The topic of joint finances is one that’s a common one when it comes to money and relationships. Some strongly believe in the practice, some don’t, and others might fall somewhere in between on the issue. When two people have a different interpretation of what truly constitutes joint finances, it can be an emotional point of discussion.
A friend of mine was telling me about a situation he was having where he and his wife were disagreeing about the need for a kitchen remodel. She really wants a brand new kitchen for their house, while he doesn’t think it’s necessary and would rather keep that sum of money for savings. They generally tend to be on the same page with most things, but this issue has been a little bit different. Keep in mind that they have joint finances.
Now, by nature, he tends to be a saver who really doesn’t want to spend much money. He would rather save so that they could be financially free someday, and is quite passionate about it. She, on the other hand, is also financially responsible overall but is more likely to break down and spend on things if she gets the urge to do so. If there items she really wants, she won’t hesitate to buy them, even if they’re expensive wants and not needs. But for the most part, she’s responsible. Just not as driven to save and invest as he is.
So, while generally aligned on things in the big picture, their somewhat different views on savings and wants versus needs came into play with the kitchen remodel. There is one extra factor, however, that complicates things: she has independently earmarked part of her earnings for this remodel.
They both work, and do quite well for themselves. She has earned a nice bonus and has exercisable stock options, and wants to spend these earnings of hers on the kitchen remodel. The rationale: she earned the money, so she has the right to spend it on something she really, really wants.
Now, he isn’t too thrilled about this. As mentioned above, he doesn’t see this as a need. Furthermore, he thinks that joint finances should truly be joint. In other words, they both are partners with equal say in what goes on with their finances.
Again, they get along great and haven’t had any issues that I know of in terms of major purchasing decisions. It’s just that in this specific case, she wants something badly. She thinks that she’s worked hard to earn it, and as a working mother helps bring in a good salary otherwise, so she feels that she should be able to get this remodel done. Realistically, even if they spend this money, it won’t impact their financial situation in the big picture. They’re fine. He just thinks it’s a total waste, and wants equal input.
I asked him what would happen if he said that he tried to do something similar. In other words, claim that some of his earnings are earmarked for something he wants, while saying that since he earned it he has the right to get something he really desires individually. He just laughed and said he couldn’t imagine trying that and wouldn’t do that. It probably wouldn’t go over well, since he’s the husband and not a working mother.
What do I think? Well, I think that there needs to be balance in two ways. One, they need to decide how “joint” they truly want their finances. Two, whatever they do, they need to be consistent and apply rules equally to purchasing decisions, regardless of whether it’s the husband’s earnings or wife’s earnings. Maybe they can compromise and agree to a modest kitchen update, or delay it for a few years?
What Do You Think?
Whose position do you identify with more: the guy who doesn’t want to spend, or his wife who feels that as a working mother she should have the right to earmark hard earned money for something she really wants?
What suggestions would you have for them to come up with a direction that both would be happy with?