Why Women Should Always Have Their Own Stash

[Happy Friday y’all! Got a guest article today from my girl Pauline of ReachFinancialIndependence.com and InvestmentZen.com who’s super passionate about ALL women having their own money regardless of relationship status. I agree 100%, but probably more appropriate coming from another woman vs a dude :) So take it away, Pauline!]

First came love, then came the money talk.

My money and his money would never become our money. Even though he was worth a few millions more than I was, and I would benefit from such an arrangement.

We were living together, so for the sake of simplicity we funded a joint account with $1,000 each to cover our bills, food and stuff we did together. When that money ran out, we’d put in another $1,000.

That was the extent of our merged finances.

Had I wanted, I could have had him buy the house (or a bigger one, he could afford it!), and support me financially. But I would have felt bought and useless putting anything less than my fair share into the partnership. But mostly, I never wanted money to be a power tool.

“I pay, I rule?” No thanks.

While he was thankful and sometimes in awe of my fierce independence, he would also become thoroughly annoyed. Like the time we got into a fight and I left to go to a hotel because I didn’t want to hear him talk anymore. Or that time I bought his half of the house in cash within two days of the breakup, while he was hoping to keep some kind of power over me.

Money buys freedom, and it buys independence.

That is why I will always have my own, even if I get married and have kids. I mean, can you imagine having to justify every little purchase to your significant other? Tampons? How much you spent on his birthday gift? The cash you gave to a family member in need? I’ll pass.

[Editor’s note: This is a little extreme, but yes – unfortunately there are relationships like this :( Do know that there are others, however, where you *don’t* have to justify anything – or even talk about every purchase! – and that can be a beautiful thing. You still want your own money/independence too, but it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.]

But the biggest risk is if you make way less than he does, or chose to stay at home with the kids, and then succumb to lifestyle inflation. I wish you all the best, but strongly suggest you prepare for the worst, because the odds are that over half of you will get divorced. And if you are financially dependent, it will get ugly.

Take my sister, for example. She is a social worker making barely above minimum wage. She married a guy who made more, and her in-laws gave them a nice four bedroom house. She put her little savings into renovating her husband’s house, and making it look Pinterest-worthy. Four bedrooms and a garden had become her new normal.

When they got a divorce, she had to go back to live with my mother because she was priced out of apartments near her old neighborhood. She wanted to stay close so her daughter could stay in the same school and still easily see her dad. Now she lives in a 450 sq ft place and sleeps on the sofa bed in the living room so her daughter can have her own room.  Rent eats up two thirds of her pay, and she can’t make ends meet if her ex stops paying child support.

Another of my friends still lives with her ex husband. He has been sleeping on the couch for two years. She can’t afford to rent a place for herself like the one they live in, and she is too used to the good life to accept downsizing. So all the while she lives with a guy she barely talks to, and can’t move on from emotionally.

Now that I am in my mid 30s, I hear a lot of these stories. And they are the okay ones.

But what if you can’t leave an abusive relationship because you haven’t got enough to move out? What if he empties all the accounts and leaves you begging for alimony?

I wouldn’t feel safe in a relationship if I didn’t have at least enough to get out and live on my own for a couple of months. That includes:

  • One month deposit and two months rent for a one bedroom (two bedrooms if I had kids)
  • Food
  • Utilities
  • Gas money to go around looking for a job
  • Plane ticket or train or gas if I am leaving town
  • Enough to furnish and equip the place
  • $500 – because there will be an emergency of some kind.

After two months I am pretty sure I’ll be back on my feet with a job and able to make ends meet. But if you have left the workforce at 22 and are now a 40 year old divorcée with no experience, it might be a bit more complicated. So you need an even bigger cushion.

Just to cover my needs, I’d need about $5,000. How do you save so much money?

You can be sneaky and round up the grocery bill or any other expenses for a while, but I don’t think that is honest and I don’t recommend it. I do know of some women who do that though, when they don’t want to justify such and such purchase.

You can also be straightforward with your spouse, and say you want a “Freedom Fund. “If you suggest that you should both have one, and grow them together, it will be better perceived than “Hey honey, I want a divorce fund!” And really, while we are looking at a worst case scenario, even if things are going well, it can be useful.

Being able to buy gifts for your family, or treat yourself once in a while without explanations is nice. You can budget for the two of you to have a monthly allowance and start saving your money.

Or, because you are just as capable as anyone, you can go out and earn it! There are dozens of ways to make money from home no matter how busy you are. Everyone has skills, you just might not know how to market them.

I play the piano for example. I have made thousands in my teen years teaching it to younger kids. I have played in restaurants a few times, and even offered to do concerts with a singer but was too shy to accept. I also speak French, so I have been a tutor, a translator, and a freelance writer. Two skills, six income streams.

What do people say you are good at? Baking? Making cool flyers for fundraisers? Offer to make the cakes for the next birthday party and look for paying clients online to help with flyers. Or if you have kids, consider babysitting others in a group with your own after school. The opportunities are endless.

If you can make an extra $50 a week, hitting $5,000 will only take a couple of years. And if you want to speed up the process, you can invest that money which will remove the temptation to spend it as well. Assuming an average return of 8% over the next 30 years, you could have just over $55,000 free and clear all to yourself!

Or best case, $55,000 for a nice vacation to celebrate 30 years of marriage.

You may find this entire topic unromantic, but please, whatever you do, build your own stash on the side no matter how great your marriage is.

Having your own money is empowering. And knowing you are staying in a relationship out of love and not necessity is even more important. Please watch out for yourself!

Pauline blogs about travel, money, freedom, and simple and deliberate living. You can find her writings at ReachFinancialIndependence.com as well as InvestmentZen.com. She’s also currently looking for “the one”, so if you think that can be you, check out her Date Me page and see what happens!

[Editor’s Note: I put that last part in there because I find it all kinds of brilliant that she puts herself out there like that :) I also had the pleasure of meeting Pauline in person the other week, and she’s just as fun/feisty as she is online! And even more so, passionate about empowering others. So please pass this around to anyone you think might need it!]

