I’ve had two conversations in the past couple months that have set off a bit of a lightbulb in my brain.
It still isn’t socially acceptable to discuss your personal financial security as a married woman. I will tell you why that’s not cool. (Beware of gendered language ahead…)
I was sitting with three men, one of whom is my legal spouse. The other two were relatives of roughly the same age as us. I recounted a story where a woman gave me some verbal side-eye about not changing my last name, and I expected all four of us to have a good chuckle. “Why does anyone care, right?”
“Well, it’s still less common for the woman to keep her last name,” one of the relatives said.
Setting aside minor things like the impact it would have had on my career, and the fact that I like my damn last name, I responded with, “It was literally the easiest route. It took less work to keep my name, and oh hey, it’s one less massive headache in the case of divorce.”
Cue the mock gasps. I expected them, but I wished I didn’t have to.
A routine update to a credit card I share with my husband was a mild hassle because I was listed as an authorized user, rather than a joint user. After some research, I came to the realization that an authorized user may not be growing their individual credit, whereas the primary user or a joint user would be.
I mentioned to my husband that we should probably do something about that.
“What’s the difference?” he asked.
“I may not be able to use it in my credit history if we separated.” I tried not to put it like that, I really did, but I couldn’t think of any other way to say it. And because he’s intelligent and appreciates financial responsibility, he agreed that was a good thing. But not after a, “tsk, all this separation talk.”
Which made me realize…
A woman’s own financial security and independence is still a taboo topic while she is married
Why is this?
Couples who have combined their finances often save emergency funds. Often we have disability insurance. We do these things even though no one’s planning on getting in a car wreck or contracting a debilitating disease. But we plan for it nonetheless, and we talk about it, and no one’s clutching their pearls and saying, “They must have a death wish.”
But a married woman preparing for personal financial security carries a special stigma. You said “divorce,” therefore you must not truly love your spouse. You said “separation,” you must be planning on leaving. I can’t believe you had that in the back of your mind all along, how dare you.
Some might argue that I am comparing apples to oranges. A car wreck does not equal a divorce. Okay. You can be just as caught off guard by both.
The divorce rate is common knowledge. How is it financially irresponsible to keep it in mind? In both the case of the last name and the credit card authorization, my husband has as much ownership as he would have in the case of our separation. His independence, in his identity and his finances, is the default both inside and outside of marriage. No one is fretting that he is “planning” for divorce, yet he is better prepared all the same.
It’s true that I’m privileged to be able to legally make the same preparations for myself. I’d like the additional privilege of being able to do so without the one-sided stigma.