Why is it still socially un-acceptable to discuss your personal financial security as a married woman?

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By: Jenifer CorrêaCC BY 2.0

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…)

Conversation A

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.

Conversation B

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.

Comments on Why is it still socially un-acceptable to discuss your personal financial security as a married woman?

  1. I wouldn’t bring separation into it (just saying what I would do, not that you shouldn’t have). Even if we were joint on everything from day one, our credit scores wouldn’t be identical so really it benefits both of us if he and I, separately, have the best possible credit score. That way down the road if mine happens to be better than his when we’re entering into a new loan (or whatever), putting me/my credit as the primary would get us better terms and we’d save more money in the long term with a lower interest rate.

    Now if I said I want good credit too and my concerns were completely dismissed along the lines of “Oh but you can use his credit, so why worry about it?” then I’d definitely get my dander up!

    • Yup, I had to sign on our first mortgage even though I have zero income, because my credit is consistently better than my husband’s due to a few problems caused by his parents accessing his accounts in college.

      With our new house, his credit had improved substantially due to the mortgage, but mine had improved proportionately which still meant it was worth including me on everything for better rates.

  2. Divorce isn’t the only scenario you are preparing for. Death is also a thing that can happen suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving someone less financially secure. My spouse spouse and I talk openly about this. (I’m clergy and he’s a medical professional, so we are both familiar with death) Is important to us that if one of us died the other would be able to pay bills, keep the house, send the kids to college, etc.

  3. Huh, I don’t really feel like there is a special stigma just against women for planning in case of a divorce. I suppose the name change thing can apply, but I didn’t change my name purely because I didn’t want to, not for ease in case of divorce, and I don’t mind being able to tell people I didn’t want to. I don’t see the need to point out that it would be easier in case of a divorce.

    Concerning the credit card thing… my husband actually uses my card, so I don’t really see how this is purely a female-spouse thing. I have heard of men who try to get a pre-nup and get looked at askance because of that. I guess I don’t argue that there is a stigma against preparing for divorce, but I don’t think it applies to only one gender or one half of the marriage.

  4. I know the advantage is skewed so that he doesn’t HAVE to make plans, but it would be interesting to hear the response that your spouse would get if he said something about how/if he has made provision in the case of divorce. If he was to make a public declaration of any preparation in case of a split, would he get the same “gosh don’t talk about that!” sort of response?

    Maybe the dismissive reply is so as not to cause offence, rather than dismissive of the need to plan for all eventualities. I would worry that a comment of “That’s wise” might be interpreted as “That’s necessary” and bring my belief in the relationship into question.

  5. My husband and I decided to keep separate accounts, and have an attached joint account so that we could both put in money for savings/mortgage/trips/etc, as well as transfer money easily with few charges. We both maintain separate credit cards, RRSP’s, TFSA’s etc. And very honestly a part of the reason we did that was because I saw what happened to my mom when my dad very suddenly passed away. She had no knowledge of finances, what bills to pay, how to pay them, etc. Within a year she was significantly in debt, constantly getting dings on her account for NSF cheques, etc. It’s been 13 years, and only now is she finally getting control of her finances.

    I decided in my early 20’s that I never wanted to be in a position where I was incapable of handling my own finances and being independent. You never know what may happen in the future, be it separation, divorce or death, and I think being prepared for any eventuality is important. People do think our financial situation is odd, which is fine by me. I don’t need to conform to convention because someone thinks our set up is odd, or that I’m preparing for the worst. It’s ok to be independent and in a relationship.

    • My hubby and I do this, too. He’s been married before, so it’s important to him that we each maintain a sense of independence, while we work together as partners towards common goals (family, house, shared lives, etc). So we have our own accounts and a joint account that we pay bills out of. Our paychecks go to our own accounts and we dump money into the joint account to pay bills. We both take part in the budget, planning, etc.

    • I’m terrified about what would happen to my husband if I die. I handle all the money, all the accounts, all the passwords. I try to tell him how I handle things and where I keep important papers, but I’m about 95% certain he doesn’t remember it for more than a week. I don’t want to die and leave him anyway, but knowing how unprepared he is for a life on his own makes it much scarier.

