Thursday, August 24, 2017

Musings on a theme

I've been thinking, recently.  (Dangerous, I know.  Bear with me.)

There are certain markers that there will be strife in a relationship.  Lack of communication.  Differences in money-handling styles.  Filing taxes as "married, filing separately."  Not maintaining a joint checking account. 

Most of this has in common a "you and me" (or just "me me me") attitude, instead of a "we" attitude.  Thinking of the family unit as individuals, rather than as a team. 

Notice that most of this is about money?  That's because it's one of the top marriage breakers (just after infidelity). 

If you think "my money" and "his/her money," instead of "household money," you're setting yourself up for resentment, anger, disappointment, guilt (which leads to the rest), and a whole host of other negative emotions that will wind up focused on your spouse. 

Odysseus had a finances professor in college that said that married people filing separately are both being stupid, and heading for divorce.  Stupid, because that's when, where, and how you get hammered with nowhere near as many deductions.  Often, couples filing taxes separately wind up paying in when couples making the same income but filing jointly get back as much as they paid in, if not more.

I can think of one case where it didn't work like that, but that case was a massive clusterfuck, start to finish, and was completely caused by the non-military spouse spending a massive chunk of money that landed in the family accounts by mistake, instead of setting it aside to hand back when the military demanded it back.  In that case, filing separately got them a small tax rebate (which would have paid back about half the debt that was incurred before penalties were inflicted).  Filing jointly would have gotten the entire rebate garnished, with a lot of debt left to pay.

That is, also, the only time I can think of in recent experience where a joint account was a mistake.  Most of the time, the joint account is the best way to handle a family budget with two incomes. Imagine, if you will, a household where you have a blended family.  Dad takes care of most of the bills.  Mom takes care of one or two, but it's not a lot.  There's no joint account, and the bills are all in Dad's name. 

Dad wants to free up some money for a project he wants to do.  All of his income is being taken up, and not much of Mom's is going toward bills.  So Dad asks Mom to pull a bit more of her and her kids' (not all his, by any means) weight by paying some.  But there's no joint account, and the bills are in his name.  Makes sense to him to ask for the money to pay the bills. 

Mom doesn't see it that way.  She screams and cries every time she hands over cash to pay the bills she's been asked to carry.  Call it about a quarter of the monthly budget.  But it's her money, and he's taking it. 

This situation is untenable.  It is going to break. 

Now, if there'd been a joint account set up, things would have been simplified.  Odysseus and I have a joint account.  He has a separate debit account, too, but there's that joint account.  His name is on most of the bills (I have one, just so I can show a utility bill for voting registration purposes).  I am in charge of day to day month to month budgeting and bill paying.  That joint account makes it easy, since my name and his are on the checks. 

If the previous hypothetical situation had included a joint account, with Mom having the responsibility to pay the bills out of it from "her" money and the money Dad deposited from his checks, Mom might not have freaked out.  

Marriage counselors would privately think that the lack of a joint account indicated a lack of trust.  They may or may not say such.  Mom may not trust Dad to deposit the money needed for bills, or Dad might not trust Mom not to clean him out. 

Point of fact, the whole issue revolves around a lack of trust that the other has the family's best interests in mind.  On both parts. 

Like I said.  Odysseus and I have a joint account that both our checks go into without discussion.  Then again, we also discuss money decisions.  I don't discuss the grocery budget with him, because I'm the food purchaser, I'm a miser, and we shop together often enough he's got a good idea of what spending in general is.  No, what we discuss are things that cost more than about fifty bucks.  And we decide together whether the budget can absorb it, if it's something new, or timing on when we can do something that we've been discussing.  Yes, I have the checkbook.  I have the online banking passwords.  I watch the budget, and I do the day to day stuff.  I'm better at details, and making sure stuff gets done on time.  Odysseus is better at long-term planning, and knowing how much we have to save in small increments for how long to do what we want to do. 

It seems, sometimes, like we are unique in this.  I don't think we have any friends locally who do this. 

I don't think we have any local friends whose marriages lasted longer than about ten years, either.

Go figure.

2 comments:

  1. Slow and steady wins on the investments. And it's obvious y'all have a level of trust that works! :-)

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    1. We spent three years between his college graduation and mine three hours' driving apart. And I don't drive. Trust and partnership--and clear communication--carried us. We've been married for thirteen years, and together for nineteen.

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