Monday, August 10, 2009
At the risk of opening myself up to a lot of possibly critical commentary, I'm putting something out here out of sheer curiosity. I'll start and end with the same question: how do you handle money in your household?
When Guy and I moved in together back in 2001, it was for two reasons: 1) to spend time together in a convenient manner, and 2) to save money that was being wasted living apart. I was spending way too much living in a loft in downtown Denver, and Guy helped me realize that I could save money now and in the future by investing in a little real estate. So, I bought a condo on the edge of downtown Denver and we moved in together about a week before 9/11. Thing is, my credit was in great shape while Guy's needed some work. He had credit card debt, car loan debt, and student loan debt; I had literally none of those. I used my investments (from my leftover inheritance for my Dad dying in 1997) as the basis for getting a good mortgage, and I got the Happy Kitten Highrise. (I have since refi'd twice, more recently getting a 20-year fixed rate for less than 6% and only raising my monthly payment about $25--score!)
So, the house was in my name, hence I made the mortgage payment as well as the power bill, groceries, phone, and cell phone. Guy took on the HOA payment for the condo, as it was at the time about $100 or so less than his previous rent, and the cable/internet bill, and he began paying down his other debts aggresively. He eventually took on the phone bill and later even the cell phone bill once he got a cell phone added to my plan. About a year or two into our living arrangement, he began splitting the cost of groceries with me. In general, our other expenses were split pretty evenly, like vacation travel and hotels, dinners and evenings out, and so on. When Guy left Design Associates, he went onto my healthcare through DA, which is really good and rather inexpensive (about $25 every few weeks). However, we paid our own medical copays and dental bills out of our own pockets. And biggest of all, we had no shared bank account.
Fast forward a few more years into 2009. Guy makes about $20,000 more than me, and between a big bonus he got at work a few years ago and his own diligent work, he has paid off all of his major debts (you know, the ones you can't take off on your taxes). He has taken over nearly all the bills except for the mortgage; that one's still mine, and the condo is still in my name alone. When we bought a new (used) car in 2006, we saved up for it and split the cost 50/50 (which was also awesome cuz we paid flat cash for the Civic-another score!), but he recently paid outright for the new laptop he found on a super sale that will replace one of our old desktop models, and he also paid for the new wireless router for the HKH that allows me to connect to the internet and write this blog from the living room instead of from the guest room computer. I purchased the Microsoft Office software, and I still buy the weekly groceries, though Guy is the one who pays when we make a run to Sam's Club.
He told me recently that he thinks he's been jobbing me for a couple of years and not paying his fair share, especially since he makes so much more than me. For him to offer to contribute more to the household financially almost felt rude, but I got over that pretty quickly when I realized that he sure as hell made more, and him tossing a little more into the kitty would allow me to a) better fund my retirement and b) better afford my every-five-or-six-weeks massages and spa visits, and you know a Shorty likes to get her spa on. But it also occurs to me that when it comes to retirement, I'm already ahead because I have my leftovers from the inheritance--Guy's been playing catchup for the past eight years, and he's seven years older than me to boot.
But more than all this, we still don't have joint bank accounts, and that's for the same reason that we almost didn't even get married: we don't see a point. Guy and I are committed to each other for the long haul, and getting married didn't make that "official". We got married in order to preserve our legal rights and to benefit from the sweet tax breaks it gives us; we don't need a piece of paper from the State of Nevada to prove that we luuuuv each other and share a deep, lasting commitment to each other. And so, we view joint bank accounts the same way. Having a joint bank account is one more thing we have to keep up with, and it doesn't really represent that we're a team financially. What makes us a financial team is that we regularly discuss what we're doing with our money, how things are working, if this week or month is going to be tight because we sent money to our moms or had a big expense of some sort or our architectural license fees came due during the same month we had to renew our NCARB record, etc. Even though many financial advisors and planners call our arrangement symptomatic of a lack of trust, and that if we really were a team we'd share a bank account, we're just not seeing it. It doesn't make sense for us.
So, I ask again: how do you handle money in your household? How do you deal with roommates, partners, whatever?