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Single Income or SWR With Significant Other?
Old 01-30-2017, 03:25 PM   #1
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Single Income or SWR With Significant Other?

For those of you married who were the sole bread winner, how did you manage an allowance for your spouse? Either while working, or even through retirement?
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Old 01-30-2017, 03:34 PM   #2
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I was the only one that worked for pay. We resolved the allowance thing early on when she agreed to let me set aside a little for myself each month.
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Old 01-30-2017, 03:38 PM   #3
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There's no "allowance" in the formal sense of the term. Usually a purchase of ~$100 or more gets at least a mention to the other so each has a rough idea of the other's planned spending. We also keep a spreadsheet with our income and estimated expenses for the month and that gives us an accurate number of what is left of the discretionary money and when that limit is reached spending stops. Taking money out of savings for non-essentials is very rare and is always discussed.

Some months she spends more, some months I spend more. We don't track who spent how much on what. Somehow it works for us.
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Old 01-30-2017, 03:40 PM   #4
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I was the only one that worked for pay. We resolved the allowance thing early on when she agreed to let me set aside a little for myself each month.
+1 "George and Jane Jetson" method.

It's our money. Spending control has been very informal, with big purchases always being discussed.
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Old 01-30-2017, 03:42 PM   #5
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I was the only one that worked for pay. We resolved the allowance thing early on when she agreed to let me set aside a little for myself each month.
+2
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Old 01-30-2017, 03:46 PM   #6
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My first bit of advice is find another term other than "allowance". That has a very negative connotation, at least it does in our relationship.

Many years ago, DW and I worked out a division of financial responsibility which sounds far better than an allowance. She was to be responsible for purchasing groceries, household supplies, her clothing, etc., while I pay for everything else. We determined what we both agreed was a reasonable monthly amount for those items - and I agreed to roughly double it. This provides her with a lot of wiggle room to spoil the grandkids and go on an occasional shopping spree without me having an anxiety attack.

Her monthly amount has increased annually by the same percentage as SS and it has worked out reasonably well. YMMV...
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Old 01-30-2017, 03:51 PM   #7
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I was the only one that worked for pay. We resolved the allowance thing early on when she agreed to let me set aside a little for myself each month.
<rimshot!>
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Old 01-30-2017, 03:51 PM   #8
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For those of you married who were the sole bread winner, how did you manage an allowance for your spouse? Either while working, or even through retirement?
As you pointed out, the problem can exist either before or after ER.

Different couples handle this different ways. I was never able to deal with an allowance system when I was married (no matter which of us was working or which got the allowance). We had a rule that neither of us could spend more than $X on something without consulting the other. That helped. But still, the bank account and credit cards shrank to nothing from all the little expenditures.

Now that I am divorced from my ex, I won't marry or mix my money with Frank. He doesn't want to, either. This works really well for both of us since neither of us ever figured out any solution to the problems that arise when sharing mixed money.
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Old 01-30-2017, 03:58 PM   #9
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On bogleheads, this is a recurring "little endian" v. "big endian" (in the original sense) topic that often gets heated. Agree with W2R that people handle it different ways. As long as you discuss and are on the same page, do what works for the two of you.

FWIW, DW was essentially the only wage earner for 15 years. Among other things, I was the family investor/bookkeeper. Our "approach" was the same when I've been earning a good amount as a lawyer as when I was a SAHD--we have one checking account, various shared credit cards, and we each spend as we wish. "Big" purchases other than groceries or necessary repairs are generally discussed, at least in passing. (Big ~ more than a couple hundred dollars or so, or even just a small thing that is out of the ordinary.)

Helps that we are the same type of relatively low spenders.
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Old 01-30-2017, 03:59 PM   #10
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As you pointed out, the problem can exist either before or after ER.

Different couples handle this different ways. I was never able to deal with an allowance system when I was married (no matter which of us was working or which got the allowance). We had a rule that neither of us could spend more than $X on something without consulting the other. That helped. But still, the bank account and credit cards shrank to nothing from all the little expenditures.

