A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Understanding the dynamics

Posted by Pepper on January 8, 2013

At one time, ‘So what do you do?’ was a question that would end up depressing me. Understandably, it is the focal point of almost every new meeting. At a time when I was not working professionally, I really didn’t know how to answer that. At that time, I was foolish enough to want to work, just so I could provide an acceptable answer to the world. Ofcourse, to the world, ‘cooking, traveling, reading, exploring’ were not worthy enough, since they didn’t fetch you money. They didn’t leave me with an ‘identity’. I wonder who decides the worth of your time. What defines your identity? Surely, it can’t just be your association with the corporate world.

I thought having a job would bring me some solace. When asked this question, I would no longer have to fumble for a response. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I have faced this question several times since I began working full time. The discomfort I feel on hearing those words has not lessened.

‘So what do you do?’, I was asked at a friend’s birthday party. Despite having an answer that conforms to the norms, that old feeling of vulnerability and uncertainty returned. I lowered my gaze, paused for a moment, and stirred my drink. I could have told her what she was expecting to hear. ‘I work as HR in an IT company’. Instead, I chose to deviate from the expected reply. I said, ‘I read, I write. I dream. I am working towards some of those dreams. I do a whole lot of things actually’. She laughed. ‘No, I meant to ask you where you worked’.

I smiled. ‘By work, you mean to ask me about my job? Why do you take for granted I have and want one?’ She seemed confused. “Just, you know. Everybody our age is working. We’re not the stay at home sorts. Every woman wants to be financially independent’. I let go.

Financial independence. I know that is the new buzz word. Apparently, it is below our dignity to live off our partner’s money. We are asked to make ourselves capable of fulfilling our needs. Because money equals power. And unequal distribution of money leads to power struggles between couples. My friend says she feels too vulnerable by the thought of taking money from her husband. She wants complete autonomy when it comes to finances. She wants to decide how much she will spend and on what. She doesn’t want to be answerable to anybody.

I feel a little confused. Did I have complete autonomy when I wasn’t working? No. Did Mint have complete autonomy despite being the one who brought in the money? No. Of course, I do not talk about small purchases.  But when it came to anything big, we did consult each other before arriving at a joint decision. He wanted to buy an iPhone a while ago, and I said no to him. I told him I didn’t think we could afford it. He should consider waiting. He agreed. The thought of me not having a say just because I did not have an income did not even occur to either of us. The money was ours. I had equal right to make a call.

I have my own income now. But do I make all decisions alone? Hell, no! When it comes to money matters, I can’t do without Mint’s input and approval. I think that has more to do with you being a couple. Your lives are connected. Each decision of yours impacts the others. It is only fair that we act in unison.

I am also confused by the term ‘Financial Independence’. How do most couples work? Mint and I have all our funds in a joint bank account, that both of us have access to. I even transfer my salary to that account. It is easier and more convenient to be dealing with one single account. But a lot of people disapprove of this. They believe separating funds is important. Neither of us feel the need to do it. And like I said, that comes with more hassles. We are lazy.

I think being divisive and accounting for every action is not easy. Mainly because there are so many things that cannot be accounted for in monitory terms. How do they come into the picture then? So really, what does independence mean? Aren’t couples dependent on each other for so many things?

Two people in a marriage or a relationship may not have equal earning capacities. Like I say, your own income may afford you a basic lifestyle, but your partner will be able to provide you with the luxuries. If you do count on him for the luxuries, do you still consider yourself to be financially independent? Do you maintain separate accounts? Do you split the monthly bills? Or do you combine your income and then pay bills together? If your partner asks you to go on a holiday that you think is unaffordable by your means, would you still go ahead with it? Would you not buy a home together, because of the disparity in your incomes? Go and and tell me how you function. I promise to not judge. I only aim to understand the dynamics.

My journalist friend, earns a pittance. Let’s say her income amounts to x. Her husband is an investment banker who is doing exceptionally well. He earns about 7 times more than her, totaling his income to 7x. (Yes, we verified) Put together, they lead a very rich lifestyle. A lot of times, her outfits costs more than what she earns in a month. Yet, she feels very proud of her ‘financial independence’. Would you think she is really financially independent just because she has an income?

72 Responses to “Understanding the dynamics”

  1. nachu said

    Looks like someone is on a roll! 🙂

    Okay, The Bloke and I function the same way as you do. We propose and come to consensus for all the big purchases.

    For the last qn, I would say no! And just for the heck of it, I googled “Financial independence” and here it goes,

    Financial Independence is a term generally used to describe the state of having sufficient personal wealth to live indefinitely without having to work actively for basic necessities.[1] In the case of many individuals whose financial circumstances fit this description, their assets generate income that is greater than their expenses.

    The above defn is quite different from what I had assumed it to be!

  2. seema3 said

    Pepper, When I was young I always wanted to marry a guy who earned more than me. When I actually married it did not matter(he did earn about 10000 Rs more than me ). We both had seperate accounts as our company required it, but money matters were always handled together, he paid all the bills, I transferred money to his account but we did not keep a check on each others spending. Even when he goes to the casino and has to take anything more than $200 it would be a joint decision.
    2 years back I switched jobs and I earn double the amount he earns, but thankfully no ego has come between us.
    We then converted to a joint account as it was easier to handle the money to send to India and such. I have no issues of giving it up all and staying at home if required on his income.
    So that is how our dynamics work.

  3. SK said

    Hey Pepper, enjoy your everyday writing. :–)

    I am a proponent of financial independence for women in general. This is not to feel superior or earn the right to spend or whatever. This is to make sure you are not totally lost if something unforeseen happens and you are left to be alone. I would say your journalist is financially independent because she can somehow make ends meet if her husband is no longer around for whatever reason. A friend of mine died of cancer and his wife was so naive she was so totally lost, I felt extremely sorry for her. Now suddenly she has to be out in the world to survive. I just want women to be prepared for such things, god forbid nothing of that sort must happen to anybody. How much longer can be depend on our parents, havent they done enough? Should we not step up and let them lead a peaceful retired life?

