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I went out to lunch yesterday with one of my married co-workers. We went to a relatively inexpensive cafe and ordered a couple of sandwich combos. My friend ordered first and her total came up to $4.49. She presented her debit card to pay for her lunch but her card was declined. She had the cashier try it again and again it was declined. She then tried to use her credit card but it was also declined.

Needless to say, she was very embarrassed and confused as to why the transactions wouldn't go through. Maybe the credit card machine was not working? I think we were all thinking that until the cashier tried my debit card for both of our meals and the transaction went through immediately.

As we sat down to eat, she began to apologize for me having to pay for her meal. I assured her it was no problem and reminded her that she had bought my lunch a few times in the past. I did ask if everything was okay financially because I know things were tight for them. They have 2 children (both in private school) and her husband was out of work for several months. Thankfully, he is now employed.

We've been friends for over 5 years so I didn't have a problem asking how things were going financially. Surprisingly, she had no clue and thinks things are probably okay. She said her husband handled all the finances and she doesn't even know how to access the bank account. She sort of laughed it off but I was thinking "How in the heck can you not know what's going on with your finances"?

Do you allow your spouse or partner to handle all of the finances? Are you involved in the process at all? Why or why not?


  1. Anonymous // June 17, 2009 at 8:20 AM  

    unlike your friend, I am the wise one (girl) and my male partner is doing ok on a paycheck to paycheck basis. He lost his job at the beginning of the month (bankrupt company) and hadn't received his April and May salary, that he is hoping to get with the bankrupcy filing of the company. At the moment we live together and have been together over 3 years but I don't make long term commitments financially with him. He is a couple of years younger, makes less money, at that is his first job so he wants to indulge himself before thinking about a house or retiring. As most european students, we graduated debt free from college, and I have been working for the last 2 years on a good income. So I only ask him to put £100 a month (about $150) in a common account, that pays for groceries and a few nights out. He gives me £300 ($450) a month in rent money, as I bought our flat. That is really cheap for where we live and includes all of his bills, and no deposit obviously. If there is a big repaid, that's on me. On the other side I would get any increment in the house value and I repay a mortgage when he just pays rent. I guess that makes him financially stable but with no goal or strings attached, and I can still have my flat. I was lucky enough to secure a good mortgage on my sole income. He makes about £1000 when I make over £2300 so that leaves him after rent and groceries with around £600 for fun, and I invest my cash flow in funds or overpay my mortgage. We have zero debt, but still I try to live by his means, say if we go on a holiday he would still pay for his flights, food and accomodation and I would put a few extras, nicer things and luxuries. Appart from that each of us deals with his money independantly. Having a joint account just makes things easier not to have to split bills at the end of each month. But we have a debit card on that account and no overdraft facility.

  2. Alexa // June 17, 2009 at 9:26 AM  

    That could have been my husband a few years ago (minus the declined card part). I handle all the finances and take control of his paychecks. Over the past year he has gotten more involved, and while I still pay all the bills he at least has an idea of what they all are.

  3. Jaynee // June 17, 2009 at 10:28 AM  

    My husband and I do it jointly. We use separate joint accounts, but we each take turns paying the monthly bills. We also have a spreadsheet for our expenses - every penny we spend gets put on that spreadsheet and we each put in our own expenses so we can see how we're doing each month. It has been like that since day one of our wedding in 1997.

  4. Yana // June 17, 2009 at 12:11 PM  

    I handle the finances, and try to keep my husband informed. I worry that he couldn't manage if I weren't around. He would prefer to have nothing to do with handling the money. I like online bank statements, but would never sign up for online billing, because if I weren't here and bills came via e-mail, they would never get paid. My husband's first choice for paying a bill that came in the mail would be to do it in person.

    I like money management and multiple banks. We're happy with the way we (*I*) do things now, but if it were up to him, he'd close all accounts but one or two. He's not a numbers guy unless talking about football ;)

  5. Unknown // June 17, 2009 at 1:21 PM  

    I handle the finances for our family but my wife knows where we are and is involved. I pay the bills and keep track so we stay on budget. We plan the budget as a family and review it completely every 6 months. We do also have a personal allowance each month to spend as we want. We almost have the credit cards paid off leaving only student loans and a car loan.

  6. Sheila Sultani // June 17, 2009 at 4:28 PM  

    My husband handles all of our finances. I have a credit card and a debit card that he puts money in twice a month. He is completely anal about bills - he makes copies of receipts and enters all of them into his computer (he is SUCH a geek) so he can look at the pretty color charts and see where all of our money is going. I wish I were more involved. I worry that if something happened to him I wouldn't have a clue what needed to be done were bills are concerned.

  7. Abigail // June 17, 2009 at 6:08 PM  

    I handle the finances, but over the last two years, I've been insisting that my husband pay attention. It's been a slow process. He was happy to let me just deal with everything.

    That wouldn't seem like a problem, I suppose, except that he kept overspending. We had to work on the basics of frugality -- don't leave home without having eaten, for example -- and then work up to knowing what's going on with our finances.

    Nowadays, he has almost as good an awareness as I do about where we stand (debt-wise) and how the money in our bank account is doing. It's a relief to finally have a partner in it all. Even if I still delegate where the funds go.

