Does the Spouse Who Earns More Money Have More Say?

by TTMK on April 21, 2014 · 4 comments

financial power plays in marriageIn a business partnership, if one person has a greater share of ownership than the other, that person is the majority owner.  Own 51%, and you are the primary owner with more say in decision-making, all other things being equal.

Many people might say that marriage is, in effect, a business partnership.  Oh, I know that it’s actually MUCH more than that, and there are other aspects to marriage that are much more meaningful and important.  But in terms of money and financial decision-making, what impacts one person impacts the partnership.

So, should this be treated like an actual business? In other words, for purposes of financial decision-making, does one person have more say than the other?

First of all, how would one determine who has greater power to make decisions?  I’m sure there are many different ways this could come about.  Here are some examples:

  • The person who has a higher income
  • The one who has made more money since the start of the marriage
  • The partner who brought more money into the marriage
  • The person who knows the most about money
  • The one who has the most interest
  • The one who is the most able to persuade the other
  • The person who is more domineering

As you can see, there are a variety of ways that a couple can end up having one person being more “influential” with spending than the other.  Some are measurable, others are more behavioral in nature.

Regardless, I don’t think any of them make too much sense.  I’m sure that many people don’t agree, and actually do things differently.  Also, perhaps some folks might agree but in reality do things differently in practice.  I understand how that goes!

My way of looking at it is that two people form a partnership that is like a business, but not exactly a business.  How much one earns shouldn’t matter.  Everything should be shared equally!

For example:

Let’s say that a guy makes $75,000 per year, and his wife does not work.  It could go the opposite way of course, but I just picked one of the two options as an example.  Anyway, if they were single and not married, he would have $75,000 to work with, and she would be unemployed with no income.

When married, they jointly have $75,000 even if one person earns it all and the other doesn’t. Does that make the person earning more the primary decision maker just based on that alone?

In my idealistic view, I say no.  It seems to me like the spouse making zero income should still be an equal partner in decision-making.  Doing work at home, running more errands, and especially handling childcare – those are work.  Actually, even if none of that was happening, they’re still partners for better or worse!

This might extend to spending or “fun” money too.  If the guy gets $100 per month to go out with the guys, his wife should get similar considerations.

This might not be totally practical to measure it to the exact dollar, and nobody is suggesting that this needs to be done in that way.  Rather, just have a spirit of shared financial decision-making as partners, just like in the rest of the relationship.

Agree? Disagree?

I curious what you think of this topic

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle April 21, 2014 at 10:18 am

I think both spouses should have an equal say. I think if one spouse makes more and has more of a say, that you will eventually enter a disaster because it will lead to one person feeling like less of a person.

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TTMK April 23, 2014 at 9:03 pm

Michelle, that’s a great way to put it. Feeling like less of a person is not the way we want our spouse to be!

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Kasia April 21, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Equality is vital in a healthy marriage or relationship in all respects and that includes finances regardless of each spouses earning capacity. Each spouse should have their ‘play’ money that they do what they want with but any large purchases and expenses should be decided by both parties. The spending decisions of one partner will always have an impact on the other partner so communication and joint decision making are important.

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TTMK April 23, 2014 at 9:02 pm

Yes, people do need to feel equal and valued. Very important!

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