Before we were married, I saw two potential problems regarding wages. I made twice the salary that my fiancee did, and I spent a lot of personal income on musical instruments and recording equipment. Knowing how many marriages suffer over arguments about money and spending, I devised a plan that worked until retirement.
I divided finances into two categories: Joint expenses and personal expenses. Each month, after I paid all the bills for joint expenses (mortgage, utilities, groceries, pizza, savings, etc.) I added them all up. Since I made twice as much as my wife, her share came to 33% of the total. Whatever each of us had remaining after joint expenses was our personal discretionary income, which could be spent on clothing, perfume, recording equipment, personal savings, whatever.
This meant no arguments about money. She would never have to listen to me say, “$50 for perfume? Are you kidding me?” and I would never have to hear, “$2000. for a synthesizer? Why do you need another synthesizer?” Birthday and Christmas gifts were purchased with our own money, not from a joint account. One of the unexpected advantages of this system was that if either of us got a raise, we both got a raise. When she was suddenly earning 40% of our total income, I only had to pay 60%. When my company closed without notice, leaving me unemployed for 10 months, her paycheck paid most of our bills, and my unemployment check became the smaller percentage. When I went to grad school to be licensed in psychotherapy, my wife’s career took off. During the second half of our marriage, she eventually earned five times my highest salary.
While some people handle joint incomes this way, most do not. A criticism we have often heard is that our arrangement sounds “cold” and “unromantic.” What’s “romantic” about regularly discussing finances, Arguments over spending, or having to justify one’s spending? We wanted a romantic marriage, so we removed a major source of marital conflict.
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