Don’t be Financially Dependent on a Man: Why Women Should Have Their Own Money

Why Women Should Have Their Own Money

This is a more emotionally charged post today, I admit that after I told my husband what I saw at the check out line, I was tearful.

I don’t want to be financially dependent on a man.

I was doing my usual evening after-the-kids-are-asleep grocery store run at No Frills, and was in the check-out line.  I hear the words:

“you dumb b*tch”

and more words in a non-English language behind me.

I heard it again “you dumb b*tch”.  I heard sort of more English “you think you’re so smart, huh” mixed with the other language.

I see two young girls (probably around 5 and 3) with their mother (the words were directed at her).  She was standing tall and just looked at her husband, did not smile or say a word, and she walked away to look at toothbrushes with her daughters while he waited in line.  She, unlike her husband, did not have English fluency.  He looked like he was the one with the power in the relationship.

I know that I have no idea what went on, maybe she did something that really upset him, I don’t know.  Maybe it was unprovoked and he just talks to her like that all the time to exert his dominance and make himself feel more powerful.

All I know is that I don’t often hear domestic disputes in public, and when I do, I can’t help but think that it probably is much worse at home, behind closed doors….Does he hit her?  Does he verbally abuse her all the time?  Does he call her stupid like how my dad used to call my mom that when they would argue?

He wasn’t just rude to his wife, he was also rude to the cashier.

As I was bagging up my groceries, his groceries sort of merged with the woman’s in front of him because she bought a lot of groceries and wasn’t finished bagging them up.

He then said to the female cashier “Did you see what you just did right there?  You messed up my groceries.  Do you even pay attention to your job?  Can you pay more attention next time and do your job properly?”

We all looked at each other.  The cashier, the other shopper in front of him, and myself.  Without any words spoken, you could tell we were all afraid of him.  I was afraid to say anything to him and make eye contact with him.

WHy I Want Control Of My Own Money

This is why I want control of my own money and why I don’t want to be financially dependent on a man.  This is why I would not feel comfortable being a SAHM (stay at home mom) without my own savings, investments, passive income, and retirement money.

The Motherhood Penalty is already strong enough.

This is why I want joint and separate finances, and why I feel comfortable with separate finances even though my partner makes more than I do.  This is why I want to keep working, even if it is in a part time capacityMoney, in a way, is self-esteem.

According to a  International Social Survey Programme: “Employed women raised by working mothers were 1.29 times more likely to supervise others at work, spent roughly 44 additional minutes at their jobs and reported significantly higher annual incomes, according to the data.”

Money is power, and because women do much more of the emotional labour, the household management labour, household finances labour, and child rearing labour and don’t get recognized by society for this invisible non-monetarily tied labour, men typically have the power in the relationship if they are the ones working.

Related: 6 Musings of an Overwhelmed Working Mom

I don’t want to ask my husband if I can buy a pair of shoes that I want from our joint budget.  I don’t want to feel even more guilt than I do already as a mom, for spending money from our family account on a pair of shoes for myself, even if it’s money from Child Tax Benefit payments.

Money is Freedom

Money gives you financial independence, and pursuing financial independence is even more important for women.  As women, we sacrifice a lot especially as we go into motherhood.  You sacrifice your body, your time, your self identify, and your ability to work. Child rearing and parenting, is a lot of work (this is an understatement) and often falls on the female parent.

Many women end up taking reduced workloads (part-time, or even becoming a stay at home parent) because of this.  Either by choice or because daycare is too expensive.  Even with daycare and both parents working full-time, women usually ends up taking more of ‘the load’ of unpaid labour of household management.

  • Emotional labour- Planning vacations, make sure your child is registered for toddler swim classes when the registration opens and not a minute later because the spots will be full, making sure your toddler has the proper shoe sizes and all the hand-me downs are all sorted.
  • Organizing play dates or socialization with other children
  • Pick up and drop offs from school or daycare or extracurricular activities
  • Meal planning, cooking, grocery shopping, washing dishes
  • Laundry, cleaning the home
  • etc. etc.

None of this work is typically recognized by society as ‘useful work’ because it is not paid work, yet it is so important.

