Finances and Relationships

Over at The Hairpin, A Married Dude is advising a woman whose husband is wonderful and great and supportive but refuses to contribute a single cent to her six-figure law school loans. The advice-seeker writes:

My husband is a generally wonderful partner, except for one issue. He refuses to pay one cent of my hefty school loans. I am a lawyer and owe about $100k. He feels I went to law school before we were married and therefore he is not responsible for them. We contribute jointly to household expenses and provide for our child, but anything extra he earns goes straight into his secret bank account, whereas every cent I earn goes toward the loans with little personal money left for me. Every time I want to take a trip or buy new appliances or whatnot, he says “if you didn’t have those loans, we could.” I cannot get him to understand that those loans are what enable me to earn $90k a year and therefore he benefits from them, too. I asked him if he’d rather I was a barista making $9/hour and he responded that at least I wouldn’t have the loans. Is he being a big jerk, or does he have a right to not want to be responsible for student debt I took on before we knew each other?

He’s being a big jerk.

He also has a right to not want to be responsible for student debt he didn’t take on.

Finances are one of the most fraught pieces of a relationship, especially when they’re tied up in a contractual relationship like marriage. I’ve been having a lot of off-line conversations about finances and marriage after this (terrible, shallow) article on financial infidelity; it’s also worth reading this (excellent, in-depth) series on marital finances by Jessica Grose.

In the many conversations I’ve been having and reading, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how widely couples’ financial situations vary. There isn’t one silver-bullet solution to financial issues in a relationship — no perfect answer of “pool your money” or “keep separate accounts” or “only have one debit card.” I can’t imagine not having my own bank account; I can’t imagine sharing a primary checking account with a partner and having someone else privy to (and scrutinizing) every small purchasing decision I make. For other couples, that level of financial transparency works, and feels intimate and honest rather than overbearing.

I would also take a partner’s financial well-being and past decisions into account when deciding to get married. Partner has $20,000 in credit card debt from overspending at Barneys for years? Partner has horrible credit because of a series of bad financial decisions? That is going to impact whether or not I think it’s a good idea to legally tie myself to Partner in marriage or any other contractual relationship (buying a home together, having a child). Perhaps that is totally unromantic and judgmental. For me, though, it feels responsible and necessary.

But while I’ve made a series of careful financial decisions so that I have excellent credit and at least some savings, I also make a lot of financial decisions that I know others would consider frivolous, and that I wouldn’t want to explain to a more penny-pinching partner. Yes, I could have saved more money if I ate out and drank less; I also enjoy the mental health and professional benefits of having a strong social network, and without regular socializing (particularly with a group of women who are like family) I am a very unhappy person. I could have saved more money if I hadn’t traveled so much; I also need to travel to feel happy and connected and alive. Ideally, I would find a partner who shares (or at least understands) those values.

I also have six-figure student loan debt, and were I ever to get married, wouldn’t expect my partner to take it on. But I would expect that debt to be factored into our collective financial situation. Because if a marriage is a partnership, and one person’s income (after paying taxes and bills and debts) is significantly larger than the other’s, then the finances of the partnership should reflect that. I would want a communist marriage, basically — if one person’s income accounts for 60% of the total income of the partnership, then that income should cover 60% of the partnership costs like rent, utilities, groceries, etc. I imagine other couples do it differently, but I can’t imagine being married to someone who made $300,000 a year to my $50,000 and expected us to pay equal shares of the rent/mortgage. To me, “equality” is about (a) being able to support yourself, but also (b) contributing according to your means and abilities. For others, the 50-50 split is the most equal, and takes out what can feel like an imbalance of power.

And then of course there are the non-marital arrangements — how you figure out finances with a romantic partner to whom you are not married, and/or with whom you live. It wouldn’t even occur to me to set up a joint account with someone I had no legal tie to, but I know plenty of couples who do it.

So I’m curious: What do you all do? Being a single lady, I work and pay all my own bills and it’s relatively straight-forward. But for those of you who are married or in relationships, how do you structure your financial situations? And do your politics (feminist, lefty, socialist, libertarian or otherwise) influence financial decisions within your relationship?

185 comments for “Finances and Relationships

  1. FashionablyEvil
    August 20, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    Our finances work out pretty well, although we’ve had a lot of conversations along the way about what’s comfortable for each of us. (Short version is that I’m a spender, he’s a saver).

    When we were living together we had a shared checking account for joint expenses (going out to dinner, groceries, etc. that we contributed to equally since we made about the same amount of money. Now that we’re married, we have a joint account that both paychecks go into. Aside from necessary purchases (e.g., the car needs a $300 repair) and regular expenses (rent, groceries, utilities, etc.), we talk about anything more than about $200 before we go ahead. Most of the time it’s just a “Hey, I need to buy some new clothes, so I’m going to buy a pair of jeans and a couple of shirts,” but sometimes it’s “I want to buy a $4000 custom bicycle,” and then we talk.

    Knowing our natural tendencies to spend/save and the different ways that our families approached money is also helpful for sorting things out.

  2. karak86
    August 20, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    My SO and I are about to move in together, a process wrought with stress because I am going to school and working only part time, and he will be supporting us.

    He has more personal debt, with an expensive car payment, I have vastly more school debt that is currently deferred. Our current decision making idea is that we use our individual income to pay for our individual bills; including gas and suchlike. Whatever is left over goes together for rent and groceries, and whatever is after that is going to be decided between us. We’re considering prioritizing paying off my car to have an asset and his credit cards to improve his credit, so that he can take out more school loans for me.

    It’s… scary. But he has promised to help me pay for my school debt, arguing that he knew I had when we got together, and it would be OUR responsibility. The only thing is that he asked that, in event it doesn’t work, we walk out with the bills we came in with, and I think that’s more than fair.

    • Nimue
      September 3, 2012 at 2:39 pm

      It’s a similar situation for me and my husband. When we got married, we both knew that I had about 25K in student loans and he had about 80k. We moved to a different country and I started grad school. I made enough to cover rent and groceries; he pays car things, cell phone bills, fun things, and of course student loans. We share checking and savings accounts, so the “I pay/he pays” division is really artificial. It has helped us to be aware of how much we’re spending on what-when I was making much more than him, he would make them minimum payments on our student loans so we didn’t get behind. Now that he is making about triple what I am, he makes the largest payments on our student loans that we can afford-and he’s almost completely paid off mine and made a respectable dent in his own. We each have a debit card and I have a credit card, but he doesn’t. This is because when he previously had a credit card, his parents had a habit of “borrowing” it to run up bills and then announcing that they were too poor to pay them off. After a $900 bill that we could NOT afford but paid off anyway, he cut up his credit card. I eventually got one for convenience, but the in-laws sure don’t know I have it! And its going to stay that way.

  3. mk
    August 20, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    When my partner and I started dating, I was starting a brand new job, buying a car (with my dad’s help), and moving into a new apartment after a messy breakup. I was sleeping on friends’ couches and subsisting on the lunch special at my local Chinese takeout joint, and my last paycheck from the job I was leaving ran out before I could swing my deposit on the new place. She Who Is Awesome (SWIA) took a leap of faith and fronted me over a grand, even though we were living almost a thousand miles away from each other.

    Fast forward to three years later. I paid her back as soon as I could (although I was frustrated by how long it took), and she moved in with me–and now the shoe is on the other foot. I’m (extremely) fortunate enough to have no student debt and a full time job that pays all the bills and generally handles fun stuff on top, but she’s still trying to get back into a school building after moving halfway across the country. In the meantime she’s working full time in retail AND paying back student loans. So I keep a spreadsheet with a running tally of all the bills, which means I usually pay them when they’re due and she gets me her half when she can.

    I don’t know that our politics have much to do with this arrangement, but I do know that it’s a little weird to be the person in the relationship who is generally paying more for things/for more things. It generally doesn’t create any strain at all–we never fight about finances, which is awesome–but there are times when SWIA is pretty hard on herself about not contributing more, and it’s not super helpful if my response is “Hey, I know what’ll make you feel better–let me take you out to dinner!”

  4. ar
    August 20, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    My husband and I pool everything (and have been doing this since partway through our engagement). He’s currently a PhD student and I make a significant salary. Everything that comes in (my salary and any grant money he gets) goes into a shared account, out of which we pay for joint expenses (rent, student loan payments), and then we each get personal spending money out of what’s left over. That way, the big stuff is covered, but we each also get money that we can spend on our own without having to justify it to the other.

    It simplifies things to have only one major income – he would have to live a very different life on just his grant money (and frankly I wouldn’t want to share the tiny studio that he’d be able to afford without my help). But for us, that’s not why we do it. We both honestly believe in communist marriage. How could I possibly hold greedily onto my income when he’s working just as hard as I am? We’ll continue this system after he finishes school and gets a job.

    It also simplifies things to be able to afford a comfortable life. It’s sad that we live in a society where so many are crushed under their debt – especially for things like education, which should be a right IMHO.

    But, while every relationship has to find its own way to manage finances, I think that it’s entirely unfair for this person’s husband to blame the advice-seeker’s debt for being unable to take a vacation. There are clearly other ways to run things, and blaming one’s partner in that way is cruel.

  5. August 20, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    I’ve been with my partner for two and a half years, we’ve lived together for about a year and a half of that. We pool our finances, but we still have separate accounts.

    We never fight about money although it has been, and continues to be, a major stressor for us. There isn’t a lot of it! We’re lucky in that we live in Ireland, so we both had access to free third-level education — so no huge student debts, we don’t need to have health insurance, etc. I did have a student loan for day-to-day expenses amounting to about 10k (euro) and I *just* paid that off after about 10 years! My partner contributed to the payments — we viewed it as just another household bill. I’ve helped him out with car insurance and tax payments, petrol etc… the car is his and I don’t drive, but we do need it, so I have no problem with contributing to that.

    For us, it is really just logical to pool our money because we have so little of it. If I’ve just gotten paid and he’s three weeks til payday and I want to go out — we go, I pay. If he has cash and I have none, and we need groceries… well, he’s not gonna let me go hungry, is he? So extending this logic upwards, it just feels natural to us to share everything financially.

    It has made me MUCH more conscientious about my spending. When my money is 100% mine, I tend to spend frivolously. When I know I have to ‘justify’ that spending to him (as he would have to do with me), I am more conservative. I think about what we need rather than what I want in the moment.

    It absolutely works for us and I feel like it’s been great training for money matters if & when we do get married, or have more money to spend, ever. Politics don’t really come into it for us at all. I don’t feel less feminist because he pays for shit sometimes, he doesn’t feel emasculated because I pay for things. We just get on with it!

  6. August 20, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    Separate accounts, shared expenses. Our situation is somewhat complicated by the fact that he makes three times what I do, so it would be pretty much impossible for me to pay exactly half of household expenses without blowing my entire paycheck every month, but luckily that hasn’t become an issue, in large part because The Boy isn’t a tremendous asswipe like the advice-seeker’s husband. If anything, I’m the one who feels uncomfortable only paying for the mortgage and minor expenses, while he shells out nearly twice as much for the utilities.

    The “not being a tremendous asswipe” thing is really what keeps us going. We don’t have anything officially written up, because we figure that would be a bigger source of stress than just trying to keep things more or less even. Our new roof came out of my savings account, and we both contribute to his credit card bill; he buys pretty much all of the food (and cooks it up in a pan, because I’m a lousy cook) and small household items. Paying more or less than our share has never become an issue, but I like to think we’d approach it as adults and people who love each other should it ever come up.

    It’s enormously important that we maintain separate accounts, though, and never judge each others’ purchases. He’s into gadgets and has recently picked up mountain biking; I’m rather a fan of handbags and gadgets. If I get the mail and he has twelve t-shirts, a dog bed, and a slingshot, I don’t mention it, and he doesn’t feel the need to explain. If I get another black bag or a new set of drapes to replace the old drapes that were perfectly serviceable, I don’t have to explain, and I never feel like I have to lie or hide my purchases. As long as the bills get paid and our debt decreases at a reasonable rate, the rest of the money is our own. I can’t imagine doing it any other way and still maintaining honesty and autonomy.

    And when he wanted a kayak, he called and said, “Hey, there’s a good price on a kayak,” because a kayak is a considerable purchase, and I said, “Wow, that’s a great deal on a kayak. You should get that,” and he did.

    tl;dr: Trust, and not being an asswipe.

  7. August 20, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    If you’re not willing to at least partially take on your spouse’s or partner’s debt, don’t marry or partner up with that person.

    My wife and I have tried various different arrangements—separate accounts, joint accounts, paying half-and-half, one doing expenses and another spending cash.

    We’ve finally come to a point where we just dump whatever money we have in a pool and pay all our expenses (including student loans, yes) out of that pool, and then we allot ourselves spending money based on what’s left after expenses. The allotment has nothing to do with who’s making more money at the time.

    Ultimately, though, you’re right: there’s no single model that works for everyone. The key is that you both view it as a partnership and agree to the terms. Doesn’t sound as if the letter writer is keen on the agreement in question.

  8. Stephanie
    August 20, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    My SO and i have been living together for about 10 years now. We both have student debt. His is much worse than mine and at a lot higher interest rate. I also make a lot more than him, about three times as much. So I pay almost all household expenses(mortgage, groceries, utilities), and he spends all of his money on paying back those loans and he covers his car insurance and gas. When i have extra i give it to him to send to Sallie Mae.

  9. chava
    August 20, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    I’m firmly in the “marry the person, marry the debt” camp. If you don’t want the debt, don’t marry the person.

    In this case, sounds like the guy is actively profiting from the debt she’s paying off. And “secret bank account”? Really?

    • Nimue
      September 3, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      seriously. this guy sounds like a greedy jerkface.

  10. Lolagirl
    August 20, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    I had some pretty significant student loan debt when I married my husband, and we both had fairly significant amounts of home equity in our own homes (both condos.) We ended up deciding that it would be best to pool our incomes and make paying down my student loans our first priority. After that, we sold our respective residents and pooled that to purchase something bigger and nicer together. We also did something similar to Jill’s communist approach, where my husband paid a greater percentage towards shared expenses as he had a higher income.

    We still mostly operate on the assumption that all income is shared these days. I’m currently a SAHM, and every month a portion of H’s take home pay gets deposited into my personal account, then a standard amount goes into our joint account for joint expenses (mortgage, insurance, utilities, food, etc) and then the remainder goes into his own personal account.

    As far as that Hairpin piece is concerned, I’m on team this guy is being a jerk. Mostly because he seems to be lording the student loan debt over his wife and is refusing to see their marriage as more of a joint endeavor (especially wrt stuff that would be consumed and enjoyed equally, like furniture for their home and vacations.)

  11. chava
    August 20, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    fwiw, Mr. chava and I have one joint account with on-paper discretionary funds worked into the monthly budget. The funds are the same amount, and we can “roll over” money we don’t spend one month into the next. It’s a bit more accounting but easier than three accounts to deal with.

    We fund our Roths equally, and take turns on the primary holder of credit lines. All investments are in both our names.

  12. August 20, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    Wow, uh. It all seems pretty complex. I’m currently a full-time student, borrowing from my father to pay my tuition, and also a small stipend that covers about 1/3 of my living expenses. The rest is paid by my wife, who’s currently working full-time. Once I graduate and complete my master’s, we’re planning on switching off on that, with my wife switching to part-time employment (and full-time childcare) to repay my college debt to my parents, while I support our living expenses, mortgage, etc, and also at least some of The Kid’s college/further education fees, when she’s old enough to go. >_> We worked out pretty much all of that before I moved in with her, yeah. IMO, it’s one of the advantages of multinational LDRs, that that stuff winds up being discussed.