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  1. Jon @ Be Net Worthy October 7, 2016 at 6:15 AM

    This is an important topic and romantic or not, it should be discussed. My sister-in-law just got divorced last year, and thank goodness she had maintained her career. Otherwise, after 15 years at home with the kids, who knows what would have happened. She may not have had the courage to kick her bum of a husband out!

    1. Pauline October 7, 2016 at 9:25 AM

      Staying in a relationship for the sake of money can be disastrous. And if there are kids even worse.

  2. Josh @MoneyBuffalo October 7, 2016 at 6:42 AM

    My wife & I both have our own separate accounts but also have a joint one we use to pay all the bills. Mostly we just use the separate accounts for surprise purchases like birthdays or Christmas.

    I know others that do keep a larger secret stash because the other spouse spends every dollar like it’s going out of style. Overall, I think couples should do as much together financially as that’s part of the deal when getting married, but, I understand each realtionship is different.

    1. Pauline October 7, 2016 at 9:27 AM

      Secret “my husband spends too much” stash, ha! If my partner was a money disaster I’d insist to manage the money and each get an allowance. But he’d probably be frustrated. That’s not an easy one.

  3. Anna October 7, 2016 at 6:45 AM

    There is so much truth and so much sadness in this post. I agree with so much of this and disagree with so much of this at the same time. This system works great if you don’t have kids or if you have kids and there are no financial disasters.

    I agree you have to have access to money- and have a plan- if you need to exit the situation. And regardless of how you manage your money, both parties should have their own credit and equal access to financial products (401K, Roth IRA, investment accounts, etc). Both parties should be knowledgeable about the family finances. Both should have the ability to go out and work for there own money. However, sometimes life gets messy and it doesn’t always make sense to do it that way.

    My daughter was in an out of hospitals for the first 10 years of her life. She almost died- twice. If we hadn’t mingled every single penny we had we would have never been able to sustain her medical treatments ($250,000 out of pocket) or feed our other child or keep the lights on. It took another 8 years to collectively dig out of that hole to where we are have financial stability again. We could have never done any of this if we didn’t totally commit every penny to the general pot and discuss what was going to happen to it. Total separation does not always make sense. And for the record, even though I make 1/4 of what my husband does, I have never felt that he was controlling all the wealth or what I could do with money.

    On the flip side, I do educate my daughters (now both adults) that they need to build something for themselves before they ever get married and if they live with someone their money should never touch. They know that they need to prove that they can be totally independent so they have the confidence to persevere no matter the circumstances.

    I think this was a great article but that one size does not fit all.

    1. Pauline October 7, 2016 at 9:31 AM

      Good points Anna. I think by the time you have kids they are your absolute priority and even with separate finances I would empty my accounts for such emergencies.

    2. J. Money October 10, 2016 at 9:09 AM

      I’m so glad your girl is healthy(er?) now! As a newish dad that stuff freaks me out the most out of everything in life. In fact, I think about death (either me or my kids) at least 13x a day, haha… In one way it’s great because it makes me appreciate everything – especially them! – more (and I’m much more careful living my own life now, ie no motorcycles, skydiving, etc), but on the other hand I’m constantly scared haha…

      In any case, really glad she pulled through and that she has parents who love her and willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen – even going a quarter of a million in debt (so scary :(). Thanks so much for sharing.

  4. Full Time Finance October 7, 2016 at 6:46 AM

    I’ve had a lot of conversations with my wife these last few months on this very topic. She is transitioning to being a full time mom but feels adamant she needs to keep some source of income. In our case it’s not even divorce. What would happen if something happened to me like I got some terrible disease where the medical bills sucked all the money away? She would need some way to support herself and the kids. So remember it’s not even all about divorce.

    1. Pauline October 7, 2016 at 9:35 AM

      It is not. Everyone in the relationship should understand money, and be able to manage and earn it. Many widows are lost when they have to deal with finances for the first time

  5. Dividends Down Under October 7, 2016 at 7:02 AM

    Very interesting topic and I’d agree with what most of you said. My wife and I don’t feel like we need to justify any expenses, but we do communicate about what we are spending (communication is important, our finances are joint (as is the account)).


    1. Pauline October 7, 2016 at 11:42 AM

      Communication is key. Great to hear you are both in sync financially. That’s rare!

  6. Band of Savers October 7, 2016 at 7:32 AM

    I can see where you are coming from on this. In our family we have all joint accounts – personal opinion, if you can share a bed with someone there’s no reason you shouldn’t share bank accounts. My wife might not earn anything as a play-at-home mom but she saves us thousands a year on child rearing costs so we don’t worry about her not having an income. Call us old fashioned but as we see it, divorce might be an answer but it’s not a solution. Since we are both committed to making sure that there is no reason for a divorce to occur we see no reason to have a divorce fund for either of us, and even if (big if) it did we both know that everything would be split 50/50 which would leave us both with plenty to get going again.

    1. Karlene October 7, 2016 at 11:21 AM

      This post brings back memories of my mother and sister telling me to create an account that I would not tell my then fiance about, “just in case.” They could not understand why I saw no need to do that, and was upset with me for sharing everything with him. They thought that was very foolish of me, and if I recall that I was being stupid.

      Like Band of Savers my husband and I totally believe in doing things together. For over 30 years we have been encouraging and supporting each other. Even though things have not worked out as we had planned in some areas of our lives we continue to work together to improve things to the best of our abilities.

      One critical point we agreed on before we got married was that if we had any disagreements that we would talk and work things out together instead of taking it to family or anyone else. Because once we resolved the challenges the folks, including family who we might have shared the issues with would probably only remember the negative things and might hold it against the other spouse.

      We felt going into the marriage with such negative thinking was not the way to start off our marriage. It would be as if we were preparing for failure. And, we definitely believed and still do that this is the only marriage for us, and that the only was to be successful is to work together.