Get Involved With the Finances

This is why it is important to get involved with the family finances, even if it seems foreign and not interesting to you right now.

According to CNBC, 58% of women leave the financial decisions for the family (e.g. investing) to their spouses.  I’m not sure why this number is high, maybe it is because after all the emotional labour, the meal preparing, laundry, and household management, there is little time or energy to be involved with the family finances.

Make it a regular thing where you talk about where the money is invested, where the investments are at and how they are performing.  Better yet, invest your own money separate from the family finances and you will feel empowered because you realize you can do it, and it’s not that scary or hard to DIY invest.

If you don’t want to be involved with the finances or your husband doesn’t let you, get your own bank account.  The mom of one of my colleagues who went through a bitter divorce told her to always have her own bank account separate from the husband.  It can be secret if need be.  She was appreciative and happy (unfortunately) that she heeded to this parental advice.

Related: End of Life Planning Checklist in Canada

Don’t depend on a man for money

This is why I don’t want to ever be financially dependent on a man, and I want to raise my daughter to be strong and independent, and for her not be financially dependent on a man.

I want her to choose a good man who will respect her as a woman, and not see her as his emotional punching bag, or see her as his property where he can verbally abuse her at his whim at a check out line at No Frills.

Maybe I am more sensitive to this now that I have a daughter.  It’s funny that I want this for my own daughter, as my mom herself never really pushed us to choose financially lucrative careers.

I hope that woman I saw at the checkout line is doing okay.

How was the power dynamics between your parents? 

Were they both working when you were growing up?

If you are a SAHP (Stay at Home Parent) how do you keep the money-power-relationship balanced?

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39 thoughts on “Don’t be Financially Dependent on a Man: Why Women Should Have Their Own Money”

  1. My mom quit work after I was born. She worked for 5 years (the early 1960s for proper perspective) after my older brother was born and was criticized by her father-in-law for doing so. Mothers were not supposed to work, according to him. Ironically, she had to work as my Dad was working at that same father-in-law’s gas station making chump change and getting 1 day off per month.

    My Dad’s financial success came years later and yes by then my Mom was financially dependent on him. But my Dad used to joke that she had an unlimited expense account and that she always exceeded it. It was truly a joke, my mother was as frugal as they come. Tom

    • “Does he call her stupid like how my dad used to call my mom that when they would argue?”
      should be
      Does he call her stupid like how my dad used to call my mom when they would argue?
      “Without any words spoken, you could tell we were all afraid of him. I was afraid to say anything to him and make eye contact with him.”
      Well he was partially correct – perhaps the cashier could have made sure the two groups of groceries didn’t intermingle but we all know No Frills can be hectic and it should also fall on the customer to keep track of their own groceries. His attitude was another matter. That was rock bottom as you pointed out.
      Assertiveness is important. Its the lack of assertiveness from people around bullies that often enables their behaviour. You were surrounded by people. Its rather unlikely he would erupt in violence if you had pointed out that he was being rude. If a woman there had raised her voice at him putting him in his place I bet the whole line would have cheered – including the men! By saying nothing he gets no feedback. But let’s also keep in mind what he said to the cashier. It wasn’t exactly demoralizing. It was actually quite civil.
      “Did you see what you just did right there? You messed up my groceries. Do you even pay attention to your job? Can you pay more attention next time and do your job properly?”
      Though maybe his tone of voice was very condescending and derisive.
      The problem with this guy is not with the cashier but with his wife. But as you aptly said, if he talks like that in public, imagine how he acts behind closed doors. This is where people need to unobtrusively give their business card for counselling and rescue services to women like that so they can extricate themselves with their children from deplorable men like that. And when the man comes back to a barren house week after week it might instill in him the necessity for change and reunification can occur. But in reality, men that have grown up in a totally male dominated society with no thoughts for a women’s feelings from birth to death, (well I’m sure they’re stupendous for a while courting the woman for marriage)….its really hard to get them to change. They will usually latch on to some other needy woman and domineer them into eternity. This is so common in Islamic households and so rarely talked about. Imagine if your church thought it just fine for a man to kill his wife if she bent some religious dogmatic tradition. Yet that happens in the Muslim faith. This is the type of society they come from. Where if you’re not Muslim you can be executed. Of course the level of this madness varies between countries but there are several that are about as extreme as one could imagine. In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a few decades ago there was a place in the center of the city where executions/beheadings occurred every Friday evening. Many of those were not for murder but for sexual aberrations and things that we wouldn’t even blink at. Every week! It was a social gathering! What kind of moral degenerates come to watch people die? That’s the society many of these people grew up in. Just today the leader of the UAE is profiled on Yahoo Finance. The article details his overeaching power, his multiple wives (5 or 6) housed in separate mansions, imprisoned there with no possibility of any freedom at all. He’s got about 25 children and some haven’t been seen in a decade. That’s the power these people have and that’s in the UAE, considered one of the more liberal Muslim countries!

