Pay attention to your money

ImagesThere was an article in the Herald Tribune called "In marriage, the unseen bottom line" by Katrin Bennhold.  For all women, an article absolutely worth reading.  She writes about how many women, actually most, really don't pay attention their joint finances once they get married yet they certainly took care of their finances when they were single.  They are happy to put a small amount of money that their husband might not know about so they can treat themselves to a pair of killer shoes but don't really know the interest rate on their mortage. 

Here is the thing, unless you have an underlying desire to add up numbers most people, particularly women, find their finances boring even though they understand them.  I get it but at the end of the day if you don't pay attention to your finances then you don't know how your money is being spent and in essence you don't control your life. 

When my parents got divorced, my Mom rose to the occasion of dealing with the finances.  She had no choice but she made it very clear to me that I should always know where the cash is and where it is going.  It might not be fun but it is essential.  My guess and again and this is just a guess because I have seen it first hand particularly when I lived in the suburbs is that when women make a choice to stop working for awhile to raise the kids, they don't feel they are entitled to their love of hand bags and shoes because they aren't working.  BTW, that is utter bullshit because as I used to say to people when they asked me what I did when I wasn't working and my kids were young, I'd answer either "Superhero or something that I don't get paid for". So many women them hide what they purchase instead of being honest that we are 50/50 and I need to have these things on occasion.  How are we going to make it work so it works for the both of us just because I got off the train for awhile doesn't mean I shouldn't get my fair share of the salary.   

I've talked about this before.  Fred and I have pooled our finances from day one because we had so little when we began our careers post-college.  When I came home one day with a pair of shoes that were just so out of his realm, he freaked.  I get it.  He grew up with 3 boys in an Army house and had no idea that Jewish women needed to fill certain needs more often than most.  We sat down and we planned a budget.  He had one and I had one so neither of us cared what either of us bought as long as we stayed on budget.  It was heaven.  Every time I brought home something I loved, he loved it too because he knew I'd never go off budget. 

Bennhold writes that women control 70% of the consumer spending worldwide.  Wow.  Yet, we only account for 1/10th of the voting power on the worlds key interest rates and run only 18% of the Fortune 500 companies.  Those statistics alone should make all of us pay more attention to the money.  As she says, the family is the best place to start. I couldn't agree more.

Understanding money, budgets and finances is the best way to be in control of your destiny be it in the house or running a corporation.  It puts us in control of our life.  Agreed, it can be so boring but honestly isn't exercise too.  We exercise because we know we should and it makes us feel and look better.  We should feel the same way about our money…that means "our" if you are married. 

If you are at a total loss, then follow Dailyworth.  That is one of the reason I invested in Dailyworth, it teachies women to think about their finances every day.  A little shot in the arm makes you think intelligently about how to spend your money, how to invest your money and how to save your money everyday. 

It might not always be exciting but I know where the money is in our house and I know where it is spent and although I might not be the one balancing the check book or physically paying the bills, I know exactly what is going out and in…and that makes me feel empowered and I wouldn't want it any other way.  BTW, I am still on a budget and it still works. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. Rohan

    ‘Succeed at home first.’

  2. amy cross

    So Important of your to say that being in a marriage is 50/50 finances.  That’s what’s so key about community property—it values women’s participation even if not bringing in physical cash.  Pay equity at home.

    1. Gotham Gal

      partnerships are 50/50 and should be on every level.

      1. Dale Allyn

        Of course your math is correct, Joanne, but my wife and I have always said that our partnership was 100/100.  This year is number 31. 😉

        1. Gotham Gal

          wow. impressive!

          1. Dale Allyn

            Haha. What’s impressive is how my wife has managed to patiently tolerate me throughout this process! It took me longer to mature, so now it’s payback time… or so she says. Just kidding. She doesn’t need to say it, it’s just skillfully implied (tacitly). Gotta love it. 

  3. rebeccastees

    I’m currently reading ……Seven Stages of Money Maturity  by George KinderFor women, this is a real eye-opener…..Overcoming Underearning by Barbara Stanney

    1. Gotham Gal

      overcoming is the opportune word here.