    For us, we do have separate accounts but that is because we had our accounts from before we were married, we just never changed it. It took us five years to start living together all days of the week, so we just let it be. Some bills he pays some bills I pay, again because old accounts were in my name and I continue to pay, he took over new accounts and so on. Regarding vacation, home, now with the baby, her expenses, we make decisions together of course.

    Again no judging, just opinions. :–)

    • Pepper said

      1) If you are not working presently, would that mean you will not be able to make ends meet if something happens to your husband tomorrow? If you have an education and some experience to lean on, you will most likely get a job anytime. Maybe not a great career, but a job to support yourself? Yes!
      2) Why assume that everybody who does not have an income is naive? They may not be earning, but may still be very smart, bright and capable of being at the forefront.

  4. Anon said

    You know my story, Pepper! Whether things are good or bad, for me I have found that it’s best for my peace of mind to have separate accounts. Its my sense of security. Every time there is an investment need, I pretty mush contribute 90% of whats in my account and so does he and we pool in to buy the property/stock/etc. He pays for the monthly expenses, I take care of mortgage and utilities. This way what’s left in our accounts are for us to use at our discretion. Obviously on big purchases/travel we consult each other. There was a time at the beginning of our marriage when he was pushing for a joint bank account. And then I had to face almost daily questions on why I bought a certain dress/coffee/lunch outside. That’s when I stood my ground on my own account and things have been much more peaceful and he has come to terms with it. Its all about the dynamics in a relationship. It appears you and Mint are such a well oiled machine who work well together and there aren’t issues. Not every couple is fortunate that way and I just feel in those situations the woman has to safeguard her money (at least part of it) and have that sense of security.

  5. It’s only been a few months since I’ve moved to this country and everywhere I go people ask me what I do. I feel like telling them that I am just taking a break from my life. Because honestly, that is what I’m doing. It isn’t socially acceptable if you do not provide a valid answer for this question and that really irks me.

    As for financial independence, my husband is the only earning member. I do not have the qualifications right now to get a job. So far we are doing good managing money. But I always think how it would change when I do start to earn. Will I have my own bank account or do we get a joint account? I started thinking about this after I overheard a conversation at the eye doctor’s place last weekend. An older couple were discussing their finances. The lady said it is better to have separate bank accounts. They split the monthly bills and they do so because she gets to splurge her money on stuff without being answerable to her husband. That got me thinking and I’m confused on this issue too.

    • Pepper said

      Whether the accounts are joint or separate, I think it really doesn’t matter. All that matters is your sense of security and the faith you have in your partner. People who have a joint account may still not consider the money to be theirs, if the relationship is not conducive to such thoughts. They may still have restricted access and may have to answer questions. Whereas people with separate accounts may be most secure in the knowledge of their combined funds. It’s all about the relationship you share with your partner.

  6. I have not been too sure of the “financial independence” part as well. I think it gained importance with increased discussions about women issues in India. And how having some money to fall back on makes it easier to walk out of a marriage if the need arises. Which it does. But it does not have to be a pre-requisite to a happy and secure marriage.
    I don’t think there is anything like best practice when it comes to finances in a marriage. As long as both the partners consult each other on major purchases and have equal say in the home finances, it is fine, I guess. The dynamics changes considerable when one is staying in a joint family and the need to support many other people other than the parents arises.
    In our case, we have separate accounts. Before we got married, we had separate accounts, and it just stayed this way. We talked about opening a joint account, but then realized that it was not necessary. Part of it was laziness to go to the bank to open an account. In the first 2 years of marriage we diligently did the hisab, splitting the bills at the end of the month in the ratio of our earnings ( splitting 50-50 did not seem logical), but over the past year, we have just let go of this hisab thingy. We have our own credit cards and anyway end up spending almost the same amount most of the times. But we both know that each of our savings belong to the both of us. Inspite of having separate accounts, we do consult each other on major purchases. So in a way it is not 100% independent. And I dont think it is possible in a marriage. Before we came up with a financial scheme we both were comfortable with, I did talk to some of my married friends regarding the arrangement in their household and realised that there is no “one size fits all” arrangement. As long as both partners are comfortable with the financial arrangement, it is fine.

    • Pepper said

      I agree. Both partners need to be comfortable with the financial arrangement. The trouble is – a lot of times one of the partner’s freedom is not given its due importance. Good to know how you guys work. Seems like a good arrangement.

  7. Sarah said

    This is a brilliant post, more so cause I feel the same way and I perhaps, couldn’t have said it all the way you did. Love to you for this one!

  8. AL said

    The dynamics of every marriage are different. In some marriages, it does not matter who earns, who does not, who earns more, and who spends how.
    But that’s not the case with every marriage and that’s where it is important for both husband and wife to have an income and to save from that income for a rainy day (read: separation, divorce etc.). I agree with your friend about feeling vulnerable without a job, but that’s based on the dynamics in my marriage. It is also based on the fact that my Mom always earned her own income and her pension and post retirement benefits now support the family’s expenses. It is also based on seeing how some women who do not have their own income considered themselves lesser or were treated as lesser even though the work that they did to manage the household, if done by a hired help would fetch a $6 figure salary, no less.

    it’s only when society at large starts acknowledging the extremely crucial role that stay at home wives/mothers play in managing a household, raising responsible citizens, and being the pillars of strength and support for a harmonious family life, that women won’t feel compelled to have to have jobs to make themselves feel useful contributors to society.

    • Pepper said

      Very well put!
      And yes, not every marriage shares an equal relationship. But the point is, it should! Not only should the society give freedom to women, but the same freedom should also be given to men to be stay at home husbands and dads.

  9. My exp. with home finances begins and ends with using a Cr Card and never having to pay the bill LOL! Obviously, in all my wedded years, I’ve never complained once 🙂 JK!