Now that I am divorced from my ex, I won't marry or mix my money with Frank. He doesn't want to, either. This works really well for both of us since neither of us ever figured out any solution to the problems that arise when sharing mixed money.
Glad you found a system that works for you!
For my DW and I, this has never been an issue - we pooled everything we had from the start and worked out of joint bank and credit accounts. We have always had very similar spending philosophies (somewhere between "LBYM" and "cheap" ) so we have never once had an argument about money (I know this is rare, but 100% true in our case) in 30+ years
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Old 01-30-2017, 04:16 PM   #11
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The DW and I get some "mad money" every month that neither of us are accountable to the other for. Other then that we work the budget.
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Old 01-30-2017, 04:18 PM   #12
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I was the only one that worked for pay. We resolved the allowance thing early on when she agreed to let me set aside a little for myself each month.
+3
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Old 01-30-2017, 04:23 PM   #13
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I was the only one that worked for pay. We resolved the allowance thing early on when she agreed to let me set aside a little for myself each month.
^ something like that
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Old 01-30-2017, 04:39 PM   #14
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I only cared we maxed out retirement accounts. Beyond that I was fine with a minority vote.
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Old 01-30-2017, 04:40 PM   #15
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In general she spends whatever she wants, I just want to know what it is so I can enter on Quicken. Allowance implies limit; never had that, even in earlier leaner times. Anything more than a couple a hundred gets discussed. She is totally oblivious to the accounting of it all, I could spend $20k on something and unless she noticed the item she'd never have a clue. I always fess up for things like a new camera though cause I just wouldn't want to appear dishonest. Money ceased being an issue for us as a couple a long time ago.

For us big stuff is generally travel and that is discussed as joint issue. Cars, same thing. Anything else implies....well, STUFF, and I think we both think we don't need any more STUFF. IIRC George Carlin had a bit about accumulating s__t until you were about 40, then your interest was getting rid of s__t. Spot on.
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Old 01-30-2017, 04:48 PM   #16
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Early in our marriage, we agreed that mama would raise kids and be a domestic Godess. We were both opposed to the concept of daycare or later latch-key kids. My career was road warrior-ish, so someone needed to be the anchor of a stable family.

Anyhoo, I owned getting income, buying everything, and investing. But, she got 10% of whatever my take home pay was (and we plowed ~20% of our income into 401K, so take home pay was ~50% of gross).

But, a caveat. My much better half is a super saver. We are retiring this year, and since she spent only a very small portion of that 10%, she has tens of thousands in cash that equate to the cash portion of our portfolio.

Allowance, stipend, ransom, bail-bond; they're just words. Come up (jointly) with a sensible plan and work your goals and chase your dreams.
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Old 01-30-2017, 04:50 PM   #17
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Also - in retirement, she's getting a haircut! 10% goes to 5%, as we agreed.
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Old 01-30-2017, 05:55 PM   #18
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Separate checking accounts for us. At age 49, DH resigned from his job. It took me a year to realize he was ER although not FI. It didn't take long for him to burn through his savings account. I didn't want him to touch his 401K and IRA, so I began transferring a regular amount to his checking every month, sometimes extra for December, travels, special occasions. He never complains about money, so I guess it works out ok.
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Old 01-30-2017, 06:03 PM   #19
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In general she spends whatever she wants, I just want to know what it is so I can enter on Quicken. Allowance implies limit; never had that, even in earlier leaner times. Anything more than a couple a hundred gets discussed. She is totally oblivious to the accounting of it all, I could spend $20k on something and unless she noticed the item she'd never have a clue. I always fess up for things like a new camera though cause I just wouldn't want to appear dishonest. Money ceased being an issue for us as a couple a long time ago.

For us big stuff is generally travel and that is discussed as joint issue. Cars, same thing. Anything else implies....well, STUFF, and I think we both think we don't need any more STUFF. IIRC George Carlin had a bit about accumulating s__t until you were about 40, then your interest was getting rid of s__t. Spot on.
+1 Never had an allowance and our finances were commingled from early on but it was easy because neither of us had a pot to pi$$ in when we were first married. Back in the day, anything over $100 of spending would be discussed... now it is more like $500. I track everything in Quicken and ask questions about whether charges are legit or not and what they are for. I will occasionally grumble if I think she is spending too much but that's about it... not an issue for us.
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Old 01-30-2017, 06:06 PM   #20
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+1 Never had an allowance and our finances were commingled from early on but it was easy because neither of us had a pot to pi$$ in when we were first married. ....
+1. I think this helped us as well. (Although the steadily increasing size of our "pots" sure didn't hurt either.)
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