By: DR FRANK NJENGA
My wife and I have several bank accounts and none is jointly owned. Recently, she suggested we merge all of them.
I have heard negative stories of joint accounts and would not want to get there. Though we trust each other, you never know with money. How do I tell her about my fears?
Your wife has suggested that rather than run many separate bank accounts, it would, in her view, be better for you to run a smaller number of joint accounts.
Rather than tell her about your fears, you might be better off finding out why the new arrangement might be superior to your current one.
If you live in Uganda and she in Malawi, it might make sense for you to have separate accounts. But now that you have retired and are back home she might want to cut costs by reducing the number of accounts.
On the other extreme, her employer might have objected to her holding bank accounts that may have been deemed to be in conflict with her employment; now that she has changed jobs, that reason is no longer valid.
Perhaps she went to a seminar and heard fellow women talk about the merits of families planning together and her suggestion is only one of a raft of ideas that are intended to enable your family become better and that there are no ill motives.
WE DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH INFORMATION
We do not have enough information to give you a definitive answer but we can address other aspects of your question that bother you.
Why has she brought up the matter now? Is it because in her view your relationship has become stronger and more stable so she feels able to bring up topics she might have feared in the past? Is it possible that the opposite is the case – that she is so insecure that she feels the need to know exactly what you do with your money?
It is also possible that she has noticed that you are not managing your account well. Is it possible that you are always broke and you keep asking her for “small loans” that you never pay back?
How about a change in spending habits – are you spending more on outings and drinks recently? How about your new habit of going on business trips that are short on details and substance?
It could be that in the past the arrangement has been that you pay the mortgage and she pays the school fees and the car loan. In the past six months she might have seen letters from the bank demanding that you pay arrears on the mortgage.
Perhaps she is seeking a gentle way of showing you that she cares and would like to be part of both the problem and the solution, After all you tell us that you care for each other.
There are many reasons that could have led your wife to suggest this new arrangement in the management of your finances. A few months ago, we saw a man who had an interesting way of managing his finances, which had worked for him for many years.
At the end of every month, he came home with the payslip and gave it to his wife who was a stay-at-home mom. She was in charge of financial planning for the family and with her husband’s concurrence, she planned the use of the salary in great detail. She kept a detailed budget of every expenditure for the month on a daily basis to ensure that the money did not run out.
One of the items on the budget was the man’s allowance for drinks. He could not drink today that which was budgeted for tomorrow. For many years all was as planned.
When she got her second baby and went into post-natal depression, the system broke down. The man was now in charge of an aspect of family life in which he had no skill. He spent money the family did not have, on things they did not need. When we saw him he was spending most of his salary on alcohol.
The wife was treated and got better and happily the system is back on track. Each family develops its own system of managing its resources. Yours has been by way of many banks accounts, a system that your wife now wants to review.
If your relationship is as good as you say it is, then talk to her and her plans might be better than any you thought possible.