Every married couple features its own financial arrangements. It’s their business and not mine. My arrangement with my wife is that I work like a dog and after dealing with my own expenses - paying off my own health insurance, life insurance, pension and tax - I give her all the rest. With that she manages the entire household economy - food, children, school fees, utilities,et al - which means keeping me on an allowance. (As it turns out, it’s a necessary allowance since there is so little disposable income after meeting all the domestic needs. Often none at all.) Over the years so many people back in North America express some manner of dismay at such an arrangement and they try to throw in their two cents’ worth, which I always take as the epitome of rude disingenuousness since the reality is that married financial arrangements there are not much different. All over the world and throughout history it is more or less the case that women control the domestic purse and the home. So many people make rude inquiries or offer unsolicited opinions of the matter. Then if I condescend to answer their rude inquiries they are even ruder to further pursue what they had no business asking in the first place. Of course, they might claim that I invited their reaction by initiating it in a letter.
First come testimonials - often from sisters-in-laws who seem to have the most surplus of advice ready for dispensing - about the wisdom and practicality of joint bank accounts with my spouse. As to that, I have one bank account in Canada completely separate from my life (and wife) in Japan. (I have three Japanese accounts, all of which are usually quite empty.) It handles my Canadian expenses and holidays and its balance does not figure into our Japanese budget. Here, my banking is separate from my wife’s. But as I say, I regularly relinquish my cash to her anyway, so Empty is the normal condition.
Second, some pretend surprise, citing lessons learned about the freedom that money enables. If I have no disposable cash but instead depend on my wife from day-to-day I have no freedom. How horrible! Comments like that typically come from unmarried people - singles or divorcees. Married people know that marriage affords different kinds of freedoms that singles do not understand, or cannot afford. When you get married you sacrifice one kind of life for another. It is a compromise to be sure, but overall it is a gain in the pleasure of living. Single people don’t understand that, and divorced people have forgotten it (I say so charitably to avoid saying anything harsher). Indeed, for many years I said exactly the same thing myself and determinedly kept a tight grip on my income, only grudgingly giving up cash to my wife as needs arose. So unmarried friends and acquaintances are not saying anything to me that I don’t know when they sing the praises of financial freedom and personal independence. But there came a time when, for domestic harmony, I relinquished and let my wife have her way. Isn’t that the way of it with married men? Let the woman have her way and live out your marriage like an endurance test. Guts it out to the finish line.
It’s surprising how many people want to give you financial advice.
“Grant, you should buy this insurance. It’s better than that insurance.”
“Grant, why don’t you invest in this mutual fund/retirement fund/college fund.”
“Grant, you should subscribe to this internet service/newspaper/magazine. It’s cheaper and better.”
“Grant, why don’t you buy your airline tickets/book your travel this way, not that way.”
“You should change from that credit card to this credit card. This bank is better than that bank.”
“Try these Nuskin/Amway products.”
“This is great and so easy. It only costs X-yen per month.”
I just look at them deadpan and say, “Talk to Junko.”
One such exchange in April 2010 began with my anecdotal mention in a letter that Junko controls our money, followed by an expression of incredulous disbelief and an invocation of the merits of individual freedom provided by a personal income source, followed by my observation that my friend sounded like an unmarried person (she is divorced), followed by her statement that she can only speak from the platform of her life’s experience, which I thought was dodging the issue by changing the topic.
I admit that I don’t know what I am doing in life and am just making it up as I go along. I might not make the best decisions, but they are mine to make, and on my road trip through life with the woman I’ve got doesn’t leave room for second guessing from backseat drivers whose attempts at assistance are not as helpful as they imagine.