      So when someone comes here in their 30’s or 40’s do you really think they will change and adopt our values? They’re supported in their own mosque by others from similar backgrounds.

      You don’t mention the nationality of this guy in the line but I’d make a high bet he was from a middle eastern, Islamic country. Was she wearing a head covering, did he have the Islamic style of beard with no moustache, did he have an Arabic accent? I kind of doubt he was from France!
      “This is why I want control of my own money and why I don’t want to be financially dependent on a man. This is why I would not feel comfortable being a SAHM (stay at home mom) without my own savings, investments, passive income, and retirement money.”
      That should not be the reason. You should be in control of your finances and be self supporting because your husband could die tomorrow. Or you could die tomorrow. Anything can happen when we drive on streets packed with distracted drivers texting each other. Each partner should be self supporting. Its just responsible to the children. Not every couple has a childless brother or sister dying to take care of children if something ever happened to the parents. Its a real problem when 1 person does everything in any area. If one dies the other is lost. We should learn from each other and divide responsibilities according to abilities. In most cultures its actually the women that manage the family’s finances. The guy’s out at work all day consumed with employment responsibilities and she’s got more time to reflect and oversee and look at the bigger picture. But if she dies he will be lost if he delegates everything to her.
      “I don’t want to ask my husband if I can buy a pair of shoes that I want from our joint budget.”
      I would think this frees the husband to think on more important things that shoes. This should be embraced by couples today. Its good to be financially separate. Its had enough managing our own lives!
      You mention emotional labour of a woman far exceeding the man’s expenditure in this area. This is so true and that term is so appropriate. Controlling children peacefully demands so much negotiation and patience. Its very taxing over even a short period of time, even if they are your little angels. Those angels can be rather unruly at times and must be reigned in for their own good otherwise the home will be a tornado of disarray. But reigning in by sheer force doesn’t work long term and rebellion is sure to follow; then you have a child that doesn’t listen to advice and that is a child heading to destruction. So skills in this area are crucial and women, who are generally so much better at it than men, need to be appreciated for this far, far more. Of course ideally both parents will team up in this area but that never occurs with anything approaching equality and that’s OK. The point is for men to appreciate much, much more than we typically do.
      About household chores: Many women (and a few men) just have to have a perfectly organized house. A house like that takes far more work to obtain than one with a more relaxed attitude. Dirt doesn’t kill us and fastidiously cleaning is just a time waster. We as a society are consumed with cleanliness, not realizing that bacteria actually strengthen our immune system. So maybe wiping down the counter so often just isn’t necessary and the time could be better spent elsewhere. So it might be wise to step back and take a gander at what is really important. Cleaning or one on one interaction with the children? Decades from now you’ll remember that interaction; the counter, not so much. And you might not be plagued with the most recent infection because of a better immune system thanks to increase exposure to all that bacteria. “Cleanliness” itself is ridiculous. Your mouth, right now, has about a billion bacteria. Think about that and this cleaning madness that consumes so many people today.
      I so wish boys and girls were treated more similarly growing up. We shouldn’t funnel people into set activities just because of their sex. This stigmatizes people and their occupations later in life. Why can’t a straight man enjoy figure skating, ballet and clothing design? Why can’t a straight woman play professional soccer? LOL… Little girls should dress for the activity and be comfortable. Their clothing should never get in the way of them learning and doing stuff while growing up. We should encourage girls to be problem solvers in daily life. Heaven knows a mother is one monumental problem solver if she has children. Why not take those skills to other areas that would allow her to fix plumbing problems at home instead of calling Joe the Plumber at $100 an hour? To learn about financial management, auto maintenance and a myriad of other things needed around the home? There is no reason at all to constrain our youth. If you have a problem why not avail yourself of the entire population instead of just half?

