Like many other amazing women in the personal finance blogosphere, I was lucky enough to get invited by Chelsea over at Mama Fish Saves to join her 8th of March women’s day blog collaboration. All about empowering women and money and how women rock money!
International women’s day is a strange occurrence in Norway. Not least because of all the mansplainers jumping out of the woodwork to complain about how women in Norway are already equal and have nothing more to fight for (sooo not true), and why, oh whyyy is there not an international men’s day?? So unfair!! (There is, by the way. It’s 19th of November.)
Phew. Glad to have that out of the way. Without further ado, let’s dive into it.
But first, a story.
Trigger warning: This blog post contains spousal abuse and violence.
Once upon a time, there was a young woman who met a young man. He was considered handsome, and after some initial courtship, the two got married.
This being back in the 60s, it should come as no surprise that the young man was the primary breadwinner. The young woman worked, but her income was not enough to cover the mortgage on the house, or to feed the three little boys that came one after the other.
Over the years, the young man grew older. He drank more, played cards with his buddies and got violent. Physically and mentally. Sometimes fists, sometimes threatening with the dangerous end of his hunting rifle, sometimes telling her hurtful things.
Still, the woman stayed. She told herself she had no place to go. Her boys needed her, she could not take care of them on her own. What if he came after her? What if he hurt her and the boys more than he already did?
So she stayed and became a shadow of her former self. Her boys grew up and left home, one by one. But she stayed.
The boys med girls and started forming families of their own. They would visit with their grandchildren. Carefully. She was there, like a shadow, sometimes offering cake or coffee, but no personality.
Then, after almost 40 years of her precious life, her husband got cancer.
They gave him six months to live, but only a month after his diagnosis, he was gone.
Many of you have probably heard stories like these before. The woman in this particular story is my grandmother. There are few details because it is personal, but I think the essence of it still gets through.
Another reason I chose to exclude details is because this could be anyone.
My grandmother could not leave because of three things, fear, money and habit. When my grandfather died, it is difficult to describe the transformation that took place. Over the years that followed, she blossomed. It was as if we all finally got to know the real person my grandmother underneath the cowed exterior. She fixed up their draughty old house, she went on vacations, she got a personality again!
Although it had the tragic loss of years of her life, at least this story had a happy ending after all. My grandmother is now rocking the single life and looks happier every year.
What a tragedy it would have been if she, for whatever reason, had died before my grandfather, and she would never have experienced that freedom and happiness?
That is why I implore on you, please, please share your finances.
Do not let one person have all the control, and do not let someone pull all the shots just because they happen to earn the most money or because that feels easier. Be involved, be proactive, and for all that is good in life, have plans if anything was to happen, or if things don’t work out the way you thought they would.
Write it out if that helps you, and put it someplace safe. Make sure you both (or three, or four, we don’t judge) agree to what it says, and hold each other accountable.
Because I have seen what can happen up close if you don’t, even if I was too young and naive to realise the full extent of what I was seeing.
Mr. E. and I have not given charge of finances to any one of us. We are both equal partners in paying our shared bills, suggesting holidays, and we both have access to a shared account from which all our shared bills are paid.
If one of us passed away, or got sick/fell into a coma, there would be no nasty financial surprises waiting for the other one. No unpaid debt or secret credit card splurges.
When it comes to finances and almost anything else in our relationship, we practice radical honesty.
If it turned out Mr. E. had been racking up credit card debt behind my back, that would make me seriously reconsider our relationship. Not because of the debt, but because it would be such a serious breach of trust to how we run our finances in this household.
Even if you like leaving your partner in charge of everything, and that is how you both prefer your relationship to work (that is also ok!), please make sure you have talked about “what if” events. Death and illness are only two factors. What if you decide ten years down the line that this relationship does not work for you? Would that leave you with nothing but the clothes off the back because the house, the car, and everything else are in your partner’s name?
Some financial advice I’ve read in Norway actually suggests that if one partner becomes a stay-at-home-spouse, the breadwinner should contribute a set amount into a savings or pension account for their spouse, because they are sacrificing thousands in potential income for their shared lifestyle choice/children.
I think that is marvellous advice.
Don’t get trapped in an abusive relationship because you feel like you have nowhere else to go.
Having a “what if” plan, does not mean you are not committed to the relationship. It just means you are prepared.
If taking equal charge of the finances seems like an insurmountable task to you, start in the small. If you’re in charge of the groceries, start tracking how much you spend on them. Start saving a chunk of your paycheck or a tiny slice of the grocery money and track that. Feel empowered as you see the savings grow, week by week, and know that you can take control of your life.
Ask to be included in the finances. If you moved in with your spouse because they had a house, ask to get signed in as a co-owner of the mortgage. Start to pay attention to what comes in and what goes out in terms of income and expenses.
Money is too important to let yourself be ignorant about it.
You can do it, we can do it! Happy women’s day!