When I was a kid, I overheard my aunt telling my mom her stomach churned every time she asked my uncle for money. As a stay at home mom in the 1970s, she didn’t have her own money, and back then it wasn’t as simple as getting her own credit card. So before bedtime, she would tell my uncle she needed $20 for groceries the next day.
Luckily, my uncle never said no, and she would find what she asked for on the kitchen table the next morning, generally with a little extra, saving her the humiliation of being handed the money patronizingly. And she was able to save a little here and there to buy her things.
Can you imagine having to ask for permission every time you need tampons or new underwear? How about buying your husband a birthday gift, with his own money?
Witnessing that conversation was one of my defining money moments. I swore to myself I would never have to go through that.
I took it so seriously I never allowed a man to use money as a power tool. When I date someone, we go 50-50. I have bought property and started a business with a boyfriend, 50-50. I hate keeping track of every cent I spend, so usually we keep a rough tally, and maybe it is 47-53, or when it came to sharing a house and a business, we would put the same amount into a joint account, and then add some more when needed. Still, I am happy as I put my fair share into the relationship.
When I travel with my partner, sometimes we exchange local currency, and he keeps it. I get annoyed having to ask for cash to go buy something, even if I am entitled to 50% of it. I am aware my ways are a bit extreme. I even have a hard time receiving a gift that obviously cost much more than the gift I gave. But if I didn’t have my own money, I wouldn’t feel comfortable being entirely dependent on a man, like a child.
Some couples work well on having the biggest earner pay the bigger share of the bills. My business partner was worth about 10 times more than I was when we bought the house. Should I have put 10% of the purchase price, while he would fork out 90%? For some reason, I wouldn’t feel at home. Which is funny, because when we broke up and I bought his half of the house, he said he wouldn’t be at ease sleeping there if we made up, since I was now the owner. I guess we were a good financial match!
The only relationship that was uneven was when I dated a broke student. He would pay half of the day-to-day expenses, but if I wanted to go somewhere nice on holidays, he would pay half of a basic hotel, and I would cover the rest. I didn’t mind as otherwise, I would have gone alone, and paid 100% of the room. I wouldn’t have felt at ease paying part of his rent or groceries though.
What I want to avoid the most in paying for my half of the relationship, is resentment. In the case of my aunt, my uncle could easily have said “I work all day and you spent $15 on nail polish!”. Even if it is all rainbows and unicorns at the beginning of the relationship, it can turn sour very quickly. My sister was married for six years, and her husband made more. They had a lifestyle my sister couldn’t have afforded had they gone 50-50. When they got divorced, there were a lot of money questions raised, my brother-in-law was resentful of my sister for not working enough, and it was hard for my sister to go from a big four bedroom house with a garden to a tiny 400sqft apartment, which was what she could really pay for on her own.
The reasons why I am a financially independence woman, and will never let a man support me. Click to Tweet
I don’t want to live in an artificial bubble where I think I am entitled to more than I can actually afford. And even if I can afford it, I want my spending to be in line with my values. Being a financially independent woman means supporting my lifestyle, not trying to live like someone else. My rich ex was often complaining I didn’t want to spend $150 on dinner on a random Friday night or buy more clothes if mine still looked good. But I wouldn’t let him pay for it either, be it his or my money, I still considered it wasteful.
Your financial agreement within your relationship is yours and yours only. I just talked about what works for me, you may be happy paying more, or paying what you can afford, while your partner pays the lion share. Just make sure it doesn’t lead to resentment down the road.
I had a similar experience growing up. Unfortunately it was my mom who was/is overly financially dependent on my dad. I am very independent and will make sure to be able to afford anything I want.
As a latina, I’ve seen this often! My mom is overly financially dependent on my dad. My mom always told me to get an education and NOT be dependent on a man, so thank you Pauline for sharing this article!
Thank you ladies for your feedback. I hope these women get help from their kids if they become the surviving spouse and suddenly have to manage finances, it has to be overwhelming.
NZ Muse says
I’ve never had an experience like this – my mother always worked and in fact outearns my dad. I would never feel comfortable relying financially on someone else.