  13. Lizzie
    August 20, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    I know of a bigger jerk than this example. We’ll call them A and B. When they met, A (wife) had just become a business consultant on about 70K, and B (husband) was still in med school. A supported them both for about 10 years while B studied a type of brain medicine so specialized the name eludes me. They had 2 kids. B qualified in his 30’s when A was making about 120K. B got a job on over 250K (for real). A quit her job and became a p/t poetry teacher, her life dream. A mutual friend saw A opening her biweekly paycheck. B actually said, in front of the friend, “I make more than that looking at brain scans for 10 minutes”. He often puts down her financial contributions and suggests that because he pays 95% of the bills, that he should have 95% of the say in everything, even though the opposite wasn’t true when A was breadwinner. B does only the fun bits of parenting. He doesn’t seem to see that if it hadn’t been for A, he would have huge debts, and have spent a decade eating Ramen and working a night job to stay afloat, and might well have gotten worse grades hence lower pay now, or been so sick or exhausted he had to quit and be a regular doctor. Yet many people don’t seem to think he’s unreasonable at all.

  14. August 20, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    Oh, and because I hit post too soon…

    This guy in the letter is a grade-A fucking asshole. Taking trips together or buying appliances for the house should come out of shared money, goddamn it, unless he’s going to never eat food she mixed in the blender or do laundry in the new dryer she needs or wev. My mother works more than full-time hours, unpaid, as the correspondent of a non-profit school, and my dad’s supported her for, oh, twenty years now, without a peep of protest, and she’s never heard “well, if you had a job” when asking for anything, for fuck’s sake, let alone family activities or things that actually make their home, I don’t know, home. And my wife just had to cover my textbook fees, on top of living expenses, and I didn’t get any shit from her for that either, even though we’re having to tighten our belts for it. (And fuck knows our belts are already carving into our bellies, haha.)

  15. Ros
    August 20, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    A.Y. Siu – that’s pretty much the way my husband and I have worked out finances.

    In our case, we moved in together 3 years ago (and got married last week): I made twice what he did, and he had student loans (minor, but high for Canada).

    His student loans are mostly paid out of our joint account, as are all bills and shared living expenses. We’ve recently moved into a shared account and a shared savings account, so our purchases are visible, but we try to keep things to an agreed-upon amount per month (my books and not-necessary-but-wanted kitchen gear, his video games and music gear, our clothes, etc), and check with each other for purchases over approximately 50$ or so, just because.

  16. Ros
    August 20, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    And, to add a quick note: I got married to my partner of multiple years a week ago, but, before the wedding, my mother freaked out at me and insisted that I needed a prenup because “if you get divorced, you might need to pay alimony!”.

    We wound up not getting a prenup after looking into our province’s divorce laws (which wound up being about what we’d put in a prenup anyway) but I thought it was a weird concern: if a man was making much more money, most people would be relatively fine with alimony. If I make that much more than he does and we separate, his contributions to our life and relationship are what enable me to work long hours/not do housework/etc, so why wouldn’t I also be expected to pay alimony??

    Gender roles are WEIRD.

  17. Mike
    August 20, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Suppose they divorce, it wouldnt really matter who payed the student loan, would it? Any money she spends towards the loan, isnt going into the marriage pool. Assuming they divorce before its all payed off it wouldnt make a difference, because the money she is making now, goes towards old debt, but it still impacts the marriage people.

    It would only make a difference for his situation if the divorce would take place before she is done paying off the loan.

    But seen as how so many marriages end in divorce, I can see how commitment or no commitment, people are very protective of their assets.

  18. Mike
    August 20, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    Yet many people don’t seem to think he’s unreasonable at all.

    Sounds like he does not like the situation, where he has to indefinitely financially support a partner, although he agreed to.

  19. Yan
    August 20, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Currently very happily single, but the last ex I had, well, we had money issues without even living together. I live Very Carefully on my public employee salary. I pay my bills, live debt-free aside from my student loans, and have money to socialize and occasionally travel. I even contribute to retirement. I can do this all on my somewhat small salary because I think ahead and plan some.

    The ex made double and then again half what I made, and would whine when I would turn down travel plans or occasionally activities that I just couldn’t afford to do. He would make complicated plans that sometimes doubled the cost of a day out, and then wonder why I didn’t want to go out to dinner the next week. He made discussing paying for outings very awkward, so I never knew if I was paying, he was paying, or we were splitting things — it was like playing out the first and second date dinner check dance over, and over, and over.

    I’m a big fan of the communist percentage plan for living together. And I’ll split everything while dating. But I’m not going to play along at being richer than I am because someone else doesn’t want to talk about money.

    I really liked Grose’s series on money. And the LW has married a jerk.

  20. Lynne S
    August 20, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    My finance and I have been together for a few years now and have spent over a year living in our own house. When we took the step to move into a house, I made sure that all the bills could be paid on my salary alone before purchasing a house. My finance and were both equally involved in choosing a location and house, although the house is in my name only (I had the saved reserves for a down payment at the time). The thought at the time being that if something ever went sour, we’d go our separate ways and I’d keep the house.

    And for bills, I paid more at first, because I made more, and then it went to a near 50/50 after he got a better job. He would cut me a check every month for part of the mortgage and utilities and pay for most of the groceries (and cook!) and I would pay my part of the joint bills and buy the home improvement items and do most of the maintenance. We didn’t exactly tally expenses, it wasn’t worth the hassle. We kept separate accounts and paid for our separate debts (car, student loans, car insurance, etc) separately. That worked for about a year… then our situation changed.

    I was in a bad job, but was in denial that things would get better. It caused me to work longer hours (for 40hr salary pay and no benefits), get sick A LOT, and be a b*tch to my fiance, friend and family w/o meaning to because of all the stress. After some long talks, I realized that continuing my job would ruin my relationship. He expressly told me to quit my job and if I never received another paycheck again, it wouldn’t matter. Being VERY independent and stubborn, this was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. I quit my job and my fiance has taken on ALL the bills and living costs (he now makes a little more that I did when I bought the house, so we’re not hurting for money), but it is a tough situation for me. I’ll sometimes let myself stress even though he has reminded repeatedly that everything is okay, financially, relationship wise, etc (in fact, when I’m not stressing about bring home a paycheck, I’m happier and healthier now than I have ever been).

    I’m currently looking for a new job, but it’s difficult because I need to find a local job in an area I’m familiar with that doesn’t interfere with my non-disclosure/non-compete contract that last 2yrs from my previous job. In the mean time, I do all the housework and home maintenance (I’ve had time to fix the plumbing, gutters, landscaping, etc). And this has worked perfectly for us.

    The take away point is that a financial situation can change and you need to be able to talk it over with your SO and be willing to adjust as needed.

  21. Lizzie
    August 20, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    @macavitykitsune – indeed, the LW’s husband is a tool. He’s also fucking stupid. By refusing to upgrade appliances or go on trips because his wife can’t pay half, when it sounds like as a unit, they can afford those things, he is cutting off his own nose to spite his wife’s face.

  22. Lizzie
    August 20, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    @Mike if he didn’t want his situation then he should have said something BEFORE he accepted his wife’s support for 10 years while she did a boring job so he could pursue his dream. Anyway, there are lots of ways to renegotiate a situation without demeaning the other person’s contribution to the current set-up.

  23. Brea
    August 20, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    Well, we have very rarely had enough money to worry about who gets to spend what. All money that comes into the house goes to bills first, household needs second, and if there is ever any left over we put some towards our mutual savings goals and split the rest evenly for fun stuff. This has been our rough model our whole marriage, regardless of who was making more when (at various times, either of us has been unemployed and supported by the other, or either of us have been in the position of having the higher income). We have a shared bank account. If we had spending money in it, we would know how much was for each of us and would not have to ask the other for permission to buy anything up to that amount.

  24. Mike
    August 20, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    @Mike if he didn’t want his situation then he should have said something BEFORE he accepted his wife’s support for 10 years while she did a boring job so he could pursue his dream. Anyway, there are lots of ways to renegotiate a situation without demeaning the other person’s contribution to the current set-up.

    Yeah but what are you gonna do. Its the other side of womens emancipation, men used to pretty much not have a choice, now we get to be unhappy about a partner “not pulling her weight financially” as well.

    But in this particular situation there seem to be other problems, like miscommunication or ignoring a situation thinking you are fine with it, although it really stings you and make your partner feel it.

  25. EG
    August 20, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    Yeah but what are you gonna do.

    Well, the guy could start by not being a dick.

  26. Ariel
    August 20, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    We’ve been lucky to generally make about the same amount (and never too little to cover expenses) for the few years we’ve lived together. So we have our own accounts and our own incomes, and then we sat down and created a rough/slightly high estimate of how much our household expenses would come to, and then each month we each put half of that into a joint account at the credit union. This makes paying bills MUCH simpler than the old system of each of us paying different bills and tracking it in a spreadsheet and trying to reimburse each other, and it means whenever we go on dates, we’re each taking the other out :). Anything left over at the end of the month gets rolled over into joint savings for big purchases, which we can add to from our private savings if we want something sooner.

    We’ve both offered at different times to pay more than half of the expenses, and certainly if one of us was without a job or underemployed long-term we’d split it differently. But so far it just hasn’t been necessary.

  27. zuzu
    August 20, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    Oh, look, Miek’s back with a new spelling to his name.

    If the couple’s married, unless they had a prenup, there’s a good chance that any increase in the debt is his problem. And his secret account is marital property.

    Just sayin’.

  28. CDawg
    August 20, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    My husband and I have joint finances, joint everything. At first, yes, there was a lot of crankiness on both ends about scrutinizing expenses. But we got used to it, and now there’s none of that.

    It works for us.

  29. Mike
    August 20, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    Yeah thanks for quoting me partially/out of context AND deleting the originals AND kinda sorta banning me after that.

    Well, the guy could start by not being a dick.

    The problem lies deeper I think. We can have what we want but we can not want what we want. How many women try to be okay with their partner earning far less than themselves but just cant. You can be unhappy with a situation, although there is no logical reason, like money being affluent despite only one of the 2 working.

    Some are honest to themselves and discard men who are not “level” with them from the get go. Others are dishonest to themselfs and tell themselfs its okay when it isnt and act dickish because it eats at them.

  30. Kristen J.
    August 20, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    fwiw, Mr. chava and I have one joint account with on-paper discretionary funds worked into the monthly budget. The funds are the same amount, and we can “roll over” money we don’t spend one month into the next. It’s a bit more accounting but easier than three accounts to deal with.

    This is where Mr. Kristen and I have ended up. We’ll ask on expenses that exceed our monthly allowance. And we reach a consensus on how the budget shakes out. So when if I think we need to be spending more on my student loans and less on travel then we discuss it and come to a consensus.

    And you know what…Mr. Kristen worked multiple jobs trying to keep us afloat while I went to law school and I’ve worked at a job I hated while he finished school. Working together towards our shared future is part of the *point* of our marriage. For us that means there is no “my goal” or “his goal,” there is only “our goals.”

  31. DouglasG
    August 20, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    The husband seems to be reasoning on the fear that, once the debt is gone, he’ll be traded in for a newer model, but then, really, why stay married? Most marriages (at least the ones I see in action) seem so… unpleasant is the only way to describe them. [Insert the Henry Tilneyish line of thinking very highly, however, of the marriages of present company. /end humour]

    I could go into a long personal story about how almost all my money accidentally ended up in the hands of a serious homophobe after a pair of accidental deaths, but it’s too depressing.

  32. Lolagirl
    August 20, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Yeah but what are you gonna do. Its the other side of womens emancipation, men used to pretty much not have a choice, now we get to be unhappy about a partner “not pulling her weight financially” as well.

    No, it isn’t.

    What “choice” did men not have in this nebuluous and fictional past period of time to which you are apparently alluding?

    Men have always had the greater freedom to do what they wanted unfettered by a legal and social system that kept them uneducated and in all ways dependant on men for their welfare. All the while profiting from the free labor provided by women in caring for and running those mens’ homes and family lives.

    Be careful what you refer to as not pulling one’s weight, Mike, because it’s not just about how much money you bring into the equation.

  33. number9
    August 20, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    This guy is a total tool. It’s not even that he’s refusing to help, it’s how he goes about it, with the sniping and the hoarding of money in a “secret bank account.” It seems to me that he’s a) resentful of his wife’s education and b) threatened because he knows she has the education to potentially find a job that pays enough not to “need” him. And why is it that almost every advice-seeking letter from a partnered het cis woman starts with “other than this one thing, he’s wonderful and supportive,” when the dude in question is clearly a grade-A asshole?

    So my husband actually does not help me pay my loan. It’s also a fairly reasonable loan compared to what most of my peers got saddled with for the same level of education. So I don’t need help paying it. I have no doubt that he would help should I require it. But he also makes more than three times what I make, and takes care of most of the bills. We have separate accounts. It seems fair enough to me – my salary would barely cover our rent. We consult each other over major purchases and vacations, but not over clothes and hobbies and that sort of thing. If we were to buy a house, we’d probably pool our resources more, but for now our arrangement (or lack thereof) works just fine.

  34. shfree
    August 20, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    Weeeell….I’m in some weird nebulous sticky wicket of a financial nightmare myself. When my ex and I first got together, we had separate bank accounts, which made sense. We were still both living (relatively) financially independent lives, though he made waaaaay more money than I did, and basically paid for anything that related to discretionary income. (However, he also had a BUNCH of debt beyond his student loans, I had none and still kept a couple of hundred each month as a buffer in my account, where he tended to write himself checks and would cash them at the grocery store at the end of the month when he was out of money. When I got pregnant, and some time after I quit my job, I’m not exactly sure when I closed my account because I really didn’t have anything left, so we kind of sort of pooled our money. Thus his debt became “ours”, and eventually legally so once we got married for insurance reasons.

    Now, however, we are in the process of splitting up, and during that time I went to school, got my associates, and he is currently paying off my student loan, (and despite the fact that even though I went to school to help me get a job, the gap in employment has done fuck all to make me look employable in this job market.) We also have debt that we have accumulated to together, and I have my own personal credit card that I’m just about halfway done paying down. He also makes a fuckton more money than I do, given that his is just about at the pinnacle of his field, and I work extremely part time at a grocery store.

    But during that time when we were together, I never saw the student loan payment, the credit card payments he had to make from an old relationship as being “his” debt once we were in the position of needing to really pool money, it became part of the monthly bills we had to pay.

  35. Faithless
    August 20, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    I’m curious, my folks and most of the pairs I know were roughly the same income level before they got involved with each other, is one side making way more cash than the other a common thing?

    I admit I never gave much thought to the “marry the person, marry the debt” idea put forth above in the thread cus I just never assumed I’d end up with somebody who made much more or less than I did. (granted that’s IF I end up with a partner at all ;))

  36. Anon for this
    August 20, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    The ex-hub and I pooled resources. It kind of sucked, mainly because we had different spending habits and no real consensus on how we’d deal with larger purchases. I got “surprised” a lot with purchases we couldn’t afford… Then, when I wanted to do something, there wasn’t the money for it.

    Been financially independent for the last ten years, not having been in a relationship serious enough for any consideration of shared finances. My current SO and I have an interesting set up.. I work f/t with benefits and have just bought my first house. He does odd jobs and lives a very stripped down existence and stays with a mutual friend (throu whom we met). I have about 25k in student loans, and now a mortgage. He has no debt.

    Recently the subject of living arrangements have been brought up, and although neither of us has actually mentioned living together, I think it might come up. Right now, I’m cool with how we’re working things, but I worry that actually living together would put different expectations on how we both contribute to the household. Although reading throu this thread has helped because a proportionate contribution could be workable.. Plus household contribution does not have to be monetary.

  37. shfree
    August 20, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    Oh, and dude is an asshat. If he wants to keep his own damn slush fund, then the bills need to be paid for fifty fifty, including all childcare related expenses.

  38. tenya
    August 20, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    I saw that too and yep, husband is being a jerk. And I agreed with the answer too, although some couples would be perfectly happy with a “I pay off my own debt out of my own expenses, you have completely separate expenses” situation, this one clearly is not happy, and they need to come to some kind of agreement regarding it.

    I had a long-term non-marriage relationship (6 years) and we shared a checking account – which was a terrible experience. We never had much money in there, and he’d forget to deposit checks or sign up for direct deposit from work, then overdraft multiple times (this was before you could tell the bank to decline your card rather than get hit with overdraft fees). After a few years I started a career job and made several times more, while he did things like quit a full-time job and take out a loan to cover “me time” until “finding” another one – I put quotation marks there because a friend offered him a job the day he quit, but he didn’t put in an application for two months.

