Modern Moms, Outdated Laws

Do you and your spouse both work? Do you face simple, daily hurdles from your work hours to the cost of childcare to the income taxes you pay? If so, you are most definitely not alone.

Two-income families now constitute two-thirds of all married couples; women account for 59 percent of the American workforce. Yet working women ages 22-55 are paying some of the highest tax rates in the country and married women who work outside the home are likely to pay the highest marginal tax rates in the country.

These are just a few of the troubling facts contained in a new book Leaving Women Behind: Modern Families, Outdated Laws, co-written by Wall Street Journal columnist Kim Strassel and John Goodman and Celeste Colgan of the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA).

"The entry of women into the workforce has been the greatest economic and sociological change in our society in the past 60 years," said Kim Strassel in a recent press release. "Despite this momentous transformation, our public policy institutions have failed to adjust."

According to the book, our country's major economic institutions -- including tax law, labor law, employee benefits law, Social Security and retirement policies -- reward families with a full-time worker and a stay-at-home spouse and, by comparison, punish every other arrangement.

The book highlights several examples of the penalties married working women face. For example:

A wife's salary (assuming she earns less than her husband) is taxed at her husband's higher rate -- even if she only earns minimum wage.

If her husband has paid the maximum level of his Social Security payroll taxes up to the $90,000 salary cap, Wifey must pay Social Security taxes on every dollar she earns (up to the same maximum). She gets few, if any, extra Social Security benefits.

When all taxes and other costs associated with working are considered (such as paying for child care and housecleaning), a woman in a middle-income family can only expect to keep 35 cents out of every dollar she earns.

"In a free labor market, one would expect to find a wide array of work arrangements," Strassel states. "Obviously, not every two-earner couple will want to each work 40-hour weeks. Unfortunately, rigid tax and employee benefits laws make alternative arrangements next to impossible for people who need health insurance, pensions and other benefits."

The book suggests how to address these inequities and make life easier for today's working families. Recommendations include initiating a benefit system that gives employees more choices and makes benefits portable as well as making the tax system fairer for two-earner households. Sounds good, right? But how do we make employers and laws catch up to modern parenthood?


By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  September 20, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Moms in the News
Previous: Before Baby | Next: Flexibility for Those In Less-Than-Flexible Positions


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'But how do we make employers and laws catch up to modern parenthood?'

Don't vote for Republicans!!

Posted by: experienced mom | September 20, 2006 7:08 AM

So the link to the Executive Summary doesn't provide that much. I don't know, this one seems a little dubious. I can always find numbers and manipulate them in a way that supports whatever perspective that suits me.

Is it really a *Woman's* issue? Wouldn't the same tax rules and numbers be applied if the roles were reversed? Hence the tax rules would be blind to gender?

I'd be curious to know if this book addresses *singles* concerns about being penalized when filing their taxes and whether or not there is merit to their discussions. Has anyone here read this book?

Posted by: Tracy | September 20, 2006 7:37 AM

Hi, I've read for a while, but never posted... Just wanted to comment, while you may or may not debate the wisdom of the tax policy in America, lets remember that it certainly doesn't single out working women - if,as in my case - and the case of many of my friends, you outearn your husband by 2 or 3x, the man is the person who's "punished" for working. While its true that historically, women have made less than men and been in lower paying professions, I think that in the current generation (as with my friends and I), you see a lot of women in professional fields (especially sciences and technologies) who may be substantially out-earning their liberal arts husbands.

Posted by: Michigan | September 20, 2006 7:59 AM

"When all taxes and other costs associated with working are considered (such as paying for child care and housecleaning), a woman in a middle-income family can only expect to keep 35 cents out of every dollar she earns."

Interesting. So, assuming that the husband is the father of the children and that he lives in the house, how much does he earn when his half of childcare and housekeeping is deducted from his salary? Or do we only deduct childcare and housekeeping from women's salaries? If that's the case, then the feds aren't the only ones who are old-fashioned.

Posted by: Lizzie | September 20, 2006 8:04 AM

Bad assumptions, bad statistics, bad conclusions. Is this blog about promoting bad books?

Posted by: Not again | September 20, 2006 8:17 AM

How does this have to do with moms? Coulndn't you say instead of:

'The entry of women into the workforce has been the greatest economic and sociological change in our society in the past 60 years'

something like
'The greatest economic change in our society in the past 60 years has been the increase of 2 income earners in the family'

and then stop framing it as a sex-based family issue?

Posted by: Fo1 | September 20, 2006 8:19 AM

Uh, what a horrible premise. Why does it have to be the wife's income that's at the top of the tax curve? Or, either shouse for that matter.

It should be averaged it out... I earn the first dollar, my wife earns the second, and on up.

And, once again, you're whining about upper-middle income wives being given the shaft. I'm sorry, but if your family's combined income places you in those high tax brackets, consider yourself lucky.

Posted by: Herndon | September 20, 2006 8:27 AM

I agree with Lizzie, if I work when I have a child, why are the cleaning and childcare expenses taken out of my pay? Why not my husband's? Or why not equally?

Right now we have a cleaning company and a lawn care company so we don't need to do the work. I make more than my husband so does that mean he is being shafted?

Posted by: Thought | September 20, 2006 8:32 AM

This supposed disparity occurs because we consider a married couple just that--both contributing income to the FAMILY, and both spending from the family's resources. I agree it's a big presumption that it's in fact the wife's income being "penalized". Does that assume that she's living off of her (diminished) income and her husband is living off of his?? That is not a typical arrangement in a marriage. It is true that marginal income in a family is taxed at a higher rate--whether it comes from overtime pay, a second job, a raise, or the spouse working. I don't believe income from the spouse should be treated any differently than any other incremental income as it all contributes to the family's financial resources.

Posted by: Primary Breadwinning Mom in NoVA | September 20, 2006 8:35 AM

While I'm not sure yet if I trust all their assumptions, I do agree with most of their conclusions, especially

"We need a flexible employee benefit system that gives employees more choices, making it easier for dual-earner couples to obtain higher wages rather than unneeded, duplicate benefits and for part-time workers to accept lower wages in return for more valuable health and retirement benefits."

I really don't see a downside to this on the part of the company. And I'm sure that part-time workers would really appreciate the option since, from what the Executive Summary tells us, they would not receive tax breaks for buying health insurance on their own.

Posted by: Meesh | September 20, 2006 8:42 AM

I agree this could be framed as primary wage-earner and secondary wage-earner, not husband and wife. However, there are legitimate tax implications that affect two-income families that need to be understood.

>>I'm sorry, but if your family's combined income places you in those high tax brackets, consider yourself lucky.>>

It's not necessarily HIGH tax brackets. It's the next HIGHER tax bracket. If I earn income that would only put me in the 15% bracket and my husbands's puts him in the 25%, and we're married, I'm taxed at 25% instead of 15%. That's a huge difference, but neither of us is necessarily making a lot of money.

>>I don't believe income from the spouse should be treated any differently than any other incremental income as it all contributes to the family's financial resources.>>

Again, it is treated differently by the tax system. The gist of the "marriage penalty" is that the lower earning person may get taxed at a higher rate than he or she would if taxes as a single person, and that 1 person earning $90,000 pays less tax than 2 people who together earn $40,000 and $50,000. It doesn't matter if it's the man or the woman who makes more. The point is, it's unfair to couples where both people work.

The calculation about deducting child care expenses from the lower-earning person...I've posted before that I disagree with that argument. But the tax concerns are legitimate.

Posted by: Arlmom | September 20, 2006 8:48 AM

I am just taking a small break from work now. I will start off by saying I did not read the book or the summary yet. But there is a bunch of false conclusions made by the author of todays blog. The child care and the house cleaning is not assumed to be taken out of the second salary (namely the women in this example). It is actually something taken out of both salaries equally. Given you have a shared partnership in a marriage. I do not know of too many families, that say the second working spouse is entitled to their earnings minus child care and house cleaning expenses. I don't know but I am in the upper 25% of hhld income in the country. And I net more then 47% of my gross income after child care and housing. But that may be because my income to child care ratio is still very high. Meaning, I use a smaller percentage of my disposal income for childcare (simply because I am a higher wage earner). So I don't see this as hurting the upper middle class and wealthy as much as hurting the lower class wage earners. I don't know how many of you are following suggested changes in SSA. But one of the proposals on the table is to eliminate the spousal benefit. If that goes into affect then it does the exact opposite of what the article is suggesting. It will punish people who do not have two working spouse. Contrary to what this article is stating, a women does get some of her SSA money. She has the option of taking out her SSA earnings at the age of retirement or the spousal benefit. Which ever is higher. If they are both living, she is entitled to his benefit and he is entitled to his benefit. She is not short changed in anyway. It is only after death of one spouse, does the benefit for the hhld get reduced to one benefit. Even then, she or he ( the remaining spouse) gets to choose the higher of the two benefits. Why is that punishing anyone? If anything that is protecting the remaining spouse. Clearly if one person dies, they do not "technically" need or deserve two benefits. I don't agree at all if with this article. Yes two income wage earners are taxed at a higher rate then one wage earning families. But they bring in more money. Why shouldn't they be taxed more? I think one could argue that the compensation for child care and other costs eliminate the cost of working. But I could see for some people it doesn't. But for middle class and up, this is really not an issue. The only people this is really hurting is the lower class.

Posted by: NewName | September 20, 2006 8:48 AM

'Bad assumptions, bad statistics, bad conclusions. Is this blog about promoting bad books?'

That's what I was thinking too! I have taken graduate level statistics classes. I don't believe that Leslie knows much about statistical analysis, or the interpretation of statistics.

