Should one spouse be able to spend more than the other?

Written by
Peter Dunn

Dear Pete,

My husband and I struggle to stay on the same page financially speaking. His job pays him about $15,000 more than what my job pays me. We’ve gotten to an awful place where he feels he can spend more than me because he makes more than me. This is in spite of me being responsible for carrying our health insurance and the bulk of our retirement savings. I think we just have different goals. I want to prepare for the future, and he wants to spend freely now. Should we completely separate our financial lives?


Ah, great question Lauren. You're dealing with the ol' "each dollar equals one vote" issue. I'm no marriage expert, but I am a financial expert and this is definitely not a great way to manage money. As I'm sure you've figured out, money has nothing to do with money. Any conversation about money in a marriage is generally tainted by whatever else is going on in the relationship. If it helps, you aren't alone. Marriages are complicated and so are financial issues, mixing the two can get messy fast. It's also important to remember you both come from different financial backgrounds. If your husband's family was bad with money, he's pre-disposed to be bad with money. It should be noted, the same could be said for any of us.

You need to ask your husband if he would be willing to have a financial discussion one week from now. The one week from now part is really important. Spontaneous money conversations never end well.

As you think about what you should discuss in the meeting, one possible solution to consider is separating finances. You can't go as far as say, roommates, but you can separate the areas you are most split on. If you don't want to go that extreme, a monthly budget meeting is a great place to start. Use the meeting as a chance to go through last month's bank statements. In reviewing them you can look for weak spots to improve in the next month. Setting goals is also another way to get everyone on the same team. If you can get motivated about the same goal, you can begin to work toward it together. This won't be a simple process, but you can take a small step by scheduling your first budget meeting next week.

Read the my Indy Star column here.

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