money, money, money, mah-nee

I was over at Dadcentric, and saw this post of Metrodad's. I started to reply in the comments, but then my response got into its fourth paragraph, and since I'm already stalking him in every place he blogs, I thought I'd try to restore my own dignity by just posting it here.

Let me just start by saying that landisdad and I do have a joint checking account. We didn't until about six months after we were married, largely because we knew we were about to move, and it seemed like too much trouble to open a new checking account that we were just going to close a few months later. It took LD quite a while to convince me to merge our money, though.

Growing up, I was never really poor. I have friends who once started a 'what was the longest you went without food in the house growing up' contest, and let me tell you, I lost by a mile. A lot of that had to do with the fact that I grew up in a sort of rural suburb, and my mom had an enormous vegetable garden in the back yard–we never went without food, because if my mom wasn't gardening, she was canning or baking or making homemade soup. When I was a little kid, she made all my clothes.

When my mom started working again, I was seven, and there were a few years before my parents split up where we were a happy, two-income family. After the separation and divorce, I watched my parents struggle about money. My dad used money to control his continuing relationships with us, especially during the time I spent living with him when I was in high school. Neither of my parents were particularly good at teaching us financial responsibility–my mom's model was along the lines of, "I went without, and so should you," where my dad was more along the lines of "I'm spending it all, and if you want me to spend any on you, you better do what I want you to." He filed for bankruptcy when I was a freshman in college.

When I got out on my own, I didn't have any clue how to manage money. I survived college without racking up any serious debt (well, what I would consider serious now–but back then, $3,000 was a lot), but I wasn't qualified to do anything. I didn't crack $20,000 a year until I was 28 years old.

Landisdad, on the other hand, grew up in what I consider to be a completely anomalous family–one that had money, but didn't use it as a weapon to bludgeon each other with. I don't begrudge him that experience, but it made it extremely odd for the two of us to move in together. One of the lasting effects of my upbringing is that I am extremely uncomfortable in a position of financial dependence, and it took me a lot of time to work through that shit.

I like to spend money. I like it a lot. What I really don't like is to have someone telling me how to spend my money, or that I'm spending it on the wrong things.

During the time that we were living together, we split the bills for our collective expenses. We'd each write a check for half the rent, half the light bill, alternate paying for groceries. It was a pretty big step for me when we got a joint credit card, because I did some damage to my credit record in my early 20s. After we got married, when we decided to have a joint account, I pretty much insisted on being the person in charge of it. We had a long talk where we discussed the idea, and I told him that I'd do it on a trial basis. Seven years later, we're past the trial basis.

I write probably 90% of the checks, and I'm the person who thinks about the family finances the most. We make investment decisions and major purchases together, and it's worked pretty well. Our division of labor evolved this way, not just because of my own fetishistic need to control my own money, but also because I'm more anal organized about it than he is. I file everything, and I put our tax data together for the accountant. I was paying bills tonight, and it struck me, once again, how incredibly nerdy I am in my approach to money management. Suffice it to say, there are spreadsheets.

It's not like we never worry about money, but we don't ever fight about it.

Now my question is, how do we get our kids to grow up with a healthy relationship to money?

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April 26, 2006. random other things. 12 comments.