Posted by: experienced mom | September 20, 2006 8:50 AM

Correction: I meant to say she is entitle to her benefit. I am a statistician and I think the author does not understand much about statistics. But I don't understand too much about writing and spelling:)

Posted by: NewName | September 20, 2006 8:51 AM

As a side note, the fair tax would completely eliminate most of these problems!

http://www.fairtaxvolunteer.org/pdf/FairTax_Act_Summary.pdf

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 8:56 AM

OK, are there any accountants out there? My accountant told me that the marriage penalty is mostly a myth. Even studies show unless there is a large descrepency of the two incomes there is virtually no penalty. Also the new tax laws 2005, eliminated most of the penalty. My argument has always been that two wage income earners should be taxed more then two single people with the combined income of the married couple. Mainly because there is some economy of scales working here. Married couples enjoy some benefits that reduce their overall expenses; like family coverage on insurance, reduced auto insurance etc... Even food purchased in bulk works out cheaper. So why do married couples have a problem with having a small penalty? If there are any accts out there that know the truth, please let me know. I have always wondered about that.

Posted by: NewName | September 20, 2006 8:56 AM

I work part-time as an economist. Not only does the marginal tax rate for the second earner, whoever earns less per hour by this definition, discourage that person from working more, but wait until you're applying for financial aid for your kids for college. While our first kid isn't eligible for much, our second son will be if he chooses to go to a fancy private college like his older brother. In effect, every dollar I earn in the next few years will just be one more dollar which we won't receive in financial aid. The incentive to work has just been changed dramatically, especially since we also have a four-year-old whom I am loathe to put in a lot of day care. I'd rather continue to work part-time, take him to the National Zoo off-season, and let the financial aid system foot part of our bill.

I'm not trying to be cynical, but given that college tuition is almost a third higher than it would otherwise be, since the colleges have an incentive to keep it high -- their federal subsidy for low-income kids is greater, and they figure the truly affluent in this country don't care whether it's $20 K or $30 K they're shelling out for tuition. (One of my son's roommates hails from Manhattan's Dalton School, where tuition is close to $30 K/annum, so I don't think tuition is a big deal for his family.)

We need to change our tax laws and we need to revisit the whole federal system which gives needy kids college money. I'm all for giving them money, and applaud Harvard and Princeton for eliminating Early Action/Decision, but I think the system has a lot of inequities.

Mother of four kids -- oldest a college freshman

Posted by: suzanne goode | September 20, 2006 8:59 AM

>>>If her husband has paid the maximum level of his Social Security payroll taxes up to the $90,000 salary cap, Wifey must pay Social Security taxes on every dollar she earns (up to the same maximum). She gets few, if any, extra Social Security benefits.>>>

Leslie, why is this a problem? Don't both spouses each get a separate social security check when they retire? If so, shouldn't their contributions be considered separately? If the couple only got one check, I could see this issue but otherwise I don't understand.

Posted by: Confused | September 20, 2006 9:05 AM

My biggest problem with the "marriage penalty" are when breaks such as child tax credit and student loan deduction have one maximum for singles and more for married couples, but not double. I.e., 75000 maximum income for singles to be able to declare the student loan deduction, but only 110K for married. If my husband and I just lived together, we could both get the deduction, but since we are married with good salaries, we cannot. Penalty.
Reducing other expenses has nothing to do with the tax penalty.

Posted by: Penalty | September 20, 2006 9:06 AM

I think the assumption in the article is that when most people look at their finances and decides who stays home, they parts of the formula are a) who makes less money b)who has the fewest benefits (ie life insurance, subsidized childcare, medical care, other ala carte benefits, etc) and c)is the cost of childcare more than the lowest salary of the couple? You do the cost benefit analysis. Usually, it is the woman who makes less, but it appears that may not be true to the members of this blog.

In my family, I make more money than my husband. I supported my husband while he went to school and paid for childcare for our first child. Now he is finished with school, but we have another child on the way. Childcare would cost about $24K a year for two kids and he would barely make that with a college degree after you take out taxes, work wardrobe costs, and transportation expenses.

Posted by: tlawrenceva | September 20, 2006 9:10 AM

Michigan wrote:
Just wanted to comment, while you may or may not debate the wisdom of the tax policy in America, lets remember that it certainly doesn't single out working women - if,as in my case - and the case of many of my friends, you outearn your husband by 2 or 3x, the man is the person who's "punished" for working.

Quite correct, it's called the "marriage penalty", not the "soak the wife" penalty. This may disproportionately affect female spouses, but it is financial public policy, not social public policy, so it is unfair to ascribe any intentional harm to it. Sort of like the repeal of the estate tax is designed to 'help' the rich, not specifically to 'hurt' the poor.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 9:12 AM

Maybe I am the only one, but I hear women say ALL THE TIME "If I were to work, I'd hardly earn more than the childcare expenses." There is a widespread, if erroneous, assumption that if a woman's salary does not cover childcare it doesn't make sense for her to work. Should not be this way, but it often is.

Posted by: Leslie | September 20, 2006 9:12 AM

It's amazing how many people really fight against the fact -- yes, the fact! -- that on average, men make more than women do. Of course it may not apply to your family or to some people you know, but taken as a whole, that's how it is in the US. Therefore, it will usually be the woman earning in what would be the lower tax bracket. You guys are so anxious to make the blog entry appear gender neutral that you miss the bigger point!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 9:13 AM

Suzanne,

Suzanne,

You are right about finical aid system. My dad worked his last five years working in a factory. My mom cleaned banks for minimum wage. I also worked in the factory making about 6 dollars and hour. My families combined income was about 30,000 dollars. This glorious amount of money put financial aid out of my reach. While working while going to school taught me a valuable lesson, I never understood why I had to do it and pay back my students loans. Why other people who got to go to school for free couldn't work and get student loans as well. A little off topic, but I agree that needy kids need breaks but I also think that the system is broke all around.

I had a friend back home who had a couple of kids and didn't want to work, so she got to go to school for free all the way up to her masters on welfare, guess what she still doesn't work and doesn't have to pay any of that money back.


Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 9:14 AM

the post to suzanne was from me!

Posted by: scarry | September 20, 2006 9:16 AM

Confused, here is an example of what folks are complaining about:

My mother worked her entire life, though neither she nor my father earned enough to max out social security.

My father's twin had a wife who never worked, but he earned far more than the social security max.

When my aunt turns 65 she can choose the "spousal benefit" which, because my uncle was a high earner, is higher than my mother will receive-- even though my aunt personally never paid into the system, and the total amount of money the U.S. received through my parents was far greater than what my aunt and uncle put in.

Does this make sense?

Posted by: Ms L | September 20, 2006 9:20 AM

"There is a widespread, if erroneous, assumption that if a woman's salary does not cover childcare it doesn't make sense for her to work. Should not be this way, but it often is."

So if it's erroneous, why validate it?

Posted by: Lizzie | September 20, 2006 9:21 AM

I agree the tax laws do not really work well if people just choose to live together. But then again, if you just chose to live together, you would not be covered on each other's insurance and have different legal protections. People will choose to get married regardless of tax penalties or incentives. It has to do with broader benefits and cultural norms. As far as student aid, isn't most of the aid given in a form of loans and work study? What percentage is actually a grant (money not being paid back). As far as I understand it, private schools do offer a decent percentage of aid to families in financial need. But public universities offer very little. Most of the aid comes in a form of loans. So in my opinion the government is not footing the bill for anyone. The loans need to be repaid and private schools offer their own money for grants. It has nothing to do with the government footing the bill. Please correct me if I am wrong. But I went to a private school too. That was many moons ago. Again, if you really look at the full picture, two working families (on average) are more financially stable then a comparable one income family. Meaning a family making 90K for two earners, is still more financially stable then the one income family earning 45K. They get two retirement funds (pension, SSI, and 401Ks), they generally have higher disposable income and higher savings. We have a progressive tax system in this country. Meaning people who have more money pay more taxes. If you don't like that try taxing the billionaires at a flat tax of 17-25%. How fair is that? I think people don't understand that they still have it pretty good around here with taxes. Granted our money could be better spent by the government but we are not over taxed in this country.

Posted by: NewName | September 20, 2006 9:23 AM

American's pay some of the world's lowest taxes. I don't mind paying taxes to support our country. I don't always agree with how tax money is spent but I am happy to pay them.

And I agree with posters that say that child care shouldn't always come out of the wife's money since the husband is using the day care facility too.

As for college tuition, I think it is a waste for students to attend Ivy League as undergraduates. IMHO and experience, choosing the right school really doesn't matter until you reach graduate school.

Posted by: alexandria mom | September 20, 2006 9:24 AM

>>My families combined income was about 30,000 dollars. This glorious amount of money put financial aid out of my reach. >>

I do some part time work for a non-profit that is aligned with a top-tier university. We award a scholarship every year and are able to view some of the basics of the student's financial situation.

While I have no knowledge of your situation, I wish to assert in no uncertain terms that a family of 3 or larger earning $30k, IS eligible for federal, state and private financial aid (assuming no other non-salary factors, like other loan defaults).

I can also point out that when I went to college in the late 80's my fam had a combined income of about $40k and we WERE eligible for all forms of aid.

I just don't want the blog to give the Dept of Ed (FSA program) an undeserved bad name. I have had the good fortune to work with some of the folks over there, and they do their best to help as many as possible.

-Pp.

Posted by: Proud Papa | September 20, 2006 9:29 AM

Up to $5000 in childcare expenses are tax deductible. Unless you make a lot of money. Daycare runs 10000-14000 per year. The government is saying that one half to one third of that expense is tax free. That seems fair. For families that are really poor, a lot of other assistance kicks in.

I have always viewed the tax laws as encouraging both spouses to work, not the opposite. If one spouse stays at home, he or she gives up both potential income and on their tax return, are not allowed to deduct the imputed value of the childcare, i.e., for tax purposes, services you provide to yourself have no value.

