, even if the work is not equal in duties or in monetary value. And even though my single friends laugh at this, but asking your partner his or her opinion about huge purchases is not about being “tied down”: it’s about avoiding a big-ass fight when you get home at the end of the night. Being on the same page is easier said than done. 🙁

    Reply
  2. minh

    Thank goodness that my husband and I are on the same page with how we use the time – and if we weren’t, we find it important enough that we be supportive of each other, and we would find a way to reach a compromise between our ideas.
    I feel for folks that argue over money, placement, use of time, etc and am glad you wrote this piece.

    Reply
  3. Jennifer Snuffleupagus

    Thank goodness that my husband and I are on the same page with how we use the time – and if we weren’t, we find it important enough that we be supportive of each other, and we would find a way to reach a compromise between our ideas.

    I feel for folks that argue over money, placement, use of time, etc and am glad you wrote this piece.

    http://www.nynomads.com
    Living sustainably and rent free in NYC

    Reply
  4. Jamie

    My spouse makes more money than me (by quite a lot) but I make a decent amount, have great benefits, and a defined benefit pension (government job) so my retirement is a bit more taken care of (I do fully fund my TFSA each year) but my spouse is 100% responsible for his own retirement. Other than that, we split the bills in percentages according to our incomes (currently 65%/35%) and have separate accounts for discretionary items. We pay for things like vacations 50/50 and other “fun” things. We pay for expenses for our son (diapers, food, clothes, toys) according to the income split. This way I don’t feel resentful that if I was paying 50% of the bills I would have maybe a couple of hundred dollars to spend on myself for a whole month while my spouse would have over a thousand. So, for us 50/50 isn’t fair but if we were to separate I wouldn’t ask for 50/50 since I know that we didn’t pay for things that way (in fact, we sold our house in 2015 and the proceeds were also split 65/35 after our initial 50/50 deposits of $30K each were “paid back” to our RSPs).

    Anyways, all this to say that for us this works better than 50/50 but if our incomes were closer to equal we’d probably do things the same way. I definitely think separate accounts also helps keep the resentment at bay and we both share fairly equally in house chores and rearing our son. So far, this has worked for us 🙂

    Reply
  5. AdinaJ

    I’m not a fan of the idea of keeping individual income 100% separate because where there is a significant disparity (as in my case) it just invites the “keeping score” mentality, which I find really harmful. I say that as the higher earning spouse, by the way. But I also don’t like to have to answer for personal expenses of a discretionary nature. So we keep separate “fun” money account which get equal funding in an amount that works for our budget. We then treat the rest as “our” money, and decide jointly how to use it. That includes funding our separate RRSP/TFSAs which we treat as family money (they’d get split 50/50 in case of divorce anyway). Generally, I feel like we’re getting further ahead on our financial goals by pooling 95% of our resources. I will say that the key is being on the same page about money, which we are. We have honestly never had a fight about money (yet?!) in 9 years. I can’t imagine my husband going out and doing something like leasing a new car without telling me about it and having us agree about it. By the same token, he’s spent thousands of his fun money savings on car projects that we haven’t really discussed because that’s his business (and my fun money is my business).

    Reply
  6. Sense

    I love the idea of 50/50, and how the two of you have worked out your financials. My last bf wanted to pay more, treat me, etc. lots, particularly when we moved for his career and I didn’t have a job in the new location yet. I just am not comfortable with that–I have $$ saved and if can afford to pay my own way, I will always do so. I wouldn’t have chosen to move with him if it rendered me helpless and dependent on him 100%. I am not sure why, but it makes me feel like I owe someone if they pay for more than a drink or two for me.

    Reply
    1. s.

      @Sense,

      If you allow me, I don’t think that feminism should be taken to the extreme, that is refusing a man to behave like a gentleman, treat you etc. if that is what he wants to do.

      At some point in life, I did it too (felt uncomfortable when the man wanted to treat me although I liked him), but later in life I found out that men take genuine pleasure in treating women they like or love. They do this hoping to see you glad and happy and, when you reject their best efforts, they feel unwanted or feel that something is wrong or that they aren’t good enough for you.

      I’m telling you this because I feel sorry for the men who try to be nice and do their best only to be rejected because the woman doesn’t feel like an equal when she is treated nicely.

      Men and women are (and should be) equal in human rights, but, psychologically, they are different and they are complementary. Extreme feminist ideas only emasculate men.

      If the woman is happy when the man treats her nicely, the man will be happy, too.

      Reply
      1. raluca

        I would argue that to want to pay for your own meals is not “extreme feminism”. It’s just a preference that somebody has.

        For example, if I had a rich woman friend and she would like to treat me to good dinners in expensive restaurants, I would feel equally uncomfortable with the situation, even if she’s not a man, because I would not be able to reciprocate. To do this from time to time, like a couple of times a year, it would be ok. To have her pay for my dinner every week would make me feel like I was taking advantage of her. This has noting to do with the sex of the person who pays for me, I has everything to do with me being either able to pay for my own food, or choosing to go to a cheaper restaurant.

        I would also argue that *some* men, a tiny, but not non-zero minority, will use the fact that they pay for your share of a meal/they give you gifts/they spend money on you as a sign that you owe them something, usually sex. But these guys ussually out themselves very soon in a relationship, so they are easily avoidable.

        Reply
        1. s.

          Raluca, I understand your point of view.
          My suggestion is not targeted at unromantic relationships or admirers that one doesn’t like and doesn’t want to encourage. The commentator above was already in a romantic relationship. It’s her partner she was talking about.

          That being said, you could say that keeping score in a romantic partnership/marriage is not my cup of tea, but that’s just me. I agree though that in a partnership/marriage everyone must pull their weight according to their capabilities.

          Reply

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