      • Write it down. Write it all down. Passwords, where the birth certificates are, what bills need to be paid and how, the name of your financial guy if you have one. Put it in the same place as your will (also, make a will) and your funeral plans or last wishes. Make sure key people know where these documents are and leave as specific instructions as you can. Having a plan set out will make you feel much better than just fearing what would happen. Hope this helps!

    • My husband and I do the same because we don’t appreciate each others’ way of handling money, and we avoid the topic for the most part. I’ve tried to convince him to start a retirement account and he’s tried to convince me to be a more avid “saver” in the simplest sense of the idea, but we have different financial priorities. This will become a greater issue at some point (we’re pretty newly married), and we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, but likewise I’m glad I don’t have to explain my choices to anyone. I buy what I fucking want and plan vacations on my own. Nontraditional? Yes, but I don’t believe your spouse need to be your “everything.” There are a lot of things I like to do, that he just doesn’t want in his life and that’s fine. I save for those things in private and make my own happiness (the “envelope method” is my favorite).

      Not saying men don’t need to have safety nets too, but I recently read an article about how women especially, should always have a “Fuck Off Fund.” Whether this is to leave an abusive spouse, or a boss who sexually harasses you at work, or something else to protect yourself (if you’re single, maybe it’s a simple cab ride out of a bad situation), it’s important to have your own stash in case you need to just take your sanity, a small suitcase, and leave.

      I grew up watching my aunt, who had no knowledge of her family finances, no knowledge of how to handle taxes, and relied on her husband for money (who was evading taxes in both their names) crash and burn when divorce happened. Her husband left her for a younger model and she then discovered they owed hundreds of thousands in back taxes. She had no savings of her own and no idea how to function financially on her own. She has struggled in so many ways ever since (for the last decade) and is not doing well. This is an extreme case, but it really ingrained the importance of financial independence in me. I’m currently debating whether to even file jointly or not, since my husband works for himself (will have to pay out lots of money) and I don’t (always get a nice refund). Since we don’t share money, I don’t think it would be beneficial for me. Lots of moving parts in this thing called marriage, and lots of questions I ask myself about the point of it when we don’t share everything, but I try to ignore social conditioning and just do what I feel. Eventually we’ll get an accountant and a marriage therapist to talk some of these things through, but it’s very hard with him and when communication is on the rocks, the last thing you want to do is dump your entire livelihood into one basket.

      We all come into this world alone and we all die alone, no matter how you romanticize things. And as the author alluded to, nobody is so special that they’re exempt from the possibility of becoming a statistic. I choose to pad my personal finances and hope for the best.

      • I feel like if I named my personal savings the “Fuck Off Fund,” I’d be more likely to contribute to it. I had a job that I needed out of BADLY but stayed because we didn’t have the money. I think that’s what I’m going to do when I finally get into a place to start saving money.

      • Owning a small business is one of the few valid reasons that I have heard for keeping finances separate and filing taxes separately. You may want to talk to an account NOW (before April of this year!) to make sure that the business and personal taxes are filed correctly and to make sure that the business end is done correctly and that your (and his) personal finances are not in jeopardy if something happens with the business. Properly filing taxes is not something to be put off for some unknown future time! The rest of the stuff can wait.

    • Hubby and I have our own accounts as well as one joint too. We talked a lot about whether we would combine everything when we got married. Sometimes it’s tempting for the sake of ease. But I watched my (divorced) parents fight about money for most of my life, so there’s a nagging thing in the back of my mind about it. And being the daughter of an incredibly financially savvy woman, this apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

      Hubby and I also spend or save our money differently. Separate accounts help make that ok! We each have our own money, so there’s no worry about approval from spouse for purchases. As long as the rent is paid, we can each do what we will with the leftovers.

  6. I’ve never really thought of financial separation in terms of relationship separation. We have a joint account for bills but keep everything else separate because it would be more inconvenient to combine it. Having to change the various direct debits (I know it’s meant to be automatic, but does anyone believe it?), changing details with our employers, risking both of us losing access to all of our money if the account was compromised… The joint account means we are linked financially, and our credit scores affect each other, but the same is true of any group of housemates who get a joint account to pay bills out of. In the UK, at least, it’s relatively easy to detach your credit score from someone else’s when appropriate. Complete financial entanglement seems, to me, to hark back to an era when people were more likely to marry before they’d developed separate financial identifies, though it’s more common than I ever expect it to be (the industry I work in means I see a lot of people’s financial problems).