I am not surprised the conclusions of this book are incorrect. You have two people with agendas and a journalist involved. That is not a recipe for robust analysis.

Posted by: bkp | September 20, 2006 9:31 AM

"There is a widespread, if erroneous, assumption that if a woman's salary does not cover childcare it doesn't make sense for her to work. Should not be this way, but it often is."

I do think it is important to figure out if the lower earner (not necessarily the wife) is earning enough to pay for child care. If one is not, they need to be aware that they are essentially paying to work. It may be worth it if substantial raises are in the future or if you haven't earned enough credits for social security, etc. But if it's a dead-end job and you can save more by staying at home, why should you do it? Doing that calculation is an important part of the equation, though obviously it is not the only consideration.

Posted by: Ms L | September 20, 2006 9:35 AM

Two things:

>>It's amazing how many people really fight against the fact -- yes, the fact! -- that on average, men make more than women do.<<

Not for much longer I'd imagine. Women are going to university in far higher numbers than men.

Secondly, I'm not married and I don't know for sure about how the IRA contribution laws work. I know that as a singleton you can put x amount in until you make $90K, but if you're married you can only put x amount in (each?) until you make a combined $120K. That $70K discrepancy seems insanely unfair. Did I understand this law correctly?

For many people (and I know I'm skewing towards the middle-class) that extra $70K in income is going to take a good number of years to earn and all during that time if they were single they'd be allowed to save tax free. Seems like a pretty big marriage hit and I don't understand why a rule would be built like that.

Posted by: running | September 20, 2006 9:44 AM

"In effect, every dollar I earn in the next few years will just be one more dollar which we won't receive in financial aid."

Right--because god forbid you should pay for your child's schooling.

Financial aid is not a limitless pool. If you can work and pay for your child's education, you should. Financial aid should go to families who are in a situation where every dollar the parents earn goes to keeping their heads above water.

Rather than complain about the financial aid you're not getting, either tell your kid he can't go to an expensive school, or start saving.

As for people who claim thier families made $30k-$40k and couldn't get aid, maybe the system was flawed in that you weren't informed about how to get aid, but it was out there.

Posted by: Reston | September 20, 2006 9:45 AM

The marriage penalty hits you regardless of gender. As long as two earners hit a high income, that high income is taxed more. Do you want to cut taxes for the "rich"? Two days ago (Working Mom Top Fears) Leslie was advocating more government involvement/benefits to solve private-sector issues. How would you pay for that if you're cutting taxes for the upper-middle class?

Don't make this a working women issue when it is not.

Posted by: WorkerBee | September 20, 2006 9:45 AM

Is Leslie the author of the blog or another Leslie?

Posted by: who is Leslie? | September 20, 2006 9:48 AM

Despite both my wife and I taking out the maximum amount of deductions for income taxes, every year since 2004 we have owed a sizable amount to the government at tax time. I make about 2.5 times what my wife makes, but it still doesn't make sense that we can both max out our deductions and still end up owing more.

Posted by: John | September 20, 2006 9:49 AM

I expected to see a lot of comments cheering this book on, but I am heartened to see a lot of commenters as appalled and disgusted at the blatant bias and pure...silliness of this whole "debate" as I am.

Second, women tend to make less than men for a variety of reasons. Read the academic literature, not the pop culture Cosmopolitan magazine literature on it, and maybe, you will understand why. Women make different career choices, women choose part time career tracks, women bow out of the job market mid-stream to care for children--there are a variety of reasons. I'm a lawyer, and I look around me, and after the third or fourth year in practice, there are NO WOMEN to be found. I don't need statistics to tell me that women, on average, make less than men in my profession, BECAUSE THERE ARE FEWER WOMEN AT HIGHER LEVELS. I refer you all to the comment above...

"Bad assumptions, bad statistics, bad conclusions. Is this blog about promoting bad books?"

Please pick some worthwhile books to promote.

Posted by: MSL | September 20, 2006 9:56 AM

Correction: both my wife and I have reduced our deductions and exemptions to zero for income tax, not "maxed them out", yet we are still owing sizable amounts at tax time. Sorry about that.

Posted by: John | September 20, 2006 9:56 AM

Arlmom said "It's not necessarily HIGH tax brackets. It's the next HIGHER tax bracket. If I earn income that would only put me in the 15% bracket and my husbands's puts him in the 25%, and we're married, I'm taxed at 25% instead of 15%."

This is wrong. The tax system is a stepped system. Here is the 2006 tax table from http://www.irs.gov/formspubs/article/0,,id=150856,00.html

(it doesn't copy and paste well into the blog).

For married, filing jointly:

If you make less than $15,100 taxable income, you pay 10% of that in taxes.

If you make more than $15,100 but less than $61,300, you pay $1,510 + 15% of the amount over $15,100.

I've left off the other amounts since the point can be made here.

If you make $60,000, you are in the 15% bracket. But notice, the first $15,100 is still taxed at 10% (the $1,510). Only the amount in excess of $15,100 is taxed at 15%. If you had to pay 15% on all the income when in the 15% bracket, a person making $15,100 would pay only $1,510 while a person making $15,101 (in the 15% bracket) would pay $2,265. $755 more in taxes on $1 more in income. No way.

Posted by: Father of 2 | September 20, 2006 9:56 AM

To running: I am not sure but as I understand the IRA contribution is deductible if you make 90K as an individual or 120K as married copule. You can always contribute to an IRA but the contribution may not be deductible. The earnings will always be taxed differed. Again if you are a married couple, earning more then 120K, a certain percentage is still deductible. Just not both contributions. Again almost irrelevant, because the percentage of Americans contributing to their IRAs or 401Ks is still way under the percentage eligible to contribute. Americans do not save very well. We have a negative savings rate in this country.

Posted by: NewName | September 20, 2006 9:56 AM

"There is a widespread, if erroneous, assumption that if a woman's salary does not cover childcare it doesn't make sense for her to work. Should not be this way, but it often is."

Given my recent experience in getting back into the job market after staying home with my kids for 3 years, I would have to agree with what Leslie is hearing from vocal at-work and s-a-h moms. Before my recent job hunt, I put together a spreadsheet detailing all of the expenses (childcare, commuting) that we would be paying when I went back to work and came up with a matrix of what my salary would have to be to make it worth while for our family in the present and future. Often times I would be presented with offers that would leave us with only health benefits and maybe $100 / month net as a plus - "not enough to get me into pantyhose" is what I would think. My headhunter thought I was crazy asking for a certain salary, but I was adamant and eventually found the right job for me and my family. That being said, I still make less than my husband and childcare (2 kids = $22K) does come from my salary because, if anything, it was an expense that we didn't have before when I was home - that doesn't mean that I eat bread & water for dinner while my family eats roast beef - it's just how we budget.

Posted by: MomBack2Work | September 20, 2006 9:58 AM

John, this happens to us too, but we have extra income from investments, interest on our bank accounts, etc. If you have any of these, this might explain the disparity.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 9:58 AM

RE: "Wifey must pay Social Security taxes on every dollar she earns (up to the same maximum). She gets few, if any, extra Social Security benefits."


Gee, guess it isn't really a benefit that she is entitled to he own Social Security Retirement. And it isn't a benefit in the eyes of this commentator that if, before she reaches retirement age, she becomes unable to work due to a disability, she can get Social Security Disability and qualify for Medicare - something she wouldn't get if she hadn't worked. If a non-worker becomes disabled, they don't qualify through their spouse for SSD and Medicare and they can't qualify for SSI and Medicaid if their spouse makes more than $665 a month.

RE: "The gist of the "marriage penalty" is that the lower earning person may get taxed at a higher rate than he or she would if taxes as a single person, and that 1 person earning $90,000 pays less tax than 2 people who together earn $40,000 and $50,000. It doesn't matter if it's the man or the woman who makes more. The point is, it's unfair to couples where both people work."

Household income is the item being taxed - not individual income. Household with 2 wage earners is maintaining one household, not two. (and for the income bracket that this whiney author is in, that means their McMansion) The example moaning about "2 people who together earn $40,000 and $50,000" is irrational supposition - those two people are NOT in the same household and pay the costs of maintaining Two households. If she would prefer that arrangement, get a divorce, set up two households and see if she comes out ahead.

RE: "My accountant told me that the marriage penalty is mostly a myth."

It is. Didn't use to be 30 years ago but that changed. Unfortunately you can never reason with someone who seems to adore feeling victimized because she is an upper income working woman with children.

RE: "When my aunt turns 65 she can choose the "spousal benefit" which, because my uncle was a high earner, is higher than my mother will receive"

And when your father dies, your mother can receive a spousal benefit. That benefit, by the way, 65% of the earner's benefit. All that means that if 65% of your uncle's benefit (payable after he is dead) is more than your mother's, is that your uncle made more than your mother. If your mother hadn't worked, she would only receive 65% of your father's benefit after his death, and not also received her own retirement.

Back in the 70's there was a push to enlarge the survivor's benefit to provide for woman who stayed who and did the housewife thing so they wouldn't be overly penalized and reduced to poverty. What, you prefer your aunt not have any Social security after your uncle dies?

Survivors benefits are also paid to minor children if a parent dies.

Posted by: Ann | September 20, 2006 10:03 AM

The solution is simple.
Dont file your taxes jointly.

Posted by: Bird | September 20, 2006 10:06 AM

"My headhunter thought I was crazy asking for a certain salary, but I was adamant and eventually found the right job for me and my family."

This is awesome. I wish more women would be aggressive about salary negotiations and not just be grateful for whatever crumbs employers are willing to scatter.

