Who Controls the Purse Strings?

Once upon a time (back during our parents' and grandparents' generations), it was typically standard procedure that the husband handled most, if not all, of the money matters. He was the 'breadwinner,' and much more often than not the wife stayed at home to take care of the household. When it was time to pay bills, the husband was responsible for the performance of this task. If a budget was in place, the wife would be given an allotment with which to see to the needs of the house and family. Certainly, there were some households in which the woman was basically handed the paycheck, along with the responsibilities of actually preparing the budget and making the bill payments, but even then the husband probably held the ultimate purse strings. As archaic as such notions may currently seem, they're fairly accurate depictions of how family finances were operated not too terribly long ago. Indeed, there are likely still many older couples that continue to subscribe to this fundamental 'division of responsibilities.'

Of course, in the modern household there has been a marked shift in general attitudes as well as responsibilities, and today's woman typically participates equally in the handling of family finances. Even in relationships in which the husband still handles a greater bulk of the daily financial matters, there's usually a much more open and free channel of communication and consultation between the two when money decisions are made.

During the time of the 'baby boomers,' women began to leave the homemaker role in greater numbers and assert themselves alongside men in the business world. It therefore stood to reason that since they too were earning a paycheck, they would rightfully insist on greater involvement in the planning and use of their households' finances. That movement continues, with more women in the today's workforce than ever before; and this – at least as much of necessity as of any convention – due to the average family's overwhelming need for more than one income in order to survive in relative comfort.

With these greater numbers and larger degree of self-determination in the business world has also come an overall financial empowerment for women, giving them a more forceful voice not only in everyday household affairs, but also toward investing and preparation for retirement. While there doubtless are still some women that prefer to allow their husbands to handle the financial aspects of their marriage, it's safe to say that this has gravitated from being the rule to the exception.

So, who should handle the household finances? Well, this is an especially important question for those contemplating marriage, and its resolution may go a long way in reducing any future problems where money is concerned. The method of handling the finances (however it's chosen to be accomplished) should be established early on so that responsibilities and expectations are clear, and communication must be maintained so that both parties can remain on the 'same page' and work together for the family's ultimate good. Certainly, both women and men are capable of 'handling the money,' but the best outcomes are usually obtained when it's made a joint venture.

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