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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Elizabeth Street

ARE YOU LUCY OR RICKY WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR FAMILY'S FINANCES?

Dec 19, 2013

Are You Lucy or Ricky When It Comes to Your Family's Finances?

“Lucy! Go back to the store right now and return that dress!” When I was a kid, Ricky’s post-shopping rants on I Love Lucy baffled me. Why did she buy something they couldn’t afford? Why was Ricky treating her like a little girl? She always seemed to have a sneaking suspicion she was overspending but not a real handle on her family’s finances. It seems so old-fashioned, but the more I speak with friends, the more I wonder if things have really changed that much on the personal finance front.

I recently met a divorced woman at a party who regaled me with stories about how her ex-husband ruined them financially and then recently stopped paying child support. “I had my head in the sand. My husband was driving a BMW and wearing expensive clothes, but meanwhile he was going bankrupt. I had no idea. Both partners have to know what’s going on money-wise or you could be headed for disaster,” she warned.

Who pays the bills in your house? Who makes the money? For my husband and me, the one making most of the money isn’t necessarily the one dealing with the bills. For the 18 years we’ve been married, I’m the one who gathers them, reviews the charges, and most important, makes sure they’re paid on time. Because of this, I’m the one who has a better idea of what comes in and goes out. Consequently, I'm the one on any given day who’s more uptight about finances. In fact, my husband recently mentioned that he’s not even sure of the exact after-tax amount of his electronically wired paycheck, even though he’s the one making most of the money.

I have friends for whom the opposite is true. Their partners are the ones handling the household finances. One such friend mentioned she’s never even seen their family’s co-op maintenance statement or electricity bill. Another friend who recently divorced told me that when she was married she had no idea what things cost or how much monthly income her family had or needed.

They say that ignorance is bliss, but I would argue that the one who’s not paying attention to money is always going to be at a disadvantage. Less stressed out, maybe, but knowledge is always power. Who pays the bills in your house?

By Dana Linett-Silber

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