Jun 2, 2010
Where Does the Buck Stop?

Sholom Bayis Blog with Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch. Question #2: We don't always agree on money issues. Who has the final say?

To R' Daniel,

First, yshar koach for this new blog. Many people have problems that are too grave to just shove under the carpet and say 'everything is fine.' Second, my wife and I are regularly at odds about how and on what to spend money. I'm wondering if you can address this topic, and is there one person who should have a final say?

Reply by Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch:

You marry for the purpose of building a bayis neeman, built on love, consideration, and a commitment to Yiddishkeit. Yet there are practical concerns about how to make a living and how to manage your finances that can deeply affect the quality of your marriage.

Before getting married each person's money comes from their family or from their job. Either way, a couple needs to deal with a new partnership. They will have to deal with questions such as who controls their money, and how they make decisions of financial matters.

These questions may sound innocuous, but they're not. Money is more than just the paper it is printed on; it's about power, and utilizing resources in family life.

Some families find financial management easy, while others clearly need some advice. For example, a young couple recently came to speak with me about the fight they were having over how they invested money. The wife began by telling me that her husband had spent a large amount of their money without telling her.

A few months into their marriage, he had told her about a "safe" business investment, which a friend had mentioned. He claimed that they would only have to invest only $2000 to get started, and that they would not have to do too much work to reap results. The wife was hesitant about taking money out of their savings for something they knew so little about. She told him that she wanted to take some time to think about it and decide later. About a week later, when she was updating their checking account, she came across a receipt that showed that he had paid the investment fee for the business, three days earlier. She was furious and distraught that he would do something when they had agreed to wait.

From the husband's perspective, he thought it was a good investment. He felt responsible for their financial future, and was always on the lookout for ways to supplement their income. From her perspective, she felt betrayed and insecure about their financial future.

Eventually, in my office, they were able to discuss each of their fears, concerns and expectations with me, and I suggested they create a plan for how they'd handle financial decisions from that point on. Any time a major purchase was going to involve removing money from their savings account, they needed to discuss it together before making a final decision. If something came up that would take them outside of their budget, they would need to meet together and decide what would be best for both of them.

As this story shows, financial planning is important because many family conflicts revolve around acquiring, keeping, and spending money. Many people make their lives miserable through constant striving for more and more money and material possessions, in an effort to achieve economic security.

Even if you doubt that you'll be making unexpected investments, all families live under some form of economic pressure and tension. In our community, for example, couples tend to delay their professional careers in order to continue their Torah studies or raise their children. Many will face the following questions: Who opens the charge accounts? Who pays the bills? What kind of bank account will be established? Does one have to ask the other for money? Is one accountable to the other?

It will also help to know each other's values (what is important to your spouse), and to understand his or her attitudes about money. As a couple, you need to discuss how money will be spent, and determine who is responsible for your finances. In some homes, one person may be responsible for balancing the checkbook, and purchasing items for the house such as appliances and kitchenware.

In other families, both husband and wife write checks and actually never keep a record of how much money is coming in and how much is going out. So, when talking about how money is managed, you need to be honest about your feelings. If you resent having to ask the other for money, say so. If you think that the "head of the house" has certain responsibilities, say so. To hide such feelings is far more destructive over time than to reveal them.

Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch is a trained marriage and family therapist who maintains a practice in Crown Heights specializing in couples therapy and families with teenagers at risk. Visit JewishMarriageSupport.com or call 646-428-4723.

Sholom Bayis is an advice and anonymous counseling blog on COLlive.com for married Chassidic couples. Questions can be sent to rabbischonbuch@yahoo.com or through as a comment bellow. They will be answered appropriately and anonymously.

