Letter #1
Dear Dr. Harley,
My husband and I have been married
almost 7 years and we have two
beautiful daughters. Throughout our
marriage we have had separate bank
accounts and credit card accounts.
We both work full-time and both share
in the responsibilities for our children
and household. We rent a house since
we are unable to buy one at this time
due to our separate debts and the high
cost of rent and daycare. It seems we
can never get ahead.
I have suggested we get help from a
financial planner but he refuses. He is
always depressed about money but he
won’t do anything about it. We are both
at fault because we spend more than
we can afford. We mainly fight about
money and it’s been getting more
frequent.
My husband has a second job and
now he is always angry that “HE” has
to work so hard. He says, “He Loves
Me” but he feels I am not pulling my
weight as far as finances are
concerned. I make approx. $16,000.00
less a year than he does, but I help
pay rent and some daycare and the
groceries. He wants me to do all the
housework, but after a day at work I’d
rather spend the time with my kids and
save the cleaning for the weekend.
Where do I go from here?
B.W.

Dear B.W.,
From your description, you and your
husband have been growing
increasingly incompatible over the few
years you’ve been married, and your
approach to financial planning is
probably the rule for all areas of your
marriage. Instead of learning how to
accommodate each other with joint
financial accounts, you separate them
so that you do not have to take each
other’s feelings into account when you
spend money. You probably do the
same with other decisions you make,
such as what you do after work, how
you discipline your children, when you
see relatives and so forth.
You’re not building a relationship,
you’re preparing for the day when you
will go your separate ways. Your
husband’s reaction to your income
(that you do not earn enough) reflects
his emotional distance. If you are still
in love with each other, you won’t be
for long. You will soon be just putting
up with each other for the sake of your
children.
Imagine how difficult it would be for
you to follow my Policy of Joint
Agreement at this point in your
marriage (“never do anything without
an enthusiastic agreement between
you and your spouse”). The more
incompatible a couple is, the more
difficult it is for them to follow that
policy, and you’re at the point where
it’s almost impossible. But if you and
your husband would agree to follow the
policy for just one week, you would
begin to see the light at the end of the
tunnel. Within a year, you would be
more compatible than you had ever
been at any point in your marriage,
and you’re financial problems would
be solved.
The Policy of Joint Agreement is
simply your willingness to take his
feelings into account before you do
something, and his willingness to do
the same for you. You ask how he
feels about whatever you do, and if he
doesn’t like it you don’t do it. Then you
discuss what else you could do that
would be more to his liking, and you
settle on something that you both like.
Marriage cannot survive without
thoughtfulness, and the Policy of Joint
Agreement forces you to be thoughtful,
even when you don’t feel like it.
When you say that you fight about
money and you have separate
checking and credit card accounts,
you are telling me that you are not
bargaining for each other’s happiness.
You are bargaining for your own
happiness at each other’s expense,
otherwise there would be no fighting.
Whose idea was it to have the
separate checking accounts and why?
You probably separated your accounts
because when you held one jointly,
one or the other of you would try to
raid it. If you had been following the
Policy of Joint Agreement from the
beginning of your marriage there would
have been no need for separate
accounts because both of you would
have asked the other before spending
money you earned. Whether it was
you or your husband that earned it, the
decision to spend it should have been
made jointly.
One of the best ways to get your
finances under control is to make joint
decisions about how your money is to
be spent. First, get rid of your
individual checking and credit card
accounts and get joint accounts. All
the money either of you earns should
go into your joint checking account —
every penny! Then, whenever you buy
something, check with each other to
be sure you both agree. I usually
recommend a weekly “allowance” that
is taken out of the checking account
so that each spouse can have money
for odds and ends that they can spend
unilaterally. But the allowance should
not exceed $50 a week and it should
be equal for both spouses.
When you pay your bills, you should
do it together. Every check you write
should be written with each other’s
approval — which bills to pay first,
how much to pay on a credit card
account, and so forth.
Granted, at this point in your marriage,
my advice will be difficult to
implement. You are already living
separate lives and learning to treasure
your independence. Why would either
of you want to give up the freedom you
have writing checks out of your own
checking accounts and using your
own credit cards at will? To get each
other’s “permission” will, at first,
seem childish and humiliating.
Furthermore, you might find
yourselves refusing permission on
almost everything, because so much
of what you have been buying has
been thoughtless. For a while, you
may be discouraged because it’s so
hard to agree on much of anything.
That’s because you have not needed
to negotiate with each other — you’ve
gone ahead and done what you please
all these years. Your fights are a
reflection of your poor negotiating
skills.
If you stick to the Policy of Joint
Agreement, little by little, agreements
begin to form. There are niches
already where you can agree, and as
you negotiate with each other’s
feelings in mind, all the areas of
incompatibility will be replaced with
compatible decisions. Your finances
will be in great shape in no time, and
what’s more important, your marriage
will also be in great shape.
Start today using the Policy of Joint
Agreement to make your financial
decisions. And all your decisions, for
that matter.

Do you think couples should put their monies together??

(Excerpts from ‘marriage builders)