Ah, Dave Ramsey. He either brings people together or breaks them apart. Why? Because he talks about one of the most controversial and universal topics in our lives: money. I am an avid Dave Ramsey follower and have been since my parents started forcing my sister and I to budget at the tender age of 12. I’ve got to admit, putting half of my $6 a week allowance into savings was a difficult but needed lesson.
The lesson from Dave’s Daily Tip today, though, is one that I’m not proud of. You see, I am not good at letting go of control. After all, I’d grown up having perfect control of my budget, spent the first year or so of college and motherhood having complete control, and I was good at it. Of the two personality types Dave discusses, I am a very, VERY strong nerd. Like, 10 out of 10 questions on the nerd-free spirit test Nerd. I am a control freak, and money is no exception.
My husband, however, is a 10 out of 10 Free Spirit. What does that mean? An article on daveramsey.com says it perfectly: ” Free spirits don’t want to have anything to do with the numbers and tend to “forget” about a budget. They may feel controlled or not cared for and appear irresponsible to the nerd.” He has a huge heart, and as a result has a strong desire to help those around him. He is the guy handing a few dollars to the homeless man on the corner, or the friend who’ll drive 30 miles to help a buddy move, or the one to treat the family to dinner. The problem wasn’t his giving. I love and am so thankful for his giving spirit, because I tend to be stingy. The problem was that he didn’t keep track of his giving.
When we first attempted a joint account, I put a fair chunk into the savings account for a rainy day. A few weeks later, I needed something for #1 and went to pull it out. Lo and behold, it was all gone! Hubby had bought things and not paid attention to the money in the account, and it had overdrafted the checking and pulled out of our savings. My trust was shattered. The worst thing about it was that he didn’t do it maliciously or purposely, but I became terrified of sharing an account with him. The “mine and his” mentality began to take over. After all, that was my money in the savings, and he had spent it. I now had nothing to fall back on.
The real issue, however, wasn’t completely my husband. Granted, the trigger was his spending, but the root wasn’t in those actions. It was in my feeling unprotected and vulnerable. In the months that followed, we struggled back and forth with attempts to share an account and my dashing back to a separate account. A lot of my reasoning was backed by fear. Common to most women, I needed a safety net. I needed to know that, if something happened, we had a backup plan. Hubby hadn’t yet learned how to manage his spending, and the bank didn’t help at all with a massive overdraft protection plan, so that safety net didn’t exist.
Over the course of a few years, some counseling, a few Financial Peace University classes, and a mentorship couple, hubby and I have gotten our financial situation smoothed out and are nearly two years into having a joint account. Do I still have fits of control freak anxiety? Oh yes. That is something I continually work on. Does hubby still sometimes buy something that isn’t in our budget or wasn’t discussed? Yes, but he’s working on it. The main point is that we now discuss it. The joint account involves us both in our finances and helps us face the areas where we most struggle. Having it together has brought up my reluctance to spend any money on myself and the hubby’s tendency to over-spoil. It’s helping us achieve a balance in our marriage that otherwise wouldn’t be there. Even moreso, it’s making us a team. When the accounts were separate, our mentalities were separate. Our marriage was not together. It was “my life” and “his life.”
So what’s my point? If you are struggling with the idea of joining your account with your spouse, sit down and think about why? Are you a control freak like I am? (I use that term affectionately, btw. I am proud of my ability to organize and focus.) Or, are you a giver like my husband? Are you at a loss when it comes to numbers? Are you a mathematical whiz kid? Are you just wanting to give your family the best, and resent being told you can’t, or are you wanting some cushion room for that “just in case” moment? None of these are bad things, and both are essential to a functioning relationship. Maybe you aren’t as black and white as my husband and I are, but I’m willing to bet that the issue arises the same, even if only to a small extent. Think about your roll and your reasons, then think about your spouse’s. It took me a while to realize that my hubby wasn’t doing it on purpose and that he didn’t realize how strong my need for savings was. Finally, sit down and discuss it. (Short discuss, with lots of “I feel/I think,” not “You always/you never.) And most of all, take that leap towards having a joint account. If it’s done properly, it can be a surprising and amazing tool to help your marriage relationship.