    This financial independence-power balance-equal status thought process never made it with me. I think it all boils down to the kind of relationship / partner one is with. I’m sure you’ve come across the term ‘weekend husband’ in the US. I totally cannot relate to husbands travelling home all week and returning to base on weekends. I know it’s multiple times more money. But hey!……….. ???? Similarly, parents that leave kids with grandparents in India for months / even yrs. at a go……another concept that’s totally lost on me. Its one of those Each-to-their-own things. Not judging any one – its just that I don’t get it.

    • Pepper said

      Ah, no wonder I love your comments. You sound exactly like me!

    • ST said

      One has to live through a marriage where one of the spouses has to be away for 4-5 days of the week to understand that sometimes couples do it because they do not have a choice. I don’t think they do it just for the money. Some reasons are –
      – they cannot keep moving wherever a job takes them because they have bought a house and cannot keep selling it and buying new houses every time there’s a job change, especially in a bad housing market
      – both spouses are working and the income is needed to support necessary life expenses and it is not possible for both to find a job in the same city each time one of them has to move. Especially in a bad economy. I lived through this situation and the 9 months before we both finally found a job in the same city were excruciatingly painful.
      – there may be uncertainty around the job situation, the period of the long distance etc. so it may not be wise for both of them to pack up and move immediately.
      – Kid is enrolled in a good school and the couple does not wish to disrupt the child’s education every time one of the spouse gets a job in a new city.

  10. Sig said

    Hmmm…it’s interesting topic and one that isn’t really that black and white (then again hardly any of them are! :P). I think financial independence is highly sought for two reasons – one – you have a tangible recognition of the work and effort you earned, nobody else. Two – there is always that “in case” scenario which is crucial for our own independence.

    I think though, you are confusing financial independence with lifestyle and independence within a relationship. I believe every woman SHOULD be financially independent – in the sense not having to rely on anyone (whether that’s a partner or a parent) for what would cover their basic needs. It becomes a problem when one partner has no say/control/transparency over that money – which is why the concept of financial independence comes in.

    Whether one person earns or both do shouldn’t affect the way decisions are made in a relationship when it comes to that money – so if your journalist friend despite earning much less than her husband have worked out that it is feasible for her to spend THEIR money on her wardrobe – why do we care? Her salary is still earned for her alone – for her work and effort she puts into her job and I would consider her financially independent.

    Evs and I both earn an income – his is higher than mine currently and it does allow us to live a certain kind of lifestyle that perhaps if we were earning less or one person wasn’t, we couldn’t. I’m off on maternity leave in a month or so and we came to the decision that we can afford for me to take a year off from work. Those months where I won’t be bringing in an income won’t have any bearing on how we spend – we always make joint decisions when it comes to significant purchases. I still consider myself to be financially independent.

    • Pepper said

      I am not confusing financial independence with lifestyle and independence within a relationship. Because I think they are too closely linked and cannot be viewed in complete isolation. Ofcourse, every individual should be made capable of earning money, be it a man or a woman. But then, who decides whether every man/woman SHOULD be earning in order to be called financially independent? We need to factor in scenarios in which an individual is unable to pursue a career. I don’t think we should be making blanket statements that contain words like ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’. They only end up making the said individuals feel less worthy.

      Ofcourse! How my journalist friend and her husband spend their money is their lookout. What made you believe I care? You do realise the reason the example was stated, right? I was only attempting to present their spending patterns, given their different incomes. I am not taking a stand here. I don’t know whether she is financially independent or not. I feel confused because I know how heavily she depends on her husband’s financial support. The word ‘financially independent’ sounds contrary. But then perhaps, having a job is what makes her financially independent?

      • Sig said

        No you’re right – they ARE closely intertwined which makes it even more difficult. I guess it then just comes down to how and what you define as independence and taking those scenarios into account as well when you can’t pursue a career. Maybe financial independence is then the freedom to make the financial choices you want?? 😛

        No I get it and maybe it is just that – having an independent job is what she thinks as financial independence, despite her partner’s different earning capacity.

        • Pepper said

          Sigs, I think in essence we’re both saying the same thing. A lot of women do not have the drive to be out there in the world and fend for themselves, because they are conditioned to being provided for by the man. I don’t think that is a good attitude to have. I suppose that is what you meant too?

          I do think financial independence is more about the freedom to make the financial choices you want, than merely being an earning member.

  11. tearsndreams said

    Hey Pepper, have been reading you for a long time and love it.
    I won’t tell you the dynamics of my marriage but will tell you what
    financial independence means to me. It means having the means to
    support myself if there is a need. What if someone’s partner dies or
    cheats or hits?
    What if you don’t have it in you to fight legal battles for your share as a partner?
    Will you survive should you choose to end the partnership.
    Can you raise your children alone.
    If its not a legal block such as a h4 visa,
    as an adult you should not be dependent on another be it ur partner or ur parents.
    Read, explore, see the world, go beyond ur means because you can jointly afford to
    but never lose the ability to pay ur bills without the partnership.
    Along with every other choice you want to exercise,
    the choice to end the partnership should always be within ur reach.

    • Pepper said

      I agree with you partially. Most women want to earn because they feel vulnerable without an income. I think that is sad though.
      Like I keep repeating, this is not about your preferences. This is about the level of comfort you share with your partner. He and I may take a joint decision at some point for one of us to stay home. There could be pressing reasons that demand such a move. In those cases, vulnerability because of lack of income should not come into the picture.

  12. sraikh said

    One of the things that annoyed me the most. What do you? Because having 4 kids wasn’t enough 🙂

    I still face that question and because what i do is so unique and so different from any desis, that it ends up having more questions.

    I recently answered that question with ” I have a flock of 10 murghis and 1 murgha. There is a hawk flying around. My job is protect my flock.” That lady looked at me like I was crazy.

    And money. Don’t even get me started.

  13. shaktii said

    More than earning money i feel its getting out everyday and have some exposure to outside world gives you that independence..thats what happens in your friend’s case..the most important thing is when something which is out of our control happens we will be in a position to carry on the show..

