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The Moneyist: ‘I resent having to ask for money for living expenses’: My husband of one year pays half my mortgage — but not utilities

Dear Quentin,

My husband and I have been married for a year, but have been together for over seven years. We’re in our late 50’s, early 60’s, and we each own a small business. 

Neither one of us makes a ton of money, but we’re happy to help the other out when times have been tough. (Think coronavirus.) The house and all utilities are in my name, and are set up for autopay through my checking account. I also buy the majority of the groceries.

He has never balked at my asking him for money to help. We have never had a system to split expenses. He feels that unless I specifically ask for money, then I must not have any need for additional funds. He goes on about his life and doesn’t give it a thought.

After two or three months with only getting an auto check from him for half the monthly mortgage, I think it’s not my job to remind him that the utilities don’t get paid by themselves. I resent having to ask for money for living expenses. Do I have to take on that job too?

I can’t imagine living in his house and not keeping up with my share of the expenses. For me, it’s the principle of the matter. He’s a wonderful man and I love him dearly. I would love to be able to take this issue off the table for good.

Is this issue always mine to deal with?

Wondering Wife

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Dear Wondering,

People will fly by the seat of their pants, if you allow them.

You and your husband are setting yourselves up for failure by making decisions about your household budget depending on which way the wind blows. Discussions about housing, utilities, whether or not to have a joint account and even grocery shopping should be made before you move in together. Waiting for your husband is as unproductive as it is for your husband waiting to be asked to pay. He may think, ‘I’m paying half of her mortgage. Why should I pay utilities too?”

Set up a joint account for your groceries and utilities, and each put in a certain amount every month. Have you ever gone on vacation with friends and each put $200 into a jar to pay for common expenses? Well, you’re doing pretty much the same thing here. Obviously, you should never pay your mortgage out of a joint account with your husband or accept money to pay for renovations to your home. Otherwise, you will commingle that asset. 

On that last point, be aware that your house appreciation may also be considered community property. Regal Law & Mediation outlines the law in California: “Separate property is property you owned before marriage including any inheritances or gifts you received during the marriage. Separate property is not subject to distribution in divorce, however, the appreciation of separate property which occurs during the marriage is considered community property.”

The lesson: No. 1: Don’t be a mind reader. No. 2: Put everything down on paper before you marry. If you decide against a prenuptial agreement, outline your respective financial obligations on a noticeboard in the kitchen. No. 3: At the risk of sounding like Mike Brady, people will coast if you treat them like a coaster, and the more annoyed you become with yourself for allowing such a situation to continue, the more annoyed you will be with your husband! In that case, no one wins. 

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Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

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