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An Account of One's Own

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Dani Klein Modisett: If, in 1929, Virginia Woolf insisted that every woman needs a room of her own, then I would like to assert that, in 2010, a bank account of one's own also goes a long way toward peace of mind in a mother's life. (Or even a mattress in the room that you can stuff ....)

couple with credit card

I had my own checking and savings accounts for the first seven years my husband and I were together. Then, two years ago, 40,000 accounts in the UCLA database were hacked into -- two of which were mine, which were on record there for the direct deposit of my teaching checks. I was advised to close the accounts immediately. Never one to overreact, I took this as a sign from God that it was time for me to step up and really be married, in the "my money is your money" California-law sense of it. So I never re-established these accounts. My husband and I have had a blissful financial union and have enjoyed untold abundance ever since.

Unless, that is, you count my simmering resentment at having to track exactly what I spend on everything now (like a normal American), my inability to secretly buy ... well, anything, and my dreams that I am being choked to death nightly by dollar bills, my hands tied behind my back with moist dishrags.

A little backstory: I was raised with the expression, "You can never be too rich or too thin." Don't do this to your kids! This is a recipe for a grownup with an eating disorder and money terror. This adage, along with a host of other wealth preoccupations handed down to me, secured a lifelong fear of money -- having it, not having it, never feeling there is enough of it, blah blah, therapy session, blah.

Almost every time I buy anything -- from a pound of Peet's coffee to a lipstick that isn't made by Maybelline -- a Greek chorus bellows in my head: "Do you really need that? Why are you buying that? Who are you to buy a ______?" And since I now have small children to care for (and consequently less income), this private chorus has even more vim and vigor. When I had my own account, my purchases were private; this inner insanity felt less exposed --because it was. There were never any discussions about these purchases, because they were essentially my little secret.

In the interests of sharing a life with someone, however, the merging of bank accounts is probably a good thing. I'm sure there's a marriage counselor or two who could use financial disclosure between couples as a barometer of their intimacy (and they'd charge you $200 an hour for this insight!). They might be right. But lately I've been wondering how much personal growth a person really needs. Maybe a little mystery is also good for a marriage. After all, does your spouse need to know how much you spend on a bikini wax? Wouldn't he rather just marvel at your smooth inner thighs? Clearly, I'm no fount of wisdom in this area, but I'm going to go with "yes."

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8 comments so far | Post a comment now
Matt May 25, 2010, 3:11 PM

I honestly don’t understand the point of this article. Just because you can’t “secretly buy whatever” is not a reason that women should have their own bank accounts. Don’t get me wrong, I am completely pro woman’s rights, but you are completely missing the point.

Pamala May 25, 2010, 4:51 PM

Frankly I find not combining accounts to be odd because you’re sharing a life together, why would you need to hide anything from your spouse? You ask should your spouse know how much you spend on a wax? Yes he should. Why? Because there are bills to be paid, and if you’re over spending on crap you don’t need, he has a right to know where the money is going.

I don’t work so basically I’m managing my husband’s money, but everything I buy he knows about. He’s not as open about his purchases and I usually have to discover them online, but I monitor the cash and determine what we can and can not buy. If I was working I’d be doing the same, with the cash all going into the same account with the same openness.

I mean it’s weird to me, my step-dad is currently unemployed and he said to me the other day, “I feel like a failure having to ask your mom for money to pay my half of the bills.” WHAT?! You have to ask my mom to go into her account and give you money? What’s the point of being married if you have to ask for money to pay bills! Shouldn’t you have it set up that the bills get paid, no matter who’s money it is, and then you have spending cash? I don’t understand the point of his money and her money. Why be married if you aren’t willing to share and combine things?

Black Iris May 25, 2010, 5:25 PM

1. Almost 80% of wives earn less money than their husbands. How does separate accounts help us?
2. It’s not the joint account that’s stopping you from spending on yourself, it’s the fact that you have kids.
3. You can have a joint account and spend money without telling each other every detail.

emily May 25, 2010, 9:57 PM

you can have both. Why not a joint account for most everything but theres nothing wrong with keeping a small checking account of your own for things like the mentioned bikini wax. Its just your own little account for those little things. Unless he’s making all the money, then its a different story. He would then have the right to know how you are spending his money. Essentially there is a your money and my money if were each getting a check with our own names on it. A joint account is nice for bills and grocery, family trips etc. but theres nothing wrong with each person taking a small amnount from each deposit for their own account to spend on themselves or things not deemed a neccesity. imo.

Gail Cooke May 25, 2010, 11:11 PM

I insist upon my own account and a joint account. Too many of my friends have been burned by thier former husbands for me to have it any other way. I have nothing to hide and happily share information when asked to. But at the end of the day I have money for a rainy day or emergency…or if need be an unplanned exit (hopefully not).

Anon May 26, 2010, 9:56 AM

no trust

Pamala May 26, 2010, 6:24 PM

It is that, no trust. And that’s sort of sad in general. Instead of going into marriage thinking it will last forever, people go in assuming that it’s going to end and it’s going to end horribly.

Leah June 13, 2010, 3:58 PM

It’s not about trust for me.

What if I wanted to buy my husband a little something just because? What if that something was cheaper online, but I couldn’t purchase it, because we share an account? That would deter me from doing something nice from my husband, because I would be worried he would find out about it…

I don’t think there’s any problem with keeping a separate account, as long as you’re as truthful as possible about what you’re spending.. I would never lie to my husband about how much my bikini wax cost (if I actually did that), because he should be entitled to spend just as much money on something completely useless for himself. Why should women get all the pampering?

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