Gender and pay inequality remains a problem in the U.S. Although 29.3 percent of wives earn more than their husbands, the wage gap isn’t likely to close anytime soon. What happens when spouses aren’t on an equal playing field? Does one possess more power than the other? Can the spouse who earns less leave the financial worries to the head of the household?
These questions aren’t limited by gender, and many couples opt to have one partner handle the monthly expenses. Although this strategy may work for some, it can be dangerous for several reasons. Regardless of wage, it’s wise to split the bills with your spouse. For example, Spouse A is responsible for paying the mortgage, electric and water bills from joint checking, while Spouse B uses the same account to pay for groceries, daycare, auto loans and waste management. Why does this method work? Splitting the financial responsibilities promotes:
- Marriage equals trust in a perfect world, and yet one in three people admit to lying to their spouse about money. Splitting the bills provides you and your partner with awareness of the marital income, spending, assets and stability. If a problem occurs, you’ll both know about it.
- Mutual budgeting. Adhering to a budget is difficult enough on your own, and sharing a mutual goal is impossible without combined efforts. Splitting the bills allows you to decide together how and when to budget. For example, how much should you spend on housing? Entertainment and miscellaneous items? Download our free template to establish a joint plan.
- Sharing debt. Combining finances also means combining debts. While your spouse may not be legally responsible for the debts you bring to the marriage, your union won’t last with an isolationist stance. Consider the following example:
Carissa has $41,000 in student loans from law school. She married her husband Chris after graduating, and though his name is not listed on her education debt, the couple must use their joint income to pay $350 per month. Chris participates in the process by reviewing Carissa’s loans with her and determining the best repayment strategy.
- Combined credit health. Debt isn’t the only responsibility that requires strategy. Perhaps the most important reason to split the household bills is combined credit health. Although every consumer has an individual credit report and score, applying for a joint loan, e.g., a mortgage, auto loan, credit card, etc., places you both in the seat of responsibility. These accounts will appear on both your credit reports, and the actions of your partner will affect your credit scores as well.
- Camaraderie. Financial woes are a common catalyst of divorce, and working together is the best way to strengthen your relationship. Promote responsibility and honesty by sharing everything in your lives. Face the future as a united front.