When you enter into a marriage, it’s not a surprise that you are choosing to make a lot of joint decisions — especially when it comes to finances. And while that in no way means anyone should feel bad about maintaining some degree of financial independence from their spouse (that’s generally a good thing for everyone!), that doesn’t mean that those aforementioned joint decisions become any less important.
Related story You Might Have Separate Finances From Your Partner That's A Good Thing
One poster in the notorious AITA subreddit had to grapple with the nuances of this when he discovered that his wife of 15 years had a secret account with an extra $30,000 put aside as a “get out” fund — in addition to their shared household expenses account and her own separate account that they both knew about.
“When we got married we decided to get a joint account that most of our paychecks went into. We paid household and shared expenses from that as well as saving for future stuff like a house, car, etc. We also had separate accounts that a percentage of our paycheck went into for us to do our own things like hobbies, friend trips, etc,” the poster wrote. “It worked out pretty well, we made similar money so there wasn’t a huge disparity between what we could do for ourselves.”
He notes that they did make some changes when his wife became a stay-at-home parent for a period of time— and, at the time, he halved the “personal account” portion he’d send to his solo account and split it with her and they navigated the tighter finances until she started to work again.
What he didn’t realize was that his wife continued to contribute the same amount to the joint account that she did prior to them having kids, despite having been promoted and having pay increases meaning there was some money that was unaccounted for in the equation. Meanwhile, he continued to add the same percentage of his paychecks over time.
“I checked her W-2 in our tax return to make sure it wasn’t a withholding thing. My first instinct was payroll error. I went to her and asked to see solo account contributions,” per the poster. “She started getting very defensive which set my alarm bells off. I told her I know how much she should be getting in each paycheck and if it’s not going to our joint account and her solo account then either her employer is underpaying her or she’s hiding money from me. Whatever it is I wasn’t going to ignore or forget about it.”
And then it came out that she had been adding the additional funds to a separate, secret solo account ever since she got back to work, which she later told him was a “get out” fund that her friend encouraged her to build up after going through a bad breakup.
Saying he felt “blindsided” by the revelation — as he’d thought they had a fair agreement about what funds go toward shared household goals VS personal funds — he asked Reddit whether he was the AH in the situation for asking her to move the secret funds to the joint account. His wife, he said, felt that him asking that was why she felt she needed the account in the first place. And while we can never know the full extent of feelings and comfort in someone else’s relationship, he did make the argument that the independent money isn’t the problem it’s the secrecy that led to him ‘overfunding” the joint account by comparison.
“Our agreement was that X percent of our paychecks would go to our personal accounts and 100-X would go to the joint account. My wife is still sending X% of her paycheck to her personal account. Then she is sending Y percent to her secret account. So she has only been funding our joint account at 100-X-Y percent,” the poster explained. “This is why I am asking her to turn over her secret fund. It is made from joint account funds. If it was made from her personal funds I would still have concerns for our relationship but I wouldn’t ask her to turn over the money, since it is only hers.”
Most of the redditers in the thread agreed that having independent funds (and allocating them to needs and wants independently) isn’t the problem, so much as the secrecy and omission as financial circumstances have changed that made one partner contributing a larger percentage of their income for years without knowing about it.
“NTA. It’s ok to have a ‘get out’ fund but that should be composed of funds she’s set aside from the amount/percentage that you each agreed to keep for your personal accounts,” one poster notes. “If you agreed that 80 percent goes into the joint account and you each keep 20 percent, then her get out fund should be money from her 20 percent. To contribute less than the agreed upon 80 percent to the joint account is sh**ty and makes her the AH in this situation.”
Other commenters agreed, adding that if she doesn’t want to reconsider the arrangement/number breakdown for her “get out” fund, he should be allowed to access the funds he’d previously contributed for the same purpose, as “a get out fund is something to be communicated about and is generally in place for SAHP or those who make significantly less than their spouse, so if they had to make it on their own they would have a buffer to build themselves back up and stabilize.”
Which are some really valid points that aren’t dismissive of the need for all parties to have financial comfort and safety.
But the TL;DR solution of it all probably comes from one wise commenter: “Y’all need marriage counseling asap. And that is my vote.”
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