My wife and I have been married for six and a half years. I bring home about $54,000 per year after taxes as a public-school teacher and she earns about $28,000 per year at her hourly job. We have no children and do not plan on having any.
We have lived together for about nine years and had always kept our bills and bank accounts separate until I became a teacher, and we moved to a more expensive area of the state.
I pay the rent and utilities for our apartment, TV streaming services, and renters’ insurance as well as vehicle insurance for both of our vehicles, both of which have notes.
She pays for our phones and internet, and sets aside $600 a month ($500 for a portion of the rent and $100 for a portion of the insurance) in a savings account.
Yearly, I pay about $20,000 for expenses: $16,000 for rent, $2,400 for insurance and $1,200 for various streaming services.
‘She doesn’t think it is fair that our tax bill comes out of the savings account when she is the “only one” putting money into it.’
She contributes $7,200 to our savings per year; about $3,000 of that is used every April 15 to pay Uncle Sam — and this is where things get touchy.
She doesn’t think it is fair that our tax bill comes out of the savings account when she is the “only one” putting money into it.
Strictly speaking, she is right; she is usually the only one who puts money aside each month into our savings. My extra income each month goes toward my groceries and whatever I want to splurge on (either for myself, her, or us), given that we are lucky enough to have disposable income because of our #NoKidsLife.
But is it fair for her to become upset about that when she contributes only about one-third of what I do?
How should we go about this conversation going forward?
You earn nearly twice what your wife earns, and you have found a way to balance the payments in a way that is fair to you both — you pay $20,000 of your expenses — if not split forensically in accordance with your salaries.
The confusion arises over the $7,200 she pays toward rent and home insurance, which you agree you can afford to put in a joint savings account. Of that, $3,000 is used for your income taxes.
You could turn it around and call this an expense account instead of a savings account. In that case, only $3,000 per month is used for expenses and, as a result, you manage to put 58% toward your joint savings. It’s a win-win.
However, it’s important to look at your disposable income, and take your wife’s more modest income into account when spending money. If you have money to spend on yourself, and your wife is struggling, that’s a problem.
She earns 34% of what you make. Her contributions make up slightly more of your total expenditure: 36% of what you pay every month. It doesn’t have to be an exact match, especially given that you pay more in dollars.
But for your wife to believe that you have a household budget that serves both of you, she may need to feel that she has enough money left over to treat herself once in a while too. The stuff we get to do after the bills are paid is important.
In the meantime, your wife has perhaps put you on notice of a bigger issue regarding your joint tax return. This could be just the nudge you need to adjust your withholding so your return is as close to zero as possible.
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