Mr Jike recently got a promotion in his work place, a reward that comes with a status car, housing allowance and off course a salary increase. As expected, the first person he called to share his joy with was his wife telling her everything except the actual salary. She is not to know how much he earns even though he demands to know hers. Even the allowances he is entitled to as well as his retirement benefits he also does not disclose to her. He explains, this is to maintain “world peace”. “The less women know about your earnings, the longer the marriage will last”. This is Africa my brother, women don’t know how to manage money,” he asserts. Whilst he surely believed in being discrete about his money, he had a more compelling reason to strengthen that belief. His promiscuity had resulted in him transferring money abroad to cater for a child he had outside wedlock.
Mrs. Peters is a head of a unit in a multinational corporation and earns an eight-figure salary. Unbeknownst to her hubby, she maintains a separate account from her salary account. Once her salary is paid she transfers half into her concealed account, which she uses for investments in stocks, money market and occasionally buy jewelry. She believes in financial independence for women, which off course does not exclude being discrete with what she earns. She has kept to this principle from the very start of their marriage and wasn’t about to change it, well, that is until now. The family is applying for a visa and as is mostly required they would both have to include their pay slips and bank statements. To make matters worse, her husband is in charge of putting together the documents they needed to file for the application.
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Deciding whether it is right to disclose your personal income can be a very subjective and divisive matter for most people. In fact, most find disclosing their income to their spouse very untenable and consider it a sign of weakness. Whilst the reason for this stubborn trait can be attributed to a combination of traditional beliefs and egotistical inclinations, one can’t exclude surreptitious motives as well. In hindsight however as is often the case, the obstinacy can be regrettable when misfortune beckons. Discussing your income with your spouse shouldn’t always be thought us as a sign of weakness. Research on personal finance has shown that couples fair better during tough times when they have a history of sharing honest information about their incomes.
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Finance experts advise that the advantages of disclosing your income to your spouse is increasingly relevant to the survival of families during harsh economic times. Despite the sensitivity of the issue, one can’t rule out the mutual benefits this can bring on the long run. One of such is in the event of an emergency. We hear stories everyday of people dropping into coma due to a cardiac arrest or diseases that do not give apparent warning signs before they strike. In such circumstances, the victim is in no position to tell the other half his or her net worth or how to access an undisclosed account. Nigeria today has over N52billion in unclaimed dividends most of which belong to people who have long been dead without living requisite information about their investments and instruction of how to access and utilize it.
Managing expenses is also an integral part of family finance and for this budgeting has to be a major reason for disclosing each other’s income. Experts also advice that at the beginning of every month a budget is drawn up detailing how much needs to be spent and on what. Couples must set family goals at the beginning of every year and review them periodically. Goals can be moving to a new house, going on vacation, investing in a stock etc. It is easier to judiciously spend money on important items when goals are set. For example, a hubby can be planning a family vacation when indeed his wife prefers that the money be used to renovate her kitchen.
Educating your spouse about handling finances is also important. Some refuse to do this because they erroneously believe their spouse just do not understand the basics of handling money. Even if this is so, it is the more reason why they should be educated about handling money. For example, an entrepreneur who had plans to build a multimillion Naira business should consider involving their spouse from inception. Even if issues like the day to day running of the firm may not be necessary to reveal, other issues that bother on ownership (shareholding structure), board composition, bank accounts may be disclosed and explained to their spouse from time to time.
Your spouse must be seen not just as a partner in raising a family but also as a financial partner. Knowing what he or she earns is crucial to their economic standing as a family unit in the society.