      I think it’s extremely important in any relationship to be constantly communicating with each other, the good, as well as the stuff that needs improvement. Some of our best insights come from our frequent walks for one to 2 hours at a time, usually on the weekend.

      Unfortunately, all the people I know who talked about and/or prepared for the worst ended up experiencing the worst.

      That said, I acknowledge that there is usually more than one way to accomplish a goal. So, I wish Pauline much success and happiness in her pursuits.

      1. Pauline October 7, 2016 at 12:34 PM

        Sharing everything works well if you are absolutely confident your partner will be financially wise. Even if you get divorced it should all be passed on to the kids anyway so if you’re smart about it that can work.
        Some friends married Prince Charming but after a few years job losses and other tragedies, there have been instances of alcohol/drug abuse, etc that can ruin the family efforts

    2. J. Money October 10, 2016 at 9:15 AM

      Yeah, I’m all for sharing accounts too, but I also know not all relationships are unfortunately create equal :( I think it’s always good for everyone in any relationship to always make sure they’re good in case of worst case scenarios, but there’s def. a balance to it and lots of ways to accomplish it. We’ve had our finances separated for the first few years of marriage and it was fine, and then we’ve merged it now for the last few and it’s also been fine (and definitely *easier*). At the same time, if my wife wanted to create her own account just for her I wouldn’t oppose it whatsoever. She already has her own IRA and now pension/retirement account going through her Gov’t job so that’s nice, but I think it all really does come down to *who* you marry and hopefully it’s a good fit :)

    3. superbien October 24, 2016 at 7:37 AM

      That’s really great that you value your wife’s unpaid contributions that way.

      But we all have heard 1,000+ stories of situations like that, in which the stay-at-home partner was suddenly not valued (for lots of reasons) and the working partner found it easy, suddenly, to justify screwing them over. Too precarious!

      If I stayed at home – I wouldn’t because too hard and financially scary – I’d want an agreement in writing on the financial value of my contributions. Just to make it clear that stay-at-home work, at market rates, is way more than people think, and likely much more than half of the other’s salary.

  7. Apathy Ends October 7, 2016 at 7:38 AM

    I am pretty sure Mrs AE doesn’t have a stash hidden from me, but if she wanted to I would understand. We do our best to fund both of our accounts equally (401k and Roth IRAs) so if something does happen we both have a good chunk of retirement money saved in separate accounts.

    Tristan makes a good point above on communication, since I do about 99% of our finances (finance nerd) and we automate everything, a large purchase can cause a few issues. I don’t need justification – just a heads up!

    1. Pauline October 7, 2016 at 12:36 PM

      I didn’t know retirement accounts were not part of the common pot in case of a breakup. That makes sense!

      1. KTX October 10, 2016 at 2:21 PM

        This depends upon your state- in certain states (Texas, for one) any and all income/property acquired after the marriage is to be divided equitably between parties, and that includes retirement accounts: http://www.divorcenet.com/states/texas/txfaq02

        HOWEVER- “equitable” can mean a lot of things. Like, if you cheated on your spouse, they can take that into consideration of what is fair in the property division. I think that’s the basic summary, but I have zilch law degree or training so, ya know, grain of salt.

  8. Free to Pursue October 7, 2016 at 7:46 AM

    My husband and I both have these funds. We call them “dream funds” (much less threatening-sounding, right?). $10,000 is what we prefer to hold in them. Once in a while, Mr. F2P likes to drain his to beef up his tax-free retirement accounts. Hey, if it makes him happy…

    Also, we both have online access to our accounts (savings, investing, etc), so it’s easy to see where we are at financially at any given time, even though I’m technically the money manager. I think that also offers peace of mind. There’s nothing that says “I love you” like tracking & reporting net worth too. Somehow, knowing we could both make it on our own but that we choose to be better together feels like a powerful message. <3

    1. Pauline October 7, 2016 at 12:37 PM

      Net worth and budgeting date awwww :)

      1. J. Money October 10, 2016 at 9:16 AM

        You know what’s better than tracking and reporting your net worth?

        Doing it naked :)

        1. Free to Pursue October 10, 2016 at 9:23 AM

          Mr. F2P’s response as he pictures the scenario associated with your reply (yes, he has a vivid imagination): “What are you wearing honey?” Spouse: “Oh nothing, just our net worth report.”

  9. Financial Canadian October 7, 2016 at 8:59 AM

    I love that you bought your half of the house. A close family friend of mine is a female whose husband makes much more money than her, and I wonder sometimes if that becomes a power struggle in their relationship.

    When I get married, I plan on joining all of my finances and regardless of income, all money will be shared between the two of us. Thank you for sharing your insightful message.

    1. Pauline October 7, 2016 at 11:12 PM

      Joint finances are great if your partner is on the same page

  10. Femme @ Femme Frugality October 7, 2016 at 9:00 AM

    Pauline, you know you and I are beyond on the same page with this! Keep spreading the good word!

    1. Pauline October 7, 2016 at 11:14 PM

      ❤️ #feministfincon!

  11. Paul October 7, 2016 at 9:15 AM

    I started to write this long post about what has and hasn’t worked for us. My wife stays home, and I think to make it work both people need to have certain attitude about mine, yours, ours. I deleted most of the post because I realized all I was doing was complaining about my wife not working for 6 out of the 10 years of our marriage. But then I thought, that’s incredibly short sighted and unfair as we did this so that our 4 kids would not have to go to daycare. Not from a financial standpoint but from a practical one. While my spouses reliance on me can be crippling at times, why did we even have kids if we weren’t willing to raise them?

    It is tough, especially for those of us in the know of how much faster we could reach FI with two incomes. But as the saying goes “If you want to make God laugh tell him about your plan”. What has helped me is the realization that life only has meaning when it is lived and enjoyed in the moment. As a planner this is hard for me, and I’m not saying don’t plan, but don’t let it be so all consuming that it ruins the moments you are living right now. Where money comes into play is that it exists only as a tool to get you what you need and so long as you are alive things can’t really be all that bad.