    One thing I’m more willing to discuss than he is is legally protecting the deposit we’re putting on a house together, because he’s putting more money in than I am and I want him to be able to take that share back, if things go wrong. He laughs it off because he can’t imagine us splitting; I worry that if we ever did it would be a deeply acrimonious thing because neither of us can imagine it, really, which means the situations in which it might occur are likely to be bitter ones.

  7. I’m not convinced that this is a gender issue. If I said to my wife something along the lines of “I need to maintain a financial plan in the event that we divorce,” she’d be appalled, and rightfully so. It’s actively planning for a divorce.

    We do these things even though no one’s planning on getting in a car wreck or contracting a debilitating disease.

    I don’t think this is a sound analogy. Divorce doesn’t just happen to a couple, but only when one or both parties decides to violate their marital vows. It’s something that can be controlled, unlike a drunk driver or an illness.

  8. I hear you. I think separation/divorce is a reasonable consideration as a risk, and it doesn’t mean that you want or expect them to happen. I also think it’s mature to consider your personal responsibilities and security, not just assuming someone will always be there to take care of you, if that is the current situation. And being expected to be a passenger in another person’s life feels dehumanizing.

    A lot of practical and reasonable ideas are considered inappropriate socially. I think it’s shortsighted not to be honest, just because it makes someone uncomfortable, but that’s what a lot of people prefer.

    Maybe it’s possible to bridge the gap, by recognizing people’s conditioning and spelling out a new way of looking at the situation- either by prefacing statements like this, or being willing to follow up with reassurances if they are needed (Especially, with someone you really care about, like your spouse). Social norms can be unfair, but I think the good at the heart of them is trying to protect people who are emotionally sensitive. It doesn’t mean their views are objectively correct, but feelings are feelings. You can ask people to reconsider their logic, but feelings need to be acknowledged and accepted before views can be adjusted. Some people will be unwilling to adjust, and that’s on them, but some people just need a little help understanding a perspective they haven’t realized before. I’m not saying it’s your responsibility to teach everyone how to fricken think, but it is practical to recognize that we all have to start with what we have, even if it’s not our ideal.

  9. I would disagree that it’s only married women for whom it is taboo to talk about financial plans for after divorce. It’s also married men–you make a social, public commitment to each other, of course the public is going to hold you accountable when you talk about breaking the commitment. Men get the same flack for squirreling away money or casually dating while married–all “insurance policies” for if the main relationship doesn’t work out, and all the same taboo. Sure, women are given more opportunities to talk about it based on the scenarios you described, but you don’t have to talk about it.

    This is going to be a negative comment, and I’m trying to keep this as drama-free and constructive as possible…but I think you need to reframe your interpretation of these situations. I think you feel slighted because of how you’re reacting, and I honestly think these people are responding reasonably to both situations.

    –“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.”–

    It is not the easiest route. The easiest route would be to change your name to conform to societal expectations, or not get married at all. Consider articulating your reasons, because, as your relatives stated, it’s still uncommon for a woman to keep her maiden name after marriage so of course they would question it. You took the hard route by not changing your name, and giving an answer that was not entirely genuine might have set you up to feel slighted. If you articulate your real reasons, maybe they won’t draw assumptions.

    –“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.”–

    Again, this is not the easiest route. You’re using your husband’s credit card, of course you’re building his credit and not yours. Should you use your own, you’d build your own credit. Should he be an authorized user on yours, he’d be building your credit. People don’t assume that the woman using the husband’s card should be building her own credit, because it’s not her card. I don’t think it has anything to do with being a woman or how taboo it is to plan for financial security after divorce, because people assume the same thing about kids who are using the parents’ cards, or men who are using the wives’ cards. The inquiry is not necessarily pointing out the taboo of planning for after divorce, but rather a reflection of how against the norm it is for someone using someone else’s credit card to expect to build his or her own credit score. In fact, this is the first I’ve heard of that. So of course your husband would ask, why would it matter? It’s not a normal thing that would matter. If it matters, the easiest route would be to use your own credit card, not his.

    When we reframe, we stop being victims of societal norms. Yes, it is taboo to plan for divorce while still married–I’ll give you that. But I don’t think that feeling slighted was necessarily unavoidable in the above mentioned situations.

    • To be fair, the question of whether it is “easier” to change one’s last name or keep their maiden name really depends on how you define “easy”.

