On Salon today, Eilene Zimmerman writes a cautionary tale about how letting her (now ex-) husband manage all the family finances blew up in her face when they got divorced. Despite the fact that she is a feminist, Zimmerman let her lawyer husband (who made almost all of the family’s money) make every big financial decision in their lives, from getting an IRA to purchasing a minivan. When she and her husband broke up, Eilene didn’t even realize her name wasn’t on the couple’s mortgage.
This just underscores how important it is for both halves of the couple to be fully aware of the family’s financial circumstances, no matter who is earning the money. Though in the past, men have been the ones to manage the shared pot, in my “Home Economics” series on this topic , I found that men are more likely to be ignorant of the family’s financial circumstances, leaving all the management and decision-making to their wives. One such spouse-whose doctor wife outearns him-joked to me, “My wife could be funneling money to the Contras for all I know.” That husband may find himself in the same situation as Zimmerman if anything happens to his wife.
Whether you’re keeping your money in separate accounts or joint ones, you should know how much money the family has as a whole, and if there’s a mortgage, make sure your name’s on it before you sign.