    For anyone considering a one income family I will say that what you think it will be like and what it actually is are two different things. Its great for the stay at home spouse and great for the children but less great and even sometimes miserable for the working spouse. “True patience means bearing the unbearable”, if that’s not something that you can do then I urge you to find a way to stay two incomes.

    1. Vee October 7, 2016 at 9:26 AM

      That’s a reason we’re not doing that. I saw what it did to my parent’s marriage. But I really respect the sacrifice you’re making.

    2. Pauline October 8, 2016 at 11:18 AM

      If I have kids I’d stay home with them. You save on daycare, no need to have a second car, the family gets quality time as soon as the spouse gets home (instead of having to run errands all weekend), and much more. I get that it is hard for you though to have to support the whole family, that can be a lot of stress.

      1. J. Money October 10, 2016 at 9:21 AM

        You would, Pauline? For some reason it’s hard for me to see you stop hustling as hard :) It would def. be a dream to be able to do both, but so far with me it’s been a helluva balance, haha…

        1. Pauline October 14, 2016 at 12:10 AM

          I think I’d still hustle from home, like I do right now. But I have a ton of free time which is a luxury so I would hope to raise the kids. Unless they drive me crazy and I just drop them at daycare haha.

    3. superbien October 24, 2016 at 7:45 AM

      Wait, did you say that you were mentally complaining because your wife hasn’t worked for 6 years, and you have kids? Do you consider her staying home with kids to be “not working”?! Dude.

      I’m home now, exhausted to the point of tears, with a sick baby, and I am SO GRATEFUL for the incredibly hard working childcare professionals who I pay $1600/month, and my work pays $800/month. And frankly, I think all of those women – and they’re all women – are way underpaid for how hard they work.

      1. Paul December 7, 2016 at 4:55 PM

        Honestly, I think you want my my post to say something it doesn’t… I was simply stating that having a stay at home spouse can be stressful on the “paid” working spouse as well. It a topic that is not talked about very much.

  12. Vee October 7, 2016 at 9:16 AM

    I like that some folks are suggesting a more moderate approach. I know I’m kinda old fashioned, but we dated for a while (2+ years) without combining anything or even living together. Then we got married and slowly integrated our accounts together. I don’t want to sound judgey to people who don’t take our path–I’ve worked in the domestic violence field for many years so I feel you on the point you’re making–but to me slow and steady wins the race. I really trust my husband financially, but that’s after years of observing his character and habits.

    And for those who know me, I am, *ahem* just a teensy bit independent. But I only want the sort of partnership where I can be all in. I guess it all comes down to your life goals, beliefs about partnership, background, etc. I don’t find that we need separate funds, but I am planning on maintaining my career throughout baby raising times. To me, that’s what I find valuable.

    1. Pauline October 8, 2016 at 11:20 AM

      I like the slow approach. Most of my friends’ problems started after kids, so that might take a few years.

  13. Erith October 7, 2016 at 9:25 AM

    At the start of our relationship we decided we would have joint accounts, we would never fall out over money, we would discuss major purchases together, but when it came to ordinary expenses, we would do our own thing. 38 years later, I can report that we have never been overdrawn and have never had a single money argument. Initially my husband my soon to be husband out earned me by about 30%, then after my career break for children, I started climbing the greasy ladder, and significantly out-earned my husband for many years. Was he worried? Absolutely not. He enjoyed the additional prosperity the additional income brought. Now while we both have pensions, my pension is larger than his, but just at the moment he is working part-time so he earns more than me again, which makes us both smile.

    I have two sons. One is following the ‘each put the same into the housekeeping’, and keep the rest separate. The other follows the ‘everything together’ routine.

    Does it matter? – I don’t think so. It is whatever works best for you as a couple, as long as it is a joint agreement, as opposed to a decision imposed by one of the partners.

    1. Pauline October 8, 2016 at 11:21 AM

      Exactly, it has to be acceptable and deemed fair to all involved.

  14. Ms. Montana October 7, 2016 at 9:35 AM

    Oh my goodness, I love the inclusion of the dating link! I think as we grow into our confidence it’s easier to get to the place where we can feel really free to be who we are and say what we want. Sometimes we just need to state our intentions and let the universe conspire to help us. Thanks for sharing your story!

    1. Pauline October 8, 2016 at 11:59 AM

      I know, isn’t J$ the best? haha told him he could officiate the ceremony if he sent me The One

      1. Ms. Montana October 8, 2016 at 10:24 PM

        That should make for an awesome party!

        1. J. Money October 10, 2016 at 9:23 AM

          I think I need to supervise all dates to make sure the boys meet my standards for you too, Pauline :)

          1. Pauline October 14, 2016 at 12:12 AM

            Aw that’s sweet :) You can interview them on their financial habits to start with! They get financially naked, scanned, credit reported, cleared lol

  15. Lisa O October 7, 2016 at 9:39 AM

    Love this article! I cannot express to all “women” to stand on your own financial feet! It is the best thing for you, your husband, and children. No one “wants” to get a divorce but it does happen. I could share my sob story but that would just bring back negative feelings so I choose to say “positively” stay committed to each other by talking about money but having his/her/ours.

    1. Pauline October 8, 2016 at 12:01 PM

      Thank you Lisa!

  16. Melissa October 7, 2016 at 10:10 AM

    A couple of other things to consider:

    In some states, if you and your spouse have debt – such as credit cards or a student loan that was taken out while you were married and used mostly for living expenses not tuition expenses – you’re going to get to split those in half and you’ll need to consider those debt payments in your monthly expenses.

    And in some states, if you have a full-time job, it doesn’t matter how much more he makes, you won’t be eligible for alimony because having a steady job will be interpreted as you being self-sustaining.