    Fast forward several years later and I’m married (to someone else!), with me still being primary breadwinner but with separate accounts. He pays part of our rent/utilities expenses (about 30%) to me and does more cleaning and errands. We talked before getting married about our financial situation and how we wanted to handle expenses, and it is pretty much going to stay the same and come down to both of us contributing all we can to get his student loans paid off (mid-five digits) – they are not like med or law school where we’re going to see a return investment, but it will be a lot easier to buy a house or something in the future if we don’t have it weighing us down. Or just to do funsie stuff together without thinking “this piece of furniture could have gone to debts instead.” Plus we just have much more similar ideas about appropriate spending and standards of living, and even if we don’t make an equal amount, we’re not living beyond our individual means. Life is so much better now.

  39. August 20, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    @ 12

    That sounds like my mum and dad (she and her family supported him through school then he started blowing all the cash on huge purchases without consulting her and not pitching in around the house except when he wanted to show off a new toy in the kitchen) except fortunately my mum’s career was something she loved *and* paid her an equivalent salary to his, so she dumped his ass and took me with her. She started from scratch, got a new mortgage, supported two kids through uni, and is now set up really well to retire. He kept blowing cash and dodging taxes until now he’s having to work ridiculous extra hours to stave off debt (not sure if his wages are being garnished or not, but probably) and probably won’t retire with a pot to piss in especially since he’s been self-employed for most of his career. Sometimes, financial “incompatibility” is a sign to GET OUT when one partner’s behaviour is spiralling. After growing up around my dad’s bad behaviour, I’d never psychologically be able to cope with financial dependence on a partner, I think – too many financial security issues. As soon as I find a stable enough job, disability insurance and maxing out my RRSP it is.

    Re: OP

    I agree that it’s one thing not to want to pay another partner’s debt but that the LW husband’s behaviour sounds like he’s making a power play out of it, which is a dick move. Why sabotage your partner? They are your partner.

  40. August 20, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    Working together towards our shared future is part of the *point* of our marriage. For us that means there is no “my goal” or “his goal,” there is only “our goals.”

    This, exactly! Also this:

    By refusing to upgrade appliances or go on trips because his wife can’t pay half, when it sounds like as a unit, they can afford those things, he is cutting off his own nose to spite his wife’s face.

    This letter sounds less like Dealing With Joint Finances 301 and more like Dealing With A Financially Abusive Douchewaffle 101. Dump With Extreme Prejudice would be my recommendation.

  41. whereskat
    August 20, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    I started dating my husband as he was finishing law school, and we moved in together as I started business school. We both went into our relationship knowing the other had/would have a lot of student loan debt. I just graduated and am still job searching, which was interrupted by our recent wedding, so there’s definitely been a big financial imbalance between the two of us.

    Having been independent for so many years, it does make me uneasy to be so financially dependent on someone else. Even more so now that he wants to help pay off one of my loans out of savings, which we are able to rebuild in the short term. I never expected him to pay towards my loan nor would I be able to help pay towards his anytime soon. His rationale is that he wants us to start married life with less debt and less debt means I am in a better position to contribute more to the household, which is the key argument. We need to prioritize what’s important for our household. Less debt between the two of us, regardless of whose debt it is or who pays it, is a big priority and helps us towards other, shared household goals.

  42. Becky
    August 20, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    We have a joint checking account that our paychecks go into and expenses come out of. To me, marriage means what’s mine is his and vice versa, and that includes both assets and debt. Luckily we don’t have any debt other than the mortgage – living in Canada where education is affordable helps with that. We do have separate credit cards though (paid out of the joint account). That gives us some privacy with regard to purchases, which I like.

  43. Bloix
    August 20, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    The guy in the letter is not committed to the relationship. Every time he puts money into his “secret bank account,” he thinks about when it will be the right time to leave. Next month? When the kid starts school? Maybe he’ll never leave, but he’s planning on it. And if he does, he will do everything he can to hide assets that are legally the property of his wife. Hell, she knows he’s hiding assets and she puts up with it. In his mind, that’s his money and it doesn’t matter what the law says.

    What does that mean for her? It doesn’t mean she should leave him. Maybe she should confront him, or maybe she’s willing to put up with an indefinite, contingent relationship with a man who’s got one foot out the door. That’s her call.

    But she really should find out what her legal rights are as soon as possible.

  44. abra
    August 20, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    What if the debt was a mortgage for the house?

    We have totally communal finances. It didn’t start out that way, we had 2 checking accounts with each of us “contributing” but 10 years, 3 degree programs, 7 jobs, 2 kids (and maternity leave), and a business etc. later and everything goes into and out of one pot. I am not sure how we would have worked it out otherwise.

    We live in the same house, eat communally, socialize mostly as a couple, enjoy most of the same activities (i.e., cycling, so we have cycles of similar quality — though I got mine for far less!) but the real crunch would have been the kids. I don’t know who you would parse out who needs to pay for what/how much for the kids particularly when I have devoted a lot more time to the unpaid labor of caring for them. We both feel like we have enough freedom to spend money without the other’s permission but there are no secrets!

    My parents, on the other hand, maintain separate accounts but still treat everything communally. My mom pays the regular bills because she has regular income. My dad does most of the big purchases because his income is much more irregular.

    In any case, at this point I just can’t imagine putting the energy into the bookkeeping necessary to maintain this and the ongoing negotiations that it would take to make it “even.” And, it isn’t about some mystical “becoming one” but I wouldn’t want to deprive (or guilt) my husband of something when “I” had the money but he was still paying of “his” debt particularly if “his” debt made it possible for him to contribute to the family finances.

  45. archie
    August 20, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    Ms. A and I have one bank account. Financially, everything is shared. This includes her student loan debt, the mass of expenses we built up dealing with medical issues, and the debt we’ve taken on while I’ve built my business. Our lives have been totally stressed over the past few years – recession, small children, etc. – but this has been one of the few areas in our relationship where we have been unequivocally together. Maybe a “saving grace.”

    I’m sure we would have made entirely different life decisions had we had separate accounts, but for nearly 20 years, there has been only one. For example: Would Ms. A have been a SAHM if her student loans had been looming over her personally rather than subsumed into our home equity? Would we have even bothered trying to buy a house together in the late 90’s when our neighborhood was a “frontier” if we had maintained separate financial identities? I admit that sometimes it has been frustrating to be so transparent with money, but in the end, since both of us tend to spend, it has been a benefit to share this information.

  46. Gorb
    August 20, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    I’d say that there are likely other issues in the letter writer’s relationship that she’s not clarifying.

    There are a lot of reasons why expenses might not be shared. Perhaps the letter writer is an inveterate spender, or their relationship is sketchy, or she’s emotionally manipulative or abusive and he’s hedging his bets, or maybe he’s emotionally abusive or maybe he’s just secretive and has always been like this.

    In the comments, I’ve been disturbed to see so much judgmentalism: a priori, this was set up as a “Different strokes for different folks” deal, and yet some people don’t seem to buy that. They want the right to judge what other people do as far as their arrangements go.

    I know a good number of professionals (both men and women) who are cagey about their finances with their mates. With the divorce rate pushing 60% in some demogaphics, as my father once told me:

    Giving up your financial independence and your personal authority is downright foolish.

    Also, what happened to equality? Equality is predicated on being distinct; you some together for the things you share, like common expenses, and your own personal finances are your own.

    If my significant other was going to quit her job, I presume she’d have to consult me, or with me, and we would have to make a collective decision as to whether or not she would quit. The same rules works the other direction, too.

    Basically, absconding from financial responsibilities in a marriage is more or less a “breach of contract” deal. It’s fundamentally disrespectful.

    If the letter-writer’s husband thinks that her student loans were an issue, then perhaps he agreed to marry her on the condition that she look after her loans.

    As far as being a jerk, I disagree with Jill, but she’s honest enough to say that he’s perfectly within his rights not to pay someone else’s debts.

    If we think marriage arrangements are supposed to be personal and we’re not going to judge, we also can’t judge this guy. We especially can’t judge him without knowing the context in which he makes his decisions.

    It’s possible she’s a spendthrift, is financially irresponsible, or there’s some other issue. He could also have been raised to feel that debts are yours. On the other hand, he could be a jerk.

    Just because you’re married, doesn’t mean the other person owns you, your income, or your life: It’s supposed to be about sharing. Voluntary sharing. It’s a choice.

    Once it’s no longer a choice – once you start making moral judgments about what people do, shaming them into behaving in a certain manner, then marriage becomes a shackle.

    and finances is one area where women need to think very, very clearly, and think as individuals and not as collectives, especially today, where women generally aren’t encouraged to think on their own.

    And just because they’re married, doesn’t mean that either partner is responsible for the other’s debts. Who says this should be the case?

    And where are all these “shoulds” coming from?

  47. robotile
    August 20, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    Joint checking account, small joint savings account for wedding loot/gifts/etc. but mostly our savings accounts are separate. WE contribute communist style into the joint checking account for common living expenses.So basically, if I make 4000 dollars a month and he makes 6000, and our living expenses are 5000 a month, I pay in 2/5*5000=2000 and he pays 3000 into the common kitty. We both benefit: he pays more but gets to enjoy a higher standard of living with me than if we shared even-steven at the level I could afford, and I get to keep more savings at the higher income level. Also, it means that his time is not “worth more” than mine just because he happens to make more money. It works okay because my credit cards are my own and I can make stupid impulse buys on shopping websites and have that remain private, as can he, but then pay them down off of our joint account. That said, we’re pretty similar in our stinginess level (not into fancy stuff or house, very into eating out and boozing it up), so other arrangements could probably work just as well. The main argument we get into every year is how much of our income to contribute to charity. Now that we have a kid, I’m guessing we’ll have to change some of our financial setup, at least to have more common savings for the little one.

  48. minervab
    August 21, 2012 at 1:08 am

    When we first moved in together, we were in college and neither one of us had much money. We both had part time jobs and I had GI Bill benefits on top of that, so I was making a decent amount more money. We had a joint account for bills that we contributed to proportionally and seperate checking and savings accounts. He rarely had savings and I built up $15K.

    Then we graduated, got married, and pooled our resources, which was good, because my savings were the only thing keeping us afloat while we looked for full-time work. He found a well-paid tech industry job and I’m still unemployed, so things have flipped and we’re living off of his salary entirely. But, thankfully, he never talks about it like it’s his salary. It’s our money to use equally. We pay bills, then use half of what’s left to pay down debt and save the other half for wishlist items. We keep a list and we alternate – one big-ticket item for the household, then one for him, then another for the household, then one for me and so on. So we bought a new couch, then a gaming system for him, then a new TV, and my turn is next. It’s worked pretty well so far. And then once I get a paycheck, that will just make debt payment and savings go that much faster, even though my pay will always be significantly lower than his.

  49. Moz in Oz
    August 21, 2012 at 1:46 am

    I’m in the “whatever works for you” camp. I’ve been with my partner for about 8 years (unmarried), mostly with me earning a decent salary and her making enough to get by. We swapped at one stage when she was earning a comfy wage and I did a year in a dream job (low paying but I’ve always wanted to).

    Neither of us have much debt, we did a bit of a grind to avoid it but it was worth while (the break between her degrees was to pay fees up front), and I paid my student loan off early in our relationship (I’m a bit older).

    We run separate accounts but have a pretty good idea of each others finances, and when one of us is short money changes hands. We’re both savers, so that usually happens at the “I only have a couple of thousand left” stage, not at “will beg for food”. We’re also saving for a house (hahahaha) and that money goes into her account since her marginal tax rate is lower.

    What makes this work for us is being in a country with socialised medicine and a welfare system. If we break up neither of us is going to lose access to medical care, let alone be homeless. So there’s much less pressure to make it all work. Which means there’s no real need to do more than “I paid the power bill” with the implication that it would be nice if the other person kicked in some cash.

  50. Dr. Confused
    August 21, 2012 at 2:03 am

    I’ve seen one comment above by a parent, but overall little discussion of how kids change the financial dynamic in a relationship.

    In my first serious relationship, when we moved in together we got a joint account that rent, utilities, and groceries came out of. We were both students. Every once in a while we would both contribute the same fairly large amount to our joint account. I think this model (joint + separate accounts) works quite well for many non-parent couples.

    In my marriage, all our money is in a single joint account. There is absolutely no way we could even talk about my money vs his money when he is a stay-at-home parent. My paycheck goes in, our expenses, including our food that he buys and cooks, and care for our daughter, comes out. If we were making more I’d love for each of us to have a small defined spending amount each month, that the other can’t criticize, and maybe even transfer that into additional separate accounts, but we can’t really afford that right now. In 2 weeks we’re moving countries and I’m starting a better paying job, so we will see if in that situation we can afford “allowances” for our frivolous spending.

  51. Bryan
    August 21, 2012 at 4:12 am

    Well, the guy could start by not being a dick.

    Gendered insult and very sexist I might add.

  52. VM
    August 21, 2012 at 4:37 am

    When I met my now-husband, and we moved in together, we opened up an account together, which meant closing mine with $10,000 student overdraft. He used his savings to pay it. It just made sense and money isn’t that important to either of us (as long as we have enough to live on). I’ve been unemployed for 12 years now (first due to sickness, then to having a baby/being a stay-at-home mum) so he’s been the sole earner in all those years. It’s just not an issue for us.

  53. August 21, 2012 at 4:48 am

    Ooo, my favorite topic! You know, I have found out that it’s easy to be all cool and rational and “this is our financial plan for the next X number of years” before you’re married. And then once the two of you have been together for a few years, you quickly find out that shit happens. Shit happens – and your perfect plans suddenly seem like a joke. I think it’s one of the main reasons why so many people tend to divorce, actually. You think you’re prepared for being part of a couple – and then you realize that a lot of the time, you’re forced to make it up as you go along.

    And my husband and I pool our money, but keep separate bank accounts. Works for us.

  54. August 21, 2012 at 7:29 am

    @43: I’m not sure it follows that because he has a personal account, he’s got one foot out the door already. Obviously, yeah, he’s being a jerk, but there are actually lots of legitimate reasons why people keep seperate accounts, and only some of them involve preperation for leaving.

    Many of the married couples I know keep seperate accounts because, as Jill points out OP, they don’t like the idea of having their personal purchases being scrutinized. If/when my partner and I start a joint account, we’ll be keeping seperate, personal, accounts as well. If I decide to blow $100 on a pair of shoes or a concert ticket, as long as that money is mine and doesn’t impact our family finances, that’s my choice. Another benefit of personal accounts, for me, is that I can then purchase things as gifts without tipping my partner off. My father never set up a personal account, and it was always a source of frustration for him, trying to figure out how to buy gifts for my mother without her noticing it (since she was the person who primarily dealt with the finances).

    I like minervab’s method of finances, too. That’s a good way to do large, household purchases.

  55. August 21, 2012 at 8:22 am

    My husband and I have always done a roughly 50/50 split – but we’ve always earned roughly the same; it will be different when one of us makes much more than the other (and he’s pondering becoming a SAHD when I hit that point in my career). In periods when he went through unemployment (my career path is generally more stable than his), I supported him. We have always had separate bank accounts. When we first moved in/got married, I felt it was important for me to have my own account and emergency in case I needed to get the hell out of dodge, fast (it’s happened to too many women I know). After 15 years that is looking like it will most likely be unnecessary, but I still enjoy the freedom of having my own pool of money, and he, his, that after bills are paid I don’t have to check in with someone for every little thing. It also makes purchases easier to track and accounts easier to balance if only one person is drawing from it in a given day – there’s practically no chance of an overdraw/account drain because of miscommunication about what money was in which accounts, something that I saw happen to my parents many times.

  56. Rob in CT
    August 21, 2012 at 8:46 am

    My wife and I are lucky in that we are very similar in our financial outlook (we’re both planners/savers, but also are willing to spend big bucks on the right things, which we typically agree on. Like I said, lucky). We also make lots of money, which obviously takes a lot of stress out of it. I do well. She does even better (she makes ~60% of our total). The only debt we have is a mortgage (which is under both of our names).

