Who Handles the Money?

Feb 23, 2012 by

No, this isn't my wife. Who wears a scarf to balance the checkbook?

After my now wife and I had dated for a while, it became apparent that we exercised different levels of attention to managing our finances. At one point during our very first date she produced her checkbook from her purse and showed me the ledger. She wasn’t trying to wow me with her bank balance—a figure Sherlock Holmes would have required several days to deduce based on the ledger’s cryptic ciphers—but rather I suspect my clever future wife had decided this would be an effective way to rid herself of me without hurting my feelings.

It didn’t work. Much later, I nearly scared her off by suggesting that, should we “unify,” instead of she directly withdrawing money from our bank account, I would keep a stash of cash in the house and this could be her personal—and highly convenient, I argued—ATM.

I’m genetically meticulous about record-keeping, and the prospect of the inevitable lost ATM receipt caused me anxiety. Also, I always enjoyed playing the float with my checking account. I’d perfected a just-in-time system so that deposits were credited on the same day the bank processed a check I’d posted several days prior. I knew exactly how many days would pass before the check I mailed the cable company, for example, would hit my bank account. (Yes, I know, I’m dating myself here. Hopefully you recall, or at least are vaguely aware, from the time not just before smartphones but before the Internet, what a “check” is and that common practice was once to pay bills by sending said checks through the, gasp, postal mail.)

My then almost-fiancé mis-perceived this idea as an attempt on my part to control her, which she found alarming. So I dropped my very gratifying float-playing game and fastidious checking account management in favor of marital bliss.

In short, I’m numbers oriented, and my wife is not. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. (My wife talks easily with people, and I don’t. Not that there’s anything wrong with that either.) We’ve always openly acknowledged this fact, and so rather than splitting family money management duties based on some useless commitment to equality, I’ve always handled the money. I’m good at it and enjoy it and my wife doesn’t (though she’s very good at earning money). Why fight nature? We use personal finance software, and the family books are always open, so everything is transparent—no hidden accounts or investments, my wife sees and knows whatever she chooses to see and know.

How do things work in your household? The graphic below depicts the results of a survey of Americans on the topic of handling household finances. Interestingly, the answers sometimes depend on whom you ask. For example, 70% of women said they manage the household budget, but 54% of the men (in the same households) claimed credit for task! Who’s fooling whom?

CreditCards.com infographic: Who handles the budget? Both men, women say they do

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