Changing Family Financial Roles

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Perhaps your parents – most certainly your grandparents – entered into marriage with a clear understanding of what would be the set role of each, husband and wife.  Generally speaking, the wife was to care for the house and the children, while the husband went off to work every day to earn the funds necessary to support home and family.


But the times, they are a changin’.


Most obvious is the fact that many, if not most, married couples today are dual-income .  If there are children, mom or pop will drop the kids off at day-care or school before heading off to work.  Come the evening, the modern husband is expected to do his share of the chores around the home, whether it be washing the dishes or the kids!


However, even if the roles of ‘bread-winner’  and ‘home-maker’ were blurred, there was the vestige of the past in regards to the financial role expectations of husband and wife: it was the man’s job to manage the family finances while it was the woman’s job to make sure she kept family spending within the budget set.  Yet with all the changes we see around us, such clear cut roles might well belong to the black-and-white TV families of the past.


Two societal shifts contributing to this are:


  • More and more women are running businesses and companies; if they can manage multimillion dollar budgets, they can certainly run a household account
  • Men are placing more emphasis on the relational aspect of family than the physical; the modern “successful” father isn’t just someone who pays the bills, but a man who handles the emotional needs of spouse and offspring.


While the individual family has no control over the changes in society that affects it, a couple can prepare themselves for the changing financial roles they confront.


  • It might sound trite, but communication is still extremely important.  A couple needs to understand the role that each will play within the home, bread-winner, home-maker, or a combination of the two.
  • There needs to be agreement.  Once the roles have been discussed and defined, a couple needs to come to agreement as to how the family’s finances will be handled and who will be responsible for what.
  • In a perfect world, once decisions were made and agreements reached, everything would run smoothly and efficiently.  Of course, our world is not perfect so there needs to be flexibility and adaptability.  For example, suppose one of the two were to loose their job, a real possibility in these uncertain times.  Certainly family income would be affected, but there might be a shift in financial management within the home as well
  • Finally, accountability is required.  In the work place, external factors (e.g. the promise of promotion or the threat of dismissal) force accountability and compliance.  Within the home, accountability is the result of personal commitment and trust.  Indeed, an early sign of a marriage’s dissolution is one party spending, without any consideration of the other.


The days are well-past when Ward Cleaver took off to the office every day, leaving June in charge of Wally and the Beaver.  Now-a-days he wouldn’t come home to lock himself in the study to write out the checks to cover the monthly bills.  Nor would June have to come to him asking for an increase in her monthly allowance.  Financial roles within the family have changed.  The question is, have you and your spouse changed with the times?


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