    We have both our own accounts and a joint savings account. No effort is made to make sure I pay a certain % of bills. I pay what I can pay with my take-home pay and she pays/saves the rest. It’s “our” money, not “mine” and “hers.” We have a general agreement to at least mention purchases over $100 before we make them. It’s not like anybody ever says no. But it means there are no unpleasant surprises.

  57. Jenn
    August 21, 2012 at 9:55 am

    My partner and I have been together for 12 years. We keep separate accounts. We’ve talked about having a joint account for bills before, but we’ve never done it.

    Every year, or when we have a significant change I do a budget that lists all of our joint expenses and we split it 50/50. I really don’t think this is fair because I make twice as much as my partner, but he more conservative than me and feels he should pay half. All of our individual debt (his student loans, my credit card, etc) are paid by us individually.

    A few years ago he went back to school for a career change and I paid bills while he was in school, including his car loan. I didn’t feel weird about it. I wanted him to be happy and I also thought it was an investment into a better paying career for him. He paid for his own school via student loans even though I offered to help with school costs.

    Every paycheck he gives me a check for a set amount based on our current budget (set to equal amounts per paycheck). I pay all the bills. I’m better at remembering to pay bills on time and many are in my name, so it just works better that way. The only problem with that method is that I have to run by the bank, which I hate doing.
    Almost everything I do with money is electronic.

    But, lately I’ve been thinking about whether we should discuss splitting our expenses differently than 50/50 again. He’s been trying to start up his 401k, but has been unable to due to his student loans. And I don’t think that’s fair. I’d like to move to more of a 40/60 or 35/65 split due to our salaries. At the same time any large purchases including furniture, house maintenance, etc I end up paying for, so maybe we’re already there.

  58. August 21, 2012 at 9:57 am

    My hubby and I have gone through various combos, but in general we have a joint savings account and separate spending accounts. At first the money thing was really awkward, because I had a hard time finding work so he paid for everything out of his account (which I had no access to), and gave me essentially an allowance for buying groceries, etc. I hated it. Now I’m working and he is in school full time so my account is our joint account (which he hated at first because it made him feel powerless and unimportant), and he still has a separate account, but that’s because of VA stuff, we plan to fully combine once he’s out of school.

    At this point we’ve been married over 5 years, we’ve both spent time as the primary earner, and we’re comfortable with each other’s spending habits. But it was a tough road to get here.

  59. August 21, 2012 at 10:04 am

    We are both jobless this summer. And we have a child, 10 months old. I write some articles and get some help from my parents. So we moved to the village for the summer because food is cheaper here, air is better then in Moscow, fish in the river, mushrooms in the wood and apples in the garden are for free.
    In September I’m going to hire a babysitter and get a part-time job and breath down my husband’s neck untill he gets job too. What about money – when he earns something, he gives everything to me and I decide what to buy and what to save. We have nothing to put in the bank. But also no loans, credits and so on – just can not afford that.

  60. August 21, 2012 at 10:40 am

    Maybe it’s because I’ve never been married, but this confuses me. Why would you expect a partner to help you pay off expenses that you incurred before you even met them? Is this the norm in marriages/life partnerships?

  61. EG
    August 21, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Because you’ve linked your lives together, so you have in some ways become a financial unit. If one partner is routinely impoverished and the other is not, it doesn’t actually help the unit that is your family, whereas if the unit is debt-free, it does.

  62. Shannon
    August 21, 2012 at 11:03 am

    @ Miriam, I’m with you.
    My fiance and I do not pool money. At all.
    All accounts are separate. I pay Utilities, he pays rent.
    He has no student loans, but he pays child support for his kids from a previous marriage.
    I have student loans I am paying.
    I would no sooner pay any of his child support than he would my loans.
    They are MY DEBT, and mine alone.

    As for the LW:
    They are splitting expenses. It seems that all bills are paid. The household is maintained, and kids are cared for. It’s not HIS FAULT she doesn’t have $$ for extras. Trips and brand new appliances are nice, but not essential, and he may not value them like she does, so he is probably unwilling to pay for them. My fiance prefers not to spend a lot of money on stuff, nor does he like to travel. Some people are like this. They sock away $$ for god knows what. Most likely, she knew her husband was like this before they married.

    Some people derive satisfaction from saying “I have X amount of $$ in the bank.” If it’s his $$, from his salary, and it’s above and beyond the household expenses and child expenses, he has EVERY RIGHT to do with it as he sees fit.

    FWIW, I’m a woman, in a regular heteronormative relationship. I know the opinion I have is not shared by most other posters, so I thought I’d say that for the record, lest someone think I’m a man trolling. LOL!

  63. August 21, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Some people derive satisfaction from saying “I have X amount of $$ in the bank.” If it’s his $$, from his salary, and it’s above and beyond the household expenses and child expenses, he has EVERY RIGHT to do with it as he sees fit.

    Since when are appliances not a household expense?

    I mean, seriously. My dad squirrels away money almost instinctively, but I’ve never heard him refuse my mother trips or appliances because it was more important for him to hoard HIS MONEEEEEEE. And the taunting about her education was kind of my final straw where the LW was concerned. I agree that it’s fair that you and your fiance split finances as you do, but one hopes that just because your fiance pays child support, you wouldn’t throw “Well, we could have gone to Vegas for Christmas if you’d remembered to bag your dick, you stupid fuck” in his face. It doesn’t sound like it.

  64. Chiara
    August 21, 2012 at 11:23 am

    yeah no im not down with this.

    people on this thread are just expecting the guy to fill all the traditional male responsibilites and the girl to take no responsiblity at all.

    imagine if the genders in this letter was reversed; you’d be advising the girl to dump the guy for being such a looser to expect her to pay off his student loans. get real get honest please.

  65. Donna L
    August 21, 2012 at 11:26 am

    If it’s his $$, from his salary, and it’s above and beyond the household expenses and child expenses, he has EVERY RIGHT to do with it as he sees fit.

    Perhaps that’s so, as long as they’re together. But his salary is still a marital asset (or community property, depending on what state in the U.S. they’re in) — in other words it belongs to the marriage, which is deemed an economic unit, the equivalent of a legal partnership or joint venture — and she has EVERY RIGHT to an equitable share of whatever he has salted away, if it was accumulated during the marriage, in the event of divorce.

    And the doctor husband in comment 13 will probably be surprised to find out that if the marriage ends, his wife will not only be entitled to a share of whatever he’s made during the marriage, but will also be entitled to a substantial share of the undoubtedly substantial value of his medical license — which is itself an asset that she helped him create by supporting him for so long during his studies. Maybe that will wipe some of the arrogance off him. Either that, or he’ll turn into an MRA whining about how the courts screwed him.

  66. Donna L
    August 21, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Comment in moderation pointing out that everything the husband makes during the marriage is a marital asset, in which the wife is entitled to share in the event of divorce. And so is the value of the medical license of the doctor in comment 13. His wife helped create his medical career, and she has a right to share in its value.

  67. Mike
    August 21, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Maybe it’s because I’ve never been married, but this confuses me. Why would you expect a partner to help you pay off expenses that you incurred before you even met them? Is this the norm in marriages/life partnerships?

    The most important thing is that both are on the same page on what is okay and what isnt okay as far as finances go. There is no one size fits all. Some men want to be the primary breadwinner and happily pay for everything. Then there are women and some men who resent it when they have to take on more than their “fair share”, even if they make plenty of money.

    The emotional can not be approached with the rational, you can use the rational to suppress the emotional to some degree.

  68. EG
    August 21, 2012 at 11:42 am

    you’d be advising the girl to dump the guy for being such a looser to expect her to pay off his student loans. get real get honest please.

    Nope, I wouldn’t be. If the girl was being a total dick about her high income, and saying things like “We could have nice things except you felt the need to get an education,” I’d tell him to dump her.

    I have never dated a man who made more than I did, and when you remember that I spent 8 years in a PhD program, that tells you a lot. And not only have I never objected to paying my share, I’ve always made a point of covering what I could of his share. For fuck’s sake, I have friends who do the same for me. From each according to his abilities.

  69. EG
    August 21, 2012 at 11:50 am

    Here’s the point: if marriage is not about joining together to carry each other when need be and ease life’s difficulties by facing them together, then I have no idea what it would be about. If I’m going to have the same troubles I have now, except that I’d be living with somebody who’s constantly admonishing me for my debts and mistakes, I don’t see the point at all. I can admonish myself perfectly well, thanks.

  70. Shannon
    August 21, 2012 at 11:50 am

    @maccavitykitsune (Hope I got that right. Sorry!)

    She doesn’t say specifically that the appliances NEEDED to be replaced. She doesn’t say, for example, he refused to buy a new dishwasher because the old one was broken. He may just feel that whatever she is proposing they buy, they don’t really need so he’d rather not spend $$ on it. Some people, the thing could be 20 years old and if it’s still working, they are NOT buying a new one. What for? The old one still works! LOL, not my philosophy, but I know there are people out there like that.

    And as far as the taunting aspect–first of all, we are taking for granted that that is what he actually said, second, it sounds as if they’ve been married for some time, so they have probably had this discussion a myriad of times. I don’t like to have to tell my SO the same thing over and over again. It’s annoying. It sounds like the verbal stylings of someone really irritated to have the same money discussion over and over in his marriage. I guarantee you this came up before they married but she may have thought it would change over the years. Or once they had kids. It really doesn’t change, for the most part. It would be nice if he was more flexible, but he’s just not.

  71. IrishUp
    August 21, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Given the douchey comeback from the husband, I’d really want to contribute to the pooled household expenses AS IF I made the $9/hr barista salary, and use the difference to pay down the student loans. Fucker.

    Let’s face it, he is reaping the benefits of her loan-supported current earning power, while refusing to accept any of the risk or liability. And then has the temerity to be snide about the fact that it costs 6 figures to get 6 figure earning power in the US today. That is some grade A bullshit.

    I am a fan of the your/mine/ours Venn diagram of relationships, including the financial aspect of marriage. However, apportioning the “ours” contributions, IMO ought to allow each partner to meet their individual AND joint financial obligations, while allowing each partner to equally benefit from the disposable/discretionary funds available to the PARTNERSHIP. If their financial arrangement is such that *he* can squirrel away scads of money while *she* scrapes by, he’s being exploitative as far as I’m concerned.

  72. Mike
    August 21, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Here’s the point: if marriage is not about joining together to carry each other when need be and ease life’s difficulties by facing them together, then I have no idea what it would be about.

    Well you need to make sure your partner thinks the same. There are people who think like you and there are people who see marriage as a means to get half his money.

  73. Henry
    August 21, 2012 at 11:54 am

    We pool it all into one big messy pond for ease of management, and there’s never enough for everything given the “new normal” of our economy and variable incomes – even among salaried people some of whom took 30% paycuts one year to keep their companies afloat. Pooled or separate doesn’t really matter at the end of the day, all the bills have to get paid so you can’t squirrel away any extra if the daily bills of house and food and childcare etc. eat nearly 100% of what comes into the door. We decide jointly on spending for non essentials, like extra debt payments vs. going out to non-work related dinners once a month. Fortunate are those who have room to argue over discretionary spending for fun items – so be grateful you can fight over Vegas vs. extra cable television channels.

    He should be contributing to her loans – depending on where she lives, at 90K per year in salary, law school was not a good financial plan. But you have to do something, and that degree earns money, therefore it’s a marital asset – a divorce court will consider it one when allocating alimony – so he should be paying a share since he enjoys the money it earns in the form of a housing payment unless they made that deal before marriage. Sounds like nothing was discussed prior to the blessed event – which is a huge mistake. So to those who are contemplating marriage, get it all worked out now as much as you can, getting the divorce court to work it out later is not as much fun.

  74. abra
    August 21, 2012 at 11:57 am

    @Chiara, I think the root of the disagreement can be illustrated by the difference of language — you use “guy” and “girl” while I would choose to use “man” and “woman” or, in this specific case “husband” and “wife”. “Girls” don’t get married, they are children. “Guy” doesn’t imply child but possibly someone not yet ready to commit to a long-term relationship.

    Of course, if they weren’t married, I would never expect him to contribute to student loans. In a serious relationship, I would be wary if he were so caught up in what is “his” that he wouldn’t maybe treat her to a trip he could afford but she couldn’t or spring for the nicer fridge than what they could afford 50/50 — if that is what they wanted. I would be appalled if a friend said her SO guilted/complained when they didn’t take trips, buy household things, etc. because she couldn’t afford her share. I think long term, successful relationship are characterized by more generosity of spirit and caring for the other person than that illustrates.

    In my opinion, however, the dynamics and expectations change when you are married. In part, it is just legal — legally, you assume your spouse’s debts and assets in the sense that if he/she were to die, short of a will to the contrary, you would inherit the house, car, and the golf clubs/shoe collection/library as well as the mortgage, car loan, and credit card debt for those clubs/shoes/books. Even if she/he doesn’t die but loses her/his job, has to take extended leave, etc., you are still responsible for making sure those bills are paid.

    And then, as was our case, we start making choices about who is going to take the job that allows more flexibility but pays less, or who passes up a better paying job because it is across the country because that would mean uprooting the family and possibly lowering the family’s income over all (say the other can’t find new job at the same pay as the old one or you choose to live apart for a while and have 2 sets of bills). How can you make all of that “even”?

    It is just part of being committed to someone. Sure some people are totally “communist” in their approach and some manage their day-to-day expenses separately — but once you sign the marriage license, you’ve linked your finances and assumed your spouse’s debts. If your spouse doesn’t pay his half of the mortgage/rent/car payment, you still get evicted/foreclosed on/your car repossessed.

  75. jessi
    August 21, 2012 at 11:58 am

    There are people who think like you and there are people who see marriage as a means to get half his money.

    Really?

  76. cherrybomb
    August 21, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    there are people who see marriage as a means to get half his money.

    What a telling statement.

  77. Ros
    August 21, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    @Chiara:

    yeah no im not down with this.

    people on this thread are just expecting the guy to fill all the traditional male responsibilites and the girl to take no responsiblity at all.

    imagine if the genders in this letter was reversed; you’d be advising the girl to dump the guy for being such a looser to expect her to pay off his student loans. get real get honest please.

    There’s a comment I posted earlier in this thread (15 and 16, if you want to refer…) where I mention that I entered into a relationship with a man who makes significantly less than I do. He had student loans, I didn’t. I had good credit and no debt, he didn’t. We combined households and figured out what needed to be paid when, and so his student loans come out of the joint account, and count as monthly expenses that we, as a collective team, need to meet.

    And, for the record: my husband is great, we make one hell of a team, household obligations and work outside the home are split so that we’ve both got equal amounts of spare time, and the way we’ve got things balanced WORKS for us. Sharing the work of a partnership in ways other than monetary contributions doesn’t make one a “loser”, regardless of gender, and I think I’m living up to what I’m speaking about, here.

    That said, when we first lived together and before we got married, his student loans still came out of his personal accounts. He made significantly less than I do. After bills/rent/financial obligations, I would never, EVER, have guilted him over having student loans, which is the biggest issue in the Hairpin post. There’s a difference between “after our bills and rent and loans, we can’t afford X” and “well, if you didn’t have student loans, you could afford X, but you have loans, so I’m just gonna take my money and put it in a separate account and not help, and, by the way, that degree you worked for that’s allowing you go get a good salary that’s benefiting the family? Worthless, because you have loans.” Saying that is a crappy move.

  78. EG
    August 21, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Well you need to make sure your partner thinks the same. There are people who think like you and there are people who see marriage as a means to get half his money.

    No shit. You mean, I should talk to my partner about important issues before I marry him/her? Thanks ever so much for guiding me; my weak girl brain could never have thought of that on my own.

    I suppose straight men are total innocents in this dynamic, bamboozled by the rampant hordes of gold-digging women out there.

