When my wife and I started saving for our very first home, we each made an equal contribution. It was our savings plan for our home, partners in our journey together. This arrangement continued until the birth of our first child.
Quite rightly, I took on full responsibility for all household bills until such time as my wife returned to work. She did, but now worked fewer hours and her income was severely reduced. Three children later, and many years down the line, I became the main contributor to the bank account.
However, for a long time my income stagnated and then reduced as overtime vanished. It became hard for me. So over the years I have used the profits from employee investment plans and a modest inheritance from my late parents’ estate to make additional payments toward our mortgage.
When, a few years ago, my wife decided to take early retirement, some money from her small severance pay was again used to reduce the mortgage. She was desperate to leave work even though we couldn’t afford to lose her income.
I could not find it within myself to demand she stay on. Her lump sum contribution did help lessen the effect on our outgoings, but money remained tight.
A while back, I was fortunate to inherit a sizable sum from a wealthy relative. Again I used this money to pay off more of our mortgage and to buy a property which I rent out for additional income. I plan to sell it in years to come to pay for those inevitable care costs.
Bringing things more up-to-date, my wife recently inherited a good deal of money from her late mum’s estate, more than twice the sum I inherited. I suggested using 45 percent of it to reduce our mortgage to an amount I can comfortably pay off over the remaining period.
Her response was shocking: “You want to use ‘my’ money to pay towards the mortgage?”
I told her she should do only what she wanted to do, but that it’s her mortgage too, not my mortgage. I said it has to be fully paid in three years’ time, and we cannot do it with the present payment plan. I reminded her I cannot afford to increase the payments.
I don’t understand. She would still be left with a large sum. Am I being unreasonable? I feel cheap for suggesting it.
Thomas, you can spoil a child by letting them do wh
atever they want without penalty to themselves. You can also spoil a spouse.
You’ve taken on the cost of your wife’s actions, such as reducing her hours and taking early retirement, while your wife has left the burden of the mortgage in your hands alone.
It appears you are living beyond your means, and your wife gets the pleasure of it without suffering the stress, headaches and middle-of-the-night sweats. She is spoiled. Now, like a spoiled child, she is saying, “It’s mine. Mine, mine, mine.”
Why does she want her money separate? To leave you? To draw on as “mad money”? To buy clothes, handbags and shoes? Why does she want her own personal reserves? That’s the question.
Once you realized your companion has the attitude “my money is my money and your money is our money,” action was required.
If the responsibility for the debt is yours, then the decisions about the debt are yours. A good financial counselor can help you determine your priorities.
First, decide if you should relieve yourself of the burden and downsize your lifestyle. Would that be wise? What else might you do?
Once you decide what makes the best financial sense, sh
are your conclusions with your wife. This might lead to a deeper discussion. If we aren’t full partners in the marriage, which includes all the bills, are we still partners in life?
~ Wayne & Tamara
Column for the week of June 22, 2015
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