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Opinions and Comments
I'm not sure its the solution
I believe each one as different responsabilitd the women if she cook the men shouldn't come and start getting involve and cook its the women departement same with money I believe in general its the men who handle the money (for sur in big decsion like buying a house the wife has to be involved) but in general it the men departement.
Its like on a plan you can't have two pilot driving the plane!
(6/2/2010 7:21:56 PM)
there is no general.....
in a marriage you both need to come to the same conclusion......whether its the man or the woman.......in our household....i( the wife) manages the money.....and i am doing a fine job at it.......
(6/2/2010 7:47:50 PM)
to number one
there is always a co-pilot driving along with the main one
(6/2/2010 8:17:22 PM)
i agree, there is no general
husband and wife should make financial descisions jointly.
(6/2/2010 8:19:19 PM)
To #1
And if the wife works she should just turn her paycheck over to her husband and have to ask for money when she wants to buy something? What world do you live on?? Marriage is a compromise and where mature couples talk about money issues.
(6/2/2010 8:34:34 PM)
Very well stated. I could not agree more.
(6/2/2010 9:08:00 PM)
To number 1
Really? And when the wife is the one bringing in the whole paycheck, working her bottom off and going to school while the husband is unemployed he gets to make all the decisions? A bit like slavery if you ask me.
(6/2/2010 9:58:22 PM)
#1 cant say thats the man thing, it depeds on the man and wife. and that are other big things to buy smaller than a house!!!!! that can cost just U$100 but its cinsidered a big buy. everyhting should be discuss nicely. maybe the one who is incharge of payng the energy bill could be the mans job if he is the tipe
(6/2/2010 11:22:38 PM)
In most cases the best is that both share the decisions, unless one thinks and trusts the other one as the best
(6/2/2010 11:40:31 PM)
Talking about money

This doesn't apply to me as a women since I do work. But I think it may be helpful to give advice to those who don't and who rely on their husband for every penny. Should the primary bread winner give their non working spouse a monthly stipend to cover expenses etc or should she/he be coming to him/her each time that they need it?
(6/3/2010 12:24:41 AM)
Good and simple advice
Talk about stuff before it gets to complicated, talk talk and talk about it so everyone is clear about what's expected of them.
(6/3/2010 12:54:21 AM)
I read this blog and this web site on a regular basis. I wonder why the commentators can not spell or speak proper English. Is it a Crown Heights thing??? It's quite embarrassing. Have those that misspell heard of spell check??? Your message would take on a more serious meaning if you spell correctly.
(6/3/2010 10:16:30 AM)
How about Da'as Torah?
there is a way Torah looks at this; the husband has his job and the wife has hers. he is responsible to bring in the money, she is in charge of the houshold matters, so if he decides on a investment, its his choice. if she wants something, he has to give it to her as it says "you must spend on your wife even if its more than what you have",
or if she feels they need a new table, they should get it, its in her department.

but of course, if the wife is working, its a different story (obviousely she has to be involved in investment decisions and other matters).

and of course discuss things together just like you would with anything else in your life if you want shalom bayis.

the best thing would be is if they had their own departments of what they're in charge of, he the investments, her buying household furniture etc. and they trust each other that they both have the same goal, doing things respectfully and are both considerate about their financial status. they should be discussing it like anything else in their lies, especially if its something big or out of the regular expensss. if things arent discussed, im sure there are other shalom bayis issues!

(this is not my own theory, this came from taking to rabbonim and mashpiam)
(6/3/2010 10:23:55 AM)
agent #41
money makes the world go round
(6/3/2010 12:08:05 PM)
Book for good marriage
Any wife that wants a happy marriage should read the book The Surrenderd Wife and follow it.
(6/4/2010 11:29:50 AM)
split plan
There's not a single answer here for example I'd say to #1 that I'm a husband who cooks as much as my wife so your're explination does't apply.

Personally, since we both work we both contribute to our monthly budget and we have a plan how to spend it and need to keep to that plan. About discretionary spendng and using savings as in this story it's more complicated but simply put if the savings are joint such as wedding money) for him to spend it without concent is pretty bad, she'll feel like she was robbed. If it was his savings from before then she should trust him that if he was wise enough to save the money then he's wise enough to know when to spend it. sometimes a non decision (like the decision to non invest cause you have to wait and think for a long time) is a decision that will have it's own results such as the lack of profit.
(6/6/2010 5:08:30 AM)
We split everything equally: We both ask each other before spending any money (usually), and all decisions are made together. We also split cooking, cleaning, diaper duty, etc. We agreed on this before we got married, by the way. I think a big part of the problem is that couples don't talk about the little things like this prior to the wedding.

BTW, #16, I thought you were my husband, but when I asked him, he didn't remember writing the comment!
(12/19/2012 10:47:09 AM)
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