  79. grrljock
    August 21, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    My same-sex spouse and I have a joint account as well as our own personal accounts. The money in the joint account goes towards household needs (groceries, utilities, mortgage, appliances, etc.), while the money in our own accounts gets spent however we like, free of the other’s judgment. So we use our personal accounts for not just stuff like cool shoes for us, but also treats for the house (i.e., not strictly needs but wants) and our 2 kids (aged 2 and 6 years old). For daycare and afterschool care of the kids, we’ve just taken turns paying the costs (e.g., I pay for August, she pays for September).

    This is what’s worked for us, and having kids has not changed our approach. I think it’s been relatively easy for us to come to this arrangement, because we both have the same fundamental view on money and finances.

  80. EG
    August 21, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    Shannon, you’re reading a lot into this letter: it came up before and she thought she could change him, they’ve had this conversation many times before, maybe he didn’t even say what she says he did. Is there a reason for this?

    Here’s another interpretation: like too many people, they did not anticipate financial issues, so they didn’t talk about them in detail. She thought she’d be earning much more, because of her law degree, but the economy crashed and she’s lucky to have a job at all. She feels her opinion on household expenses should not be discounted just because she’s not bringing in as much money as he is (and I agree). She’s exasperated too, because she doesn’t want to spend the next 20 years of loan repayment with somebody who throws her loan in her face every time she wants to go on vacation.

  81. August 21, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    She doesn’t say specifically that the appliances NEEDED to be replaced. She doesn’t say, for example, he refused to buy a new dishwasher because the old one was broken.

    Um. Who do you know who goes appliance shopping for kicks and joy? I mean, seriously, who comfort shops for blenders?

    And as far as the taunting aspect–first of all, we are taking for granted that that is what he actually said

    Well, we’re taking the entire letter for granted, aren’t we?

  82. petpluto
    August 21, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    people on this thread are just expecting the guy to fill all the traditional male responsibilites and the girl to take no responsiblity at all.

    imagine if the genders in this letter was reversed; you’d be advising the girl to dump the guy for being such a looser to expect her to pay off his student loans. get real get honest please.

    Here’s the honest truth: I can see why the husband wouldn’t contribute to paying off his wife’s student loans. I didn’t contribute to paying off my fiance’s student loans, nor his car loan. He didn’t contribute to paying off my car. Those were debts we paid off individually.

    But if my fiance really wanted something – or if he needed money to float him during a bad stretch (he’s self-employed, so his situation is more fluid than mine) – I would contribute to it. Not every time. Not for everything. But when he needed a new camera and new equipment, we discussed it. And because he didn’t have enough money for it himself, I contributed to it. Because we’re a partnership, and having that equipment was something that he needed in order to get more jobs to make more money. When we needed a new couch, I bought it, because most of his finances were tied up in paying his bills. When we went to Seattle, I paid for most of the trip, because I could afford to and he couldn’t. When we went to Disney World, we did the opposite, because he was in a better place financially.

    If she wants to upgrade just to upgrade, saying, “We both have to save up for that stuff” makes sense. It shouldn’t be all out of his pocket all the time for her wants. But – if she wants a new dishwasher, and she has no finances because he doesn’t believe they should combine debt, then there should be a discussion. Having a “If you didn’t have loans, you could buy it yourself” blanket statement is jerky and unhelpful.

    It sounds like he’s pissed she has any debt at all. Speaking as someone who has – through luck and some choice decisions – remained mostly debt free through college and beyond, I can’t understand that. All of my friends have debt. All of my friends have to pay their student loans. The ones who went to/are going to graduate school are doing so because they were making crap money with only their undergrad degree. And they are/will hopefully be making more once they graduate. Their partners are/will be benefitting from the investment they made; and that doesn’t mean that their partners automatically have to help pay that debt off too. But it does mean recognizing that fact, and being more flexible about your own finances.

    Recognizing that you’re a partnership as well as individuals means recognizing that both perks and downsides that come with the individual effect that partnership as well. It means sometimes putting up more of your income so you both get a new vacuum or couch or get to take a vacation. It means mitigating the downsides to fully take advantage of the perks; sometimes that means helping to pay down debt, and sometimes it means paying more than your partner for stuff, and sometimes it means talking to them like they’re adults instead of criticizing them for having debt from student loans.

  83. Shannon
    August 21, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    I knew people would disagree with me so I took that chance when I responded.

    EG, I just really don’t believe this is the first time this has come up in their marriage. That’s my opinion. If yours differs that’s totally cool. I think she is asking for advice because it is an issue that has come up more than once and she is seeking help on resolving it perhaps or just support because she is upset about it.

    Mac, some people like to upgrade their appliances because they want different features, the old one doesn’t match new decor, or they “fear” it will break soon if it’s old. Not everyone buys a new appliance because the old one is broken.

    But again, I just don’t feel that he should pay for things he doesn’t think are necessary. And I’m sure he was a miserly SOB always. LOL.

    If they didn’t talk about $$ issues at all, then they are both to blame for the situation, because one can assume that he knew about her debt. If I were him, I would have said, “BTW, you know I am not paying one red cent of that.” Then she could have decided whether she wanted to marry him or not.

    But since they didn’t here they are. Not pleasant, but I’d imagine it’s common. That’s why my fiance and I did our best to discuss these issues in depth. We obviously can’t cover every scenario, but we tried to talk through the big stuff as best we could.

  84. Esti
    August 21, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    Different strokes for different folks, but I personally would not be interested in a (long-term, marriage-like) relationship that did not include a pooling of resources. I think it’s a great idea to have separate “fun” accounts so that each partner can spend some money on whatever they want, but I would want to have the bulk of the money in a joint account. Everything we earn goes in the joint account, all expenses are paid from the joint account, and then each partner gets the same amount in their fun account each month.

    I would not feel comfortable having more money than my spouse, even if I was earning more. And I would not want to have to renegotiate the percentage we each put into the joint pot every time someone got a raise or was fired or a new expense cropped up. If I sign up for a marriage, I want to do so with the understanding that what we have is ours — the money, the debt, the expenses. If my spouse needed to pay for student loans, or an expensive prescription drug, or a trip home to see his family, I can’t imagine seeing him scrimp on other things while I sat on the money I was bringing in.

    That’s just what I would want for my own relationship, and people should obviously do what works for them and their partner. But bear in mind that in most jurisdictions, the division of money within a marriage is somewhat artificial — if the couple splits up, it’s probably not going to make a difference that one of them has all of their money in a personal account. In most cases, what you make in a marriage is, legally, shared property.

  85. Nyah
    August 21, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    I would not be able to be in a commited relationship that has such a huge disparity in wealth. I know that sounds unromantic and elitest, but the difference in lifestyles is just too much.

    I’m 28, with no debt, work at a hedge fund and make a comfortable 6-figure salary, and work very long hours. A couple years ago I dated a phd student (he did not have debt, but his stipend was obviously not very large) and when he moved in, I still paid all the rent/utilities/etc and it did not bother me one bit. What did become a problem was when I wanted to go out to nicer restaurants or bars, and while I did not mind paying for us, I don’t think he was very comfortable going to places all the time that he could not afford. I also work crazy weeks so sometimes when I get a whole weekend off (rare), I’d take a last-minute weekend trip to Paris, and there was always a silent judgement like “did you really just pay 2k for tickets to Paris for a weekend?”. It just got to the point where the income disparity and our lifestyle choices were too different.

    I would never, ever do something like a joint account, but I do not at all mind paying for most things if I am the one with more money. Though I can understand how anyone would be uncomfortable with always having someone pay for them.

    How do people manage huge income disparities? I have no idea!

  86. cherrybomb
    August 21, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    She doesn’t say specifically that the appliances NEEDED to be replaced. She doesn’t say, for example, he refused to buy a new dishwasher because the old one was broken.

    You can bet if he was the one who primarily used a busted-up dishwasher/blender/washing machine he’d rather replace it than fight with it every day. But since he doesn’t, she can suck it up and wash dishes by hand and get a washboard and tub for the laundry rather than spend his precious $ on something usable.

    Um. Who do you know who goes appliance shopping for kicks and joy?

    Or maybe she’s like me, and collects Hello Kitty appliances. Because if you need a new microwave or hand vacuum, why NOT get it with Hello Kitty on it?!

  87. Antonia
    August 21, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Married Dude at the Hairpin is definitely a jerk for taunting his wife about her debt, among other things.

    However, I definitely understand the desire to keep at least some money in a “secret” account (read: account where you’re not required to disclose your purchases or current balance.) While I’ve never been married, my last long-term relationship involved a lot of sharing expenses and such. We both made about the same amount, so we each contributed equally to rent, utilities, groceries, and eating out.

    Still, we kept separate bank accounts. Sie was really uncomfortable making any unnecessary expenditures, including a cheap meal downtown. This made sense since sie had significant student loans from a private school while I went to a state school and graduated debt-free, though sie did usually have more in savings than I did due to my unforeseen medical emergency a few years ago.

    All that said, I’m glad that sie didn’t know about every little thing I spent my money on. Back when I would talk about my purchases, sie basically gave me the stink eye on anything that wasn’t necessary for a minimal level of comfort. And it wasn’t even coming from hir account! I don’t think we would have lasted nearly as long if sie had been able to keep an eye on all my expenditures.

  88. Gorb
    August 21, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Yeah, … there’s a sense here that the couple is joined at the hip. I thought modern sensibilities ran to the Independent and Competent.

    The idea that it’s the other partner’s *duty* (if they’re not an asshole) to live in a “communist” style marriage in which those who have, give to the other without thought, … Um, I’ve got to tell you, this sounds as unliberated as it’s possible to get.

    She acquired crazy debt before they got married. He’s not necessarily an asshole for thinking that this is her problem; he’s generous enough with other things. I see this as perfectly reasonable.

    It’s not limitlessly generous, but are married people still individuals or are they members of the hive mind?

    Let me propose something.

    Exact situation, but the male and female role reversed.

    Would the commenters come to the same conclusion? I’m willing to guess, … mostly, no.

    I’d like the commenters and Jill to chime in and offer a real opinion on the reverse situation. Is it an obligation on the part of the woman, making more money than the man, to fork over cash for the man’s previous debts (however acquired?) And if she doesn’t, is she an asshole?

    I would find such a reversal and reframing illuminating.

  89. August 21, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    yeah no im not down with this.

    people on this thread are just expecting the guy to fill all the traditional male responsibilites and the girl to take no responsiblity at all.

    imagine if the genders in this letter was reversed; you’d be advising the girl to dump the guy for being such a looser to expect her to pay off his student loans. get real get honest please.

    Huh?
    Did we read the same letter?
    How is she not taking any responsibility at all? She admits the debt is hers. She’s working to pay it off (and, seriously, at 90k, she’s making a damn sight more than I’m likely to anytime soon). She’s pissed because her husband is acting like a jerk. Okay, maybe they didn’t talk about it before they got married, or maybe it’s bothering her more now than it did then–we can’t know since they don’t say, but even if you agree that his money is his to do with as he pleases, throwing it in her face that they could do more if she didn’t have the debt that he refuses to help pay down (and that, you know, allows her to have a 90k a year job) is still super shitty. If the situation were reversed, I’d be telling him that she was acting like a jerk. In either case, I think that the solution is for them to sit down and have a really serious conversation about it. I certainly wouldn’t call either of them a loser just because they’re carrying student loan debt.

  90. Kristen J.
    August 21, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Here’s the point: if marriage is not about joining together to carry each other when need be and ease life’s difficulties by facing them together, then I have no idea what it would be about. If I’m going to have the same troubles I have now, except that I’d be living with somebody who’s constantly admonishing me for my debts and mistakes, I don’t see the point at all. I can admonish myself perfectly well, thanks.

    Yes. This. I mean, if I didn’t support Mr. Kristen while he was pursuing his dreams…that would make me a giant asshat. I would turn the universe upside down and shake it to make sure he has the things he needs to be happy and I know he would do the same for me. Last time I checked continually admonishing my partner for shit he can’t do anything about (or shit that I benefit from) does not fall into the category of things he needs to be happy.

  91. EG
    August 21, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    I’d like the commenters and Jill to chime in and offer a real opinion on the reverse situation. Is it an obligation on the part of the woman, making more money than the man, to fork over cash for the man’s previous debts (however acquired?) And if she doesn’t, is she an asshole?

    I did that already, when I noted that I have never dated a man who made more than me. And yes, with the genders reversed, then all it means is that she would be an asshole. “We could do that if you didn’t have loans”? Yeah, well, we could also do that if you weren’t an asshole, and good-bye, sir/ma’am.

  92. August 21, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    She acquired crazy debt before they got married. He’s not necessarily an asshole for thinking that this is her problem; he’s generous enough with other things. I see this as perfectly reasonable.

    If you care about someone enough that you want to be with them for the rest of your life and pledge a commitment to that person, but then say “Hey, that educational debt that you have? That let you land a 90k job? Yeah, that’s your fucking problem. Don’t expect me to help out with it. And remember, we’d be able to do a lot more stuff if it weren’t for *your* debt”? Yeah, I think you’re being an asshole.

    He’s supposed to be her partner. He almost certainly benefits from the results of her taking on that debt, but he can’t be arsed to help out with it, even though it’s obviously causing a significant burden to her, and throws it in her face when she has financial difficulties? Yeah, I think that’s shitty.

    Exact situation, but the male and female role reversed.

    Would the commenters come to the same conclusion? I’m willing to guess, … mostly, no.

    I’d like the commenters and Jill to chime in and offer a real opinion on the reverse situation. Is it an obligation on the part of the woman, making more money than the man, to fork over cash for the man’s previous debts (however acquired?) And if she doesn’t, is she an asshole?

    Frankly, yes. In the exact same situation, but gender reversed? Absolutely. If he were having financial difficulties and she not only refused to help, but threw them in his face? I’d think she was being a jerk.

  93. August 21, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    I need to stop using html, apparently. My attention to detail (in particular, to closing tags properly) is attrocious.

  94. Esti
    August 21, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    @ Gorb

    Exact situation, but the male and female role reversed.

    Would the commenters come to the same conclusion?

    I can only speak for myself, but: Yes. At my current income, I am likely making significantly more than any hypothetical future husband, and my ideal set-up would be to dump all of my earnings into a joint account that paid all of the expenses, including hypothetical future husband’s student loans.

  95. Bagelsan
    August 21, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    I dunno, those are her loans and her education; I don’t think he’s a jerk for not wanting to pay for them. Rubbing it in her face is a total douchebag move, naturally, but there’s something to be said for paying your own way if you can. And if she’s making $90k then she won’t have that much trouble paying off $100k in debt, frankly.

  96. Bagelsan
    August 21, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    It’s only dating, not marriage, but as someone who’s making crap all with part-time work (and has student loans) I don’t expect my boyfriend to pay for dinner more than half the time, let alone help me pay down my loans. He doesn’t act like an ass about my reluctance to pay for some things, I don’t ask him for money. Seems pretty feminist, all told.

  97. EG
    August 21, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    And if she’s making $90k then she won’t have that much trouble paying off $100k in debt, frankly.

    You don’t have any way of knowing that. It all depends on other expenses: rent/mortgage, medical, things of that nature.

  98. Bagelsan
    August 21, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    You don’t have any way of knowing that. It all depends on other expenses: rent/mortgage, medical, things of that nature.

    I have a pretty good idea based on the letter; she doesn’t mention being on her own for those expenses, and some kind of uninsured chronic medical condition would surely merit mention. If you’re making $90k, you likely have a decent chunk of that left at the end of the year (especially in a 2-income household) that can go towards debt payments. Just like the doctors who make $250k a year and have the same amount in debt; if you don’t run into anything catastrophic then you’re pretty well set in a few years.

  99. Donna L
    August 21, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    If you’re living in New York City, after taxes and paying $20-25,000 a year for rent (or mortgage + maintenance) for a studio or one-bedroom apartment, and other ordinary living expenses (not to mention medical insurance premiums and medical expenses, which can really add up sometimes just from the uncovered cost of prescription medications), I don’t think there’s going to be much left over from a $90,000 salary for debt payments. In a two-income household, maybe. But by no means necessarily.