    I’ve been though this…. I didn’t get alimony, I got stuck with a lot of debt. I didn’t make enough to make my ends meet (and was a -650 each month in those first few months). I was thankful for having an emergency fund to get me through the first months, to support a cross-country move for a better job, and to buy appliances and such when I moved into a small rental home that is pretty plain, but it’s safe and within my budget.

    My ex-husband knew I had moved $5,000 in the last year of our marriage to my mother’s saving account in another state. What I told him at the time was true: We have a spending problem and so I’m putting half of what is in our savings some place where we can’t spend it so we have an emergency fund. Then, after we had separated, my elderly grandmother gifted all of her grandchildren a sizable amount of money at Christmas. I hid that in my mom’s account too so it couldn’t be included in the divorce settlement. I was lucky to suddenly have these funds or I would have been relying on my parents to help. Next time, if there is one, I won’t combine my finances.

    1. Pauline October 8, 2016 at 12:03 PM

      Wow that’s harsh if you make less but still get half the debt

    2. J. Money October 10, 2016 at 9:25 AM

      So sad to hear :( But so awesome you pulled through!!

  17. Dana October 7, 2016 at 10:30 AM

    Preach it girlfriend!!!!

  18. Fushia October 7, 2016 at 10:40 AM

    Great article, I agree that each person should have an individual emergency fund in addition to the family emergency fund just in case the sh*t hits the fan.

    One unrelated comment though…I don’t know if anyone else has had this problem but when I tried to access the website http://www.reachfinancialindependence.com i got a malware dangerous website block notice. It may be something you would want to look into as I would really like to check out the site.

    1. Pauline October 8, 2016 at 12:04 PM

      oh sorry to hear, it works fine on my phone and computer

  19. Taylor Milam October 7, 2016 at 10:45 AM

    This is such an important post but also so sad :( I’ve definitely watched some people I love go through this and it’s heartbreaking. I think the #1 way to avoid this is to not date a vindictive asshole. Of course no one sets out to do that, but there are definitely signs if you’re dating someone who is trying to control you or your finances. Sending lots of love to anyone who is currently going through a horrible divorce or separation and also dealing with money struggles <3

    1. Pauline October 8, 2016 at 12:06 PM

      Thank you for your kind words Taylor. I guess you can fall in love and then find out the guy is a money mess, and try to make it work in spite of that but that’s a scary thought if you can’t help.

    2. Kimberly Raines October 10, 2016 at 7:47 PM

      Yes! I agree with your rule #1. Rule #2, don’t reproduce with the a-hole.

  20. Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies October 7, 2016 at 11:10 AM

    We’re a 50/50 state. So, what’s mine is his and vice versa. All of our money is in one pot, but we talk regularly about this (awkward and empowering). I never want to depend on him and he doesn’t want to depend on me. If things go south, I feel really confident that we could both stand on our own two feet. As far as abusive relationships go, I cannot even imagine. I realize that I am incredibly fortunate, so I think whatever people need to do to make sure that they can stand on their own is imperative. Glad you put this out in the universe!

    1. Pauline October 8, 2016 at 12:08 PM

      Thanks Penny! Most of us money nerds are financially empowered or on the way, but that’s not the norm sadly.

  21. Danell October 7, 2016 at 11:10 AM

    I couldn’t agree more. Being financially dependent on a spouse is scary stuff. I’m a therapist and I can’t tell you the number of women that struggle to leave an abusive relationship because they are financially dependent. You’re not doing your kids any favors doing this. Teaching independence to your kids, even as a stay at home spouse, is very important.

    1. Pauline October 8, 2016 at 12:09 PM

      Financially empowering your kids is one of the greatest skill you can give them.

    2. J. Money October 10, 2016 at 9:27 AM

      Thanks for chiming in, Danell!!

    3. superbien October 24, 2016 at 8:27 AM

      Yes!!! I was working, with a good salary, when I finally hit the end of what I would swallow in my first marriage, and I was still daunted by the financials. I was lucky that we sold the condo very fast at a small profit… if he had been as vindictive in separation and divorce as in the marriage*, he could have made it so much harder than it was – and it was wrenching and grueling.

      In my current marriage, with spawn this time, we have yours mine and ours money. We fund retirement the same amount (not percentage, because we’re a team), save to our private accounts, which are all in Mint (so visible to both, but not accessible by both), and share all other funds.

      I’m twitchy about control, and financial control, from my first marriage, so we set up our finances to be equitable but also so we had shared goals to get excited about. He soooo does not monitor my spending, or vice versa… but it’s especially helpful not even to have to check first before spending money from the personal accounts.

      So basically yes, what Pauline said, right on sister.

      *He was chaaaaaanged now

  22. Jess@InvestorGal October 7, 2016 at 11:14 AM

    This is such an important post! I think in a lot of couples one person is “the one in charge of the money.” If you are not that person, then you are putting yourself at a great disadvantage by not knowing what is going on! We have a joint checking account but I have my own separate credit card that I pay the balance off in full each month. This isn’t to be sneaky, but a) I like getting the points but b) I like not having to “answer” for every little purchase. I think having the once a month line item for credit card bill payment makes it easier for him as well. He does something similar, but a little more old school. A few times a month, he will take out cash from the ATM and use that for whatever spending money he needs – it works the same as my credit card. With this method we both can have our little indulgences without breaking our saving & investing goals. Happy Friday!

    1. Pauline October 8, 2016 at 12:11 PM

      That’s a great way to work. If you aren’t aware of what’s going on, even if you stay together, you can be in big trouble as the surviving spouse.

  23. rosie October 7, 2016 at 11:27 AM

    Really fantastic post. I am so glad I read this. The idea of being dependent on a partner is very outdated and I hope this reaches a lot of people.


    1. Pauline October 8, 2016 at 12:13 PM

      Thanks Rosie! I hope so too

  24. Andy October 7, 2016 at 11:29 AM

    We went through the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University program as a dating couple 2 years ago, and have since become engaged and married. We have combined our accounts however our monthly budget plan allows for Pocket Money for each person to spend however they want no questions asked.