      Changing your name might be easier in the sense that you don’t have to explain your choices. On the other hand, keeping your maiden name is easier in the sense that you don’t have to file gobs and gobs of paperwork to change your legal name with multiple government agencies, companies you pay bills to, etc.

      This is assuming that you’re speaking from the perspective of an American (I realize I don’t actually know if that’s the case), but believe me it would have been much, much easier for me to keep my maiden name because of the paperwork.

      • This is what I was thinking too. I’m in the UK which, in this case, is very similar to the USA culturally. Legally the default is that women keep their name when they marry (so nothing changes automatically), socially the expectation is that you’ll change it and in reality people do both (or combine them or change it completely or whatever else) for a whole variety of reasons.

        I decided to change my name and the paperwork was an absolute pain, but it varied hugely between places. My bank was amazing: I went in with a heap of wedding gift checks – some in my old name, some in my new name, some with both our names (we didn’t have a joint account at the time) and the wedding certificate and they sorted it all out in about 20 minutes, which only involved filling in 1 short form.

        By contrast Paypal was a nightmare. Just finding the option was hard enough, then they wanted me to send off my wedding certificate and a bunch of other documents, all original and all sent at my own risk with no guarantee I’d get them back or be able to trace them if they were lost along the way. In the end it proved easier to close the account completely and open another one in my new name.

        Almost 5 years later I’m still finding things I’ve not updated yet, although I’m mostly down to lower priority things like shop loyalty cards.

        • paypal and other online accounts are such a pain! I still can’t get paypal to accept my new name or address (for 3 years!) no matter how many times I try to change it. Maybe starting a new account and relinking everything would be easier at this point. I also still get mail from companies that I have changed my name and it still says my old name… where do they get this data?!?

    • I think that the author took the easy way out, in some respects, with the extended family in saying that it was easier to keep her last name, rather than just admitting her real reasoning. Also, it’s not really fair to blame others when he was not standing up for the real reasons or stating the true facts. Also, she is interpreting it as being a feminist issue after the fact, when that may not really be the case in these listed situations.

  10. I think the difference between discussions around death/disability vs divorce is that death and illness are seen as things that happen to you and are out of your control, while divorce is viewed as a choice. This perception isn’t entirely accurate, since only one person has to choose the divorce, but the perception continues. So.. the perception may be that you have either considered choosing divorce for yourself or fear that your spouse would make that choice, perhaps indicating a lack of trust. Either possibility suggests to the person who holds these views that there could be trouble in your marriage and surprise that you are discussing it openly. I think this is also the reason for the stigma of prenups and assets that are kept separate. Many people think doing those things means that the couple is not fully committed from the start – a bad omen if you will. I think an earlier comment is correct that the response would likely be the same if your husband had said it. I’m not saying I agree with this view, but I understand how it persists.

    As to citing possible divorce for a reason not to change your name, the same perceptions exist. If you feel the need to give a reason, career recognition should be sufficient.

    All that said, credit companies often want a single owner with added signers so that in the event of a divorce, they know who is authorized to make changes to the account. This can cause problems for your credit rating if only your spouse “owns” all the accounts. We’ve solved the problem with having each of us as the primary account holder for different accounts, including utilities and medical providers, which also affect your credit. Also where I live, car titles & registration can have either spouse listed first. So, as a married woman, there are several ways to build & protect your credit, even if you don’t want to keep everything completely separate.

    • To your last comment about credit companies… how many times do I have to ‘give access’ to my husband or vise versa to discuss medical information or financial accounts to these companies before they actually allow us to talk about the other person’s account, billing, history, etc?? I don’t even know anymore how many times I’ve had him authorize me or vise versa, filled out their formed, signed off on it, etc. And, every. time. I call, they still won’t let me talk to them about the account or his information. I get so worried that in the event of death or a tragic accident, one of us would not be able to talk to these companies or handle things or get the finances figured out because the other person is not able to ‘authorize’ it on the spot! I have resorted to ‘forcefully talking’ to customer service people (which I hate having to do) and telling that that yes, I am authorized, yes, we have filled out the forms, and yes, I do need to talk to you about this information. I have heard this is becoming a major issue in the even of a sudden death of relatives and trying to have another person handle everything after the fact.