"childcare (2 kids = $22K) does come from my salary because, if anything, it was an expense that we didn't have before when I was home"

This is what doesn't make sense to me. When my husband and I have kids, I will be the one on maternity leave, because I will be the one physically carrying and giving birth to them. Since I'm the one on leave for a few months - during which we will not be paying for childcare - does that mean that childcare automatically comes from my salary? Or does it come from my husband's salary, since he makes less than I do?

Or, since we will be equally responsible for our children, would it come from *both* our salaries, just as the mortgage and car insurance do?

Posted by: Lizzie | September 20, 2006 10:11 AM

You can have extra tax withheld or just put it in a savings account and then you will get the interest as long as you are not considered underwithholding. Also you may want to talk to a financial planner to see if you can reduce your tax bill.

Posted by: To John | September 20, 2006 10:15 AM

>>>It's amazing how many people really fight against the fact -- yes, the fact! -- that on average, men make more than women do.Not for much longer I'd imagine. Women are going to university in far higher numbers than men.<

Really? Although women are going to university in ever higher numbers, a disproportionately low number of women are making it to upper management, high level policy jobs, academic positions, Supreme Court clerkships, you name it. The latest figures suggest that at the rate we're going, women might achieve pay parity in 2050. Did you see the news item yesterday about the NAS report blaming plain old discrimination for the dearth of women in academia? And the one a few weeks ago about Supreme Court clerkships? Striking that folks on this blog seem to think sexism has magically vaporized in recent years and any remaining income disparity is purely incidental.

Also striking that folks think highlighting actual gender disparity is sexist itself. What is sexist about pointing out that women tend to have lower income than men, and that when deciding whether to work vs. stay at home, the lower earner will have to weigh marginal benefit (income minus taxes) against marginal cost (child care). Why are we flaying Leslie for framing this as a an issue affecting women when it is, in fact, women who most frequently have to confront this calculus? It's also disingenous to suggest that this calculation takes place in a gender-neutral vacuum where social norms and biases (i.e. that Mommy should be the primary care-giver and that she can stay at home with less judgement than her husband) don't apply. Men have traditionally been the primary breadwinners in our society and the vast majority of them still are, though there are more exceptions every day. The question is, do tax laws (and other social policies) support families in upending the traditional arrangement or are they being punished? I don't know the answer (haven't read the book, am not a tax expert), but what's wrong with discussing it?

Posted by: JKR | September 20, 2006 10:21 AM

The marriage penalty does not penalize ALL multi-income households, only those in which the 2 wage-earners are married. Of course it costs more for 2 people to live separately than under the same roof. The problem is that given changed mores, those who do not marry, whether by choice (heterosexual couples) or necessity (gay couples) get taxed at the individual rate. Btw, this extends to financial aid -- at my oh-so-Catholic law school, I had several classmates who cheerfully admitted that they would not marry until they finished school so they would continue to be eligible for financial aid, which they would have lost had they married their live-in partners! Some family values!

Posted by: silver spring mom | September 20, 2006 10:26 AM

To Joh: The issue is with the formula for the deduction and exemptions. They actually change year to year. What you need to do is go onto the IRS website and use their on line calculator. It will give you a decent approximation of how much taxes and deductions you can claim. I am in the same boat for you. DH files single 0 and I file married 0. We always owe a small amount at tax time. It just has to do with being a decent wage earner. On the flip side, be grateful this is your tax problem. The other side of the fence is getting a tax bill that you can't afford to pay or not being able to make your monthly bills. Count yourself lucky. I do.

Posted by: NewName | September 20, 2006 10:27 AM

To Bird: How does filing sperately help? Is there a earnings threshold where it benefits the filers? We figured our taxes both ways 2 years in a row and we ended up filing jointly both times.

Posted by: cmac | September 20, 2006 10:27 AM

Leslie, You ask how we make employers and laws catch up with today's reality. You yourself are an important, highly visible executive at a big, prestigious company. You're in an excellent position to do something about this issue. So how are you getting The Washington Post to recognize what all working parents face?

Posted by: Ritamae | September 20, 2006 10:31 AM

"Since I'm the one on leave for a few months - during which we will not be paying for childcare - does that mean that childcare automatically comes from my salary? Or does it come from my husband's salary, since he makes less than I do?"

MomBack2Work put it very well, but I'll explain further-- it's not really a "comes from" concept. Of course all money within the family is the same. However, when looking at whether it is worth it to work, one should weigh the costs of childcare, commuting, etc. against the lower earner's income (in this case, your husband). Under this calculation, you may find that you are essentially paying for him to work, since the costs of working (childcare, increased meals out, business attire, commute costs, etc.) is higher than the income he would receive. You may still decide that your family would be better off with him working, even if it costs you financially, if he is happier working or he feels it would hurt his career too much. But you should still consider the costs of working before you make that decision.

Posted by: Ms L | September 20, 2006 10:32 AM

G'morning Scarry! Ready for another energizing day of blog debating? ;-)

Posted by: Dad of 2 | September 20, 2006 10:32 AM

I always hear about the "costs of working." These are frequently enumerated as clothes, dinners out, commuting, and childcare; the only honest cost I see is childcare. Families with stay at home parents never eat out? Women who went to work in St. John suits are content to stay at home wearing clothes from Target? At-home parents don't drive the car or leave the house?

I once read an article where the calculated "cost of work" included a computer. As if the family wouldn't have had a computer if the mother had stayed at home. As if the cost of dry cleaning should seriously factor into a woman's decision to work or not.

Posted by: Lizzie | September 20, 2006 10:33 AM

I completely agree with you MSL.

The Marriage penalty was largely eliminated in the 2003 Tax Act.

Posted by: alexandria mom | September 20, 2006 10:33 AM

To MsL: that is true. But doesn't that only affect lower wage earners. Most professionals that I know make way more then the cost of childcare, commuting, housing cleaning etc... Especially when you factor in retirement and other benefits and future raises. I am not saying it is not an issue. But only an issue for the lower income brackets and maybe some part of the middle class.

Posted by: NewName | September 20, 2006 10:34 AM

I forgot to explain that the "spousal benefit" is only 50% of the wage earner's beenfit. It appears that the commentator is really whining that her mother married badly.

If her mother hadn't worked, she would have been eligible to recieve a spousla benefit equal to 50% of the author's father's benefit. Given the author's comments, I suspect that amount would still have been less than for what her aunt is eligible.

Example:

Uncle's benefit = 1400 Aunt's spousal benefit = 700.

Father's benefit = 1100 Mother's benefit = 600. Mother could elect the spousla benefit but it would only be $550 so SS will pay her the benefit which she earned.

It appears the author's real problem is that her uncle earned more than her mother and father.

Posted by: Ann | September 20, 2006 10:36 AM

Leslie is me, the author of the blog.

Posted by: Leslie | September 20, 2006 10:40 AM

To Ann: That is what I was trying to say but you said it more clearly. There is no penalty from SSI due to two people working.

Posted by: NewName | September 20, 2006 10:41 AM

"I am not saying it is not an issue. But only an issue for the lower income brackets and maybe some part of the middle class."

Maybe you're right. I know it affects some of my friends and family. It depends in part on how many children you have, and perhaps where you live. Still, even if it only affects the lower income brackets and some of the middle class, it's worth mentioning.

Am I correct in remembering that Leslie mentioned the greatest numbers of SAHMs are the poor who couldn't get a job that would pay child-care expenses?

Posted by: Ms L | September 20, 2006 10:43 AM

AND another thing:

"someone who seems to adore feeling victimized because she is an upper income working woman with children"

Everyday one or more people on this blog feel compelled to comment that middle or upper middle class working Moms don't have "real" problems. I grew up in the rural south as the child of a single mom who had me too young and worked like crazy to put herself through school and make a better life for us-- so believe me, I know what "real" problems look like. I do not understand, however, why the severity of problems faced by poor families means that middle class families don't have real problems, too. I grew up poor; I am not poor anymore, but do I still worry about the cost of childcare-- absolutely! My Mom had to put up with a lot of crummy jobs that didn't make it easier for her to be a parent and for many years she had no negotiating leverage; but does that mean I or any other middle class working women should shut up and lump it rather than negotiating better arrangements? While we're on the subject, how come the "you ain't got real problems" crowd is never very keen to pass better labor laws to help the working poor and blue collar moms (vis a vis issues we've discussed here, like pumping milk on the job, better benefits, paid parental leave, etc.)?

Putting things in perspective can help middle and upper class folks appreciate what they have and count their blessings; but whoever said we shouldn't be constantly striving to improve and make things better for ALL working moms?

Ann, every working parent has the right (and a good reason) to sing the blues sometimes.

Posted by: JKR | September 20, 2006 10:43 AM

Pay for housecleaning?? With what money. Get real

Posted by: Mominredstate | September 20, 2006 10:46 AM

Did you see the news item yesterday about the NAS report blaming plain old discrimination for the dearth of women in academia?

I work in software development. In graduate school, the majority of time I was the only woman in my class. I don't blame discrimination, I blame women for choosing to do "martini majors" or "mrs. degrees." Why aren't there more women in science and engineering? Because they don't want to go into science and engineering. Hell, there were very few American men in my classes too! Professors were delighted to have me in their classes and wanted me to continue onto a PhD. Why? Government grants and project often stipulate that only Americans can work on them (ITAR restricted programs) and professors cannot find enough students to work on them.

Posted by: alexandria mom | September 20, 2006 10:49 AM

The "marriage penalty" is a really tough problem to solve. It happens because we have a progressive tax system, which means that people who have higher incomes pay a higher rate of taxes (not just more taxes but a higher rate too). So when two people who earn the same amount of money as each other get married, they end up paying more in taxes than they did when they were single and living together. That happens because after marriage they are in a higher tax bracket.

