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June 28, 2009

Show me the money, mom

What is it with men and money?

They either want all the control of the money or nothing to do with it.

I have managed our family finances for most of the 17 years my husband and I have been married.

This is partly out of necessity-it doesn't make sense for him to manage the checkbook from a boat in the Gulf of Mexico where he works.

But, a certain non-verbal arrangement was made at some point.

He cleans the garage.

I pay the bills.

I interview the maid (or let her interview us.)

He makes sure we have enough video games to keep our house among the most popular in the 39 and under male age group.

I have, over the years, encouraged him to become more involved in our finances.

Sometimes I've encouraged, other times I've pleaded.

I said to my husband a few years ago:

"But what if something happens to me? How would you know who or where to send the payments to?"

(Remember this, it's important later.)

His response: "Eventually, they'll start calling and I'll find out."

Right about then, I stopped pleading for help.

This past week, money suddenly became a hot topic at our house.

Due to a technical bank error we are still trying to decipher, a car payment was skipped on my husbands car note.

The information is murky at best as to what caused this.

Apparently the stars aligned as they do once every 100 years, and my husband said, coincidentally, "I need to help out more with the money. I need to help pay the bills."

I was surprised at the timing.

I tried not to act defensive.

He said at least three times:

"What if something happens to you? How would I know who to pay?"

Really? Where did you come up with that idea?

I started to think maybe this was not about the car note and perhaps he had put a hit out on me and was using the car payment as a cover up.

I tried to believe he really wanted to help and that he was not silently accusing me of screwing up his car note.

Our ability to discuss this deteriorated quickly.

I felt accused.

He apparently felt like I was keeping the money management from him purposefully.

As we went to bed one night, I think he mumbled something about this being about 'power'.

But he was smart enough to do it when the lights were totally out so I could not see him entirely, and I had taken a Tylenol PM (or three) and felt like a slug on Valium.

Power. I'll show you the power, mister, I wanted to say, except my tongue felt like a 40 pound weight and I was too tired to argue further.

I will gladly serve you every bill we have on a silver platter, along with the checkbook, and go ahead and tell me how much power you feel when you spend 6 hours every Saturday morning trying to make it all jive.

I'll arrange for a transfer of power that would make George Bush's head spin. Done.

Over his four days at home, there no resolution, no transer of power.

No simple solution as to how to divide up money management among two working parents, especially when one of them is gone for days at a time. On a boat.

Thursday night as my husband got ready to head out to the Gulf, where he would be tucked safely far way from his raging wife (as if I could not track him down on the ocean if I really needed!), I decided to pay the bill for his new broadband card.

You know, just because I am so full of power and all and paying broadband bills while working full time and trying to make sure the endles stream of teenage boys at our house all summer don't eventually start to eat the walls or burn the house down is my idea of fun.

He kindly provided me the account information and, as I always do, I set up the account online, created a user name and password, and set the bill up for autopay.

As he sat next to me on our bed, surfing the web on his own laptop, I said, "here is the log in information in case you want to log in and see if the bill is paid or any account information."

What happened next left me speechless.

He turned around, and said to me just as serious as if he were saying "Have you seen my missing underwear" and said:
"Why would I need to see that?"

For his sake, it's a good thing that this conversation happened in our room with only pillows nearby, and not in the kitchen where I could have reached for our cast iron skillet.

For the second time in a week, I was speechless. Utterly speechless.

"I don't know, maybe you might need to log in, just in case anything ever happens to me and I get hit by a bus and you need to know the account information?"

The color quickly drained from his face.

"Oh yeah, yeah, you're right, I do need that."

Managing money as a married couple should never be about power or secrets.

It should be about both partners accepting responsibility for, at the very least, a basic understanding of the family financial situation. Even if one partner is updated monthly on the financial status.

Take my advice though: that conversation should take place in a bedroom with lots of soft things nearby.

Avoid discussing money in the kitchen.

Someone might get hurt.

(printed with my husbands approval. I love you honey. And I know where that boat is. :)


{jordan} on June 29, 2009 said...

WONDERFUL! I have a lovely award for you!

Love this blog!

Deb Thaxton on June 29, 2009 said...

-->UGH...Men! Thankfully, my husband pays all of our bills online so I can look whenever I want to see how things are going.
I never do though. Ha.
(visiting from MBC)


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