Young married women take charge of household finances

Young married women are more likely to manage their household finances by themselves with little input from their spouses than men are, according to a survey by FindLaw.com.

The poll found that 37% of married women between the ages of 18 to 34 go solo on managing money, compared with 30% of young married men. And in many cases that arrangement seems to work just fine.

Kristen Fuhs Wells, of Indianapolis, says she became the money manager when she married her husband Benjamin more than two years ago. "He was still in college when we got married and he'd never had a checking account. I don't think he ever wanted to do the bills and I was fine with doing it."

Wells, 26, says she's definitely more knowledgeable about money than her husband, partly because he never had much money before they got married. While she doesn't have him on an allowance, Wells says she will let him know when they both need to cut back on their spending. "He's fine with it. It's kind of like out of sight, out of mind...we each have our own tasks. He takes out the trash. He does the yard work. I do the bills."

Splitting the household tasks was something Erin Beam, of San Francisco, says she and her husband actually discussed in premarital counseling. "Based on our strengths, we decided I would handle responsibilities such as the finances and he would handle tasks such as the cooking."

Beam, 25, also says she came into the marriage with stronger money management skills.

"Growing up, my family was much more active than his in teaching best practices for financial management," she said.

Beam says she's fine with her husband's limited involvement in managing money "because I really enjoy crunching the numbers. But sometimes I wish he were more knowledgeable about investments, like my father, so that I could grow in my own understanding of the market."

Heather Degan, 34, has been in charge of money matters since she moved in with her husband before they married nine years ago. Degan says she is "super organized to a fault" and fell into the role of money manager when she was helping her husband pack up his place for their move to San Diego, where they planned to set up a household together.

"I realized that he had tons of bills that had never been opened, tons of mail that had never been opened. He had checks that had been returned to him. There was a lot of stuff that he had procrastinated on," Degan says. "Just for peace of mind after seeing all the mail and all the things unopened, I just didn't want to fall into that here. He was more than happy to let me manage [the money]. He knows I'm pretty responsible about everything and organized."

The couple split their financial obligations 50-50 and use joint checking and savings accounts for household bills. They also maintain individual accounts for their personal purchases so no one has to be given an allowance. "There's no need for him to feel emasculated by me dishing out a savings or anything like that. He's a smart man and he knows what he can or can't spend," she says.

Degan's husband John says that although their system of splitting the bills 50-50 seems to be unusual among the couples he knows, he's fine with the arrangement.

"We both have accountability for the success or failure of our finances. By splitting everything down the middle, neither of us feels cheated or resentful, and it also controls our spending a bit," he said.

He adds that "If I could, I'd like to help manage the finances. I'm aware that it's not fair for Heather to do it and I wish that were different. We've found though that having two people doing the bills can get confusing and often cause problems."

Keeping the financial peace is something that seems to occur more among younger couples than older couples. Although money is still the top issue couples fight about, according to the FindLaw survey, young couples are more likely to fight about their partner's bad habits (23%) than money (16%).

Fights about having or raising children tied with disagreements about money. The poll also found that 35% of couples ages 35 to 44 fight most about money and 23% of those ages 45 to 64 fight most about money.

Degan says money fights are rare, but that they will sometimes debate over which purchases should be shared. Last year when Degan wanted to finally upgrade from her old college furnishings, she and her husband disagreed on whether the purchases were necessary.

"We did debate some of the bigger purchases and who was going to be responsible for those purchases. He didn't want them and I did. So we came to some compromises. We decided to use our tax refunds...to both put in a little money, and we put some of it on a no interest, one-year credit card," she says. "We avoid the fights by only sharing an expense when it's something we both use. I think we avoid the whole resentment issue."


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