      Sorry for the novel…..kind of got carried away but these are important topics that need to be discussed.

      • @Sam- Wow, thanks for sharing your thoughtful input. No, the person was not from UAE or middle eastern but I won’t make any further comments about that. I enjoyed your statement “Those angels can be rather unruly at times and must be reigned in for their own good otherwise the home will be a tornado of disarray.” haha, very true. I need to be more patient and you’re right not focus on cleaning so much and rather spend 1-on-1 time and be more present. It’s definitely hard to be a parent, especially in the age of easy distractions- e.g. phones buzzing with messages, emails etc.!

      • Rereading this I see numerous grammatical mistakes that I should have noticed before posting. I usually rely on the old Edit option as for some reason it seems easier or I have more motivation to correct errors once they’re posted.
        You need an Edit button!
        Everybody dislikes reading errors and posters are embarrassed by them. I sure am.

        • @Sam Z- I have grammatical mistakes all the time and I publish posts and it’s not even in comments! 🙂 I can try and look into an edit comment feature. I thought your comment was very comprehensive and I don’t think you should feel embarrassed in any way for grammar errors.

      • Sam, your comment makes me so sad, and so mad. We need to do more to help women get educated and empowered so they can free themselves from aggressive, male-dominated societies like the ones you’ve written about. My heart breaks to know that so many continue to suffer.

    • @Tom- Awe I really like hearing about your parents. Wow your grandfather sounded like he was pretty tough and had certain ideas of how things should work, some tough love it sounds like. 1 day off per month!

  2. That’s a harsh story. The world is full of guys like that. There is no need to be a jerk to everyone, especially your wife.
    I’m a SAHD and my wife makes much more money than I do. The power dynamic is good in our household because I still make some money and I manage our finance. I think if you’re a stay at home parent, you really should try to manage the finance. It balances the power dynamic a bit.
    Having your own money would help a lot too. I have my own retirement fund and I’ll be fine if something happens to my wife.

    • @Joe- Excellent idea that the SAHP should be the manager of the money- that’s a great idea. Also, you have your own retirement fund- that’s different. If I was a SAHM with my own retirement fund and savings and actually I am retired because all my expenses are covered by my retirement savings, then I think there would be very minimal power imbalance, because you just front loaded the work earlier.

  3. It is risky to be at the mercy of a spouse’s income, and that’s is usually the situation for the female partner. One thing I did on inheriting a large sum was to immediately invest it in a joint brokerage account which made it legally half owned by my wife. She was a stay at home mom and I wanted her to have the freedom to leave at any time knowing she was a financially independent millionaire with her own wealth and did not need to rely on any financial support from me. Fortunately she has stayed around anyway. She was an equal partner working harder at home than I did at work and is absolutely entitled to at least half of everything I earned or inherited if she ever felt she needed to leave. And she has always had equal say on what we spend and had handled most of our finances. I don’t see how you could have a functional marriage of equal partners any other way.

    • @Steveark- Thanks for sharing your story 🙂 You and your wife sound like you have a great partnership and marriage. It kind of reminds me of Bill Gates’ view of his wife, Melinda, equal and capable partners.

  4. I absolutely agree with you! I grew up with an abusive, alcoholic father. He moved us out of Toronto to a small town in the 70’s. Mu mom didn’t have her driver’s license and only worked part time. When he finally left, he left a huge debt. He declared bankruptcy right away. My mom was forced to also declare bankruptcy or pay the debt on her own. I was only 8. I remember how my mom struggled those years after. This is why I have always had my own credit card, my own investments and why I have always worked from the time I was 14. I wanted to ensure I was never left in a situation like that!