  8. Kara D // June 18, 2009 at 10:04 AM  

    While I handle/pay all of the bills each month, I believe that my husband is also aware of what we owe, etc. I recently took over paying the bills back in October/November of 2008, and not a lot has changed since then (besides saving more money!) What really helps us is using Google Docs. I check our accounts several times a week and add each individual purchase into one spreadsheet, and categorize it. That way at the end of the month I can breakout where we may have spent to much money or to see if we had a great month. There is another doc, "Monthly Bills" that lists all of our recurring bills, the mailing addresses, phone numbers, user names, account numbers, and approximate amounts due and due dates. I create a new tab each month so either of us can see what has been paid to date. I really like our system

  9. Anonymous // June 18, 2009 at 10:40 AM  

    With my first marriage, I had no idea what was going on with our finances. It's easy to overlook that aspect of life when you're married and your partner is willing to "take care of it." Of course, my partner wasn't taking care of it and things were in really bad shape.

    It is never a good idea to be so clueless and have no access to the money.

  10. myi4u // June 18, 2009 at 11:35 AM  

    I live with my fiancee in a rented room and I manage most of the financial stuff while she makes the decision. Funny, huh? We collect all the receipts for all purchases and I will always key them into the a spreadsheet, by month. So, we are aware of our spendings.

    We have joint account where I put in some money each month to manage our groceries and food spendings. We are clear about our own monies and I always insist that she should manage her own account. So far, we have done well and we both have our own savings. Thus, I am pleased with our idea of handling money.

  11. Anonymous // June 18, 2009 at 5:15 PM  

    My ex-husband handled all the bills, and I thought it was so nice that I didn't have to mess with bill paying - he just took care of everything. That was until trouble arose in the marriage, then all of a sudden we incurred $500 in bounced check fees one month (he couldn't keep up with paying for his sweetie on the side). I'm actually thankful it happened because it was the first real evidence I had to support my gut feeling that he was up to no good.

    Once we got divorced and it was up to me to pay the bills myself, it was a rude awakening. It took me a while to get a handle on things. I'd never paid bills online before, and once my electricity got shut off because for 2 months in a row, I didn't hit that final button that yielded a confirmation number for my online payment.

    Now I'm totally on top of things and I'm glad and proud to do it. I would never surrender that control to another person again. I cringe when I hear women (or men, for that matter) say they are not involved in their household finances, that their spouse takes care of the bills. Big mistake!! You just never know!

  12. Petunia 100 // June 19, 2009 at 2:49 AM  

    When I was married, I handled every aspect of our financial life. My then husband would not become involved at all. Not in planning, not in investments, not in our day to day budget, nothing.

    When we divorced, I helped him get organized and balance his checkbook, etc. He acted pretty bored about the whole thing too until I stated that my help was very temporary and he needed to figure it out.

    Some people just dislike managing their finances. I think they don't grasp the connection between their day to day life and the numbers in their checkbook.

    Your friend needs to wake up and get interested in her own finances. I wish her well.

  13. Matt @ My Financial Recovery // June 19, 2009 at 9:59 AM  

    My girlfriend and I both handle our own accounts. We have household bills split up in a manner that we both agree is fair and discuss any changes to the setup openly.

    When it comes to household expenses we discuss them all pretty openly and keep each other advised of where we are at throughout the month. Something as quick as: "I have X available in my checking, moved X to savings, bills are paid, what do we need?" Once a week or so gets us by.

    I have been in relationships before where it just did not work. Joint account with two funnels on it just was not sustainable. Right now we both agree that we need to manage ourselves first and keep in mind that we are managing for a family.

  14. Kathryn // June 20, 2009 at 8:38 AM  

    We are both aware of what's going on with our finances. We have a joint primary checking that everything goes into, and online bill pay takes care of 75% of the bills. We each handle making sure payments are made on our individual credit cards, and deciding when/how to fund retirement accounts. But we pretty much discuss everything, and we both have access to an overview of our financial status at a glance via (which even includes all our retirement and brokerage accounts). We were both in our mid-30s when we married and accustomed to handling our own finances. Not being aware of incomes and outgos seems nuts!

  15. J. Money // June 20, 2009 at 11:31 AM  

    dang, that sounds pretty crazy but i bet most couples out there are like that unfortunately...hopefully they're reading this blog :)

    i do all the finances @ our place, but the wifey has access to everything and we go over it at least once a month so everyone's on the same page...i'd update her on a weekly basis, but she doesn't enjoy money talk as much as I! haha...

  16. bingkee // June 20, 2009 at 5:33 PM  

    My husband manages the finances, but he cannot do it alone, so I assist. Since he is the sole breadwinner, he plans the expenses, but I am the adviser and consultant.

  17. RICKLEE // June 21, 2009 at 8:44 AM  

    People like credit cards because it masks the underlying financial condition and is the status symbol of the affluent.

    However, it has always impressed me more when a person pays in cash. It means they either are careful with their money, or they are highly liquid and both are preferred to flirting with debt.

  18. The Singlutionary // June 21, 2009 at 8:59 PM  

    I can't imagine not being aware of my finances. Not only is it dangerous in the case that something happens to the other person, but its just strange. I want to know how much money I have because otherwise how would I know what I can or can not afford?

  19. Tired of being broke // June 23, 2009 at 1:46 PM  

    She doesn't know how to access the bank account. That is super scary to me. What if he died suddenly or as incapitated some how?

  20. Fab Money & Life // July 12, 2009 at 12:50 PM  

    That is pretty insane. Hubby and I are extremely open about our finances and luckily we're on the same page about it all, so no big deal. I usually take care of certain credit cards and he'll take care of other ones, and joint stuff we've all got scheduled on auto pay. It's nothing formal, but we'll just make note of it if one of us paid or spent whatever amount of money on something, like "hey, I spent $200 on x today, but I have a check coming in for $500, etc etc" or something like that and it's totally fine.

    I have friends whose spouses have no idea what is going on with their joint finances and it scares me. Maybe some people are happier that way.