I loved your post and shared it at my FB page. I like independent women that works and do for herself things, it is her money (aftter we pay our bills).
Thank you Sharon!
Lise G says
Pauline your post really resonated. Financial independence is one of my most important tenets. I too observed at an early age how important it was to have your own money and pay 50/50. I was extremely uncomfortable accepting gifts and having my way paid. I have dated men who made a lot of money but I could not afford their lifestyle so right off the bat we were not compatible. And it seems to me that their values were skewed or it could be that I could not get comfortable with them. My girlfriends could not understand my discomfort 🙂
I have always been aware of waste and spending for the sake of spending. To have my basic needs taken care of, that everyone on this planet deserves, is all I aspire to, and I have been successful in this endeavour. As with my parents, paying my own way, living within my means, saving for what I need, comforts me and makes me feel at one with the world. Thank you again for the great post. your cheerful Canadian, Lise
Thank you for your kind words Lise, and well done! Looks like we have very similar approaches, but may be a bit too rigid when it comes to gifts and things like that. I wouldn’t spoil a man silly but let’s say he makes less and I find a perfect gift he would love and use all the time, I would want him to have it. So I guess I should accept gifts too!
Mrs. SimplyFinanciallyFree says
You sound like such a strong woman and I love it! When dating I also wanted to go in 50/50 because I wanted to pay my way and didn’t want to take advantage. When my boyfriend (now husband) and I moved in together we didn’t split things 50/50 as he made way more than me but I always wanted to pay my portion so we split things on a ratio closer to our incomes.
I know of one couple where the woman has paid next to nothing in their 7 year relationship even though they live together. Although it is really none of my business it drives me crazy and I really wish that before they do get married she would start to contribute. But I guess whatever the situation, it should be what works for your and your partner. I just know that I could never just stand by and always want to do my part, even if it is small.
It is very personal, but you are right, there has to be an intention to contribute. If you stay at home, contribute $0, but still expect your partner to come back home to cook, clean and raise the kids, there might be a problem.
Thank goodness society has reached a point where women actually have to option of financial independence (though overall their rate of pay is still much lower than males). That was not always the case. But patriarchy is slowly dissolving, and I’m glad to see it!
yes, that’s good news. My grandfather had to give my grandma permission to work..
I enjoyed your post as I’m exactly the same. Even continued to pay 50% while on maternity leave, twice. Wouldn’t have it any other way.
Good to know I’m not the only one Michelle!
Free to Pursue says
You have to do what’s right for you and it sounds like you’re pretty self aware, which is fabulous.
My husband and I have experienced both scenarios. Sometimes I make more, sometimes my husband makes more. I’ve notices that who makes more at any given time can feel more entitled to spend but it doesn’t necessarily reflect in actions because we choose whether we respond to impulses or beliefs. Thankfully, we’re both relatively conservative when it comes to money. We pool all our assets, period. So far it’s worked well because we view every contribution to the relationship as having value and, as long as both parties are giving, it tends to work well. It’s been nearly 20 years and so far, so good…despite a few speed bumps.
That said, I don’t know if that would be my approach if I were with someone who thought and behaved differently.
You really want to do that with someone who has the same money values. If I feel the same amount of effort is put into growing the couple’s assets then I feel it’s fair, whatever the actual contribution.
I think its important for couples to do what is best for them. When my husband and I got married we joint our accounts and all our expenses get paid out of this one joint account. We also make about the same amount so there discomfort in one person hoarding there income over the other.
It is a mental exercise to make sure that the person making more does not lose respect for the one making less. Especially if the woman is making more than the man as man need to feel respected by their wives in order to feel loved.
So far treating our income as one has worked for us. We are both conservative spenders and budget together and it seems to be working.
In order for this to work though, you need to have the same valued about money & relationships, or else one person will become resentful.
You must do what works best for your relationship.
Wow I have the same thoughts as you! I have worked my butt off to where I am today because I want to be independent. I’m in a relationship now and I’m lucky he is my financial match. From the beginning, I told him I wouldn’t feel comfortable unless I pulled my share in our finances – and he’s happy to allow me this space. For example, I have a ton of student loans and he’s offered to help me pay them off but I wouldn’t let him.
