A few days before I was to get married, my close friend’s mom gave me some advice which stood apart from the usual unwarranted advice I was receiving as a bride to be. She told me- “You might think that what I say is wrong and I am teaching you bad things like keeping secrets from your hubby but trust me in the long run it will only safeguard your interests and that of your relationship. I would always wish that God bestow you with happiness in life but life is unpredictable. God forbid something were to go wrong between the 2 of you, you will need money to lead your life. Although people say don’t be money minded but the bare truth is money is essential for a good life. Why good, even for basic necessities like a roof over your head and 2 times of food, you need money. Its in the best interests of the husband and wife that with regard to money matters, some discretion is maintained. Every rupee you earn, how to you spend it, invest it, the hike you get- each and everything need not be disclosed. Just like its always said, some matters are meant to be kept private, this is one of those.”
I knew aunty since many years, she was a single mom. Due to some unfortunate events her husband and she had got divorced after 10 years of marriage. Aunty used to to work in a NGO and earn a small sum which she dutifully handed over to her husband who would manage all finances. Although educated, she dint even know how to operate a bank account. When they got divorced and aunty asked for her share of income of so many years, she was refused. Though she received maintenance, it was a huge blow to her. She realized that she she should have taken accountability of the money she earned.
About 10 years ago when I was a CA Intern and had gone to audit a co operative bank in Bangalore I met Seema. A mother of 1, quite a cheerful lady she was. She worked as a teller in the bank. During the course of audit, we got chatting. I was shocked to see that she kept some part of her salary hidden from her husband. She had opened a bank account in the name of her minor daughter and kept depositing money into that. The passbook, cheque book etc were kept under lock and key in office and never taken home. Her husband was completely unaware of this extra money she made. As a 21 year old I was repelled by her secretive nature, why doesn’t she disclose this to her husband? When I asked her she told me that her husband was already in debt and he kept taking loans to meet the needs of his family. They were already facing the brunt. She wanted to make sure her daughter’s future is secure and that’s why she did this. She felt no guilt about it, in fact she was happy that she was doing something for her child.
Radhika is 25 year old MBA who graduated from a Tier 2 college and secured a well paying job. Her parents got her married to a distant relative who was not earning as much as her but as the family was known to them, they thought it will be a good match for their daughter. The husband wife shared a good relationship, the only thorn in their happily married life was money. As Radhika earned well and had lived in a metropolitan city she liked shopping, fine dining, visiting new places during holidays. Her husband was a small town guy and considered splurging money on all these things as a waste. Why not invest that money in shares or to buy a flat? When they went out to eat, every time she was the one who paid the bill. Over a period of time it started irritating her. She did not expect that they dutch or maintain an account but if she paid twice, its only fair he paid the next time. This led to arguments and over a period of time Radhika being a smart girl devised a solution. They stopped going out as a couple to restaurants and for shopping. She would go out with her girl friends or take her parents out when he was not in town. Not the optimum solution but in the current situation, that was the best she could do.
Mr A was my senior manager in the company I worked. A father of 2, with a non working wife, he was always tensed about things going wrong. He was in quite a senior position and bright, I always told him you worry for no reason. Once during the course of having lunch we got into the subject of money matters in a marriage. I was surprised when Mr A told me that his wife was completely unaware of how much money he made. It had been close to 10 years of married life and she still dint know how much her husband earned. Is that because you fear she may splurge too much on buying unwanted stuff I asked. Nothing of that sort he replied. Its my private thing. I tell her that whatever is needed shall be provided for, beyond that how much I make, how do I invest that’s not something you need to think of. I found it strange but dint probe further. Perhaps he had some fears which he wasn’t sharing or maybe there was nothing?
The Kulkarni’s are a couple I truly admire for reasons more than one. A working couple, hands on husband, witty, easy going, helpful duo they are. Both work in the IT sector, they pool in their salaries into a joint account which is then used for household expenses, bills, EMI,shopping, vacations. The lady also send money to her parents which her husband is aware of and is supportive about. She doesn’t cease to be a daughter because she became a wife, he says. Discussions on investing money, buying property or stocks is taken jointly and both are transparent with each other. They don’t always agree on everything – the husband for instance loves travelling and wanted to visit Greece but the wife felt it was too expensive a trip. That money could be invested elsewhere to yield higher returns. Finally they decided to save for the trip for a year, a certain amount every month and at end of a year they went to Greece. As they did not splurge money at once, it also allowed them to make some other monthly investments , thus the wife was happy that her POV had been taken into account too.
Too ideal a couple and seldom found in real life?
Has money complicated relationships? The more we earn, the more we worry. It was so simple in the times of our parents. The father was the sole bread winner in most cases and mothers did as they were told, no questions asked. Today with women earning and also in the case of non working but educated women, there is a need to know how finances are managed, what is spent, saved and how is it invested for the future of the family.
Hiding things from your partner is often looked down with disdain, however there are ample cases to show that revealing everything to your spouse may sometimes work to your detriment. Conflicts, separation, divorce is a reality in our society today, in such unfortunate circumstances many women (and men) end up paying too heavy a price for surrendering the financial reign in favor of their partners.
There is no right or wrong here as we see in the varied real life examples I have quoted above, but one thing is certain. Money is an important part of our lives, to lead a good life, give a good education to our kids, and be self reliant than go knocking on the doors of our parents or siblings- its always advisable for everyone, gender irrespective to take accountability of finances, have a say and know where that salary is going. Whether you chose to reveal your salary to your partner or not, is for you to decide. Money matters can often result in discord in a relationship, perhaps its better to leave some things unsaid.