    A sad truth to the stories in the article are that I have seen it happen to friends of mine. A couple who was married got separated and the woman cleaned out their joint accounts leaving the guy in a really bad place. They have since divorced and it is extremely sad for them. However the man/woman rules don’t necessarily come into play here. Either party can cause issues for the other and both need to be diligent and attentive.

    1. Pauline October 8, 2016 at 12:15 PM

      Of course both parties should be able to survive on their own. Seems like women are more likely to be in a fragile situation though.

    2. J. Money October 10, 2016 at 9:33 AM

      I love the Pocket Money idea :)

      We used to do that too (I think $100 a paycheck?) but then never ended up really spending it and now we just pull cash anytime we feel like it with no questions asked. I think it takes time getting used to each other and habits and what not. And it helps having kids too where you have less time to go out spending money, haha…

      1. Pauline October 14, 2016 at 12:14 AM

        Thought kids were money black holes!

  25. Fiscally Free October 7, 2016 at 11:34 AM

    This approach feels pretty extreme to me.
    It sounds like you’ve been around some pretty bad situations, but I don’t think that’s normal.

    I certainly hope my wife doesn’t feel like she needs to justify every expense or have a special account so she can get away from me. We are lucky that we have similar views on money, so combining our finances wasn’t a big deal.
    I also hope that if our relationship did fall apart I would not attempt to hold her hostage financially. I’m not really sure how I would even do that since her name is on every account along with mine.

    1. Pauline October 8, 2016 at 12:17 PM

      I am not sure what is normal and not. I have seen many stay at home moms having a hard time financially, my mom had to go back to work after 18 years of raising us for example, and that was not easy.
      We’re a financially educated crowd but I’d say your average person isn’t on top of money.

  26. Mrs. Picky Pincher October 7, 2016 at 12:54 PM

    Agh, this is a toughie. Ultimately, I think each couple should handle money in whatever way that makes sense to them. We have some friends who are married (with kids!) and keep their finances completely separate.

    Mr. Picky Pincher and I prefer to have everything in one account together. A lot of people talk about justifying expenses and whatnot, but if the relationship is healthy and trusting, you don’t have to justify buying yourself something every now and then. I like a little heads up if it’s over $50, but even then it isn’t a big deal. When we first got married Mr. Picky Pincher was actually afraid I would get upset over him purchasing music records, so he had a separate checking account for his fun money. I wasn’t too happy about it, since I let him see everything I bought anyway, but I let him do his own thing. Over time it just didn’t make sense to keep it any more, so everything we have is joint.

    I do think it’s important to have an exit plan if things don’t go well. But how do you know when to trust and when to create separations for your own protection? I’m not sure. But living through the relationship bracing for the impact of the breakup seems sort of depressing to me. It’s smart in hindsight, but it just feels like you never totally trust your partner. But that’s why all of our stuff is joint. :) It’s also just simpler that way, financially.

    I totally respect people who want to keep things separate, but I just think it would be too complicated for me, financially and emotionally.

    1. Pauline October 8, 2016 at 12:20 PM

      You’re right, preparing for the worst is depressing. You guys are a good financial match so it works. And because most divorces are caused by money tensions you have great odds! What if he was a reckless spender with tons of debt? I’d keep things separate but still be together if there is love.

  27. Rachel Brown October 7, 2016 at 3:53 PM

    I guess, I’d like to stay a bit more open minded, in that there is not ONE way for every woman nor man. What worked for us for the last 10 years, and continues to work is not for everyone. Married dual incomes, children 1 income and in a few years back to dual incomes. We both agreed we would make this decision BEFORE we got married, and it has worked so far, but kudos to her for her independence. I support that. She also has no kids, so it makes sense to keep her own money and to work, but having a worse case scenario type of mentality going into a relationship is also not healthy.

    1. Pauline October 8, 2016 at 12:23 PM

      I would like to stay home if I have kids and would expect my partner to support us during that time. And while I go into a relationship with the best intentions, I also have the peace of mind to know I won’t have to stay any longer than I want to because of money.

  28. Jen @ Saving with Spunk October 7, 2016 at 4:48 PM

    While I’m in the camp of “One Marriage, One Bank Account” I am vehemently for women understanding finances and managing them like a business. Even in great marriages with lots of trust, if one spouse dies or becomes incapacitated, the wife needs to be able to pick up the pieces financially. Even women who choose to stay at home should be maintaining workplace skills and certifications. It’s never a waste of time/money. Great points here!

    1. Pauline October 8, 2016 at 12:24 PM

      That is tragic indeed when you become the “money person” after decades of not being aware of a thing. I’m sure tons of money are never claimed too!

  29. Rachel October 7, 2016 at 5:11 PM

    Ooooo this is a tough one.

    In out house we have mine/yours/ours accounts. Most (70%) of our individual money goes into the ‘ours’ accounts and we both keep some individual spending. The romantic reason would be I don’t want him seeing present buying in a joint account, less romantic is I don’t want to share how much it costs to not go grey and I don’t want to know how much is lavished on the PS4. Who earns more has gone up and down over the years.

    We both agree that if/when kids arrive the ours money %age will have to increase. I don’t want to be a couple who discuss who pays for each tiny purchase.

    A close friend was in a marriage where he earnt twice as much but joint expenses all had to be 50/50. One weekend they both went to visit relatives, he travelled first class on the train, she got the megabus because she had no money left. Luckily what little she had she saved so could leave him. It was painful to see how he bought cars, golf clubs, VIP gig tickets and she couldn’t afford to replace work out clothes. Now divorced she has paid of the joint debt he accrued and become solvent. He is bankrupt and bitter.

    While 50/50 can be empowering for some, for others it is a form of financial abuse and control.

    1. Pauline October 8, 2016 at 12:27 PM

      wow that’s a scary story! I had a broke BF. We would backpack and sleep in train stations so he could come with me on trips. If I wanted to splurge on something I would pay for both of us.