  100. Donna L
    August 21, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    I think I made it clear in comment 67 that I have no sympathy for asshole behavior (regardless of gender) by spouses who not only act as if everything they make is theirs to do with as they wish — as to which they may be in for a rude surprise someday — but also rub their spouses’ noses in their greater economic privilege and power.

    Still, even though it’s fine if both parties agree, and generosity can be a wonderful thing unless there are strings attached to it, I certainly don’t believe there’s any moral obligation to help a spouse pay off past student loans or other debt. I’ve had very substantial monetary obligations for alimony and child support since I was divorced 7 1/2 years ago, amounting to more than half of what’s left from my salary after taxes and rent, and (speaking of oversharing!) I will continue to pay child support until my son is 24, and alimony until I’m 65. Which isn’t that close, fortunately or unfortunately. But in the unlikely event I were ever to marry again, it wouldn’t even occur to me to ask or expect my spouse to contribute to those obligations even if they could afford it. They’re mine, and not anyone else’s. I’m not sure if I would accept an offer even if it were made. If I ended up married to a billionaire — and I’m more likely to fly to Mars — I’d reconsider, of course!

  101. August 21, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    Well, what we do know from the letter:

    I am a lawyer and owe about $100k.
    He feels I went to law school before we were married and therefore he is not responsible for them.
    We contribute jointly to household expenses and provide for our child
    anything extra he earns goes straight into his secret bank account
    every cent I earn goes toward the loans
    little personal money [is] left for me

    Given those things, his responses “if you didn’t have those loans, we could” when she asks about taking a trip or buying new appliances is shitty. Telling her that, at least if she were a barista she wouldn’t have the loan debt is also shitty.

    Fine, he doesn’t want to be responsible for the loans? That’s his right–they weren’t his. But he doesn’t have to be an asshole about it. And, if the situation as what she says it is, and I were in her shoes, I’d be pretty pissed.

  102. EG
    August 21, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    I have a pretty good idea based on the letter; she doesn’t mention being on her own for those expenses, and some kind of uninsured chronic medical condition would surely merit mention.

    I have insurance, and my medications run me $300 a month. I have less than a third of the letter-writer’s debt and make over half of what she does and every single month is a struggle during which I’m obsessively checking my bank account to make sure I have enough money for groceries. Sometimes I don’t. So no, you don’t know.

    What I do have, unlike the letter-writer, is friends and family who aren’t assholes.

  103. FashionablyEvil
    August 21, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    It’s only dating, not marriage, but as someone who’s making crap all with part-time work (and has student loans) I don’t expect my boyfriend to pay for dinner more than half the time, let alone help me pay down my loans. He doesn’t act like an ass about my reluctance to pay for some things, I don’t ask him for money. Seems pretty feminist, all told.

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that marriage is different. It’s a legal and, depending on where you’re coming from, ethical and religious, commitment.

    Also, this whole gender reversal thing? Lording past decisions over your partner and generally being a jerk just makes you a jerk, regardless of your gender.

  104. Bagelsan
    August 21, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Okay, suit yourselves; $90k is so tiny as to be almost unlivable. :p

  105. Lenore
    August 21, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    My husband and I have a bit of a reverse – 50’s situation going on. I make 75% of our income, but hold all of our debt (he does not have student loans, I do). All of our money is pooled, all of our accounts are shared, and I do 99% of our money related tasks. Honestly, I don’t think he even remembers the passwords to our accounts. And while he works full-time, we could live off of my income alone if need be (not that his contribution doesn’t significantly impact our lifestyle and financial health). I don’t think it ever occurred to either of us to do it any other way.

  106. EG
    August 21, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    Yes, Bagelsan, that’s a perfect understanding. I’m so glad you’ve come to it.

  107. bleh
    August 21, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    We pay his student debt (tens of thousands) and my student debt (6k) together. His salary is a result of those loans, as is mine. If her debt was for a car that she subsequently crashed or a business that went bust or something he did not DIRECTLY benefit from, I would agree it isn’t his problem, but jeebus. What a tool.

  108. Bagelsan
    August 21, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    From the letter:

    anything extra he earns goes straight into his secret bank account, whereas every cent I earn goes toward the loans with little personal money left for me.

    No mention of expensive medications*, shouldering the rent herself (mention of the opposite, in fact), and no reason to believe she’s doing something like paying for chemo out of pocket. Mostly she doesn’t seem to have the amount of fun money she’d like to have, thanks to her successfully working towards paying off her debts. My characterization of her as able to pay them herself? Seems pretty dang reasonable.

    But sure, why not assume that everything costs as much as imaginable and that she’s having trouble paying for groceries, despite her implying nothing of the sort.

    *which, join the club EG

  109. shfree
    August 21, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    My ex doesn’t benefit from my student loans (and frankly, neither do I, given my current employment situation) and he is still paying them, because I made sacrifices for his current career. (We moved halfway across the country, causing me to give up a job that payed well and I loved) I just see a student loan as being so ubiquitous to anyone’s finances now as it is just another bill that a couple would absorb as a couple, particularly when they are so vital to a career path.

  110. roro80
    August 21, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Of the many, many things that hubby and I have a hard time talking about, finances is a subject that has always come very easily to us. When we met, he had huge student loans and tens of thousands in credit card debt, but a stellar credit score. He had been living on a pretty crummy salary in downtown San Francisco (sooo expensive), and had just finished his Masters while working, so he had been living off of credit cards and student loans. I was still in school, had zero money, but blessedly no debt at all. About the time we moved in together a year later, he was finally at the tipping point where his salary superceded his expenses, and I was out of school working with a good income. Because we talked so much about our financial situation (he does finance for a living, and I’m semi-obsessed with saving and investing and building up a nest egg), he knew it was an important thing to me. He fully paid off his ~$20K in credit card debts and had a nice little savings going before he asked me to marry him after 3 years of living together. He was adamant at the time that I should not have to shoulder the burden of his student loans. Since we had had fully separate accounts throughout our relationship, we just kept it as it was.

    However, after figuring out that this marriage is probably going to be forever (you never know!), it just started to seem silly that he should be paying off his loans alone, while splitting everything else 50-50, particularly considering I have been making only slightly less than him throughout our relationship. I mean, the financial future is *ours*, not his and mine separately. Having the student loan albatross around his neck meant it was around mine too. We made up a spreadsheet and figured out that, paying what he was paying each month, it would take us 37 years (!!!!) to pay off his loans. Furthermore, it was an amount huge enough to make a real difference if we were to apply for, say, a home loan. So I started pitching in, doubling or sometimes tripling the monthly payment, plus lump sums when I got my bonus each year. Now, just 3 years later, we’re at a point where, even if we only paid the minimum, the entire balance will be gone in less than 3 years, and we expect it to be gone in more like 2 years. We’re stoked.

    Of course, the risk is that, should we break up tomorrow, I’d be out the tens of thousands of dollars I put into the loans, as the money that came from was obtained while we were married, whereas if I hadn’t been putting in, he would take the loans with him in the divorce, due to those loans having been incurred prior to our getting married.

    So, if the guy in the original post thinks that this is real, this is forever, and the financial future is most likely a shared financial future, it’s kind of dumb to be stingy with helping out. But if things aren’t going so well, and a divorce looks like a real possibility in the next 5 years, I’d say stay away from pitching in.

    In any case, all of our finances are still separate, with expenses split based on the fact that I will save and he will spend if he has money sitting around in his checking. So he pays the bills (gas, water, electric, etc), and I save and invest. We split the mortgage and dog walker 50-50. This will all have to change in the likely event that we have kids, since it’s possible one of us will want to take some significant time off.

  111. Esti
    August 21, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    Bagelsan, I don’t think anyone is saying that she isn’t able to buy groceries. But depending on your interest rate, how aggressively you’re paying down your loans, and, yes, what other expenses you have, it’s not necessarily the case that paying back 100k of debt on a 90k salary is a walk in the park.

    Sure, she has a roof over her head and doesn’t seem to be starving. But she may be dealing with a dishwasher that leaks and not having bought a new pair of shoes in two years and the likelihood that she won’t be able to take a vacation for the next eight years. And if I was in that situation because I was putting every cent I had toward loan repayment while my husband had tons of spare cash in a personal account, I wouldn’t be thrilled either. Especially if he rubbed it in my face.

  112. Athenia
    August 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    This guy is an IDIOT. While he’s enjoying “punishing” her for her loans, doesn’t he realize that he is LOSING MORE MONEY?!?

    If I were him, I would help pay off those loans ASAP so the whole family could have more money.

  113. Katya
    August 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    My husband and I have one joint account, everything goes into it, and everything is paid out of it, including my student loans and our personal spending. We discuss major purchases beforehand. I came into the marriage with student debt; he had significant savings. Now, it’s all our money. It works for us.

  114. Faithless
    August 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    kinda shocked im aligning with EG on something but yea, income is vastly context dependent when it comes to how it affects your quality of life. I make WELL into 6 figures, I’m also putting my younger brother through collage, paying for my mom’s weekly therapy sessions, paying for my parent’s and brother’s cellphones, and I pay the deductible for my autistic nice’s autism medication.

    Luckily I have no debt of my own other than some credit cards I manage to keep in check but if I were to incur any other expenses I’d either have to SERIOUSLY tighten my belt or accept some service loss on behalf of my family.

  115. FashionablyEvil
    August 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    And if I was in that situation because I was putting every cent I had toward loan repayment while my husband had tons of spare cash in a personal account, I wouldn’t be thrilled either. Especially if he rubbed it in my face.

    The secret bank account part is really what raises the red flag for me. I think Bloix hit the nail on the head earlier–this is a guy with one foot out the door.

  116. Lolagirl
    August 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    My characterization of her as able to pay them herself? Seems pretty dang reasonable.

    First of all, her student loans help make it possible for her to earn that $90K, which is paying for half of their living expenses. Second of all, that $100k in loans she has certainly has interest payments tacked on as well, so what she ends up paying back to the bank will be likely be closer to $150 to $200k by the time the term of those loan(s) are complete.

  117. August 21, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    My characterization of her as able to pay them herself? Seems pretty dang reasonable.

    I paid off my $35K on $20-$40K/year in about 8 years all by myself in the famously overpriced San Francisco bay area. I worked 2-3 jobs at a time to get it done. I took my degree having ass to the mall every weekend to work retail to make an extra $50 to pay towards those fuckers. So, I’m kinda with you.

    But seriously, her husband is a dick.

    And if she weren’t married to the dick, she’d still have to pay them off all by herself. And then she’d get to have all the shoes. And then she could go surfing in Costa Rica.

  118. petpluto
    August 21, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    And if I was in that situation because I was putting every cent I had toward loan repayment while my husband had tons of spare cash in a personal account, I wouldn’t be thrilled either. Especially if he rubbed it in my face.

    Exactly. I appreciate having separate accounts. My parents, who are an incredibly egalitarian couple, have always kept separate accounts and just written each other checks depending on who paid for what.

    What I have a hard time imagining is having a separate account so out of sync with your partner’s. I’d feel really weird if I had easy access to enough money to do whatever I wanted – while my spouse didn’t. If you’re in a partnership, it feels odd to have a, “Oh, you can’t afford that? Sucks to be you” response.

  119. Mike
    August 21, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    Be careful what you refer to as not pulling one’s weight, Mike, because it’s not just about how much money you bring into the equation.

    Of course it isnt. But like I said before it isnt necessarily a rational problem. Lets take an very accomplished woman for example, who earns as much as this guy in the example a year, 250k . It is very well possible, that any men who does not earn at least 100k+ is beneath her and he cant make up for it by takin on the chores or the childrearing more than she does.

    Money is affluent, there is no rational reason she can not take on all the costs of marriage life herself. She might not want to because she has EMOTIONAL problems with it.

    It might be the case with this guy, he has emotional problems with being the sole breadwinner that are not founded in reason and logic and thats why he is being a dick.

  120. Lyn
    August 21, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Shannon wrote: “Trips and brand new appliances are nice, but not essential, and he may not value them like she does, so he is probably unwilling to pay for them. My fiance prefers not to spend a lot of money on stuff, nor does he like to travel. Some people are like this. They sock away $$ for god knows what. Most likely, she knew her husband was like this before they married.”

    OK – but they aren’t having that conversation. He isn’t saying ‘we don’t need that new fandangled thing’ or ‘I don’t think we are in a financial position to go on holiday’ – he’s throwing her debt in her face and making out like it’s all her responsibility even though the debt is why she earns so much money now.

    And all of those people who are asking ‘if the genders were reversed how would you feminists feel?’ – read the effing thread. That’s been covered. Women have been talking about how they happily support their male partners and help with debt. While I was a student and making more money than my ex partner who was a fellow student I took us out to dinner/dates and paid the rent while he paid for half of the groceries. It only became an issue when our roles were reversed (I was poor and he had a stable income) and – even though I was paying half the rent and utilities – he was too tight to take us out to dinner occasionally.

    My current (much better) partner and I have made approximately the same amount of money in the 4 years we’ve been together and split things 50/50- he wanted to help support me while I finished up my PhD (my scholarship has run out) but I freaked out about not paying my half cos commitment issues. So he bought a shiny and expensive car he had his eye on and now we both don’t have much play money. I kindof regret my freakout because working enough to pay the rent while finishing a thesis is stressful – but he’s happy with his new car and I think I would’ve felt incredibly guilty about every day the writing wasn’t working and I watched DVDs instead while he was paying my living expenses!

  121. Bagelsan
    August 21, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    No one’s arguing that her husband isn’t an asshole. That’s pretty obvious. My argument is that only making $90k a year and having school debt is #firstworldproblem so hard, especially when plenty of us have debt and nearly zero income. I would love to have her financial problems.

  122. August 21, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    What I have a hard time imagining is having a separate account so out of sync with your partner’s. I’d feel really weird if I had easy access to enough money to do whatever I wanted – while my spouse didn’t. If you’re in a partnership, it feels odd to have a, “Oh, you can’t afford that? Sucks to be you” response.

    Exactly!

    It might be the case with this guy, he has emotional problems with being the sole breadwinner that are not founded in reason and logic and thats why he is being a dick.

    I take your point, but I would hardly say that this guy is the sole breadwinner, nor do I see anything in the letter that suggests that’s what she’s looking for.

  123. August 21, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    My argument is that only making $90k a year and having school debt is #firstworldproblem so hard, especially when plenty of us have debt and nearly zero income. I would love to have her financial problems.

    I hate this reasoning, though. Yes, it’s very first-world-problem. Does that mean it’s not actually a problem in her marriage that her husband is acting like a jerk about it?

    Yes, they make a lot more money than I do, but I don’t see why that actually matters. Does it change whether her husband is acting like a jerk?

    I guess if it’s a first world problem it doesn’t actually count as a problem, though?

    I hate that meme with a passion.

  124. Mike
    August 21, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    Way I understood it she makes nowhere near 100k, so yes, in money therms he is the sole breadwinner. That guy went from having a sugar momma to being the sole breadwinner, guess he does not like the change. Or he liked more what she was willing to do for him than her as a person.

  125. Bagelsan
    August 21, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    She makes $90k a year, Mike.

  126. August 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Wow I feel like the odd one out here. Myself and Mrs. Fat have all of our money in joint accounts- and for 20+ years we’ve pretty much always been like that, though like most, we’ve come to our exact system through trial and error. Perhaps it’s because we got together when we were each 20 yrs old and our total possessions consisted of a futon and a cat.
    Like many here my wife went to law school, which obviously meant she was earning a lot less than me, and now is currently earning a bit more. Plus when I was writing full time, my salary varied wildly, (being on the radio doesn’t pay as much as writing for a sitcom, but it’s much easier to maintain a 2-year contract,) but the years where I made a lot more than she did, I always just considered it more money for us. I never even began to imagine that what I earned was MY money as opposed to OUR money. My parents and Mrs. Fat’s parents are the same so that could have something to do with it.

  127. August 21, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    She makes $90k a year, Mike.

    Mike is referring to another comment, not the OP.

    And derailing.