The marriage penalty only happens when both spouses earn almost equal incomes. If there is only one income earner, the couple will actually pay less in taxes than a single person earning the same income. This is because there's a larger deduction for a married couple, and a married couple is taxed at a lower rate than a single person earning the same income. (The lower rate makes sense because the married couple is supporting two people on the one income, while the single person is only supporting one person. If the single person had dependents, he/she could be "head of household" and pay lower rates too -- but that's getting a bit complicated.)

So, this is hard to solve without making the tax system even more complicated. Most people like the progressive tax system (though there are a fair number of "flat taxers" out there). If you want to have a progressive tax system, there's either going to be a marriage penalty or a single penalty.

I'd be really happy to hear a better solution to this!

P.S. "Married filing separately" does not fix it either -- if you check that box, you'll probably pay higher rates than if you filed jointly! In almost all cases, it's better to file jointly.

Posted by: NY Mom | September 20, 2006 10:51 AM

"What, you prefer your aunt not have any Social security after your uncle dies?" "It appears that the commentator is really whining that her mother married badly."

I wish you would find a nicer way to put things, Ann.

Here's a potential scenario (not my aunt's).

Couple A earns 120K. Each member earns 60K and pays FICA on 120K.

Couple B earns 120K, with one worker. They pay FICA on only $90K.

At retirement, each member of couple A can get, let's say, $1K each.

Couple B is counted as putting in more and the earner can get $1,333 and the spouse can get half of that, or $666. So they also get $2K, but they actually paid 25% less into the system through FICA.

Because of the cap on wages for high-earners, two-income families can be hurt.

Posted by: Ms L | September 20, 2006 10:54 AM

About the costs of working:

The reason items like commuting, wardrobe costs and eating out costs are included is that they can be associated with work. For instance communting - I will still own the car and drive to the grocery store, however I won't drive 20 miles downtown every week day, I might drive 2 miles to the park but the net is still less. Even though I work full time I still need jeans, sweats and other casual clothes so you may already own the bulk of the wardrobe for stay at home status and a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt do cost less than a suit. As for eating out by being home you should have more energy (or at least more flexibility) to make dinners so you are ordering take out less. Obviously this varies from family to family and job to job, but these costs should be evaluated, just as the cost of future raises, retirement income, career trajectory, should also be evaluated.

Posted by: Divorced Mom of 1 | September 20, 2006 10:54 AM

About the costs of working:

The reason items like commuting, wardrobe costs and eating out costs are included is that they can be associated with work. For instance communting - I will still own the car and drive to the grocery store, however I won't drive 20 miles downtown every week day, I might drive 2 miles to the park but the net is still less. Even though I work full time I still need jeans, sweats and other casual clothes so you may already own the bulk of the wardrobe for stay at home status and a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt do cost less than a suit. As for eating out by being home you should have more energy (or at least more flexibility) to make dinners so you are ordering take out less. Obviously this varies from family to family and job to job, but these costs should be evaluated, just as the cost of future raises, retirement income, career trajectory, should also be evaluated.

Posted by: Divorced Mom of 1 | September 20, 2006 10:55 AM

'I blame women for choosing to do "martini majors" or "mrs. degrees." '

Alexandria Mom, an excerpt from yesterday's NYT story:

For 30 years, the report says, women have earned at least 30 percent of the nation's doctorates in social and behavioral sciences, and at least 20 percent of the doctorates in life sciences. Yet they appear among full professors in those fields at less than half those levels.

The report also dismissed other commonly held beliefs -- that women are uncompetitive or less productive, that they take too much time off for their families, and so on. Their real problems, it says, are unconscious but pervasive bias, "arbitrary and subjective" evaluation processes, and a work environment in which "anyone lacking the work and family support traditionally provided by a 'wife' is at a serious disadvantage."

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/18/science/19womencnd.html?ex=1158897600&en=3f259eee0c0c6e96&ei=5087%0A

Posted by: JKR | September 20, 2006 10:55 AM

Leslie,

Since the tax/marriage penalty issue seems pretty cloudy do you think you could bring Michelle Singletary back again for a guest column? I looked for a relevant article of hers, but her archive doesn't seem to go back that far.

Posted by: running | September 20, 2006 10:55 AM

TO JKR,

Are they comparing PhD in the social and behavioral sciences to PhD in engineering? Are they looking only at base salary? If women professor aren't winning proposals, I would love to see how they prove it is discrimination? In engineering, professors have to hustle research money from commercial sector. Women have a harder time doing this because of the travel involved, but that is their husband's fault. Feminism starts at home.

Posted by: alexandria mom | September 20, 2006 10:58 AM

Lizzie, I totally agree.

Posted by: Meesh | September 20, 2006 11:02 AM

"When all taxes and other costs associated with working are considered (such as paying for child care and housecleaning), a woman in a middle-income family can only expect to keep 35 cents out of every dollar she earns."

What income range do the authors consider to be middle-income? I'm sure the answer to that will surprise many of us. It's always lower than one expects.

Posted by: Amy | September 20, 2006 11:03 AM

"As for eating out by being home you should have more energy (or at least more flexibility) to make dinners so you are ordering take out less."

This drives me nuts. I work and cook a multi-course dinner every damn night and love doing it. A friend of mine is an attorney with long hours and she cooks every night because she loves it - she even bakes her own challah for the Sabbath. A SAHM on my hall orders takeout every night because she hates to cook.

It has much more to do with whether you find cooking enjoyable than whether you work. If you enjoy it, you'll make the time, no matter how squeezed your schedule. If you don't, you could have all the time in the world and you will still hit take-out so hard that your 3-yo son doesn't even know it's possible to cook dinner at home.

Posted by: Lizzie | September 20, 2006 11:09 AM

Lizzie, I think I love you!

Ok, seriously, I always enjoy your perspective and couldn't agree more about the way childcare and other costs get tagged on to the wife's salary - my brother and his wife do that and it totally freaks me out.

On the other costs of working, I do understand why some women/couples think of it that way - we definitely ate more home-cooked meals when I was not working full time, because I had more time to plan, grocery shop etc. My husband just isn't a good meal planner, so now even though he works PT, we still eat out more often.

BUT, even though I see that those types of costs may increase when both parents work, I don't think a parent should make the decision based only on that - there are too many other long term factors that are harder to quantify and can get overlooked.

Posted by: Megan | September 20, 2006 11:11 AM

To JKR,

Thanks for the link! Now that I actually read the article (teehee), I will further comment that many women also leave academia because the corporate/commerical sector pays a hell of a lot more money that academia. Life in corporate america is far easier than engineering and science fields in academia! Publishing alone is a difficult process (for men too I might add). It is all about who you did research with and connections you make in research circles. After spending so many years in graduate school and dealing with the politics (which is unlike anything I have ever seen in my life!), the commercial sector looks far more attractive both financially and for a work/life balance.

Posted by: alexandria mom | September 20, 2006 11:11 AM

Alexandria Mom, I don't get the hostility or refusal to accept that discrimination *might* be at play regarding the PhD question. One of my female engineering professors (I got my undergrad in engineering) told me that in 1980 she was literally fired for having a baby-- they told her she couldn't take off one day-- she ended up having complications from a c-section and came back to find her office door locked. Not one colleague offered to cover her classes. She had to sue to get reinstated. Around the same time, a male colleague was in a car accident and was out for several weeks-- the other professors rushed to cover his classes and he came back a few weeks later to the warm welcome of the department. Now she has tenure and is a well known figure in her field-- but her colleagues, the same ones who let her twist in the wind in 1980, are running the department (and making the hiring decisions).

I know my own experience as an engineering undergrad was that guys at my male dominated tech school, while happy to hit on me after class and call me a b**** to my face if I turned them down, never wanted me working on their teams in class or study groups, despite the fact that I was there on a merit scholarship and got good grades. The female PhD students I saw there had to be rock stars to be taken remotely seriously-- a guy could muddle through without having his presence questioned.

While getting my master's in public policy, some students asked the department chair what they were doing to attract more strong female candidates to the school-- he said, "We've got 3 women professors-- what more do you want?" That's 3 out of 20 in a field where the number of female PhD students is near 50%-- but he felt he'd fulfilled his token requirement. (This at a supposedly liberal elite school.)

By the way, you can download a free .pdf summary of the National Academy of Sciences report here: http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11741.html

But it seems you believe discrimination doesn't exist, so I doubt you'll find it unconvincing.

Posted by: JKR | September 20, 2006 11:19 AM

I know lots of people, myself included, who live in the same house, in an engaged status, who aren't getting married because they feel no need to push themselves into the highest tax bracket until they have kids. We'd rather put extra money saved in taxes into 401K and savings. Considering that many of my friends are doing this, I think people have found this to be an excellent viable solution. In some cases you'd be giving the government a used car worth of money each year, I'd rather give it to a charity if i have to just give it away!! Maybe consolidate debt instead. The funny thing is this is what pushes our family values.

Posted by: ljb | September 20, 2006 11:24 AM

"Second, women tend to make less than men for a variety of reasons. Read the academic literature, not the pop culture Cosmopolitan magazine literature on it, and maybe, you will understand why. Women make different career choices, women choose part time career tracks, women bow out of the job market mid-stream to care for children--there are a variety of reasons. I'm a lawyer, and I look around me, and after the third or fourth year in practice, there are NO WOMEN to be found. I don't need statistics to tell me that women, on average, make less than men in my profession, BECAUSE THERE ARE FEWER WOMEN AT HIGHER LEVELS."

MLS - I'm a lawyer as well and I do agree that there are fewer women at higher levels, although they certainly do exist. (I'm a senior associate at a largish firm. I believe we have more female than male associates, but we certainly have more male than female partners.)