    • Pepper said

      Firstly, people who do not earn may also be getting a lot of exposure! They may be getting out of the house regularly for various reasons, interacting with different people and being out there. I don’t believe in the theory that people who do not earn money only stay at home and get deprived of adequate exposure to the world.
      And like I said, I am still not sure how to define financial independence. My friend might be independent, would you still call her financially independent? Is there a big difference?

  14. Arch said

    Wish you a very happy new year, Pepper 🙂

    I believe in the idea of financial independence. And that does not mean having a job. To me, it signifies the freedom to plan, invest, save and spend my finances. Of course,that would involve consulting with loved ones – parents, spouse, kids ( my mom asks me everytime she makes a household appliance/expensive apparel/jewellery purchase). To say, I earn so I can spend as I wish is not freedom. Independence comes with responsibility,and that isn’t it. To consult, be questioned are all individual actions on how they work. Personally, I would like to have a join fund with my spouse and take decisions together too.

    However if the man turns out like my neighbour who asks penny wise accounts on vegetable purchases, or like my uncle who out of a whim screamed at his wife for eating the food he “buys” – I am so not going to do it !

  15. deeps said

    I can talk to you from the other side of the argument….I work i earn around 70% of what my husband earns. I have a 2 year old son and get him to day care in office since he was 5.5 months..and every now and then women who stay at home make me feel i am making a wrong choice about my child. Ppl who dont even still have their own kids have told me that they will love their kid so much that they will never leave them with any one else. I understand everyone has a choice and what ever choice you make people are going to have problems with it. I work because we have commitments and i want to work..i like coming to office…who will pay my bills if i dont work…i simply cant afford to sit at home with my kid…I wish people sometimes understand to give us some space and stop taking about how their husbands dont expect them to work and how they are better mothers.I am doing the best i can for my kid…i try to give him the best i can…not with respect to money but i do and i really do try to spend time with as much as possible…i only wish ppl can understand it sometimes

    • Pepper said

      I am so sorry Deeps. Don’t even open that can of worms. That is a never ending debate. People on one side have to attack people on the other. Infact, you can’t even term them as ‘attacks’. People are only ‘justifying’ the side they stand on. And hearing those justifications may pain you. Try and ignore them. You know you are doing the best you can, so there is no point letting the guilt seep in.

  16. R's Mom said

    Sigh! I have tons to say Pepper, I should just make a post eh?

    But, I actually agree with you on most points…but again, I would say, I am one of those types who believes in financial independence..in terms of me earning my own money..

    wait, let me just do a post some day theek hai?

    • Pepper said

      No, RM. You missed the point. Ofcourse, we all do believe in being financially independent and earning our own money. Why would anybody not believe in that? The point is – we have a choice right now. So this is not about your preferences. Consider another situation. You not being able to earn money for some reason. Perhaps you are sick for a year. Or you move to a place where you can’t work. Or a family member needs looking after. If you don’t have a choice but to give up your job for one of those reasons, would you hesitate to take money from RD? Would you rather live on your own personal savings? After that, what?

      Similarly, if RD has to give up his job for some reason, would you think twice before supporting him financially? Would you give him the same freedom as you have to make decisions related to finances?

      Now that both of you do have an income, how calculative are you in terms of who spends how much? Or do you feel comfortable with the idea of merging your funds and spending together?

      This is really not about your belief in financial independence. This is more about the relationship you share with your partner. If you do a post, I would love to hear you address the questions I asked, instead of simply advocating financial independence.

  17. […] and I thought I may not have anything to write for today, I did some blog hop and saw Pepper’s post, I started to write a comment but I thought I should write it as a post, that way I can convey what […]

  18. chronicworrier said

    That’s an interesting question. I agree largely with what SK said. My husband and I believe that we individually have to be financially stable (which, to me is the real, everyday issue)- simply put, this means that should anything happen to either of us, the other is able to support self and family.

    Of course, one’s education and experience offers a higher likelihood of getting a job. But let’s say one of us loses our job; given the current poor job market and generally high cost of living (particularly in our area of work, and country), it would probably take up to a year from the actual job hunt to finally being placed. It boils down to the question of whether we would be able to live off our (limited) savings, and how long they would last. Having a school-going child adds another layer to the issue.

    This is really all that it comes down to for us. Our money is in a joint account, we consult each other on every single purchase, trivial or otherwise. A part of each salary contributes towards paying the various monthly bills. We would never think that bringing back a salary dictates the right to have an opinion about how our money is spent. So yes, I do think your journalist friend is financially stable and independent.

    • Pepper said

      As long as you want to have two incomes to add to your combined sense of security, I am with you. What I can’t accept easily is couples (mainly women), wanting to earn their own money, and not ‘depend’ on their husband. I know a lot of relationships elicit such behavior, and that is sad. I think you should think a million times before getting into such a relationship.

      • chronicworrier said

        I think women wanting to earn their own money could be an intrinsic facet of their personalities, and not always a reflection of the husband’s views (admittedly, not the norm). I know someone who swore she’d work regardless of how much her husband earned because she had seen her mother suffer with an alcoholic husband. Yes, I completely agree that if the concept of your money/my money is going to define a relationship, that is terribly sad. But maybe girls who’ve seen this trend in their parents’ generation do not want to ‘depend’ on their husbands precisely for that reason, no?

        Just trying to project another point of discussion- I do agree with your views!

  19. MoRS said

    Well, we have joint accounts too and we make joint decisions on any heavy purchase too. I refused to let H buy a Tab. We can easily afford it but I don’t think it’s worth it when both of us have our own company provided laptops. Sometimes, he stops me from buying jewelry. Both of don’t keep track of “whose” money is it that is being spent. We also spend it on our respective families. And well, I can say with some amount of pride that we have NEVER fought over money. I know of a lot of couples who do. And you know what, I do feel it is because I am an equal contributor to our finances. That triples our spending capacity. Keeps us off financial worries. And also gives us an equal say on spending matters.
    I think every couple has their own dynamics. My mom was SAHM and my dad gave his income to her to spend. Then, when he wanted money he had to explain to her “why” :). As long as it works, it’s good 🙂 On the Financial independence part, I guess it means that you will be able to provide for yourself if something unwanted happens. A lot of women remain stuck to abusive, unhappy marriages because they have no means to support themselves.