  128. Tamara
    August 21, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    My partner and I have been together for 11 years, living together for 8 and have two children. He has always earned significantly more than me. When we were dating we divided expenses up pro rata according to our incomes. It’s no fun for him going to lovely places if I can go with him because they’re too expensive.

    When we moved in together we bought a house. He paid off my small debt to my Mum and put up the down payment. We signed a prenup that said that if we broke up before say 5 years and there were no kids then I would repay him for that loan repayment. Otherwise, all income and assets have been communal since then.

    That is our philosophy of life partnership. We’re a team, we’re in it together. We’re not flatmates. We care about each other’s enjoyment of life, we want each other to be happy. When he quit his unpleasant job to become self employment there was a risk that I would have had to support him. I didn’t have to think about it – his happiness and mental wellbeing was the most important thing.

    By the way, we are both lawyers. And the husband’s “secret bank account” in the original letter? Very dodgy indeed.

  129. roro80
    August 21, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Well that’s really special. Evidently for a woman $90k/year it too much to make to feel weighed down by 6-figure student debt, but too little to be considered anything other than a gold-digger using marriage as a way to get at “his money”. Neat-o.

  130. Tamara
    August 21, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Oops, in my first para it should read “can’t”.

  131. EG
    August 21, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Well, it’s true, I did forget that if you have debt, you’re supposed to work seven days a week, twelve hours a day for years on end and never have any fun, any indulgences at all, and like it, because it’s your fault for being a horrible little debtor.

    And if she weren’t married to the dick, she’d still have to pay them off all by herself. And then she’d get to have all the shoes. And then she could go surfing in Costa Rica.

    ‘Cause ladies like to spend money they don’t have on shoes, right?

    I’d rather pay off my debts all by myself in peace than pay them off all by myself with some jerk who’s supposed to be my partner in life’s travails lording his savings over me.

  132. Bagelsan
    August 21, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    I’d rather pay off my debts all by myself in peace than pay them off all by myself with some jerk who’s supposed to be my partner in life’s travails lording his savings over me.

    This is literally all I was trying to get at; mathematically, her debt with her income is not that insurmountable. She could pay it as a single lady. She probably should pay it as a single lady.

  133. Lolagirl
    August 21, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Of course it isnt. But like I said before it isnt necessarily a rational problem. Lets take an very accomplished woman for example, who earns as much as this guy in the example a year, 250k . It is very well possible, that any men who does not earn at least 100k+ is beneath her and he cant make up for it by takin on the chores or the childrearing more than she does.

    Money is affluent, there is no rational reason she can not take on all the costs of marriage life herself. She might not want to because she has EMOTIONAL problems with it.

    It might be the case with this guy, he has emotional problems with being the sole breadwinner that are not founded in reason and logic and thats why he is being a dick.

    This entire comment is just full of fail.

    Stop working from your insulting and sexist premise that women only want to partner up with men who make more money than they do. Your golddigger complex is absurd and completely unsupported by anything more than your asinine anecdotes and suppositions.

    If a married partner has actual emotional problems that are not founded in logic and reason that is his own problem and not one that he should be taking out on his spouse. Ever. Either put on some adult pants and grow up already, or get out of your marriage if you can’t behave like a loving and caring partner to your spouse.

  134. Lolagirl
    August 21, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    Well, it’s true, I did forget that if you have debt, you’re supposed to work seven days a week, twelve hours a day for years on end and never have any fun, any indulgences at all, and like it, because it’s your fault for being a horrible little debtor.

    Seriously.

    The whole elitist bootstrapper mentality that assumes those of us with student loans are lazy layabouts who must suffer for their own useless stupidity makes me absolutely ragey. You know why people take on student loans? Because we didn’t have wealthy families to foot the bills for our education, that’s why. Anyone insisting we should languish in ignorance for the sin of not being born wealthy is themselves being disgusting and outrageously disingenuous.

  135. Bagelsan
    August 21, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    You’re right, Lolagirl. And if anyone had said any of those things your comment would totally have a point. Mostly people have said that they have debt (has anyone said otherwise, here?) and nowhere near a 90k income. If that’s elitist now then I’m seriously boggled.

  136. Lolagirl
    August 21, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Bagelsan, I am mostly directing my comment at Mike, who is most certainly not debating in good faith here.

  137. Bagelsan
    August 21, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    Well that’s fair enough. :)

  138. petpluto
    August 21, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    This is literally all I was trying to get at; mathematically, her debt with her income is not that insurmountable. She could pay it as a single lady. She probably should pay it as a single lady.

    But – she is not a single lady. She is a married lady with a kid. So, at the moment is the solution she should be working towards is that she is a married lady who should handle this issue as a single lady? Or is the solution to the problem getting at the crux of why this guy seems to have such a rager when it comes to student loan debt, and then figuring out how to get them to work as a team?

    I get that divorce is an option. And that’s probably what you are suggesting she do. But for me, the real problem is marrying someone and expecting that your lifestyles should differ so sharply. Obviously, discuss before wedded bliss; but right now, she’s in the thick of it and her issues are reasonable given that marriage is a partnership.

    The whole elitist bootstrapper mentality that assumes those of us with student loans are lazy layabouts who must suffer for their own useless stupidity makes me absolutely ragey. You know why people take on student loans? Because we didn’t have wealthy families to foot the bills for our education, that’s why.

    Yes! And considering that schools are raising their tuition rates so much, this isn’t a problem that is going to go away any time soon. Many people – even undergrads – are going to have massive amounts of debt. Even if they chose ‘wisely’ and went to the public school. Even if they worked through college. Even if they ‘wisely’ majored in something that was supposed to make them a lot of money instead of, say, literature.

    And when you get married, you should have as the goal an elevation of the partnership, not using the partnership to better your situation and leave your partner at a lower level because debt.

  139. August 21, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    ‘Cause ladies like to spend money they don’t have on shoes, right?

    That’s what I did when I paid off mine. I went and bought new Pumas. That’s how I came up with that as an example of what you can spend your money on once you pay off your student loans, not to mean that that’s the only thing “ladies” spend their money on, but I was using my personal experience. My personal experience of paying off student loans on much less income than that of the OLW. Which I brought up to emphasize the point that should she decide to leave the dick she’s married to, she can pay off her debts just like I did, which wasn’t easy at all, but I wasn’t totally screwed either. And then she’ll get to go and spend her money on whatever the fuck she wants to her hearts content. Don’t hate ’cause I like sporting fly kicks.

    Well, it’s true, I did forget that if you have debt, you’re supposed to work seven days a week, twelve hours a day for years on end and never have any fun, any indulgences at all, and like it, because it’s your fault for being a horrible little debtor.

    It sucked. But I borrowed the money, so I had to pay it back. I did what I had to do, not because I was a “horrible little debtor” but because it was my responsibility. I didn’t bring it up to be condescending, but just to point out that if I could do it, the OLW could do it; it’s not impossible. But maybe I’m just some kind of superhero, capable of things which mere mortals cannot manage. I highly doubt that. HIGHLY.

    It’s sucky, and anyone with student loan debt has my sympathy. I cringe every time I hear “you’ll earn more with a degree” not because it’s untrue, but because that is how most people get into so much debt, thinking they’ll be earning so much money when they’re done. I think there needs to be better education of young people about what the ROI really is on their education, not to disuade people from getting said education, but just so they’re not leaping into the deep end without a clue of what it’s going to cost to swim to Costa Rica.

    Anyway, back on topic –
    They should definitely get some counseling so they can work on their communication skills and talk about what they thought they were getting into when they got married, and why they didn’t figure this shit out before they did. Perhaps they can come to a compromise. If they’re shared expenses are so much that ALL she has left to herself is spent on her loans, than they’re obviously living above her means, and if they’re you’re not going to pool resources, they should discuss the fact that he then has to lower his standard of living to what she can afford, like a smaller place in the suburbs or whatever.

    And then after that, if he’s still being a dick, she should DTMFA.

  140. theLaplaceDemon
    August 21, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    I would want a communist marriage, basically — if one person’s income accounts for 60% of the total income of the partnership, then that income should cover 60% of the partnership costs like rent, utilities, groceries, etc.

    That is how Partner and I more or less do it (though we don’t calculate it out to the exact percentage.) We are unmarried but living together, and have separate bank accounts. I make slightly more than him and do not currently have to pay student loans, so I pay a little more than he does of the bills. But before we moved, he had six months of working full time while I finished school (working only VERY part time) so he actually financed about 3/4 of our move to New City and start-up costs.

    We have very different financial styles, so I don’t know that combining bank accounts would be good for us. Thinking about money stresses him out, so he doesn’t think about it much, but he also doesn’t spend very much, so it’s never an issue. I spend more, but I plan and budget obsessively, always knowing what I have down to the change, and it actually calms me down to make lists and think about every single future expense that will likely crop up.

    The letter writer’s husband certainly does not need to take on her student loan debt, but I think it’s really weird that he doesn’t pitch in a little extra for like, a new toaster oven, or an occasional trip. He DOES benefit from her making 90k a year (jesus, I wish I made that much) – I would happily help relieve my partner’s financial burden in that situation, and I have trouble empathizing with the husband in the letter. Still, it’s his prerogative.

  141. Mr. Kristen J.
    August 21, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    So what happens if she gets sick? Should her medical expenses only come out of “her” salary? What happens when one of them gets laid off? Should the other one let the bills go half paid? What happens when one of them is ready to retire? Will one of them be moving to Florida while other stays at their job for another 5 years?

    Partnering for life creates very long term financial goals and consequences. It doesn’t matter the form people in those partnerships use to structure their financial future, but those decisions do have to be made together with an eye to the long term consequences (for example, she’s paying interest on a loan, that cash could be used for a different purpose if he has the cash to pay it off).

  142. August 21, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    My husband and I have an arrangement (which dates to taking out a mortgage together, a couple of years prior to marriage) which goes like this:

    We have three accounts and a single credit card. One bank account and the credit card are joint and we can both see all the transactions. The other two accounts are personal accounts, one for each of us.

    We have a spoken agreement on how we pool money. We get paid monthly into our personal accounts. We each, regardless of income, keep the same agreed amount in our personal accounts for the next month, and immediately transfer the entire remainder to the joint account. (This is done on a trust basis, we don’t verify this on each other’s statements.) Then joint expenses and large personal expenses are paid from the joint account or credit card, after discussion if need be. Smaller regular personal expenses like lunch and drinks and so on are paid from personal accounts, in which we start with the same amount as each other. So we don’t see the fine details of each other’s lunch spending and similar, but we do have joint visibility over larger purchases.

    We have similar norms around the amount of debt we are comfortable carrying and the amount we spend on entertainment and leisure relative to income, so generally we just go over the joint account periodically looking for patterns of unnecessary expenses that we can cut down on.

    We also paid off his (Australian, thus smaller) student debt from the joint funds about five years ago and over the last few years have jointly contributed significantly to mine. I am not sure what I would arrange with a newer life partner who had a large amount of debt from prior to our relationship though. I would expect a significant contribution to joint savings, probably, if we were forming a household and had joint ambitions to travel or purchase property or similar.

  143. Lizzie
    August 22, 2012 at 12:23 am

    We have individual accounts plus a joint. Everything goes into joint until all the month’s bills are covered, with an equal slice for fun money. The remainder goes equally to his savings, mine, and joint savings which includes a portion for future kids. However premarital assets and any future inheritance are ringfenced in the event of a split. I guess if there were child support it might eat into them, but they are inviolable for any other reason. Here’s hoping that’s never an issue of course.

    @Tamara comment 130 – Similar case to your home loan. When we were dating my husband needed new equipment for his work. I fronted him several grand. Deal was if we broke up within 2 years, he had to pay it back. I wouldn’t have done it if we hadn’t already been talking marriage, if it had been a stretch, or to buy something that wasn’t an investment in his future. He used that equipment to create a portfolio that got him various jobs since then, including the very good one he currently has, from which I benefit hugely. If you didn’t think investing (within your means) in your partner’s career/credit score/happiness was a good call for Team Us, it beats me why you’d be with them at all.

  144. Lizzie
    August 22, 2012 at 12:27 am

    @Donna L – it sounds like you are savvy about this issue re the doctor husband in my comment no13. Can you tell me, if he were to sense a divorce in the offing and quit out of spite to become say, a pro bono doctor in a free clinic, how does that change his liabilities? Likewise her quitting her consultant gig? Would he still owe her some portion of the earning potential of his valuable medical license? After all, she kept him free of debts that would prohibit him taking a low-paid job. Would it be netted off against an equal portion of her highest salary, or her current earning potential? Just hypothetical stuff, I’m not close to this couple and I doubt they would split anyway. But I am curious!

  145. EG
    August 22, 2012 at 12:31 am

    I didn’t bring it up to be condescending, but just to point out that if I could do it, the OLW could do it; it’s not impossible. But maybe I’m just some kind of superhero, capable of things which mere mortals cannot manage. I highly doubt that. HIGHLY.

    The point I am making is that expecting people to work 2-3 jobs, 7 days a week (and since the OLW has a kid, that would up the childcare costs) is really not a reasonable thing to expect that people do. People have the right to enjoy themselves every so often and have some days off rather than devote eight years to unremitting grind. I’m not OK with a world in which that’s what we regularly expect of people who are not wealthy enough to lay out cash for their education.

  146. DonnaL
    August 22, 2012 at 12:59 am

    Can you tell me, if he were to sense a divorce in the offing and quit out of spite to become say, a pro bono doctor in a free clinic, how does that change his liabilities? Likewise her quitting her consultant gig? Would he still owe her some portion of the earning potential of his valuable medical license?

    Divorce law isn’t my field, and of course the laws vary in different states, but I know enough to know that it’s unfortunately not unknown for divorcing spouses to quit lucrative positions out of spite, and that they generally don’t get away with it. Unless someone has a very good reason (such as health issues) for switching to a lower-paying job or changing careers or quitting work entirely, income will be imputed to them based on their earning potential for purposes of alimony/maintenance and child support, and where something like a medical license is a marital asset created by the joint efforts of both spouses, it will still be valued based on that earning potential (and earnings history) regardless of what someone is actually earning at the time of the divorce.

  147. August 22, 2012 at 1:26 am

    But she IS wealthy enough. $90K is not fucking destitute FFS. I was working 2 jobs just to make $20K. That was fucking poor. And I had fun. Lots of cheap and free fun.

    And compared to the two backbreaking jobs apiece my parents worked just to keep a crappy leaky roof over our heads in the ghetto when I was growing up? It was luxury!

    Is the wealth disparity in this country shameful? YES! Should there be more access to affordable education for all? Ab-so-fucking-lutely! Should my parents have been paid livable wages so they didn’t have to work so many damn jobs? I think so.

    But does this woman really have it that bad? HELL NO!

  148. Moz in Oz
    August 22, 2012 at 1:55 am

    59 Jenn 8.21.2012 at 9:55 am

    … lately I’ve been thinking about whether we should discuss splitting our expenses differently than 50/50 again.

    One thing I’ve done is gift money. It might seem silly, bit it can take some of the mental pressure off “I must contribute my share”. Especially if you get bonuses, just gifting half (or some other amount) can be an easy solution. A slightly cheaty way is to give half the pre-tax bonus, then take all the tax out of “your” half.

    The whole thread kind of amuses me because it makes the finances in the income-sharing anarchist commune I lived in seem really simple. Stereotypically you’d expect that two people who love each other would find it easier to sort out finances than 5 people who happen to share a house. But apparently not. Perhaps with more people it’s more obvious that you have to talk about it.

  149. August 22, 2012 at 7:25 am

    But does this woman really have it that bad? HELL NO!

    This woman has it golden compared to a lot of people, yes. And there are other people who would look on her life and think “I could never live like that; how awful.”

    Nobody is saying that her life is awful. But dimissing her problems because “Well, there are lots of people who have it worse” doesn’t actually do anything to help her with her situation, does it? At the end of the day, she’s still feeling stressed out about the situation. She still feels like she’s investing all of her free money into her educational debt while her husband throws that debt in her face and refuses to help out. Does it matter if she’s making 9k a year or 190k a year in that situation?