You are also correct that women make different career choices and bow out of their careers because of family. Of course this will result in women in the profession with a lower average income. But your implication seems to be (and perhaps I'm reading too much into your post) that this is the end of the story. It isn't. Women make choices that tend to lower their income, in part, because of the social and fiscal policies in this country. The author of the book seems to be suggesting solutions and ways to change those policies so that they are more friendly to women.

I haven't read the book and I'm certainly not a statistician so I can't comment on the author's "numbers," but the discussion about U.S. policy towards 2 income families is one that needs to happen if we ever want it to change.

I've also seen some attacks about Ann's comment regarding the tax rate for a single person making $90K and two married people making $40K and $50K. I actually believe the tax would be the same for those two households. A better example would be two single people in the same household making $40K and $50K and two married people making the same amounts. The married people will end up paying more in taxes because of the higher marginal tax rate. So it is an issue. I don't know anyone who has actually *not* gotten married because of the marriage penalty, but I do know couples who have postponed marriage for a few years as a result.

http://lawyermama.blogspot.com

Posted by: Lawyer Mama | September 20, 2006 11:40 AM

First of all, I don't mean to come off as hostile. Second, I do think there is some discrimination. I cannot speak to or comment on what the atmosphere was like in the 1980s. It doesn't surprise me that a female professor would be fired for pregnancy complications. I graduated in 2003 with a Master's. I have a standing offer to get a PhD with a professor I worked with on my Master's. The professors I had were nothing but encouraging. Much of this I think comes down to economics, they really need Americans to come to graduate school in engineering and science. This will help remedy a lot of the "old school" discrimination. Also as the "old school" professors die, there will also be a paradigm shift in attitudes.

I had many, many more problems with foreign male graduate students, who where openly hostile, would not speak to me and refused to include me in our group research. I cannot even begin to post the crap I had to deal with them. They were the worst people I have ever encountered in my life. EVER!

Graduate school and academia is extremely political. Often times, I noticed women did not play politics well. Often times, men didn't play politics well, either. But it is easier for women to claim discrimination than it is to admit they screwed up and hurt their careers. I am pretty sure most women would never address their short comings. (For the record, I had my moments of bad politics. Thankfully, it was with professor who didn't matter.) To make it in graduate school, esp. PhD, you must be a complete masochist!

Again, I think discrimination exists but I think academia (engineering & science), as a whole, is a messed up system for all.

Posted by: alexandria mom | September 20, 2006 11:40 AM

I wasn't saying that because it effects only the lower and middle income earners, they don't have a right to talk about it. Of course they do. What I was saying is that people think this blog is only about upper middle to wealthy women's complaint. The truth it is not. Leslie is bringing up an issue about that does not negatively hurt the upper middle class or wealthy. That is a good thing. I was saying that upper middle to wealthy are not negatively affected. So they should feel lucky. Does this make sense?

Posted by: NewName | September 20, 2006 11:42 AM

Yikes, JKR, when and where did you go to school? I'm hoping it was a while ago and that I can say that times have changed, though from your 1980 story it couldn't be too long ago.

While I was an engineering undergrad ('03) and grad student ('04) I didn't experience that kind of hostility. I might have been the only or one of two girls in my class but I always had people happy to work with me. I know there were sexist professors and students, but they were the minority.

There were few female professors while I was there (my advisor was one of them) and I just counted out of 43 current faculty, 4 are female. Of course this is going to reflect that there were so few women undergrads in my class (maybe 10-15 out of about 200).

On a side note, the class picture from every year back to the 1920s hung on the walls of our department. In my unscientific survey, the percentage of women in the class peaked sometime in the 70s. The numbers started dropping again after that. Anyone have any input on that?

Posted by: running | September 20, 2006 11:43 AM

To LJB -- yours has to be the most amazing excuse for shacking up that I've ever seen! I agree that you can't penalize everyone in a shared housing situation -- no way to determine who's a roommate and who's a partner -- but that's EXACTLY why the marriage penalty should be eliminated, period.

Posted by: silver spring mom | September 20, 2006 11:45 AM

Agreed, Alexandra Mom-- I do question my own sanity now that I am vaguely considering heading back for a PhD. And sorry if I came off sounding a wee bit bitter.

The truth is, I think I might've been happier studying something other than engineering-- but that tough-as-nails single mom I mentioned before kicked my butt to "get marketable skills" (when you've lived paycheck to paycheck, the merits of liberal arts education seem fuzzy). But that's a whole other story-- and in the end, though I don't work as an engineer today, it has served me very well to have a technical background.

I graduated in '99, by the way, from a well known southern engineering school which shall remain nameless. And it wasn't all bad :-)

Posted by: JKR | September 20, 2006 11:52 AM

Please DON'T have Michelle Singletary write a guest blog. The other day in a chat she was talking about how proud she was to be a "submissive wife" and have her "husband break all the ties" in disagreements. I can't imagine what a day on this blog would look like with her blathering at its top.

Posted by: The original just a thought | September 20, 2006 11:54 AM

I think to state that women keep only 35 cents of every dollar they earn is disingenuous. How do you arrive at that figure? Anecdotally (natch), I just calculated what I KEEP of my salary, and it is way over 75%. And I pay taxes on it. I get to choose how it is spent. If I want to pay for a housecleaner, then that is how I have chosen to spend my money. If that is the line we are taking, how much money does my husband 'keep'? After all of the deductions (mortgage, cable, cars, clothes, food, fun, etc) then we are in exactly the same boat, because we are married. To purport that a woman is wasting her salary on housekeeping, doesn't the husband also figure into this? Or does he sleep in the car and not get the benefit of the clean house?

As far as taxes go, I think it is comparing apples to oranges when you compare our tax rate to other countries. What do we get for it? No national health care, triple taxation, and corporations not paying their fair share. Countries with higher taxes often get more services. Of course, it could be because they are not spending billions of dollars on war.

Posted by: parttimer | September 20, 2006 11:56 AM

Re: Michelle Singletary

Exactly. I prefer not to get financial advice from someone who filters it through her conservative religious beliefs first.

Posted by: Fract'l | September 20, 2006 11:57 AM

No, not Michele Singletary -
Bring in someone who is less prone to bible-thumping and religious preaching. She is not the only financial person available. I personally like Suze Orman, but she is probably too busy for a blog.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 11:57 AM

"Recommendations include initiating a benefit system that gives employees more choices and makes benefits portable as well as making the tax system fairer for two-earner households. Sounds good, right? But how do we make employers and laws catch up to modern parenthood?"

How about making health insurance costs for the self-employed tax deductible? Help me out here, finance gurus...this is still not the case, correct?

Of course, all of this makes the assumption that government operates in the public interest. As a lobbyist who works on public safety issues, I can quite firmly say that government does not work in the public interest; it works in the corporate interest. Jack Abramoff wasn't lobbying on behalf of welfare mothers and orphans. As a friend of mine (a lobbyist for domestic violence issues) said to me last week, "There's no money in poverty issues."


Posted by: single western mom | September 20, 2006 11:59 AM

I also saw Michelle Singletary's comment about being a submissive wife to her husband. Wow!! Someone needs to talk to her.

Posted by: Rockville | September 20, 2006 12:00 PM

Yeah, Michele Singletary does go overboard on the religious advice - and she gets SO defensive when someone calls her out on it!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 12:01 PM

First of all, doesn't it seem odd that the "statistic" quoted is that women are 59% of the total American workforce?

Second, it's probably heresy here, but I think the bigger problem are outdated laws that assign no value to SAHMs.

Posted by: SonofCarl | September 20, 2006 12:03 PM

dad of 2 always up for the blog!

Proud papa,

I only got student loans. Do you think I filled something out wrong? I'm just asking so I can help my boys! thanks

Posted by: scarry | September 20, 2006 12:03 PM

Sorry for reinventing the wheel. I posted after I had read the blog article, but before I had read many responses.

Michelle Singletary is a strong woman with strong religious convictions. For some reason unknown to me, some religions insist that the man be the 'head of the household' and that the wife 'be submissive.' If you have read much of her writing, you will see that this is probably not the best word for her to use to describe her relationship with her husband. At least, that is my interpretation. Basically, she says that if there is the familial jury is deadlocked on an important family issue, her husband is the one to make the final decision. I know, it is weird to me too, but I guess on those rare occassions we all have in our families that this type of decision comes up, there has to be a tie-breaker. Has never happened to me, but it could, in theory. And then we would go back to the drawing board until we came to a concensus. Then again, I just want a peaceful life. But for my husband not to respect my p.o.v. on a very important topic would be a red flag and then I would have to bring out the big guns. Besides, he readily admits that I am much smarter than he is. I am the one who gets to work part time!)

Posted by: parttimer | September 20, 2006 12:03 PM

running,

I'm a woman who went to engineering school in the 70s. I was excited and very hopeful about my career ready to get out and contribute. Working, I faced constant discrimination against women in the field. Even though I got excellent ratings and was respected it was impossible to get put onto new projects where I learned new things. I noticed at my last job before switching to public health that none of the women, no matter how good they were and no matter how much they asked or demanded to be put on innovative projects, were put on these projects. They were put on maintaining existing systems which meant lower pay and no new skills.

Since moving to public health which is now predominantly female it has been completely different. I get to work on innovative projects - I'm not treated any differently. It's been great. Of course, I will also make less because it is a female dominated field even though it is as difficult as the engineering/computer sicence that I did.

I think alot of women who went to engineering schools in the 70s thought that they would have similar opportunities to men. What little discrimination there was at school was fairly mild. Once in the work environment reality hit and I think it has discouraged women from engineering and computer science.

Posted by: kep | September 20, 2006 12:07 PM

I know, I need to go do something else, but I wanted to point out the article on the front page of this website entitled "A Quiet Break for Corporations."

