Don’t let your husband manage all of your money

In our culture, it’s not uncommon for a woman to let her husband take care of all of the household finances. Here’s why that’s a problem.

Disclaimer: I’m going to leap into the mono- and heteronormative for this post, but I want to acknowledge that there are many different ways to have a relationship, and all are valid. There are unique challenges to each kind of relationship structure, and this is one that affects specifically men/women relationships due to cultural influences. If this isn’t you, you may still see yourself in this dynamic, so please read on.

There are plenty of ways a couple can manage their money together. They can share all money, share no money, or do something in between (what I call the Semi-Joint kind of life).

However, for those who combine their finances wholly or primarily, there arises a problem, which is when one person (usually the husband) handles all of the financial affairs for everyone involved.

What’s the problem with that, you may ask?

Plenty. Let’s talk about it.

The situation is unfair

Financially speaking, women have it tougher in our society.

First, there’s the gender wage gap, where, unbelievably, women still earn only 82% of their male counterparts.

Then there is the motherhood penalty, where a gap in employment due to childrearing leads to not only lost wages, but also a lack of sufficient wage advancement due to the time spent out of the workforce.

Adding onto that, women on average live longer than men, meaning that they will need to make their money last longer.

So women go into financial wellness with a bit of a bad hand.

Unfortunately, it gets worse.

Gray divorce

We all know the grim statistics around divorce, but the rate of “gray divorces”, that is, divorce when over 50, doubled between 1990 and 2010.

And divorce is typically much harder on women than men, financially speaking. A recent study found that women’s standard of living after divorce dropped by 45%, compared to men’s 21%.

And if not divorce, divergent actuarial tables state that a woman is more likely to outlive their husband, which is a kind of a divorce in a way.

Your husband is not the banker

All of this brings us to my main point: as a woman, you do not want to leave all of your financial decision-making to your husband.

Why? Well, for one, your husband may not always be there, either by divorce or death.

And what exactly are you going to do then?

I can’t tell you how many consultations I’ve had with women in their middle or late-middle years, having to learn how to do money for the first time in their lives, or at least the first time in decades. It’s heartbreaking. These are women who have worked all of their lives, inside or outside of the home, and yet had no idea where the money was going, no idea which bills needed to be paid, and no experience setting financial goals.

But even if you and your husband till death do you part, you still don’t want to unload all the work on him.

Why? Because the two of you are a team. And if you’re pooling your resources, your time, and your money, don’t you want as much of a say in where it goes as he does?

The importance of riding shotgun

Now, I’m not saying that both of you need to do everything. I recognize that one of you may be more excited about the minutiae of financial tasks than the other.

But you both should be planning together.

Think of a car. Only one person can be driving at one time, obviously. But being in the passenger seat confers some important benefits and responsibilities. You can read the map, give directions, watch for signs. Yes, you’re not technically driving the car, but you’re still just a part of the driving team.

You want to know where all of the accounts are, what all of the passwords are, where all of the money is. Even if this information just sits in a folder in a drawer, you want to be able to take the steering wheel should you need to.


Now, I fully expect many of you to note that a husband could just as easily delegate all of his financial matters to his wife. And that isn’t a good idea either.

But the specific challenges of women in the workforce make this issue seem, to me, like a bigger problem for women than for men. Also, I’ve never had a consultation or client who was a man learning money for the first time. I’m sure it happens, but I just don’t see it.

This is your life

I understand the impulse to divide and conquer in a household. I’m sure that as the wife, you take on important responsibilities that your husband is happy to delegate to you.

But money is not optional. You need to work together and take control of it. Don’t get to be 50 years old and not know where any of your retirement accounts are (or, worse, not have any). This is your life. You don’t have to be driving, but you can’t be in the back seat.

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