      • I have been trying since November to get my health insurance company to talk with me about my husband’s claims. We have filled out and sent the form in twice, he has verbally given them permission to speak with me, and apparently there are still more hoops we have to jump through. As the policy holder this just pisses me off to no end. It’s my insurance, I’m the one paying for it, for all intents and purposes he is my dependent as far as the insurance goes, but I don’t have the right to check in on his claims. Ugghhh!

      • You are so right, it is terribly frustrating when I can’t take care of everything myself because I’m not the owner of an account. My husband works longer hours, so it would be easier if I could just handle everything. Usually, for accounts that he owns, I write letters and give them to him to sign. It takes longer, but gets the job done. If I knew of a way to get the companies to change their policies, believe me, I would be on it!

        As for the issue of sudden death, when my mother died, taking care of her estate was easier than I had expected. I spent about $150 to consult with an attorney who told me exactly what to do. There wasn’t enough in the estate to make it worth the cost to hire him to handle it. However, he was willing to to tell me how to handle it myself. His instructions were clear and I would have wasted a lot of time trying to figure it all out on my own. I am sure things have changed since my mother passed more than 10 years ago, and she had a very “small estate”, but I was able to handle most of it within a few weeks. Talking to an attorney for an hour saved me a lot of time and hassle. I highly recommend it.

  11. I don’t think it’d help the situation but I also don’t think bringing up divorce is the sole reason for these reactions. I’m in a similar situation for different reasons – my husband and I have separate bank accounts, which our wages go into, and a shared account which is exclusively for bills and other household expenses, all the rest of the money is ours to do what we wish with.

    And I’ve had similar reactions when I’ve told people about it. They assume I don’t trust him or he doesn’t trust me, and it’s all part of a long-term scheme to be able to get out of the marriage, which in turn implies that I’m expecting something to happen.

    In reality it’s just that we both find this system less hassle because it keeps the money clearly delineated and it makes spending it simpler.

    (I tried asking my husband what kind of reactions he gets, for comparison, but his reaction was “Why would I tell anyone? It’s none of their business.” so I can’t really make a comparison.)

  12. Even without ever taking possible divorce or separation into consideration, what about your credit as a married couple? My husband and I recently purchased our first house. BOTH of our credit scores, financial status, and employment history were taken into account, not just his. I needed to have my financial house in order just as much as he did if we expected to get a loan approved.

    Even if you stay together for the rest of your lives, you need to understand that bad things can happen unexpectedly. I think one of the worst things a person can do–but especially a woman–is to be financially unprepared for a curveball. It’s smart to think about it, married or not.

  13. Yes, Yes, Yes! I so agree with this. Any time we’ve gotten into a conversation about finances people seem horrified that we kept 90% of our finances separate after getting married. We have a joint bank account that we opened when we were planning the wedding and that’s where all our monetary wedding gifts, joint tax return, and agreed upon monthly contributions go. It’s now our “saving to buy a house” fund. But the majority of each of our pay goes into our own separate accounts. I do not have access to his and he does not have access to mine. Joint bills (rent, utilities, car insurance) are paid out of my account and then my husband pays me for his share in cash which I use as my spending money.
    My philosophy is that I work hard for my money and he works hard for his. I don’t feel I have any right to what he earns and vice versa. I also don’t feel it’s either of our responsibility to pay money towards items that are separate like our car payments, cell phone bills, or personal luxury items. I would be PISSED if I found out my husband spent my money at the $5 movie bin, and I would expect him to be just as upset if I used his money to get a massage at a spa.
    A lot of people, my mother included, completely disagree with me and say that as soon as I got married it ceased to be “my” money and became “our” money. I just don’t feel that way about it at all. Perhaps I’ll change my mind at some point in the future but as of right now our system works for us and we’re keeping it.
    We have never openly mentioned keeping things separate as a good way to simplify things in the event of separation or divorce, but we both know it is. Obviously right now we can’t imagine that happening to it but I don’t think anyone who has ever gotten divorced imagined that it would happen to them either. I think the point about insurance is a great one! No one intends to get in a car accident but we have car insurance. No one intends to get ill but we have health insurance. Because shit happens and I would rather be prepared than blindsided.