    • Pepper said

      Glad you guys never fought over money, but are you saying you would have, had you not been an equal contributor to your finances?

      And yes, women remain stuck in abusive marriages because they can’t support themselves. For that reason, I said all women must focus on their education and be aware of all the happenings too. Should the need arise, getting back on their own feet should not seem impossible.

      • MoRS said

        Probably. I don’t know. Like I said, right now the surplus income keeps us off financial worries. I see a lot of couples fighting on how much money is spent on whose family. That is one thing that we never had to care about because of the extra surplus. It is also about the mindset but let’s say I had to cut a vacation I really wanted to send that money to my ILs, I may have held it against them. On the same note, would I have been able to do the same for my parents if I was not financially contributing (I am not talking about absolute emergency but more of a casual – feel good expenditure). We don’t keep track of our money, but having a surplus definitely helps 🙂

        • Pepper said

          Hmm. Again, I agree partially. I do and want to continue giving my parents a sum of money every month, for them to spend/save the way they want to. Not only because I think it is right, but also because my parents used up a lot of their savings to pay for my Masters in UK. Because of them, I was able to get away with only a partial bank loan, and save myself a lot of interest. But I do want that money to be returned to them. It is theirs.

          Similarly, Mint and I have decided to give a share of our income to his parents too. We don’t do it so far, but we hope to do it soon.

          But here is the thing. Mint and I have been giving my parents some bit of *our* money on and off, even when I wasn’t earning. He made sure I didn’t feel guilty by always reminding me of the fact that the money was ‘ours’. Not his. I had all right to make a decision. Ofcourse, I chose to give the money to my parents with Mint’s approval. But then, I wouldn’t have done something like that without his approval even if I were earning. Because, again, the money I earn is not ‘mine’. It is ‘ours’.

          Mint or I may or may not feel resentful towards our inlaws, if we had to cut back on our vacation to send that money to them. But that would remain unchanged, irrespective of whether we have a single or a double income. I don’t think resentment would arise, because we would discuss it well before we make a decision. But I know what you mean, chances of you compromising on your own life are higher when you have so many people to support on a single income. I agree with you, having a surplus income helps, definitely. But what I am trying to say is, two incomes should be seen as desirable only so that it gives the couple more money, not because there are divisions between them. If you are saying the same thing, then I am with you 🙂

  20. DI said

    One of my favorite discussions. As a couple, to explain both of us working, we use the word “Independent financial security”, and not financial independence, I will tell you how this is different. It basically means, that God forbid one day one of us loses his/her job, the other is fully equipped to manage the family on his/her income. Period.

    It does not mean I make my money, and can spend it how I want, and the same for him. I consult before buying anything, sometimes even clothes, and he does the same. But for us, the fact that we both earn, is just a sense of safety. We are both from middle class families with little or no support monetarily from our parents, and also we do not ever want to burden them with our needs. So EVERYTHING we plan is as a we. So much so that if he gets an amazing opportunity where he makes more than what we make together today, even then, the safety aspect will make me continue having a job. It is just a bent of mind we have been brought up with. Oh and we have our own salary accounts linked to different payments for “us”, and I doubt I have ever swiped my card for any shopping, because his gets more points 😉

    That’s the serious bit. The not so serious bit is, man, I need to step out everyday to do something concrete! Not that exploring isn’t, but unless it is a need, like a job, I will sit on the bean bag and eat chips in front of the TV. Super slob!

    • Pepper said

      I totally *heart* your views DI. And I agree with you completely. If I earn today, it is so that *we* get to spend and save more. Obviously, a double income carries more strength than a single income. If at all I want to continue working, it is so we achieve a higher spending capacity. I also agree with you about the bent of mind part. An extra income brings in the safety aspect.

      I need to step out everyday to do something concrete too. So that is where a job comes in. Having said that, I might not always be looking out for corporate jobs. I might take on more unconventional roles at some point. Anyway, like I said, I agree with you all the way.

      What I find hard to digest is having an income only so you can cling to ‘your own’ money. The concept of ‘yours’ and ‘mine’ in an equal partnership just doesn’t agree with me.

  21. nst2 said

    I’ve had health issues due to which I have to stay at home. I’m well qualified to work but have no work experience! I read and write a lot, indulge in other creative pursuits, have amazing support group and feel no need to be financially independent.
    Having said all that (more to convince myself than anyone else), it’s important to keep yourself occupied to prevent brain damage and frustration. I am fortunate to have a husband who can earn enough for both of us. But thats not the case in every household. In the end it boils down to your financial and emotional needs. You work for that more than for being independent.

    • Pepper said

      It’s good to have a partner who can earn enough to support himself/herself and his/her spouse. But more than that, it is good to be in a relationship in which a lack of income does not make you feel less. Just my opinion.

  22. metherebel said

    I do not know how I would handle money with my partner.

    I think it is important for women to be financially independent (earn minimum money that would ensure a basic lifestyle) so that they can fall back on, if things were to go haywire in a relationship or otherwise!

    • Pepper said

      Okay, I have repeated this in the comment section a couple of times, but let me say it again. I think we should all be made capable to earn our own money. Should the need arise, we shouldn’t have to struggle.

      If all is good and you can achieve your desired financial independence, great. But if circumstances prevent you from earning your own money, that shouldn’t be an issue in a relationship.

