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Joint Accountability
by Asa Butcher
2007-03-15 10:06:24
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When Thanos forwarded me this news story I wondered whether he was making some subtle hint about married life, but then I remembered that Thanos is never subtle. I love these sorts of surveys that have 500 couples represent a few hundred thousand and then make the front page of Finnish news sites. The words ‘slow’ ‘news’ and ‘day’ come to mind, but this time I decided to give it a chance.

The first aspect that struck me was the wording ‘want to have’, which implies that most couples have joint accounts and aspire to having their own bank account. What stops these couples from having separate accounts or do they already have a secret account, which their partner knows nothing about – an emergency fund for a one-way ticket out of the country, perhaps?

Funded by the Academy of Finland and coordinated by the National Consumer Research Centre, the study focused on the daily economics of households, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the 500 surveys were carried out with both couples present. They could hardly reveal that they already have an account in front of their partner because the inevitable question would be ‘Why?’

I am speculating here because in my home my wife and have always had separate accounts, although I did give her signatory permission when I opened my account – she did seem surprised at this though. However, her surprise may have stemmed from being given access to, what we call in England, bugger all. As a freelance journalist I am not yet earning the six-figure sums, so the balance in my account is currently less than my 20-month-old daughter, although she could start paying some rent.

I have maintained that not having lots of money works wonders for my reputation, since her friends know that she didn’t marry me for my money… Money and sex are considered the commonest causes of domestic unrest, especially if you have been caught giving money for sex. I guess this is where the benefit of separate accounts comes into play in the form of keeping a veil over your expenses.

After dividing household bills and expenses you are hopefully/rarely/barely left with some cash to spend on what you wish. However there are moments when DIY inspiration hits and some of your cash is sequestered to improve the look of the home, but this can really upset plans to buy a new DVD box set recently released. In a shared account you can’t lie or defend your money, while individual accounts does make for discussions worthy of parliament.

Each side passionately states their case for wanting the money and each side stubbornly defends their cash, as though it were a limb. Neither side knows exactly how much the other has, yet both sides suspect the other has more than they are letting on – I think women always over-estimate their partner’s balance, while men under-estimate their beloved’s net worth.

No matter how many compromises are offered neither party is ever truly happy which is why you have children. I don’t mean that they can act as mediator, but you can use their little goldmine for urgent purchases, like curtains and Special Edition DVDs…you can always pay it back via pocket money, let your conscience put them through university or just let them draw the designer curtains and watch the film in the dark.

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