  14. This has been on my mind a lot lately because my husband and I have been combining accounts and I’ve been making major financial decisions regarding his debt. I came into our marriage in a better financial place then he did and now I’m face with choices where once decision is better for us as a couple, but the other is better for me as an individual. I’ve been having to figure out how to protect myself without seeming like I’m betting against us, and yes I have been blunt about it. I even told his mom I was concerned because what if we divorced and she said “oh, I don’t think that’s likely.” Well, I think very few people think it’s likely they will get divorced, but many people do! Thanks for writing this, it speaks a lot to where I am right now.

  15. Reading replies, it occurred to me that if a divorce occurs, it’s not necessarily *legally* up to the individuals to decide whether they keep the money in their individual accounts because in the eyes of the law – without a prenup – the money is shared (for instance my girlfriend had to pay alimony to her deadbeat ex husband when she divorced him because he was used to a certain lifestyle she provided), so really, I don’t think keeping separate accounts is any kind of insurance in the event of a “messy” divorce, but it certainly creates some potentially useful lines in the sand. I’ll reiterate that I’m a fan of the “envelope method” (i.e I lock up various stashes of cash in envelopes in my desk at work). This could be particularly useful for someone who *does* foresee separation but is not prepared to make it happen yet (an abused spouse for example). Not why I do it – I just operate better with cash because I can see it, but something to think about when we discuss financial “security” and divorce. (I could be off on my understanding of the law, btw – just speaking from what I’ve seen.)

    • Depends on the county and state about ‘marital property’ in situations of divorce. We found out, from a lawyer relative, that our state operates as a 50/50 marital property state. Therefore, everything that we bought/own as a married couple is considered ‘marital property’ and would be subject to being divided 50/50 between each individual. The main exception is if you have a pre-nup or if you have kept certain assets 100% separated throughout the entirety of the marriage. And, those things would still need to be negotiated into a divorce agreement. After receiving that knowledge, it just made sense for us to combine everything for ease of use at this current time, and we could sort it out if it came to a divorce (hopefully not!).

  16. Conversation A is my life! I hate when I have to put the weight of the blame on “oh it’s so much work, and I just didn’t get around to it., it’s easier for people to find me this way..” blah blah when the fact of the matter is I like my name. It’s MY name, that I’ve had every second of my life and I don’t want to take on someone else’s name just because people think I should.

    The financial thing hasn’t been as big of an issue as we never really considered combining them. We have separate accounts & credit cards, and a joint savings (although we each have our own separate savings too).

    • Just today conversation A happened to me at my pharmacy. It’s a small town pharmacy and they’ve known me since I was a kid. They knew I got married in the fall and today when I went in for my prescription they asked “So, are we changing your name, or not yet?” I said “Nope, decided to stick with my own name.” It’s weird how even though that’s all I needed to say I felt like I should’ve kept talking, like I needed to justify my choice.
      Still getting used to NOT apologizing for it!

    • I don’t understand why people can’t just say it like it is: “the fact of the matter is I like my name. It’s MY name, and I don’t want to take on someone else’s name just because we got married.” End of story/discussion!

      • Exactly! I doubt anyone chooses to keep their name simply in case of divorce. Yes, it might make things easier in that case, but that’s usually not the actual reason, so why even bring that up?

    • You can try what I told my future mother in law when she asked me for the 13th time if I was changing my name. “No, but I told FutureHusband he was welcome to take mine.”

      That ends the conversation pretty quick. 🙂

  17. Money is so tricky, especially when there is an imbalance. I make probably 4 times what my husband makes. I’m not rich at all- he just makes crappy money. We don’t even have a joint account, although we should probably make one. I handle almost all of the bills. I don’t care that more of the money for them is my money, but one of the reasons I’d like a joint account is that he could deal with paying them and it would make my life easier logistically. And it is my money. I know that sounds terrible, but it is true. I work full time, and I use “my” money to pay for things for both of us, like rent, and car insurance- so “my” money is still benefiting my husband. But just as I will never change my name, even when we get a joint account, I will never put all of my money in that account.

    • I don’t think that sounds terrible at all! It is YOUR money. You go to work and you earn it and it’s yours.
      We’re in a similar situation as far as me making far more than my husband.
      He lives paycheck to paycheck whereas I have a nice cushion to fall back on should something come up (like recent car repairs totaling $610!) If we combined all of our funds I know that my savings would slowly get sucked away and I’m not willing to let that happen. I work too hard for that.

