Black Hills Woman Magazine | Financial Power

Financial Power
by Kathleen Fox

Well, sort of. Like most labels, this one contains some truth but certainly not the whole truth. It might be more accurate to say, “Money is one of the tools we use to try to gain and hold on to power.”

Maybe, once upon a time, money—and the power that came with it—was mostly a man’s world. Women were bank tellers, not bank presidents. Most husbands were primary breadwinners. Most wives had household allowances, not investment accounts.

Today’s world, with two-career families the norm and roles for both women and men are more flexible, is very different in many ways. Yet one thing hasn’t changed much for couples: the role money plays in their relationship depends less on who earns it or spends it than it does on how well they work as partners.

Even back when it was the norm for him to bring home the paycheck and her to do the housekeeping, I suspect most couples in strong marriages still managed the money together. If they respected each other and saw themselves as a team, they shared that power and the responsibility that went with it.

In the same way, today’s couples who have a strong financial partnership see money as a joint asset. It doesn’t matter how much they make or who earns more. It doesn’t matter whether they manage their earnings separately or dump everything into shared accounts. What does matter is that they work together.

When couples have power struggles instead of partnerships, money can easily become one of the weapons they use against each other. They may fight about details like who should have paid the electric bill or who used the credit card for a new toy without consulting the other. But those aren’t the real problems. The difficulties are more about power than money.

Signs that a couple may be tangled up in a financial struggle for power:

  • One partner makes most of the financial decisions because the other “isn’t good with money.”
  • One allows the other to make financial decisions, then either resents it and/or is quick to blame if things don’t turn out well.
  • Either or both assume the one who earns more money gets more say in how to spend it.
  • Either or both keep money secrets from each other: separate accounts, hidden purchases, unrevealed income, secret debts.
  • Either or both believe “I have the right to do whatever I want with the money I earn.”
  • They often manipulate, lie, or fight about money.

Signs that a couple has strong financial partnership:

  • Each one knows what the other earns and what the household expenses are.
  • They have a spending plan, which they created together and they both follow.
  • Both partners know how much debt they have, jointly and individually. (Bonus points if they have a plan to pay it off.)
  • They tell each other the truth about money—mistakes and all.
  • Each has some sort of separate personal allowance to spend however they wish.
  • They make all big financial decisions together.
  • Both partners know where joint and separate assets like retirement accounts are held, how to access them, and how much is in them.
  • When they disagree about money, they can negotiate as equals.
  • They trust each other around money.

For couples who are financial partners, money is more about choices and responsibility than it is about who has more control. They understand that money doesn’t equal power. But when they use it together to create and enjoy the life they both want, money can be a powerful tool. BHW

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