  23. aridhi said

    My few cents:
    1. Financial independence! This term means very different things to different people. To me, it is independence that is important. I’m the sort of person who finds it difficult to take help from anybody, in any matter. I need to feel completely capable of taking care of myself to feel secure. Actually not just myself, but also people whom i consider a part of me; my baby, husband, parents. And that is financially, physically, emotionally, in every possible way. I invest a lot of time and effort and thought towards achieving independence in all these aspects. I feel responsible for being able to provide all the comfort to me and to my closest people. Not that i don’t have their support, but i feel good knowing that i can do it all by myself.
    2. When someone gives the reason of not wanting to depend on the husband, it could be that the relationship demands that she have her own money, or she might just want to break the stereotype. Both are perfectly valid reasons according to me.
    3. It is also to do with peace of mind for both partners. I know that i can leave my job and we’ll manage comfortably well, and so does my husband. It takes the pressure off both our shoulders.
    4. My husband and i have very different styles of handling finances. He does not like to let even one rupee from his salary stand still in the bank, he thinks it’s getting wasted if it’s sitting there in the bank. I on the other hand need to have a sense of security that i have some spare ready cash in my account for emergencies and only then can i spend. Both put together make it a very good arrangement for us, but then we both need to have our own money to handle it the way we like.
    5. We both have separate salary accounts, and i don’t think it really matters much whether they’re separate or joint. End of the day whoever has money in the account, pays the credit card bills. But having the separate accounts does provide ease in doing tax calculations.
    6. And in defense of the ‘what do you do’ question, i think if i can answer the question to myself comfortably i would be able to answer it to anybody else. Actually, it is one of my favourite things to do, finding out what each profession involves, like a day in the life of xyz. So that’s most often, the ice breaker for me. And if someone gave me an answer like you did, i think it would lead to a very long discussion, for you included so much in your day.
    7. Another point comes to mind with regard to this discussion of financial independence and the safety net for women. It is all good when you say that the woman needn’t feel vulnerable because she isn’t working, but imagine a scenario when the need arises for her to take the mantle, she’s well past her youth and has little to no experience under her belt. The difficulty in starting from scratch, the salary levels, the mindset adjustment, it’s all going to be an uphill task in addition to the stress of whatever it is that is forcing her to get a job. In that sense your friend is financially independent, because however little she is earning today, she is very well on her feet and set to be only progressing in her career, which is going to provide her that stability if a dire situation were to come up anytime in the future.

    A few more trains of thought came flitting by and escaped before i could put them down, i guess it’s a good thing ‘coz this comment is already so long 🙂

    • Pepper said

      I agree with almost everything you say. Also, just to be clear, I do not advocate financial dependence. I only talk about cases in which we are left with little or no choice but to step back from our careers. Those situations shouldn’t come with a loss of financial rights, I think.

      Yes, aspect of it being a safety net for women cannot be overlooked. But that is a risk you got to weigh. Would it make sense taking up a job if you don’t want or can’t have one and going through stress of doing something you don’t want to do all your life, based on the possibility of an event that may never occur? Different people would answer that differently, so I guess it just boils down to how you think 🙂

  24. Kalyani said

    Even before we were married, my husband would refer as we and ours when we spoke about anything, which includes something as trivial yet important as money. I’m not working right now. I never get negative vibes from him when I want to or want not to spend money on something. This said, when someone asks me what do you do I reply “I write, read, I like photography so I work on it”. A few minutes later I get not-at-all inquisitive question, so after your husband leaves you browse the internet all day? I smile feeling sorry. If I was working and someone came up with that answer I honestly would have been delighted to meet someone who isn’t bothered about not earning money.

  25. […] as brilliant as ever wrote this absolutely thought provoking post on understanding the dynamics of a couple…and LF took it a level higher by giving examples in […]

  26. DPN said

    Hey Pepper! 🙂

    Saw this post and wanted to comment, but you already have a new one up… I’m late! 🙂
    Actually, there are 3 issues here –
    1. The spouses dealing with each others’ spending habits
    2. Each ones’ contribution to the “family” income.
    3. Financial independence – can you/your family live on your income alone (without your partner’s)?

    These are separate, because – no matter what each one contributes, I feel making your peace with each others’ spending habits is essential. Also, no matter whether the account is joint or single, money earned by the two spouses is your joint family income. Also, irrespective of how much one makes in comparison to the other, if one income is lost, can you/your family make ends meet? Also, why am I rambling?????

    J and I have always agreed on our spending habits, or rather, we’ve never disagreed :). So, the joint/single account is a moot question. Now that I actually try to analyze, I realized we (almost unconsciously) tried to save as much of my income as possible. So, he paid the bills and all I did – transferred the money to our joint account every few months. We do haggle over who does the donkeywork for investments etc – that’s because we’re both lazy. Actually, now that he’s the MBA, I think I’ve won that argument (buhaha).

    On a more serious note, I do think No.3 is very important. A layoff/catastrophe can hit any time, and waking up to look for a job then would only compound the misery. There are some occasions though when it’s not realistic for one spouse to work – solid savings/solid inheritances would be strongly advised in that case.

    • DPN said

      Also, some couples maintaining separate accounts for their “own money”, citing “independence” etc – these couples are just trying to find their way because they cannot agree on their spending habits. Just one of those conflicts each couple has to try and overcome or compromise on – in their own way.

    • Pepper said

      You are right. Dealing with your partner’s spending habits is a separate issue, and not totally related to being financially dependent or independent. Making peace with how your spouse deals with money is crucial, irrespective of your own earning capacity. I think these things should be discussed before two individuals get into a partnership.

      If your family cannot make ends meet with one income, then both the partners have no choice but to work. There is no discussion to it..

      Yes, couples maintain separate accounts for their money because they are unable to agree with each others’ spending habits. But I think that is just one of the reasons. The other reason is because they do not consider their spouse’s money to be their money. I think that is not a great thought process, for many reasons. But then, each to his own.

  27. Ashwathy said

    I haven’t read any of the previous comments before this. So let me try to answer this by myself first.