      • But, it’s not like you aren’t going to help him out if ‘his’ car breaks down and he can’t get to work and has no money in his savings… so why not just combine and stop pretending that it’s only ‘your’ money to do what you want with? Or just combine the money and you are the one who controls it because you are better with financial responsibility and decisions?

        • Actually, it is like that. I’ll use the example you did of the car because it recently happened to me. My car needed $610 worth of work. I was able to cover it no problem because of my savings. If the same happened to my husband he would not have enough to cover it and would end up using his credit card. I would not expect my husband to bail me out if I hadn’t been able to cover the bill and I would not be expected to bail him out if the situation were reversed. I really feel like combining everything would cause trouble. As it stands now our system works for us and we’re keeping it.

        • I experienced this situation today, so I’d like to chime in. My husband is, similarly, a poor financial planner. His savings account has roughly the same sum as it did three years ago. His car finally broke down today, and I’ll have to float half the cost of the replacement, since he simply doesn’t have the money.

          So why not just combine accounts? Because it wouldn’t help anyone if he had direct access to my savings. He would be tempted to borrow from it every time making the bills was tight.

          Also, as someone up the thread said, it’s dehumanizing to simply be a holder on someone else’s accounts. I work hard, and I make less than he does (although we split up the bills in proportion to income), and I want to know my own accomplishments. I saved $10,000 from my convenience store paychecks. I took the bus everywhere until I could afford to buy my own car with cash. I paid my own student teaching tuition. And yes, I will help out my husband, just like he helped me out four years ago when I had a period of unemployment. But I will do so with a lump sum. Combining finances would make us both worse off.

          • Here here! You very eloquently described what I was attempting to convey.
            In our situation my husband is the one who makes less and I know that if we combined all our finances it would put us both in a bad position because the savings that I’ve so carefully stored up would start to be dipped into whenever he found himself in a tight spot. Combining would not benefit either of us in the long wrong.

          • My husband and I make the same amount of money for the most part, but I’m terrible at saving properly (not very mature – I’m working on it), and he has a large savings that allows both of us some important flexibility when the shit hits the fan. I already take advantage of that to some degree, by relying on his safety net on occasion (like when we had to move unexpectedly) and I think it’s good that we keep our accounts separate.

            If, to use the example above, I needed some major work on my car, he would lend the money to me and I would pay him back. I think that’s much fairer than if I just relied on him completely and accepted his money as my own. It would be gone pretty fast, in reality. I have a very lax relationship with money that I’m not proud of.

            Neither of us would like knowing our efforts to be frugal were being chipped away at by the other’s lack of preparedness though. I don’t think a marriage has to mean ultimately picking up the other person’s slack and eating their expenses. I think it’s more about keeping each other out of trouble when you can, but in the end, pulling your own weight.

            Initially, it bugged me that we keep count of shared expenses, and he keeps track of what I owe him, because I was raised to make money a “non-issue” whenever possible. He is actually the first person I ever borrowed money from because I was taught “never a borrower nor a lender be” and if I “lent” money to a friend, I’d actually just *give* it away and expect nothing back. It’s how I’ve lived and has always felt very gracious, but in all fairness, paying someone back is a good thing and now that I am borrowing from my husband, I see why he really should hold me accountable. It’s too easy to just say “but you’re my husband and what’s yours is mine.” That would leave him footing a lot of bills and certainly create resentment.

    • reason #1 why we finally combined all of our accounts after about 3-6 months or marriage: “but one of the reasons I’d like a joint account is that he could deal with paying them and it would make my life easier logistically”

  18. Eh, for scenario ‘B’, you’re ascribing gender issues where they really shouldn’t be.

    ANYONE can be an authorized user on someone else’s account, so making it a marriage or feminist issue doesn’t make sense. In theory, your husband could still keep you as a user on his cards after you divorce (and vice versa). You’re not automatically dropped off the account.

    I think less about divorce, and more about ‘what if you die first’.

  19. Honestly, I’d be just as shocked and a bit appalled if one of my guy friends said that he was arranging things in such-and-thus fashion in case of divorce or separation. But then again, I’m a huge believer that one does not say “divorce” or “separation” in the context of one’s marriage unless it is time to seriously consider it, because that is the nuclear-fucking-option. It might be less shocking if you were to phrase it as “hit by a truck” or “suddenly unemployed” rather than “I really don’t know that this relationship will work out in the long term.”

