My Husband Knew Nothing About Our Finances

And it was hurting our marriage.

“Ohhh, I have to hide these shopping bags, my husband is going to kill me!” my friend said, her arms laden with her latest haul.

I smiled, but couldn’t bring myself to laugh along. The truth is, I just can’t relate to that tired joke about men handling the money while women spend it all on mindless shopping. In our house, I handle the money.

From the day we got married, (and even before that, like when we went on our first cell phone plan together in college to save money), the financial part of our lives has always defaulted to me. Looking back, it actually seems a little strange, because we didn’t sit down and formally discuss who would handle the bills, manage the accounts, or balance the checkbook. Instead, I just starting doing it because I had always done it. Plus, I liked knowing exactly what was going on with my money. And that was that.

I became the person who monitored and paid the credit card bill while keeping an eye on our cell phone plan, comparing it to other carriers’ costs. When we moved, I transferred all our accounts over. I set up our retirement accounts and met with our financial advisor to discuss things like padding our savings and figuring out the best repayment plans for our student loans.

As we got older and added kids to the mix, our lives got busier and more complicated – especially financially. Suddenly, it wasn’t just about us. I had to think about school tuition and whether to pay for college, healthcare costs and babysitters, life insurance and home repairs.

Managing all of our finances also meant trying to keep my husband in the loop. Aside from the fact that his paycheck was deposited every two weeks, he mostly stayed out of everything. The man didn’t even know how to log into our bank account. So in addition to figuring out how to pay the bills each month, I was also responsible for updating him on our lack of funds or sharing with him how I was making it all work.

For a long time, I tried to keep up, telling myself that dividing up responsibility was good, that teamwork was necessary, and that it was fine that only one of us was on top of our finances. But one day, that task I had once enjoyed quickly because a responsibility that was drowning me. In the midst of working from home with four young kids, managing the housework, dealing with things like school paperwork, and an overwhelming feeling that I was carrying an enormous burden completely alone, I cracked.

I went to my husband and confessed that I was tired of managing our finances on my own. I expected resistance or at least an unwillingness on his part to learn everything. But as it turns out, he was 100 percent on board with sharing the responsibility. I had simply never asked for help before, so he assumed I was fine. Funny how that works, right?

But it was a learning curve: I had to walk him through how I was managing our finances, while we both had to begin the process of setting up a budget and delegating tasks.

Honestly? We’re not there yet. There’s still a lot to be done to figure out a financial system that works best for both of us. But we’re making progress – and that’s what matters. Before, I was feeling like I was alone on a sinking ship, bailing water out as fast as I could, throwing money at bills we couldn’t afford and wishing someone would rescue me. Now I know that we’re in this together.

I no longer have to face the stress of an unexpected bill by myself or figure out how to make the mortgage that month, and I don’t have to be the bad guy saying no to going out to dinner when we’ve maxed out our budget.

It took bringing my husband into our finances for me to realize how deeply it had been affecting me. I was harboring some serious resentment toward him for “making me” figure it out on my own, while he truly had no idea how hard it was to manage, let alone how much stress it was placing on me.

We should have decided early in our relationship how we would handle our finances. I see that now. But sometimes, life happens. For us, a surprise pregnancy, a whirlwind marriage, and an early entrance into adulthood put things on overdrive and that conversation just didn’t happen.

But sharing the responsibility has empowered us both. Today, we look at the future with greater confidence in our abilities and financial situation. We’re considering buying our dream home, something we may not have been able to do before.

And I know one thing for certain: I won’t be the only one figuring out how to pay that first month’s mortgage. And that’s a beautiful thing.

Join the Discussion

7 Responses to “My Husband Knew Nothing About Our Finances”

  1. YSaves

    My aunt did all of the finances and when she was dying of cancer, my uncle had to learn it all. Not an optimal situation. He struggled after she died, but has now found his financial groove. There are many reasons to share “the burden”.

  2. Dana

    Kudos to you in managing your finances so responsibly and kudos for having that conversation with your husband to bring him in board. I do have a question though: why do couples with tight budgets have 4 children? Aren’t 2 or 3 enough? I’m asking for real. I don’t think it’s only me that calculates kids into my budget. Thanks!

  3. Lisa Merrill

    I have always heard that this is a NO NO from dating experts and licensed therapists and that as sexist as this sounds…in a marriage…have the man handle the finances. Unless of course he is SO inept that it would put your financial life in jeopardy. Men love handling money…it’s their thing and even though you can work circles around him and do it all yourself (as most of us can…) he needs to feel needed in some ways and this should be one! This gal figured it out that all she really had to do was ask for help something so many strong indie women will NOT do for fear of appearing weak. Do it! Ask! Some men are not good at offering if they think you have it covered. And sadly if you do it all …then it makes their life easier. But there is “easier” and then there is “too easy!” Do NOT make it TOO easy for them. Trust me!!!

    • Lisa

      Anyone who hands all the finances over to their spouse, male or female, is giving up power in any relationship, no matter how good it starts out. Money is power in America, and it finds it way down into individual families. I think the “men should handle the money” thing is just another way to get women to allow men to remain in power.

  4. Victoria

    Have had fun reading through your experience. Mine is exactly an opposite of yours. My husband has always been the Chief Financial Manager here and I thank God he is. He is more to control the expenses better. I have learnt to trust his judgments. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Lauren Hopkins

    One of the things I struggle the most with about my profound singleness is not having anyone to share the financial burden with – I feel like I have to figure out everything on my own, on top of the obvious burdens and increased costs that come with being single.

  6. Lisa

    I can relate to a lot of this—I always handled most of the finances. When my husband and I would have a financial meeting with someone and they would ask basics like mortgage payments, etc., they would always look at my husband but I always answered. Still, on overall strategy, we planned together. A couple times a year we would look at our investments and net worth, and make decisions together. It was mostly up to me to execute them. I also started and always kept my own retirement, some savings and checking separately; as did he. There was a joint pot, and most of our finances were in both names (with both inputs), but I always kept some part where I did what I wanted. My husband died suddenly fairly young, and I was very glad that I knew what was going on with our finances, that I had independent experience, and that I had longstanding independent accounts and credit ratings.