    • @Connie- Thanks for sharing your story, that makes me so sad to read about that…but I am glad your mom pulled through, became stronger, and she raised a strong independent woman.

  5. Guys definitely should have a womyn who makes her own money. Divorce laws in Canada are so biased against men that you are screwed when you divorce. You won’t need a pre-nup if you have a self-sustaining lady like GenYMoney!

  6. Next time please try to speak up against it. I personally struggle doing it, but I still try and urge everyone else to speak up against such issues in public.

    • @Khan- You’re right, I felt guilty not speaking up but also I am shy and don’t tend to speak up at all in public. But that’s no excuse, if I am unfortunately witnessing this again I will say something. Thank you 🙂

  7. What a sad and frightening story. It’s hard to witness something like that, especially when you’re largely unable to help. I really hope that woman and her kids get the help they need.

    As a SAHM I agree with you that there needs to be a balance in the relationship. In our situation, I feel very much in control of our money because I handle everything. I’d love for my husband to be more involved, but he has little time and interest! So it falls to me.

    This actually means I have more financial power in the relationship, even though he earns 99% of the income. Of course, I wield my power justly, so he has nothing to worry about!

    There are many ways I’ve ensured both of us will be taken care of in case anything happens:

    1. Life insurance: We have a joint policy that pays out to the other should one of us pass away first.

    2. RRSPs: He contributes to spousal RRSP accounts under my name so that we’ll have equal RRSP assets in retirement.

    3. TFSAs: We contribute equally into both our TFSAs, and have named each other as successor holders in our accounts.

    3. Non-registered accounts: All of them are held jointly, so they’ll automatically go to the other.

    4. Bank accounts: We have one joint bank account, and each have individual savings accounts, which I keep equally balanced.

    5. Passwords: We save all passwords in LastPass so he will have access to all of our financial accounts if I were to die.

    6. Inventory: I use a family emergency binder to list all our financial info. He’ll have a quick, easy reference to find everything if I’m gone or incapacitated.

    7. Will: We’re both covered (as are our kids) by our will should anything happen to either of us.

    8. House: The deed to our house lists both of us.

    9. Credit score: I apply for just as many credit cards as he does so that I build my credit, even without an income.

    10. Trading authorization: I’ve ensured that both of us have signed forms to authorize the other to trade in each other’s accounts.

    Phew! That’s a lot of stuff, but as you see, it’s absolutely possible for a stay-at-home spouse to have equal or even greater financial power in a relationship.

    I agree with Joe that being the one who handles the money is a good way for the stay-at-home spouse to balance the power.

    The bigger issue though, is that we all need to do what we can to help marginalized individuals. I think that what you do here—sharing your financial knowledge—goes a long way to help with this.

    Let’s keep doing what we do, GYM, and continue to help educate others about finances. In doing so, we’re helping others get more financially stable so they can support themselves and others.

    • Chrissy @ Eat Sleep Breathe FI
      That is one stupendous post. I have rarely encountered anyone with such meticulous organizational skills. The internet is blessed to have people like you and Geny contributing. The public doesn’t deserve such care and attention to accurate and timely information.

    • @Chrissy- Yes, writing the post helped me process my feelings and I felt better, but you’re right, we have a ways to go.

      AMAZING. So organized!! That’s fantastic that you have the financial power in the relationship and you manage the money for both household and investments- Joe’s suggestion is a great idea. I wonder what percentage of couples with SAHPs have it organized this way? I doubt this is the norm though unfortunately. I just saw a terrible tweet about a man who got upset at his wife for taking the bank card out when he controls it, when she wanted to surprise him with a Christmas gift….

  8. Wow, what a story GYM and you were there to witness it. So many men out there that act like that, their is no reason to talk like that to your wife/gf especially in front of kids. If that certain person makes you talk to them like that especially in public, just get out of the relationship and look at yourself in the mirror and figure out how to be a better man to you and the people that care about you.
    My parents both worked and had a simple approach with their finances, my mom would handle the bills that come in like electricity, cable, credit cards while my dad dealt with everything else whenever we go out like the groceries, eating out and retail shopping. I never knew how they handled the mortgage but my guess is that they did it together.