    That being said. I kept my name (just because I really like it, the way my initials look, and its heritage). My husband and I have our own accounts and our own credit cards. There just never seemed to be any reason for us to enmesh are personal finances like that.

    • But then again, I’m a huge believer that one does not say “divorce” or “separation” in the context of one’s marriage unless it is time to seriously consider it, because that is the nuclear-fucking-option. It might be less shocking if you were to phrase it as “hit by a truck” or “suddenly unemployed” rather than “I really don’t know that this relationship will work out in the long term.”

      You have phrased this very well.

  20. No one has mentioned Estate Planning. As the daughter of a estate attorney, divorce is not always separation. I know he’s overseen the legal divorce of a few committed relationships because it was the best way for them to preserve their assists in the case of bankruptcy or a law suit. But if you’re about to legally trash one partners credit and get a divorce to preserve the other’s, they better have credit to preserve. Marriage is a great statement of love and commitment. For most couples, it is also a legal contract. A legal divorce is sometimes used to address issues with the latter that do not affect the former and while no one wants to plan for a lawsuit or bankruptcy, it falls into the car accident clause. Sometimes these things happen.

  21. It seems the shock comes from the lack of tact in these discussions.

    Keeping your last name IS simple for all the other reasons you stated. Why bring up divorce?

    Me having good personal credit makes sense to my husband, and it has nothing to do with divorce – he sees the value in me taking care of business without him by my side when applicable.

    I see what you mean, and I believe discussing a pre-nup would fall more into this category, as opposed to the examples given, as it is literally in the case of divorce. Pre-nups are mature and necessary to discuss, but can be uncomfortable, especially if there is a lack of tact in the discussion.

    • Pre-nups seem to be a controversial subject no matter what the situation is.

      For an extreme, completely fictional, example I was once in a comic shop discussing what would happen if Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle got married. For the non-comic fans those two are better known as Batman and Catwoman (and have an on-going love/hate relationship), or in other words we were talking about a billionaire with his own company and a lot of interesting toys in the basement marrying a professional thief.

      So of course my first comment was “he had better have one hell of a pre-nup”.

      Apparently this was the wrong thing to say. It’s “not romantic” and supposedly proves you don’t trust them, are not really committed to the relationship and probably shouldn’t be getting married at all. Even if you’re actually doing it to protect assets which are not exclusively yours but which you have control over (my other example was musicians with shared ownership of things like their band name and songs).

      Admittedly in the example above I’d argue that a lot of the above is absolutely true – if every time you meet someone there’s a 50/50 chance you’ll be beating the hell out of each other then you probably are not going to make a good couple and should reconsider the situation before you commit to anything, legally or emotionally.

      But I was still surprised by the strength of the reaction I got.

      • I’m always surprised by how people react to the idea of a pre-nup. It definitely isn’t romantic but marriage isn’t all roses, wine, and sunsets on a beach. It’s hard work and sometimes it just doesn’t work out.
        Example, I know of a couple who got married and before marriage the one partner had bought up a lot of properties and turned them into rental units. I think he owned somewhere in the neighborhood of nine buildings with a total of about twenty five rental units. He also had a siding business. When they ended up getting divorced he had to either buy his wife out or sell the buildings and split the proceeds with her. He couldn’t afford to buy her out so he ended up having to sell all the buildings that he had spent years running. In that situation I think a pre-nup would have been completely appropriate.

  22. So much yes to all of this! I also kept my last name, and for the most part I control the finances. I have also been chastised and made to feel guilty for acknowledging that divorce exists. Perhaps if women weren’t fed this fairytale that marriage would solve all their problems and they would live happily ever after forever, and encouraged to approach marriage as they would any other real life challenge, then the divorce rate wouldn’t be so damn high in the first place. I don’t think you should leave talk of separation or divorce out of the conversation, because they are real issues, and pretending like they could never happen to you, won’t change that.

  23. Regardless of the OP’s reasons for keeping her own financial security, many cultures treat women differently in a divorce. Something I wasn’t aware of until recently, but different cultures treat women separately for the issue of divorce, especially if the wife requests the divorce. For example, in Islam, a woman can request a khula, a legal divorce from her husband where she gives up certain financial rights and may have to repay her dower to her husband. As far as I’m aware, this is a right only given to women seeking a divorce.

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