  4. Bala

    Excellent Advice… My wife is my credit manager and we run a budget, so we are always on top of our finances. We started with negative balance out of school but we implemented 2 disciplines:1. Never use Credit Cards for monthly budgeted expenses, use Credit Card for only 1 time big items and always pay off the next month i.e no overdraft fees, late fees etc2. Always maintain a 6 month budget bufferwe have managed through the Financial Crisis in Iceland and she still working 60% and I starting on my entrepreneurial career and still managing. It takes a lot of work, sacrifice and discipline to maintain a budget but there is no other alternative. 

    1. Gotham Gal

      it does take serious discipline but well worth it. when we had barely enough to make ends meet, we never went into debt. when we came out on the other end, we didn’t have something ever hanging over our head. i am pretty sure i could not go to sleep at night knowing that we had huge amounts sitting on our credit cards. i’d rather live sparsely then have that…and that is exactly what we did for many many years. not easy but sleep worthy.

  5. candice

    There’s a saying that I can’t remember where I heard it, but, “Keep a ledger and it will keep you.”  Did you and Fred graduate with student loans?  That’s a cornerstone of modern young people married life at this point.  We are putting off a house until we finish paying our student loans off early.  Almost there.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Yep we both had student loans

  6. ellen

    Wise words.I have always maintained independent credit in my own name.  If a there is a divorce or death, you need to have an independent fico score.  I guard my credit rating like a tiger. Never ever carry an unpaid balance on a credit card.  Too foolish. Use credit cards but make sure you have the cash to pay off that balance within 30 days otherwise do without.In my mother’s day they never carried a mortgage and it was unheard of to have a car loan.

  7. David Wieder

    Thanks for the shout out, Joanne! Women are raised to unconsciously bank on some form of rescue. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. For women who care to create their own security and freedom, they have to become accountable for their money. It’s painful to grow up and learn prince charming may or may not be coming. It’s liberating to make lots of money and save lots of money.

    1. Gotham Gal

      key words. we have to create our own security and freedom at the same time and being accountable for the cash is the way to do that.

  8. Tracey Jackson

    Thanks I needed this.

    1. Gotham Gal

      i can’t believe you don’t pay attention….

      1. Tracey Jackson

        I do pay attention in a big picture way. I can be very frivolous in the short picture way. I’m far from not needing some good daily tips.

        1. Gotham Gal

          ha. who isn’t?

  9. rachel

    my favorite line 🙂 :  He grew up with 3 boys in an Army house and had no idea that Jewish women needed to fill certain needs more often than most. 

  10. Lally Rementilla

    So true! From what I’ve seen, so many women’s financial habits are heavily influenced by their mothers’ experience.  I’m lucky enough to have a mother who was an investor.  I almost feel like it’s my responsibility for my daughters to be brought up in the same way.PS. She also believed that shoes and handbags are great investments!

    1. Gotham Gal

      it is all about the accessories of life.

  11. rachel


  12. panterosa,

    Right on GG – makes sure women are on their resources.I’ve always been a budget girl, and no debt either, not even a mortgage. Having divorced right before the last crash I managed to not get dragged down more than many.I found marriage as you say has many perceived imbalances. My wasband was quite sure he knew better than I did, even while I ran the household budget. It was tense because he disliked my skill, and I detest accounting. We bought an apartment on some IPO money for cash, though his side wanted us to have a huge mortgage and play the market with the money. We didn’t and they all got crushed. Glad I fought tooth and nail on that one.My big question is why are women still raised with the idea the men will do all the money stuff for them? Not only are the women crazy, but what are their parents thinking??My daughter did a TV/cable/movie/watching budget for the year in January from an AVC post. We fire cable, move to streaming, and save money. She was rewarded in media time for her work, which is her ‘currency’. Glad she gets it.

    1. Gotham Gal

      For some reason when we are little girls dressing up in princess outfits with tiaras we have this motion that prince charming will show up one day and take care of it allThe prince may show but he is far from perfect and that is what we all must remember.