Why Having One Person Handle All The Finances Is A Bad Idea

June 6, 2019  |  
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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on MadameNoire August 22, 2018.

In my family, my dad handled all of the finances and my mom never saw a bill. I could see how that was actually problematic for the two of them in many ways. For starters, if my mom had ever looked at the finances, she may have noticed all of the romantic dinners and jewelry my dad had been purchasing…elsewhere (yeah, he was having affairs). And, if my mom had had any idea exactly how much she was paying to have a live-in nanny and housekeeper on salary, perhaps she would have picked up the nanny’s night shift to cut spending. Overall, having one person completely oblivious to the household spending clearly created a disconnect between them. If my mom wanted to buy something that my dad said they couldn’t afford, it just led to both of them angry with the other, and that could have been avoided if they’d both seen the bank statements. Here is why both people should be involved in the finances.

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Understanding why the other is stressed

If there are money problems or things are tight, it’s important for both people to be aware of that. If only one is, then it creates a dynamic in which the other thinks that the person in charge of the money is worrying for nothing or just being cranky. If you are both aware of the finances, then you understand one another’s concerns more deeply.

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Monitoring investments

Hey, if that money belongs to both of you, then you should each have some say in how you’re investing it. Each individual should pay attention to the particular accounts they invest money in, to see how they’re doing, and if they’re putting their money to use in the best way.

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Making more frugal decisions

When you actually see how quickly money goes out, you’re so much more conscious of your spending. Even if you think you already are a frugal individual, if you really watch how rapidly a thousand dollars goes out the window each month, you may realize there are even more areas in which you could cut back.

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Being aware of utility use

Ah utility use: it’s a relationship argument as old as…electricity. “You left the AC on all day” and “You left the lights on when we went on vacation.” If you’re the one always getting in trouble for this, it may help to just take a peek at the utility bills.

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One isn’t left in the dark

I’m not saying anyone is cheating on anyone, but I am saying that if only one person is in charge of the finances, that person may take the liberty to make purchases the other wouldn’t agree with…but will never know about. That could range from bottles of alcohol at a club to large buy-ins at poker tables. Don’t be left in the dark.

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One doesn’t feel like the parent

It was pretty clear to me that my parents almost had more of a father and daughter relationship than a husband and wife one. Yeah—weird. I know. But my dad felt like he was the only one who carried the burden of knowing about the adult stresses in their lives. And my mom just got to blissfully use credit cards, having no idea what that was costing anyone. If you both look over the finances then you are both equal partners—aka peers—in this thing.

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Appreciating each other’s contributions

It can be nice to feel appreciated—to have your partner understand how far your financial contributions to the household go, and visa versa. The only way you can both know that is if you both have a keen understanding of how much things cost.

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Knowing what you can say yes to

You don’t want to fall into a situation where, you say yes to a couples vacation with friends, or to buy a package of tickets to a fundraiser, all so your partner has to tell you, “Go back and tell them no—we can’t afford that.”

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Looking for investment opportunities

You should both be on the lookout for opportunities to let your money go further. You’ll need to know how much you have, and whether or not it’s already tied up in other investments, to do that.

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One alone isn’t the nay-sayer

It’s unfair when one person has to be the nay-sayer, always telling the other one that they can’t buy this or that. If you both know what you have and what you can afford, then you won’t even ask to have things you can’t afford in the first place.

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And one alone isn’t the nagger

It also isn’t fair if one person feels like she constantly has to nag the other about being able to buy things. You don’t want to feel like you’re annoying your partner, each time you want to invest in or purchase something. So look at the finances, see what you can afford, and be a part of those decisions.

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You’ll each value what you have

If you don’t look at the bills, you may just think about the things you don’t have. If you see how much you do have costs, you may refocus your thinking on being grateful for that.

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Monitoring misuse of funds

Maybe you have a cable package that includes channels and third phone lines that you don’t use. Maybe you have a credit card with the worst rewards program. But you both should have eyes on your finances to double your chances at catching these mistakes.

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Tracking your goals

Would you two like to buy a house one day? Or a bigger house? Put a child through an ivy league school? If you’re going to reach these goals, you should both have an awareness of how your habits are affecting them.

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Checks and balances

Overall, it’s important to have a system of checks and balances. When you don’t have one, that is how you wind up in situations where a couple is totally broke, and one person in it had no idea until it was too late.

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