    The issue isn’t “she’s not making enough to pay off her debt.” The issue is “She’s paying off her debt, but her husband is being an asshole about it and not being a good partner.”

    I don’t feel bad for her because she’s making a shit-ton more money than I do. I feel bad for her because her partner sounds like he’s being a really selfish asshole. I don’t see why her bank account should prevent me from empathizing with her situation.

  150. petpluto
    August 22, 2012 at 8:22 am

    I don’t feel bad for her because she’s making a shit-ton more money than I do. I feel bad for her because her partner sounds like he’s being a really selfish asshole. I don’t see why her bank account should prevent me from empathizing with her situation.

    Yes!

  151. Mike
    August 22, 2012 at 9:56 am

    Mike is referring to another comment, not the OP.

    And derailing.

    Well you are both right. I got confused with another comment and attatched it to the OP.

    How am I derailing? I am merely pointing out, that while a lot of people on here try to adress the rational side of the matter at hand, many overlook that the problem for the most part is emotional. I dont see how that constitutes derailing.

  152. Allison
    August 22, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    It’s obviously true that the OLW would have to pay her student loans herself if she were single. But it’s also often a lot easier, or at least simpler, to pay off debt as a single person than it is to be a married parent of a child.

    I’m also a lawyer/recent law school grad: I got out with less debt than the LW, but I work in the public sector making, um, considerably less than 90K. So my debt to income ratio is comparable. And I manage and don’t feel particularly deprived – but since I’m single/childless, I get to live in a shoebox apartment in a terrible school district, I can eat pasta four nights a week without hearing any complaints, I don’t need to worry about saving for anyone’s college tuition or buying life insurance so they’ll be provided for if anything happens to me.

    Point is, the LW *would* probably be able to pay down her loans and fix her dishwasher and go on the occasional trip on 90K if she were single – but she’s not, and her situation isn’t really comparable to a single person’s.

  153. Allison
    August 22, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    “Exact situation, but the male and female role reversed.

    Would the commenters come to the same conclusion? I’m willing to guess, … mostly, no.

    I’d like the commenters and Jill to chime in and offer a real opinion on the reverse situation. Is it an obligation on the part of the woman, making more money than the man, to fork over cash for the man’s previous debts (however acquired?) And if she doesn’t, is she an asshole?”

    Okay, three things: First, in your “exact reversal” you’re assuming that the man earns more money than the woman where that’s not indicated in the original letter. In fact, *I* assumed that she made more, or at least that their salaries were comparable, since she brings up that her husband benefits from her enhanced earning power (that is a direct result of those same loans).

    Second, she says that her husband contributes equally to their shared expenses, including childcare for their kid. You call that “generous” of him. I have to admit, I don’t really get that. Contributing jointly to mutual expenses doesn’t seem particularly “generous” to me.

    Third, I have issues with “however acquired.” It’s not like this woman has 100K of pre-marital gambling debt. Her student loans were what enabled her to have a high-paying job in the first place, which her husband directly benefits from. Not that she’d go this far, but I kind of like the idea of the OLW telling her husband, “Oh, so you wish I made $9 an hour with no debt. Okay, from now on I’ll contribute 15K/year to our shared expenses and the rest will go to my loans. They’ll be paid off in two years, but I guess the mortgage and daycare are on you this month, hon.” That would at least get her point across!

    All that aside, though, yes, flip the genders and I’d still think the (wife) with a secret bank account who complains to her husband about how they can’t have nice things because of his student loans, while she enjoys the higher standard of living his student loan enabled career affords her, was being a big jerk. (Which is not to say they have to share all expenses equally. But the idea of one partner struggling financially while the other socks money away in a secret account is… not how I’ve ever seen a functional relationship work.)

  154. Bagelsan
    August 22, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    By acting like a jerk, the husband’s acting like a jerk. But by not contributing to her loans, the husband is acting like a pretty rational person who isn’t necessarily missing his empathy lobe; it sounds like he is not financially leaving her in the lurch, just emotionally being a douche. Because if she’s splitting all the other expenses with him evenly? I’m pretty sure she’ll have something left over each month for paying off her debt. She is in emotional, but not financial, hardship.

  155. Chuchundra
    August 22, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    “When we ask for advice, we are usually looking for an accomplice”

    I get the feeling, after reading the original letter a few more times, that the situation is a lot more complex than the LW lets on and that perhaps her husband’s quotes were taken just a bit out of context. Look at the way she sums up her letter. She’s drawing the advice columnist into her marital feud over resource allocation and he fell right into it.

    Obviously the secret bank account thing is troubling, but what she calls a “secret bank account” could simply be the household rainy day fund that he keeps away from her because she would just spend it. Sadly, that’s not all that unusual in relationships where one partner is bad with money.

    • August 22, 2012 at 1:38 pm

      I get the feeling, after reading the original letter a few more times, that the situation is a lot more complex than the LW lets on and that perhaps her husband’s quotes were taken just a bit out of context. Look at the way she sums up her letter. She’s drawing the advice columnist into her marital feud over resource allocation and he fell right into it.

      Well, yeah. That’s why she’s writing into an advice columnist.

  156. roro80
    August 22, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Bagelsan, it’s only really rational if the husband doesn’t think it likely that they will have a shared future in the long run. Particularly right now, when savings interest rates are generally less than 1%, and most school loans will be running in the 5-10% range, it makes a lot more sense to pay off the school loans as quickly as possible than having the money sit in a secret account. Unless, of course, he thinks there’s a good possibility that he won’t have a shared future with her.

  157. Cara
    August 22, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    He’s being a big jerk.

    He also has a right to not want to be responsible for student debt he didn’t take on.

    He has the right to want a horse with wings, too. That doesn’t make his wants right or rational.

    He’s benefiting from the income. He can help pay the bill. Hoarding money in a marriage is reprehensible.

    Then again, I’ve never understood separating finances in marriage. If my money and your money isn’t our money, there’s no point in my being married to you. If basic familial feeling isn’t present, so that everything belongs to everyone, and everyone can be depended upon to do what’s fair and reasonable, and everyone can be generous and loving about their shared resources, why bother?

  158. David
    August 22, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    she earns 90k and has debts of 100k.

    This problem could disappear very quickly

  159. PM
    August 22, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    At first read, I felt bad for the letter-writer. Now, I’m not so sure. The way she asks “does he have a right to not want to be responsible…” tells me that she has a sense of entitlement or is, at the very least, kinda clueless. If she was just Average Jane I’d be more likely to overlook her misuse of the term “right” like that, but she’s a lawyer! Lawyers know what “rights” are. If she is genuinely unsure whether her husband has a “right” to not pay off her debt, well…

    Her husband is still being a jerk, though. No doubt.

  160. Mike
    August 22, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    Then again, I’ve never understood separating finances in marriage. If my money and your money isn’t our money, there’s no point in my being married to you. If basic familial feeling isn’t present, so that everything belongs to everyone, and everyone can be depended upon to do what’s fair and reasonable, and everyone can be generous and loving about their shared resources, why bother?

    I guess some people go with the idea into marriage that sharing everything 50 50 will mean his share will supplement hers when everything is 50 50 and are disappointed when it turns out the tables are turned or shoot down losers with whom such a situation might arise to begin with.

  161. roro80
    August 22, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    OMG MIKE, after the numerous personal-finance examples given here, a large number of which are written by women who make more than their male spouses/partners, why are you still pushing the the women-as-gold-diggers angle? It’s really fucking insulting.

  162. seisy
    August 22, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    My parents have been in a small conflict recently over the issue of “their money” vs “his/her money” that I think has been kind of interesting.

    For the majority of their lives together (around four decades if you count from when they started living together), my dad has been the breadwinner. In fact, for the majority of my childhood, my mom didn’t work. My mother handled the finances, for the most part, but all the money was held jointly and decisions were made jointly. (Although early on, my dad insisted my mother keep a separate credit card account solely in her name, so that if anything happened to him, she’d have a credit history of her own to fall back on.)

    So the conflict? Is kind of funny actually. My mother recently inherited some money, and she constantly refers to it as “her money”, which upsets my dad. But her reason for being proud of it as her own money and my dad’s reason for being upset isn’t exactly what you’d first assume. My mother is fiercely glad that she can now treat my dad to nice things like a vacation or dinner without feeling that she’s spending/’wasting’ money that he worked hard for. My father is upset that my mother apparently feels that money he earns isn’t “hers”.

    Which I guess goes to show you that even when things are going well, money is a damned complicated issue.

  163. Bagelsan
    August 22, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    seisy, I’m now imagining a fight where your parents throw fistfuls of bills at each other screaming “IT’S YOUR MONEY! NO BACKSIES!” ;p

  164. Allison
    August 22, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Aw, Seisy, your parents sound fabulous.

    Bagalsan, I agree that the husband’s jerkishness about the LW’s student loans is his major crime. And I’m not *entirely* unsympathetic to his desire not to contribute to her loan payments. Six-figure debt is a scary thing to take on, and even though I think the logical thing to do in a committed, in-it-for-the-long-haul relationship would be to regard paying down that debt as a joint project – since they will both be wealthier in the long run the sooner it gets paid off – I might feel queasy about it in his shoes too. I mean there’s always the fear that I’d end up divorced from hypothetical indebted husband soon after the debt was paid off, and I’d be left feeling like a giant chump. Though I’d feel fine about contributing more to household expenses so that hypothetical indebted husband could pay down his debt faster, even though dollars and sense wise it amounts to the same thing. People can divide up their expenses how they see fit, and sometimes they have reasons for opting for a less-efficient arrangement. That’s all fine.

    Where I think the husband *stops* being reasonable by any definition is in keeping the “secret” bank account, from which he apparently refuses to chip in for unexpected expenses like broken appliances, or the occasional family vacation. Also in the emotional guilting – “we could afford this if it weren’t for your loans” might be technically true, but it’s about as fair and helpful as her saying “we could afford this if you earned more money.” (Or, ahem, “we could afford this if you didn’t have a secret bank account.” Oh wait, that actually is fair!)

    I think to know how much the wife is really struggling financially we’d need a lot more information about their finances; the size of their mortgage payment, their childcare and/or schooling expenses, etc. They could definitely use some financial counseling. If the problem is that their joint expenses are too much for the LW to pay half and also be solely responsible for her student loans, would her husband be willing to downscale a bit to give her more breathing room? Move into a smaller house in a less desirable neighborhood, say? And if he’s not willing to do that, would he pick up more of their joint expenses? Etc.

  165. PM
    August 22, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    The “secret bank account” thing is weasel-wording. Nowhere in her letter does she explain why she refers to it as a secret account vs. a private account. It’s not his obligation to tell his wife how much he makes. And why call it a secret account if she KNOWS IT EXISTS? It seems that the only secret is how much is in the account, and she can probably guess, anyway, if they’ve been married for some time.

    I don’t know. I’m coming in with the bias of a relatively private person that’s never been in a marriage or very long-term relationship. When I read about the communist marriage thing I actually find it pretty appealing (and heartening to read), but I can see how it wouldn’t be for everyone. I sympathize with the letter writer, but it seems like she’s… finessing her side of the story.

  166. Mike
    August 23, 2012 at 7:23 am

    OMG MIKE, after the numerous personal-finance examples given here, a large number of which are written by women who make more than their male spouses/partners, why are you still pushing the the women-as-gold-diggers angle? It’s really fucking insulting.

    Where am I doing that? I was merely pointing out that the guy in the article might have emotional problems with being the primary provider, because he dislikes a situation where he has to part with his money. So he would be the Gold-digger, or at least the spouse who expects the spouse to not cost him a dime.

    Women thinking like that are more common, because men did not have financially affluent women to chose from, but more and more men have these kind of expectations towards women now that they do have a choice.

    Well in this particular case the guy at first must have lied to himself pretending it would be okay, but now it does seem to bother him, that 50 – 50 means his money will supplement hers.

    I was merely pointing out that many people think like that, with some women shooting down men as an eligible partner whom they see financially beneath them to begin with, not because they cant afford one, but out of emotional reasons, which is probably better than picking him anyway and being insufferable throughout the marriage.

  167. EG
    August 23, 2012 at 7:27 am

    men did not have financially affluent women to chose from

    You’ve never read anything by Jane Austen, have you? Or, indeed, anything about heiresses and widows in British history. Trust me, men have been social climbing gold-diggers for a long time indeed.

  168. Mike
    August 23, 2012 at 8:02 am

    You’ve never read anything by Jane Austen, have you? Or, indeed, anything about heiresses and widows in British history. Trust me, men have been social climbing gold-diggers for a long time indeed.

    By the same analogy women have lorded over men for millenia, because Cleopatra and queen victoria and and… no need for feminism.

  169. Mike
    August 23, 2012 at 8:03 am

    I was more talking about the class of people who used public transport on a regular basis at some point in their life.

  170. EG
    August 23, 2012 at 8:06 am

    No, that doesn’t work. Because unlike Egyptian and English queens, heiresses and widows weren’t unusual occurrences. In fact, dowries were standard. In the middle class or above, the amount of money a woman brought to the marriage was a major factor in whom she got to marry.

  171. EG
    August 23, 2012 at 8:07 am

    I was more talking about the class of people who used public transport on a regular basis at some point in their life.

    Why, then, do you keep talking about people who make 250K?

  172. Past my expiration date
    August 23, 2012 at 8:24 am

    I was more talking about the class of people who used public transport on a regular basis at some point in their life.

    What class is that?

  173. EG
    August 23, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Definitely the class of people who marry for money. Because goodness knows that’s not what the wealthy have ever done.

  174. Katniss
    August 23, 2012 at 10:06 am

    I was more talking about the class of people who used public transport on a regular basis at some point in their life.

    Wow, Mike. Speaking of class you’re one of the most utterly classless people I’ve encountered online.

  175. Mike
    August 23, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Wow, Mike. Speaking of class you’re one of the most utterly classless people I’ve encountered online.

    I really fail to see what you are getting all railed up about.

  176. Bagelsan
    August 23, 2012 at 11:34 am

    I was more talking about the class of people who used public transport on a regular basis at some point in their life.

    …Graduate students?

  177. Bagelsan
    August 23, 2012 at 11:36 am

    “Women thinking like [gold diggers] are more common”

    Citation needed.

  178. petpluto
    August 23, 2012 at 11:45 am

    I was more talking about the class of people who used public transport on a regular basis at some point in their life.

    …Graduate students?

    New Yorkers?

  179. cherrybomb
    August 24, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    “Women thinking like [gold diggers] are more common”

    Except when it was super common for men to do it…. Like when the Dawes Act made it super easy for white dudes to marry a Native chick and sell her land allotment, then take off with the cash, never to be seen or heard from again….

    Yeah, male gold-diggers, not at all uncommon.

  180. Hippoplatypus
    August 25, 2012 at 11:39 am

    I think some people in this thread are overlooking a significant part of the letter: SHE supported HIM for ten years while he went to school. This means that:

    a) She would have been able to pay down her student debt herself during that time, had she not been supporting him; and

    b) He would have accumulated significant debt or not been able to go to school, had she not be supporting him.

    So yes, in this case, he is absolutely responsible for for helping pay off those loans.

  181. MB
    August 26, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Boy and I have been together for 2.5 years and have been living together that whole time. We buy food together, but that’s it. The apartment is his: his lease, his rent, his home in the event of a breakup. Any joint purchase (such as our VitaMix blender) will be sold and the money split or will be bought out by one half in the event of a breakup. We are very careful not to have any financial dependencies on one another. If we break up, I can live with my dad. We plan for breaking up while we still like each other. We may not break up, but if we do, we have ensured that it will be as clean as possible. We don’t plan on getting married, but if we decide to move to another country, we may have to. In that case, we would draft a very careful prenup and continue on as we have been doing. It’s the best system I’ve ever implemented.

  182. mm2003
    August 26, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    How exactly does he “benefit” from her 90k a year salary when “every cent [she] earns” goes to pay the student loans?

    You take out the debt, you pay it off.

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