Anyone up for absentee ballots this election? And every election thereafter?

Posted by: parttimer | September 20, 2006 12:10 PM

Re: Michelle S.
It's not just the "submissive" thing. Her blanket disapproval of people living together prior to marriage (yes, I know if they break up it's harder to divide property fairly, etc.), but the advice she gave against pre-nups during her last time was not good advice for good reasons!

Posted by: Fract'l | September 20, 2006 12:11 PM

I agree that in a spousal disagreement that is deadlocked that someone has to break the tie. But I completely disagree that it should always be the husband just because he happens to have a y chromasome. I think that the way the deadlock is broken should depend on the people, on the relative importance that each person gives the issue, on the effect that the decision would have on each person. And if all else fails and things are still equal, then flip a coin. It is just as arbitrary without being as fundamentally unfair to the woman. I understand that people have their religious beliefs. But I also think that when you are giving financial advice, you should do just that, without filtering and often confusing the issue with religious views that are not relevant to the discussion. I am sure Michelle is a strong and smart women, but the religious bent that her discussions often take only result in alienating some of her audience.

Posted by: Rockville | September 20, 2006 12:11 PM

I always hear about the "costs of working." These are frequently enumerated as clothes, dinners out, commuting, and childcare; the only honest cost I see is childcare. Families with stay at home parents never eat out? Women who went to work in St. John suits are content to stay at home wearing clothes from Target? At-home parents don't drive the car or leave the house?

Lizzie

I agree. I've never had to wear clothes, even as a professional, to work that are any different than what I would wear around the house. My commute of 15 minutes has always been less than what I would drive if I had the day off. And, even as a single person, I still make 90% or more of all my meals including lunch.

Conversely, my brother's family with a stay at home wife eats out almost every night. I think a lot of this stuff is very much against married women working and they try to slant it that way.

When I've tried to figure out what my working costs are I've come up with very few.

Posted by: dia | September 20, 2006 12:12 PM

Rockville, I completely agree. I have read her colomn for a few years now, and she is becoming more forward/assertive/aggressive in her writing about the morals of money. Some women who feel that everyone should live the way they do (married to a man, working, not working, having children, etc) try to inflict their morals on others. It is annoying, but some of her financial advice is sound, but it is also fairly basic (save, stay out of debt, etc.). I think her niche audience does not include me, but I still read her (habit, mostly--I stumbled across her column when she was doing the frugal contest--the winner saved tissue from his job as a grocery clerk to use as tp). Other writers do the same thing, but in a different way. For example, I don't think too many mainstream financial advisors writing for a mainstream publication would advocate avoiding marriage and co-habitation as a way to save money, although it works. They might say to get a roommate instead. I do wonder sometimes why she is so averse to seeing the world as it is. Sometimes marriage doesn't work out. Why stay in a miserable marriage for 60 years? A pre-nup is kind of a necessary evil, especially if you have something to lose. I would liken it to going on a boat without a life jacket or not wearing your seatbelt. Maybe 98 percent of the time you won't need it, but it is better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

Posted by: parttimer | September 20, 2006 12:27 PM

To dia: while I agree with most of your points. I do think commuting is a real cost of working for some people. I pay about $2,000/year in metro and parking fees. Now, if I was to SAH, I would have some costs for transportation. But certainly not that much. I up keep a car whether I work or SAH. I would have more car repairs and gas giving I stayed home. But I don't think it would be the same as parking and metro fees. There are some clothing costs if you work in a suit enviroment. I do not know too many SAHPs that walk around in business suits. Mainly because they are uncomfortable. There is also dry cleaning costs. I agree with the cooking costs. I do pay more for prepared meals but if I could get away with doing that and SAH, I would. :)

Posted by: NewName | September 20, 2006 12:29 PM

We made a budget when we were deciding if I would stay home, and agreed that he would take lunches in, we would dine out max 2X per week, etc. I had the time to shop for bargains, wait for sales, argue with the health insurance company about denied claims (which we had just paid before, not having the time to deal with it). We didn't feel the need to take exotic vacations as much, since our lives were less stressful. All in all, our cost of living went down by about $500 per month, not including childcare (I use a computer budgeting program, so I was able to keep track).

As in everything, your mileage may vary. But for us there were a whole lot of found savings from having me stay at home.

Posted by: SAHM vs working | September 20, 2006 12:40 PM

bkp says

"

Up to $5000 in childcare expenses are tax deductible. Unless you make a lot of money. Daycare runs 10000-14000 per year. The government is saying that one half to one third of that expense is tax free. That seems fair. For families that are really poor, a lot of other assistance kicks in.

I have always viewed the tax laws as encouraging both spouses to work, not the opposite. If one spouse stays at home, he or she gives up both potential income and on their tax return, are not allowed to deduct the imputed value of the childcare, i.e., for tax purposes, services you provide to yourself have no value.

I am not surprised the conclusions of this book are incorrect. You have two people with agendas and a journalist involved. That is not a recipe for robust analysis."

Close but no cigar. Your absolutely right that much of the problem is caused by the asymmetric treatment of labor outside the home which produces cash spent on childcare vs. labor spent directly on childcare. But the asymmetry favors the stay-at-home parent. As you point out daycare costs a lot more than the $5,000 that you can deduct for tax purposes. Assume it costs $10,000. Then to pay the $10,000 to the daycare provider the working parent (even if in the 20% bracket) has to earn $11,250. That's 1,250 that the government takes off the top before the working parent even gets to see a single net dollar of profit from going to work.

Paradoxically, the best way to equalize the treatment of parents who work outside the home and those who stay at home would be to make the stay-at-home parents PAY TAX on their imputed income. (Not a politically feasible solution, but one which would actually create true parity).

Posted by: Imputed Income | September 20, 2006 12:40 PM

Another vote to NOT see Singletary here. I stopped reading her blog when one of her comments to someone disagreeing with her was "I will pray for you then". Blech.

RE: married vs living together. After our last 'surprise' tax bill came due, my wife and I determined if we were single and living together we would be able to keep a lot more of our income than if we remained married. After thinking about it (not seriously mind you) we determined the hassle of divorcing but keeping the status quo for everything else wasn't worth it, though.

Still, when you can get that kind of revelation, it makes sense so many couples choose to not get married.

Posted by: John | September 20, 2006 12:41 PM

I find it very annoying that we are *still* saying that the woman's salary is used to pay for things like childcare and housecleaning (and so therefore it is hardly worth it for her to work, etc.) This is particularly disturbing to find in an article that is supposed to be supportive of working women. Childcare expenses are the responsibility of both parents, not just the mother, and it just devalues women to subtract that substantial sum and tell them "Well, you are really just earning 35 cents on the dollar".

Posted by: PL | September 20, 2006 12:46 PM

Scarry - Somebody mentioned earlier that the system might be broken in that incoming college students (and their parents) cannot easily tell what Aid they are eligible for. Filling out the FAFSA (the federal app for student aid) gets DoEd to compute your financial need. This is a fixed amount based upon the household's financial information if the student is a minor. (It is a crime to falsify it). A school that says their Aid office will meet the students full need (say $25k on a $35k tuition) will make sure the student 'gets' the $25k.

Most schools then decide what proportion to allocate the student out of 3 pots: Federal grants, Federal loans and Workstudy earnings. Those 3 amounts should add up to $25k. The remaining $10k is assumed to be the household's problem to solve (via parents salaries, 2nd mortgage, loan shark, etc.)

Also, schools breakdown as 1) those who make no claims of helping you meet financial need 2) those who claim to help you meet your need as computed by DoEd/FSA and 3) those who claim to help you meet your need as THEY compute it.

Beware category 3. Some of our country's best private colleges fall into this category, my alma mater included. Expect that your college senior will have to borrow lots of money in his/her last year, b/c the school will magically compute that their need is lessened. Private schools do play this game partially to ensure that your kids graduate in 4 years. Year 5 will cost you a ton.

Now lets say you go find some non-Federal aid. Your kid wins a $3,000 scholarship from the boy scouts. The boy scouts send payment to the college directly (most scholarship funds do not put a check in your hand). The college financial aid deducts that amount from the amount of your Federal Grant, then your Federal Loan. In other words, the taxpayers do not extend you a government grant when your 'financial need' was lessened by the amount the boy scouts gave you.

All this is a long way of saying that sometimes winning scholarships often does not lessen how much the family pays, assuming they already get financial aid. (This is why people hear the stories of all this 'unclaimed scholarship money' every year - it wouldn't have helped the family anyway.) If you are in the wonderful position of not needing any federal aid, any scholarships you win then can directly lessen the amount you owe the school.

Here are good places to look for non-federal scholarships: Mom/Dad's company, Mom/Dad's union, student's extracurricular groups, Mom/Dad's alma maters, student's research interests, town chamber of commerce, trusts left to the school by prominent alums (lists of each school's prominent alums can be found on wikipedia), organizations founded to assist mom/dad/student's religion, nationality, gender or race.

And, there are more. This is real research that should be done every year, and Google and Wikipedia will help cut the time drastically. I googled "irish college scholarship" and this was right near the top, for example: (http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/nysssa/AmIrLeg/2006essayapplicationform.pdf#search=%22irish%20college%20scholarship%22)

-Pp.

Posted by: Proud Papa | September 20, 2006 12:52 PM

"Childcare expenses are the responsibility of both parents, not just the mother, and it just devalues women to subtract that substantial sum and tell them "Well, you are really just earning 35 cents on the dollar".