I do worry about maternity leave though. We plan to have children and we’ve discussed this casually. I want to stay at home with the kids – but that would mean I wouldn’t be able to work as much as I am now. I’m sure we’ll figure it out closer to that time but it’s something I keep in the background in the meantime.
If you are on the same page financially, no doubt you will find a way. Sometimes the stay at home parent can help the household just as much by saving on daycare, less taxes, no need for a second car, cooking at home, finding ways to save around the house… that you wouldn’t with two busy schedules. I’d like to still have my little savings so not to have to ask for everything.
Motivated me to work even if it crosses my mind many times to leave my day job. I grew up in a traditional Greek family, and my dad paid for everything, plus, also considers “being the one with the money” a thing a real man does”.
My mom worked only until her 40s and left her job to enjoy a ready for her, amazing life, free of duties and responsibilities. And, as I grew up, I was thinking the same way expecting to find an old fashioned man nowadays. But I found the man of my life, and he WANTS ME to work. Even if I consider this approach less “macho man” I agree with you that … hey, even the gift with his money you mentioned, is still important. I have to be independent, as much as I can. Thanks for this motivating article!!!
Nefeli | http://lovebeinginspired.net
Thanks for sharing your honest experience. It is important to become financially independent these days as you never know when things can change. This is also a relaxing for your partner as well, in case you are in a relationship. Thanks for motivating many people by sharing such experiences.
Julie @ Millennial Boss says
I can relate to this completely. I make 5x more then my partner so everything is split 80/20. Never usually bothers me only sometimes. I wish we could downsize and buy something 50/50. Over time though we’ve gotten used to this arrangement and we’re getting married so it’s all shared money.
My wife is a stay at home mother. We share everything in life so there has never been mine or hers, always ours. Even though I make the money I do ask before I buy anything, not for permission but to make sure we stay in budget. The way I see it, she earns her half by taking care of the house and kids, a job I wouldn’t want. But I understand this doesn’t work for everyone.
Mr. Atypical says
You are quite the independent woman. My wife is similar in wanting to make her share of the money, but it doesn’t work out for us right now. We moved to China for me to take a expat job with the company I was working for in the US, so now she studies and teaches Chinese along with blogging. She stays busy and is starting to build a business to “pull her own share”. But what is the need? If I can support both of us by working a job neither of us wants, and we can achieve FIRE quickly, there is no need for her to go to the grinding wheel. I think as men, many of us want to not keep our wives at home, but allow them to pursue what they want, so they don’t have to go to work.
Great post. Thanks.
Greenbacks Magnet says
Good for you. I will not ever forget that scene in the Josephine Baker movie when her mother said if you want something done don’t go depending on a man to do it. I am all for having a partner but you also have to learn how to be independent as in some point in your life this is likely to be the case. It’s like Mae West said: I’m single cause I was born that way. I started greenbacksmagnet.com to help people realize that you have to help yourself and be self-reliant. Great post. Thanks, Greenbacks Magnet
I love how unapologetically you take control of your money and your life as a woman. I think that anyone can benefit from being financially secure and independent, regardless of gender. Way to advocate for yourself and for other women!
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Well…I CERTAINLY CAN NOT argue with the concept of being financially independent as a woman. HOWEVER, 50-50 WOULD NOT be ideal for me. The point in being financially independent as a woman is to cater to and care for, prepare for and protect HER NOT BOTH of them. The concept of a woman being financially independent is to protect HERSELF from LIFE possibilities if she is to live life that does not involve or include her man. Thus, WHY would I as a woman “share” my holdings with a man who presumably has more or men are perceived to have more or would have the BETTER opportunity than I?
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Well said dear. It is very important to become financially independent.
Women have to be independent. And for this financial independency is mainly needed. Thanks to author for puiblishing this article.
Women have to be independent to make a better world.
Platinum Accounting says
I guess whatever the situation, it should be what works for your and your partner. I just know that I could never just stand by and always want to do my part, even if it is small. You are a wonder women. This is going to inspire a lot of people. Thanks for sharing your story.