    2. J. Money October 10, 2016 at 9:36 AM


  30. Nita October 7, 2016 at 6:37 PM

    This is why I’ve always worked. I grew up seeing the ‘other side’ of love, and it’s not always pretty. I’ve also taught my daughters, find careers that are pliable and allow you to be a parent and work, even if only working part-time. If your spouse ever gets ill, laid off, or leaves, you can support yourself and your kids. I’ve witnessed many stories as the author above, and it shocks me how easily people (male and female) hand over control of their lives to another. Having a constant source of income at least means that you will be getting paid, every 2 weeks and hopefully will still have benefits.

    1. Pauline October 8, 2016 at 12:28 PM

      Absolutely. It isn’t just divorce, disability or unemployment can ruin your life.

  31. NGNEER October 7, 2016 at 7:08 PM

    I agree with a lot of points in this post including all parties understanding money and having a plan for the “what if” situations. I don’t agree with the “stash” thing though.

    All of our accounts are joint and even though I make significantly more than my husband, we feel that everything we have is 50/50 because a marriage is about so much more than money.

    I suppose if you think women should have a stash (assuming all women make less than the men they’re with based on your examples), then should the stay at home dads and non-breadwinner dads do the same? What about same sex couples? Your views seem a little one sided based on focus on your personal experiences.

    J$ I’m sensing you’re carefully picking these guest posts recently to get good discussion/debate going. It’s keeping things interesting.

    1. Pauline October 8, 2016 at 12:31 PM

      Yes, everyone should be financially independent from their partner and able to leave a nasty relationship instead of staying for the sake of money. Because in a majority of cases the woman is the one staying home with the kids, that is who I wrote for. But I know a gay man whose partner died and he was unable to manage his finances alone. Financial education and empowerment should be universal.

    2. J. Money October 10, 2016 at 9:39 AM

      Glad you’re liking them, NGNEER!

      I’m def. picky with what I feature here, and always enjoy a more fiery article than a tame one :) Even if I don’t agree all the way! (kinda gets tiring hearing yourself speak about the same things over and over again, haha…)

  32. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank October 7, 2016 at 9:17 PM

    Pauline is really travel and financial blogger. I enjoy reading her travel and financial-related blogs. I miss her dog!

  33. ZJ Thorne October 8, 2016 at 12:01 AM

    My girlfriend and I don’t live together yet, but we already do a pretty close 50/50. I tend to spend more on expenses currently, because her job is all consuming for a few more months and making sure her needs are met is one way I’m showing love. When we do live together, I want us to have a joint account that we both contribute to and pay mutual bills out of. If she’d like us to combine entirely, it would be to her detriment. I have a negative net worth and her’s is positive. (I’m working to change this) While our marriage is now legal, I just don’t see the need for everything to be in one pot. I want to be able to buy her presents in secret.

    I also used to work with people fleeing Interpersonal violence. Having some funds that only you control can make such a difference. In a non IPV situation, one couple I know had a problem recently where the financial one was temporarily incapacitated and the non-financial one did not know how to access $1000 from their accounts to help her wife. It was really sad. Especially since they have wealth. Her lack of knowledge and access to their money hurt them.

    1. Pauline October 8, 2016 at 12:36 PM

      Looks like you will be a great caring husband! Your story is so sad, but I can see that could happen to many people I know, particularly old people where the husband has always handled the money, should he pass first.

      1. Finance Solver October 9, 2016 at 8:37 PM

        Just would like to point out that she is a lesbian, not a guy with a girlfriend :)

    2. J. Money October 10, 2016 at 9:41 AM

      Good point about making sure *both* names are on the accounts (or at least the combined ones). Even if you’re unaware of the financial plan it’s good to be able to access it all whenever needed!

  34. Michele October 8, 2016 at 12:26 PM

    Outstanding post! It really is a reminder that anything can happen and that everyone in the relationship (esp. women) needs to be aware of the finances.

    I would also like to add no matter what the financial dynamic (especially if one of the spouses does not work) is to have some utility bills in your name. It shows a history that you can pay your bills and if the unthinkable happens (divorce or death) your not totally at a loss and have to start from scratch.

    1. Pauline October 8, 2016 at 5:45 PM

      Great tip Michele thank you

  35. Serena @ Thrift Diving October 9, 2016 at 6:42 AM

    I love this topic and have a different situation than most here. My husband and I have been together 21 years, married for 11 of those. We have never joined incimes. Never. Oh, wait, maybe one small account years ago. But for the most part, in all the 21 years I have known him since we met when I was 17, we have kept our money separate. I do t know why, but we have and it’s worked. He writes me a check every payday for $1,000, and I put that $2,000 monthly towards are total bills, which is about half. I make all the payments and pay any bills, including buy all the groceries and shopping. He does all the cooking for us and our 3 sons (ages 10, 6, and 4). The only time we have argued about money is when I first lost my day-job and started blogging full-time. Those were stressful times and collected unemployment and tried to make the blogging thing work, while he hated that I wasn’t making the same amount at my day job.

    I’ve since proven that I can make a full-time income from blogging, public speaking, modeling, etc.

    The only way this has worked is because we have similiar thrifty spending habits, trust each other to make wise decisions with money, and never need to question each other about what we spend money on.

    It’s worked so well for us! I know that we would argue if we had common accounts because we would see the nickel and dime. I wouldn’t like that. But with a separate accounts we are free to do as we please. It’s a great set-up!

    1. J. Money October 10, 2016 at 9:43 AM

      So so proud of you for not only making your dreams here work, but for GOING AFTER THEM! They don’t always have a happy ending, but at least you’re fighting for what you want :)

    2. Pauline October 10, 2016 at 10:03 AM

      Congrats on taking the leap and making it work! I bet it was scary but sure it was interesting :)

  36. Finance Solver October 9, 2016 at 8:31 PM

    This is very true. However, if I was married, I wouldn’t want my significant other to be completely independent but discuss money as a team through open communication. I encourage empowering women but I think communication is better than two people working independently. (Disclaimer is that I don’t really have any experience with marriage).

