One of the common threads I see across every segment of society is the dilemma of the less-monied spouse. That means one spouse, usually the woman, is dependent on her husband for basic needs like food and shelter. What’s worse, she often lacks the resources to move out on her own, even in the face of abuse.

Below I share two examples of couples in which the non-wage earner was smart about money, and took care themselves.

  • A couple has been happily married for over 30 years. They are both very hands on, even though the husband is a high-powered executive. They look at every penny they spend, together. She has her hands on their finances, just as much as he does. In fact, whenever their checking account balance gets too large, equal amounts get transferred into each spouse’s separate, non-marital accounts.
  • A woman in her eighties has been saving money since she was a young girl. She went from saving her allowance to becoming a wife and mother – and a savvy investor, who does not have to worry about running out of money in her golden years.

In a recent interview on Connecticut Morning that I shared with my friend and colleague, matrimonial attorney Leslie Montanile, she brought up an excellent point: Keeping separate accounts from your spouse does not make you a bad person. In fact, it is the only way to build your credit. A separate, shared household account for family business and expenses can be funded as needed by each spouse.

Anyone in a marriage where the higher-earning spouse keeps the other spouse in the dark about finances should take that as a red flag. In addition to the prospect of financial abuse, it is also possible that the monied spouse has a gambling addiction, drug problem, or is simply an out-of-control spender. Any one of those scenarios can have serious consequences for your shared, marital credit rating. My advice to young people starting out is to get a credit card, buy a car, and establish bank accounts in your own name – as soon as possible. Start taking charge of your own financial future!

How much do you know about your family’s finances?