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Marriage and money: Sharing the load

By Richard Barrington

For Five Cent Nickel

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 8 2013 2:50 p.m. MDT

In general it is healthier for your finances — and your marriage — if both spouses take the attitude that they are in this thing together.

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Editor's note: This article originally ran on the personal finance website Five Cent Nickel. It has been reprinted here with permission.

Over the past 30 years, I’ve had ample opportunity to see how married couples handle their finances. Some do a better job than others, but in general it is healthier for those finances — and the marriage itself — if both spouses take the attitude that they are in this thing together.

That may seem obvious, but what often drives a wedge between husband and wife when it comes to finances is that one of them assumes full control of that aspect of the household so it is more of a solo act than a team effort. This may be because one spouse earns more than the other, is more comfortable with financial matters, or is simply more bossy. The problem is, both spouses have their lives invested in the results, and both can do a great deal to influence those results.

That’s not to say that specific tasks can’t be divvied up. There should be clear responsibilities as to who pays the bills, who balances the checkbook, etc. Often things get done most efficiently in a marriage by a division of labor according to each person’s talents and inclinations.

Division of labor has worked well in my marriage — there are a couple of things I’m good at, and my wife is good at everything else, so it all works out. However, while specific financial tasks may be assigned to one person or another, it is important that there be enough communication on how things are going, and collaboration on key decisions, for both husband and wife to feel fully engaged in and responsible for the process.

Here are six reasons why shared financial responsibility is essential for a marriage:

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