    I’m all for being independent from your employer though. That’s why I save so much because there’s no telling whether my employer will cut me off tomorrow just cause they feel like it. Can’t be chained to the consumerist lifestyle!

    1. Pauline October 10, 2016 at 2:29 AM

      Of course you should work as a team! I just think you should also be independent in that you are able to leave if the relationship gets toxic.

  37. kg October 10, 2016 at 8:26 PM

    We’ve been married for 33+ years. Currently we are mostly a one income family and are lower middle class/upper working class as far as income goes. However we follow our spending plan, some people call it a budget, and pay money into our savings and investments first. We also each get a generous monthly allowance to do with as we wish. Then what’s leftover goes to pay our bills which are minimal. I currently manage our finances but give a monthly report to my husband so he can see how we are doing.

    1. Pauline October 12, 2016 at 3:27 PM

      Looks like a smooth setup! Communication is key.

  38. Ms. Primal Prosperity October 11, 2016 at 1:11 PM

    It is hard to put a price on freedom. I know we all have our own dollar amounts for what that means, but for me, freedom goes beyond money. I would never move back in with my parents or stay in the same apartment with an ex just because I couldn’t afford the same level of apartment. I would rather sleep on someone’s couch and be free, rather than do that! :)

    Although, I realize that women who have children, have responsibilities that go beyond their own immediate needs and desires.

    1. Pauline October 12, 2016 at 3:45 PM

      Of course, you sacrifice a lot for the sake of the kids. But if both parents are unhappy the kids will be too.

  39. Sarah @tortoisehappy October 11, 2016 at 4:27 PM

    We discussed finances in depth very early in our relationship, and it means talking about money is now the norm. We both agreed that we don’t want to be in a position where we’re only staying together because we can’t afford not to, so have deliberately crafted our joint finances and have some money individually so that neither is trapped. Both being here because we choose to be here is pretty romantic in my book. The other benefit is that lack of money doesn’t cause arguements, because we don’t have a lack of money. Sure, we could have argued about the lack of stuff, because saving money means not buying stuff, but financial stability means more to both of us.

    1. Pauline October 12, 2016 at 3:46 PM

      Great that your values are aligned. I’d take financial stability over stuff any day.

  40. Slinky October 11, 2016 at 7:27 PM

    I always like to chime in on these conversations to point out that separate accounts do not automatically equal separate finances. It’s not all or nothing. My husband and I have been together 13 years now and we still manage our own money and accounts. Divide and conquer! I have my own accounts and investments and credit card and pay some of our bills. He has his accounts and pays other bills. We also still have the usual discussions about whether WE are spending too much on groceries and how to manage large upcoming expenses and which account should the money come out of. In fact, tonight we’ll spend an hour after dinner together reconciling our accounts. Budget nerd date! <3

    We've also never lost that wonderful feeling you get when you're SO treats you to something special, whether it's picking up some batteries on the way home, a date night at a favorite restaurant, or an offer to help pay off a student loan.

    1. J. Money October 12, 2016 at 9:50 AM


      I don’t think I could convince my wife to spend a whole hour on it, though I have learned the odds increase significantly when I bring a bottle of wine to the table :)

      1. Pauline October 12, 2016 at 3:53 PM

        J$: “Hey, honey, here is a $20 bottle of wine”
        Mrs$: “Aw you’re so sweet!”
        J$: “Now that you’re $20 over on wine, I’m $20 over on my freedom money too! Even?”

      2. Slinky October 12, 2016 at 4:56 PM

        We call them Power Hours(tm) and that’s kind of why we started them. There are things we should do and actually want to work on, but it’s all too easy to procrastinate and avoid those things when you’re tired after work or have some really fun thing you would much rather do. *cough*Minecraft*cough* So we set a timer and work for an hour on whatever – finances, chores, side hustle, etc. When the timer is up, we’re done and get to immediately stop and go do whatever we want for the rest of the evening.

        1. Pauline October 14, 2016 at 12:06 AM

          Love Power Hours(tm) :)

    2. Pauline October 12, 2016 at 3:49 PM

      Yes, like the romantic relationship, a little mystery in finances can be good. It is very personal I am aware, but knowing how much you spent on my birthday gift would not make me feel great.

  41. Beth October 12, 2016 at 3:58 PM

    Oh wow! This is so in-line with my most recent post about financial abuse! I totally agree with every single word. Great post!

    1. Pauline October 14, 2016 at 12:04 AM

      Thank you Beth!

  42. John October 18, 2016 at 3:15 PM

    My wife and I set it up so that half of our income from each paycheck goes into a joint account and the other half is ours to do with what we please.

    We had to adjust the % a little (she pays insurance so I upped my %), but overall it works out great.

    1. J. Money October 23, 2016 at 4:00 PM

      That’s a good way to do it! Especially because it means y’all could survive a lay off since you’re already living on one income – for at least the ‘needs’ yeah?

  43. superbien October 24, 2016 at 9:22 AM

    This article is written from a unique perspective and understandably reflects that perspective: an apparently cisfemale woman in relationships with apparently cismale partners.

    It’s worth noting that the theme of this article is applicable to other genders and orientations. For instance, LGBTQ folks experience domestic violence and abuse at the same rates as straight people.* But, and I’m sadly not joking, cops will actually laugh at and mock domestic violence victims if they are gay, genderqueer, or transgender. (Brain explode 《<♧)

    And one of the key tools for domestic violence is financial control, and is as big a problem in LGBTQ partnerships* as straight, with worse implications due to those populations' vulnerability.

    So, "why women, men, and everyone in between should have a stash" … but the current title is way more clickable.


    1. J. Money October 25, 2016 at 6:22 AM

      Agreed :(

  44. Nicole November 7, 2016 at 5:20 AM

    Amen to all of it.