    • @Kris- Thanks for sharing how your parents dealt with their finances, they sound like they had an effective and united approach to money management. MwC is lucky she has such a supportive, hands on husband 🙂

  9. So many thoughts with this post. We have shared finances but I’m the one who controls them all. We have very mixed “gender roles” in our household. My husband is the primary breadwinner but also the one who will be the stay home parent in a few years. He does the majority of the housework while I do the paperwork. We both split any responsibilities with our little one. I know that I am super lucky to have found someone so compatible and am grateful everyday for this. But all of the lessons you mentioned above I have the intention of also teaching my daughter.

    • @Maria- Your husband sounds fantastic (especially the part about the housework haha). Does your husband control his own finances too or is all of your finances completely shared? My husband is great too- somehow when he does the housework he doesn’t complain about it and is efficient at it, unlike me.

  10. Great post!! Totally agree with you. When my dad passed away I had to step in and help organize things for her. I was totally mind boggled at her lack of knowledge of the family finances. My sister was financially dependent on her husband and when they separated, my brother stepped in to help her set up her finances. I do hope she his teaching her daughter these hard learned lessons.

    • @jimmbboe- Good that your mom and your sister had a supportive son and brother to help out with these things. I think in an older generation women not knowing anything about family finances was more typical, but nowadays it is hopefully much less common.

  11. It’s strange — even though I am familiar with so much of this information (I spent the better part of two years working in women’s equality policy at my day job), I actually felt a bit emotional reading this.

    Having this knowledge is a big part of the reason why I have always been very insistent on managing my own finances and, now that I’m married, our household finances. It does help that I have more of a natural aptitude for it than my husband but even if I didn’t, I would want to learn. I think a lot of this has to do with the way I grew up (divorced parents; grew up with an alcoholic dad; left home when I was 14; etc). It really did shape me in several ways, including instilling in me the importance of being able to depend on myself financially.

    Anyway, this is SUCH an important post. Thanks for writing it.

    • @Tara- I was emotional writing it, and reading your comment. Hugs. Sorry to hear about your toxic home environment when growing up, but good to hear it has made you resilient and a strong independent woman.

  12. I have mixed feelings about this post. I know I should be all RAH RAH WOMAN POWER but I’m not sure it’s that simple. I think if you’re married with joint accounts, you’re financially dependent. Whether you earned the money or not, your spouse can clear the accounts. So maybe that means you have separate accounts, but then, because women usually make less, the woman would likely have less money than her husband. Also I believe in prenups and I’m a lawyer, but the stupid romantic in me would like to think that a married couple could trust each other a little bit in their finances.

    Also, I’m not sure having money was the woman in line’s problem. She doesn’t speak English, she likely doesn’t have friends/family nearby, she doesn’t understand the culture, she may not have access to resources or information or knowledge that something’s better out there. I think it may be beneficial to her knowing that other people would stand up to her husband for her. I think maybe next time, a quick encouragement to the woman, being kind to the kids, acknowledging her presence or directing the man to talk to the manager could make a difference for her.

    • @Lisa- Thanks for sharing your thoughts and visiting. I’m also a believer in joint and separate accounts. Good point, there were a lot of factors (money, social support, English as a second language, etc.) that are an issue. I will stand up next time I see this happening (hope I don’t though)- those are some great ideas and not confrontational, which I appreciate as I’m not confrontational.

  13. I am not certain as a stranger to even say anything to a guy in a store. But it would be nice to smile at the woman and children, and say something pleasant about something they are buying or similar. His character clearly shows that he would not welcome strangers to intervene and say something to him since his anger was shown to the woman customer, cashier.

    My father was the breadwinner as restaurant cook. My mother full-time housewife all her life with 6 kids. Thankfully my parents did discuss financial matters…objectively and in an exploratory manner in Chinese at considerable length while us kids, watched tv, etc. It does set the tone, what each of us in turn, expect at minimum with a life partner.


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