This morning, I read an article about women and money. I won’t link it here, but the basic point was “Women usually let the men in their lives take care of the finances, and there are things they should know.” I have to admit, I felt the whole concept was condescending, but at the same time, it’s probably true, especially for a certain generation. While I believe my grandparents share the responsibilities, or at least the information, I’m sure that wasn’t true for their whole lives (they’re in their mid-80’s). I know many of my grandmother’s female friends have no idea about their family finances.
Of course, the idea goes both ways. Frequently in a household, one partner takes care of the bills. It’s probably easier if one person takes control of the financial situation, but control doesn’t mean that they keep all of the knowledge as well. Men and women should both know the basics of their financial situation. What are the bills and how do they arrive and how are they paid? What sort of investments exist and are they for retirement or are they other investments?
Now, especially when you’re young, you don’t want to have to think about the possibility that you or your spouse/partner might die, but that’s not the only reason to be sure everyone knows the financials. What happens if one partner gets sick and lands in the hospital? You don’t want to miss bills because you didn’t know to pay them.
In general, I think that you should know the basics of your financial situation. Maybe one partner decides they want to be willfully ignorant about how much real estate tax they pay. I suppose that’s fine, as long as the other partner ensures the payments are made. I think a good plan is to keep a list of the basic bills – be they monthly, quarterly, yearly, whatever, and approximately how much each one costs. (This is something I do just for budgeting purposes. If I pay $600 in car insurance every six months (I don’t, I just chose $600 for ease of math), then each month, I should set aside $100, so that when the bill comes, I’m ready. ) By keeping this sort of a list, both partners can be aware of the financial responsibilities and have a bit of a cheat sheet if they should ever need it.
In addition, it’s never a bad idea to create a list of all the accounts each partner has – be it credit cards, bank accounts, retirement accounts, or other accounts. It seems like a lot of information, and it is. But it saves a lot of stress should the list ever be needed. And you just hope that it isn’t needed for a good number of years.