    If you do count on him for the luxuries, do you still consider yourself to be financially independent?
    Babe, you do know our situation. Right now I am the one earning more than him (well provided I AM working 😛 you know my case). So he is dependent on me on the luxuries. Does he consider himself financially independent? Yes. Settled? No. He wishes to be in a better paid job. It’s not an ego issue, it’s just a matter of being able to afford all the things we want, and trust me we do want many things – be it gadgets, holidays or whatnot.

    Do you maintain separate accounts?
    Yes. Simply because the salary accounts are separate, and it also helps us track of who spent on what.

    Do you split the monthly bills? Or do you combine your income and then pay bills together?
    Of course we split it. Some of the stuff he pays, some of the stuff I pay. We don’t exactly designate who pays what, but it somehow evens out in the end. And yes we keep track of our expenses.

    If your partner asks you to go on a holiday that you think is unaffordable by your means, would you still go ahead with it?
    If it is unaffordable by one person then the person who wants the holiday should foot the major part of the bill. Then the holiday works. Or else we try slashing the budget and going for cheap accomodation or tickets whatever.

    Would you not buy a home together, because of the disparity in your incomes?
    If we weren’t sure of paying it off and by that I mean not sure of the steady flow of incomes from our jobs to be able to pay it off, we would postpone buying it. Which we have.

    My journalist friend, earns a pittance. Let’s say her income amounts to x. Her husband is an investment banker who is doing exceptionally well. He earns about 7 times more than her, totaling his income to 7x. (Yes, we verified) Put together, they lead a very rich lifestyle. A lot of times, her outfits costs more than what she earns in a month. Yet, she feels very proud of her ‘financial independence’. Would you think she is really financially independent just because she has an income?

    Let me rephrase this. Would she still be buying those expensive outfits if her husband also earned lesser? Probably not, right? Right now they can afford a certain lifestyle because he earns much more, so they might as well enjoy it. Yet she still has a life and identity outside him, which I do find commendable. I personally feel that would be what is more important to her than the actual financial part. And yes she still has some kind of income which she can spend without asking her husband…. it could be for even little stuff, but still it’s there. I have seen that it’s a comfort factor for a lot of women.

    There! Did that make sense?

    • Pepper said

      Haha.. You have stirred up a hornet’s nest my by using a certain word. Let me get to that later.

      Firstly, thanks for answering the questions and explaining how you work us a couple. Though you didn’t answer the ‘buying home’ question. You only spoke about the timing. You spoke about ‘when’ you would buy a home, depending on how much money you have. That wasn’t the question. The question was, would you think of buying a home in the first place, if both your incomes differed in strength by a large extent? Would you want to be a substantial contributor to your home, and if you can’t be one, would you rather not buy a home? That happens if you consider your money to be separate from your partner’s. And vice versa.

      Now let me come to the part that I disagree with vehemently. What bothers me deeply is this statement of yours, when you talk of my journalist friend. This is what you say with regards to her having a job ‘She has an identity outside him’. Really?!?! By that logic, individuals who do not earn money have no identity outside their earning partners? It is this very thought process that gives rise to so much inequality.

      Why the hell do we associate the word ‘identity’ only with a paying job? I refuse to get it. Let’s see how the dictionary defines the word.This is what it says.about ‘idenity’.
      ‘The individual characteristics by which a thing or person is recognized or known.’ Are you saying we are only known by our professions? Those are the only individual characteristics we have?

      My mother majored in Business Economics with an Honours degree. She worked with a well known airline company. When I was born, my parents took a joint decision. My dad was earning enough to support our family. They both thought it was best that my mom quits her job and stays at home to nurture us. My mother did a splendid job in giving us a very happy, memorable childhood. A lot of things that she did for us would not have been possible had she been working in an office during the day. I am not saying working moms do not give their children a happy childhood, so please do not derive such an inference. All I am saying is, my mother worked in so many different ways. Her efforts reflect in us today. She is such a well read woman. She has touched so many lives. But if you were to tell me she has no identity outside my father solely because she depended on him financially, I will disagree very strongly.

      My mother was just an example. I know many individuals who have given up one aspect of their life to focus on another. Because unfortunately, some people can’t have it all. Just because you are not an earning member does not mean you have no identity. It also does not mean that non earning members simply stay at home and do nothing all day. They can have so much up their sleeve, they can be doing so many different jobs. So what if they aren’t paid for those jobs? They may well be more exposed to the world than their counterparts who earn.

      Like I commented on RM’s post. “It is very hard to quantify the non physical aspects in a relationship, which is why a lot of things that a partner does remain unaccounted for. Only finances are measured and given credit to. That is where the inequality creeps in. I have a problem with a non earning partner being made to feel less of a contributor. Sadly, I don’t see that mindset changing.”

      Secondly, you say, ‘she still has some kind of income which she can spend without asking her husband’. This is what I spoke about in my post! I am sorry, but if you are in a relationship in which you can unquestionably spend only money that you earn yourself, then that is very sad. I don’t think non earning members should be made to answer questions about their everyday spending patterns. Similarly, even earning members should get their non earning partner’s approval when it comes to a big purchase. Otherwise, the relationship gets rocky..

      • R said

        Hey Pepper,

        I read the post and decided not to comment, cos’ I was not sure I wanted to say all that I did, but a conversation today brought me back here. Here is my two paise’s worth.

        I am 29, single and working. I am one of those people that feel vulnerable at the thought of taking money from my partner. Obviously, this is theoretical. Do I want to change it? Yes. Will it happen from day one of being married? No.

        Over the years, I’ve learnt to eat many of my own words as part of the ‘growing up’ process and I am sure I will continue to do so. That said, I do think different situations will lead to different reactions. If I was getting married to my boyfriend, it might be easy for me to ease up to the idea of using ‘our’ money. In an arranged marriage scenario, I do not see it happening that easily or quickly. Where I have a problem is in the fact that you are immediately terming such a relationship, ‘rocky’.

