When Kerry and I married in 1995 (I typed 2005 there…wow – am I glad I caught that!) at the ripe old age of 21, we never gave a second thought to the fact that we would have a joint checking account. I think that we thought that our two combined (tiny) incomes in one account would fair better than two accounts. We have lived in three states and another continent with that same joint account. In fact, we still use that one account as the springboard into our much more complicated financial lives that we lead now with two rental properties, two incomes, and older children.
When I started my new job in January, it came with frequent reimbursement checks for mileage as I travel around the state doing what I do best – convincing people that I am right. In what I thought was a brilliant move, we chose to open a third checking account so that I would deposit the reimbursement checks into it and then use that money to pay for the Honda Civic’s needs – gas, oil changes, etc. However, after our recent “budget talks” that nearly resulted in a shutdown of the Bender-Family’s financial world due to indecision and conflicting values, Kerry and I decided that this third checking account would serve a much greater good to be used as a way to regulate our spending in certain categories of the budget.
The first day of revised Bender-Budget 2011 was to be August 1. There was only one problem: the third checking account was in my name only, but we both would be doing the spending from that account. We’ve managed for the past 12 days to “figure it out” – a move that neither of us found comforting – but today went to Wells Fargo and easily added Kerry to the account. He even designed his own check card so that it would be easy to tell that one apart from the other one for the other account. (Side note: his card has a picture of me on it – isn’t that sweet?)
At one point in this process, Kerry asked me if I was comfortable with what we were doing or if I struggled with our decision to use “that account” for this purpose. I quickly answered, “No.” However, when we were adding him to the account today, I realized that I did struggle with the decision but not for reasons that he assumed.
Marriage requires that the two become one. In this odd arrangement, we maintain our personal selves while also becoming one entity. Every couple has some struggle in this area of unity. For me, partnering in the area of finances has always been a struggle. It is not that I think that Kerry would unfairly choose his own whims over mine or that he would prioritize poorly or that together we could not come to conclusions that are fair, reasonable, and wise. Rather it is the age old issue that likely started with Adam and Eve…I want to do something my way rather than have to seek unity with my husband on the food budget.
Oddly, I struggle less with this when there is little money to be had. When Kerry was in seminary, there was no wiggle room in the budget – all of the money was spent before it was in the bank, and there was little left to haggle over. There was no need to consider who would get his or her iPad first – neither of us would have an iPad because the electric bill was being paid for with Christmas money from my grandmother. It seems easier for me to seek unity when every minute is a financial struggle.
Having joint accounts with one’s husband may not be necessary for all women, but for me it is. There cannot be a mine or a his because it is ours. Unity in our household is a must, and it starts for me with our finances. Constant review of where our money is going and how we should allocate any overage (when will that happen???) requires us to have conversations that reveal more about us as people than simply how we approach our finances. Those conversations bring to light values that flow over into other areas of our marriage and assist us in maneuvering other issues such as parenting, time management, and communication.
I was a tad jealous of Kerry’s new check card design (not that I was on it so much as much as the newness of a card with a cool design on it), so I created a new check card design for myself too.