        Me: Your understanding of me calling a relationship rocky only because they haven’t yet reached that level of comfort is all wrong. I felt as vulnerable at the thought of taking money from my partner as you or anybody else until a few years ago. But that changed. Do I expect people to walk in to a relationship with the ‘it is all ours’ attitude? No! Especially not in an arranged marriage! Your relationship with your boyfriend would have already began when you started dating him, say x years ago. In an arranged marriage, it has just began. So I think you should be comparing how comfortable you are with the concepts of “ours” after some years of being in the marriage, not immediately. I think moving towards “us” indicates that there is trust and confidence in the relationship. So even in the long term, if they never want to do that and are not comfortable with the idea itself, then I think there maybe some trust and confidence issues in the relationship.

        A number of relationships might be on their way to reaching an ‘our’ state – it cannot happen from day one. Some relationships might even be working out fine without the combined notion of ‘us’ and ‘our’. In my case, my (theoretical) problem with making use of my husband’s money does not come from my ‘fear of losing my sense of independence’. It comes from simply finding it hard to use someone else’s money for myself. I don’t remember the last time I even used my father’s money to get myself something. That is not to say I a) judge people who do or b) will not use the opportunity, if the need arises. I only know that after 7 years of working, making that transition will not be easy.

        Me: Again, when did I ever say a relationship has to reach an ‘our’ state from day one? Some relationships might even be working out fine without the combined notion of ‘us’ and ‘our’? Perhaps. But then I would think it would strain the individuals in the relationship. I am willing to reconsider my stand if somebody gives me an adequate explanation of how that relationship works. I cook my own food. You cook yours? Or we will hire a cook only if we can both put in 50% of our salary? I earn my own money and spend only what I earn. You earn and spend only what you earn? I will take care of the kids only for 2 hours a day, while you have to do the same? Really, how is it possible to not connect with the notion of ‘us’ in a relationship?
        Or are you saying the ‘us’ doesn’t come into the picture only where finances are concerned? But then, you think it is okay to not measure the other contributions to a relationship? They get nullified because they don’t involve money?
        Anyway, if you are evenly splitting finances with your partner and leading a happy life, great. But God forbid one of you can’t contribute financially anymore (or can’t make an equal contribution), for whatever reason, then what? Would you continue feeling terrible and overlook all your other contributions?

        You speak of a friend who admitted to feeling vulnerable to taking money from her husband. Did she also admit to ‘wanting complete autonomy when it comes to finances/ wanting decide how much she will spend and on what and not wanting to be answerable to anybody’? If this was her own admission, then perhaps there is an issue, but if this is your understanding of her first statement – then would that not be an assumption and a judgement?

        Me: Why would you think I’d make such a big assumption on my own? That was not only her own admission, those even were her own words. The words ‘complete autonomy’ came from her. It is what triggered this post. She actually reads my blog too. The fact that you considered the possibility of me assuming something so big, so baseless, really disappoints me.

        The way I see it, if the world and its half sister is making global statements on which of the two ways is the better of the lot, then we have a problem. But as long as it boils down to our individual situations, I think calling one situation the right way to go, is as much of a judgement. Of course, our individual situations work for us, but to extrapolate it to everyone else (and their situations) and make a judgement, I am not sure is ok. Just like the never- ending SAHM vs. working mother argument, no one choice is the right choice. And just like how the kids and the spouse will be the only judges/ decision makers in that scenario, in this case as well, I would think that as long as the couple is fine with the arrangement and it works well for them, there is no right or wrong. All relationships are WIP and with so many moving parts, different factors could influence different situations and as a consequence, different decisions and choices. There are just too many dynamics and too many factors at play for us to paint it in shades of black and white alone, in my opinion. (Admittedly, I have a lot to say for a mere 2 paises) 🙂

        Me: I don’t think you understood my post at all R. Looks like you think I am judging people who want financial independence. That is really not what I am doing. Neither am I trying to make a global statement on which of the two ways is the better of the lot. All I am trying to say is depending on your partner or having him/her depend on you is not such a bad thing. That non financial contributions count as much as financial contributions do. That people, if they are unable earn their own money for some reason, shouldn’t find the idea of financially depending on their partner unimaginable and unbearable, if they are making other contributions. They should’t be made to feel lesser.

        This was never about one way being better than the other.

        • R said

          One last point – your post actually is speaking of two issues; the one about working women and their perspective on money, within their marriages and a not- necessarily connected one of a woman’s self- worth/ sense of identity that seemingly comes from being employed. Our society has obviously not helped make things better with regard to the second one, but it is again left to the two people in the relationship to treat the other as an equal – that is where equality begins and as long as they treat each other as equals, society can always be handled.

  28. […] week I read this very thought-provoking post by Pepper on money, marriage and financial independence. R’s Mom also had a post in response to […]

  29. The Bride said

    Thanks for a very thought-provoking posts and I really enjoyed reading the comments too. I had so much to say, I wrote a post.

  30. […] Recently I read a blogpost on understanding the financial dynamics of couple.. (https://pepperedthoughts.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/understanding-the-dynamics/) […]

  31. You Know, i have just moved to NZ, I dont have a job, I am not working. Instead doing all those things which i have been wanting to do for quite some time now
    But, Back in Mumbai, I was working, i was independent. I am used to that now. Not having a job makes me question my worth and makes me feel small sometimes. I know this is not true and this way of measuring my worth is totally wrong. But still there comes the nagging thought that I have to be dependent on my husband for every little thing.
    But then when I had a job, I used to constantly ask my self if this is what i want from life? Is this worth my time? Would I rather sit at home and do things that interest me than spend 10 hours doing a job that i dislike. I oscillate between two extremes. When i don’t have a job i start feeling worthless, when I have a job i feel useless that I am not being able to do what i really want.
    It boils down to one simple thing…what you want from life. Money? Job satisfaction? Both? And how you measure success? Peace of mind, sense of fulfillment or the credit in your bank?

  32. […] If you liked this post, you may also like to read here what Pepper has to say here. […]

  33. Also, I have given a link to this post here

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