This is so true. My sister and her husband do this, and worse, because they keep their finances separate (they have separate accounts, she pays half the mortgage from her account and all of the daycare), it means that she ends up with no money of her own and is constantly asking my BIL for cash or to pay for things for her, which is so demoralizing and sets up a totally screwy power dynamic. I've heard her say more than once "once I pay for daycare and my half of the mortgage I just don't have much left" but she doesn't want to ask her husband to pay for half the daycare. It totally sucks.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 12:53 PM

To NewName

Are you Lieu?

Posted by: Sam | September 20, 2006 12:54 PM

"making the tax system fairer for two-earner households"

What a total crock of a statement. You want to make the tax system fair -- eliminate joint returns. Every person who works pays taxes based on their income and their income only. No joint returns. You don't want a "fair tax system" you want special priviliges!

Posted by: RBCrook | September 20, 2006 12:55 PM

To NewName

Are you Lieu?

Posted by: Sam | September 20, 2006 12:54 PM

Wouldn't answering this in the positive defeat the purpose of taking on NewName?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 12:58 PM

Yes Sam, I am Lieu. Or Lieu I am. Just kidding. I thought I should have a NewName. Not because any thing that happened on the blog but I found someone I knew recongized me on the blog. I did not want work people recongnizing me. :)

Posted by: NewName | September 20, 2006 1:02 PM

It was mentioned that the childcare is to be deducted from the lower wagerearner, which (whether we'd like to admit it or not) tends to be the wife. When my husband made less $ than me (13 of the 15 years of our marriage), we figured when we had our 2nd child that we would have been better off financially if he had stayed at home. Deducting the child care expenses from his salary and figuring out our take home salary after taxes made us come out ahead if he had stayed at home. But, he didn't want to. But, this was while he was working on a degree and was between "suitable" jobs (not working in the type of job he really wanted), so he didn't want to stay at home with the kids. I can't blame him because I don't know what I would have done if I were the one in the lower wage earner situation at the time.

But, to figure out if it makes sense financially for the lower wager earner to work, these expenses must be deducted from that person's salary.

Of course, other factors may play into the decision of whether or not it makes sense for that person to work.

By the way - there are still many items in the tax law that benefit single individuals. We would each be able to contribute to FSAs for dependent care. We wouldn't hit some of the income caps. My SIL is a financial planner!

Posted by: Mom of 2 | September 20, 2006 1:03 PM

The problem with Michelle Singletary, and I'm sure she's a very nice woman, but why on earth would a woman who gives advice for a living say to her readers that her OWN family does not take her advice if there is family deadlock and her HUSBAND decides (a financial decision for example), simply because he has the right chromosome???

Posted by: The original just a thought | September 20, 2006 1:05 PM

OK, I thought I posted this. Sam, yes I am Lieu or Lieu I am. I just changed my name because one of my friends identified me on my blog. So I did not want anyone from work identifying me later on.

Posted by: NewName | September 20, 2006 1:07 PM

And now I've blown your cover. Sorry. But your posts are distinctive. I thought so yesterday when you referred to DH, and when you stated you were a statistician today, that sealed it.

Will promise not to ask the next time I see a post that appears to be from you. So maybe you can take on a new newname tomorrow.

I may have to change my name also. Someone else posted as Sam yesterday.

Have thoughts on this topic, but they've already been stated by lots of others.

Posted by: Sam | September 20, 2006 1:08 PM

"Recommendations include ... as well as making the tax system fairer for two-earner households."

Funny - I don't recall the Post advocating for the elimination of the marriage-penalty in the tax code before. Maybe now? Nah - doubt it.

Posted by: Joe Loiacono | September 20, 2006 1:08 PM

Don't worry Sam. I don't think anyone in my office actually reads this blog. I just did not want to make it so obvious that is what I do with my free time at work. I was surprised when one of my non work friends said " I read what you wrote on the on balance blog and..."

Posted by: NewName | September 20, 2006 1:14 PM

The problem with Michelle Singletary, and I'm sure she's a very nice woman, but why on earth would a woman who gives advice for a living say to her readers that her OWN family does not take her advice if there is family deadlock and her HUSBAND decides (a financial decision for example), simply because he has the right chromosome???

Great point! I must be living under a rock because I have never heard of this woman! Why doesn't she and her husband settle matters with rock, paper, scissors like my husband and I do?!

I find it odd that couples fight about money. My husband and I tend to have the same philosophy and rarely fight about money. We fight/argue about crazy stuff like Middle East policy and immigration, as if our opinions mattered.

Posted by: to the original just a thought | September 20, 2006 1:17 PM

A few people today mentioned cooking and the impact on the family. Cooking at home saves both time and money, unless you have zero interest or skills in that department. Someone on this blog mentioned 'Saving Dinner' as a good resource, so I bought it. "Saving Dinner' should be renamed 'Saving Lives', because it was a lifesaver for me*! I save a lot more time now in the kitchen, at the store, etc., plus I actually have money left over in the grocery budget! If you have trouble with this I can highly recommend it. It sounds odd to say that this book changed my life, but it did in more than one way. It refers to a website called "flylady' which has been around for a while. After testing the 'Saving Dinner' methods, I looked at this website in more depth--at first glance it turned me off because it seemed so corny--but after a week or so, the stress level in my house went down about 90%. Having a clean house and dinner on the table (without paying someone else to do it) using minimal effort is worth reading a few corny articles. My life is more balanced than it has ever been.

*typical corny remark in book and website.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 1:19 PM

proud papa, thanks so much, I just copied and printed your post. I'm sending my eldest child to college next fall, and you have just answered most of my financial aid questions!

Posted by: experienced mom | September 20, 2006 1:21 PM

"I just did not want to make it so obvious that is what I do with my free time at work.
Posted by: NewName | September 20, 2006 01:14 PM "

A Google search should bring up all your posts (including your admission), so now that you're outed, . . . we'll all pretend we don't recognize you when you reappear under a new, new name.

Posted by: Fract'l | September 20, 2006 1:27 PM

thanks proud papa, this helps a lot, not for me but for the boys, nephews that is!

Posted by: scarry | September 20, 2006 1:27 PM

"A few people today mentioned cooking and the impact on the family."

Actually, there is a growing "cook at home" movement. Since moving in with my husband, he has cooked all of our meals and does the grocery shopping. We only eat out if he gets home late or if I have been too slow on doing dishes/cleaning up. He cooks because I am probably one of the worst cooks. Eating at home is far healthier and cheaper than eating out all the time. I think some of the obesity problems this country is seeing is due to eating out too much. Restaurant portions are HUGE.

This site is one of many that encourages eating at home rather than in restaurants. http://kitchen.apartmenttherapy.com/

Posted by: alexandria mom | September 20, 2006 1:32 PM

Saving Dinner post THANKS!!!!!
MESSAGE TO LESLIE!!!!!

Do a blog on how to survive the arsenic hours between 4 and 8 PM each weekday.

Stay-at-homes, Work-at-Offices, Mr. Moms, Soccer Parents -- DOES NOT MATTER.

We all struggle with food (healthy and no trans fats now), homework (not that it makes 'em smarter), soccer (stand in for Tai Chi or Appalachian Fiddle, etc.), bath and bed.

I would really love the advice we could give each other on this topic.

Sane Food Tip from us. Buy pizza dough and make custom pizza. Everyone is happy. You control the cheese portion for mid-life spare tires. I buy pizza dough in perfect round balls from a family-style pizza shop. They are happy to sell to me. We buy plenty of pizza pies from them, anyway.

Dinner in 20 mins. Plus bag o' salad some nights, sans spinach.

Cold pizza for breakfast or in car on way to soccer next day.

Posted by: College Parkian | September 20, 2006 1:35 PM

huh?

Too kinky for me.

Posted by: Rockville | September 20, 2006 1:41 PM

"I do think it is important to figure out if the lower earner (not necessarily the wife) is earning enough to pay for child care. If one is not, they need to be aware that they are essentially paying to work."

Paying to work still makes sense, because having fresh experience on one's résumé is valuable (just in case something happens to one's partner and one can't live on his or her income anymore).

"But if it's a dead-end job and you can save more by staying at home, why should you do it?"

That's very much like asking "if you can save more by not insuring your house/car/etc., why should you do it?"

"It is just as arbitrary without being as fundamentally unfair to the woman. I understand that people have their religious beliefs."

...and people have their kinks too.

Maybe part of the reason Michelle Singletary's advice doesn't work for most of us is that we're not into BDSM, but it would work for couples that are? A male masochist who married a female sadist might relate to the "my husband breaks the ties" thing if he keeps in mind that Singletary's dom is male and his dom is female so he should flip the genders in her advice before taking it...

Posted by: Maria | September 20, 2006 1:42 PM

BDSM? Is that a VLI? WTF?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 1:46 PM

IT is THE epitome of VLI, especially the vulgar part.

Posted by: Rockville | September 20, 2006 1:47 PM

Rockville, I think your post is coming before Maria's. I think it was meant to come after Maria's. If it is what I am thinking it means, Rockville that is too much for me too.

Posted by: NewName | September 20, 2006 1:52 PM

Whoah, Maria, getting a little crazy there! Very interesting analysis...

Posted by: nutmeg | September 20, 2006 1:52 PM

Yes, my first post should have come after Maria's. Weird.

Posted by: Rockville | September 20, 2006 1:56 PM

Woke me up!

Posted by: Fract'l | September 20, 2006 1:58 PM

"But if it's a dead-end job and you can save more by staying at home, why should you do it?"

That's very much like asking "if you can save more by not insuring your house/car/etc., why should you do it?"

Maria, are you saying that someone should feel obligated to become a cashier at wal-mart, even if it costs them money in childcare, just because they should keep their resume fresh? And this is as valuable as insurance?

Posted by: Ms L | September 20, 2006 2:02 PM

I cannot believe this made the column. Is there an editor here? Wow, people making more money pay more taxes. un-be-lievable. A woman in a household making $150k pays taxes as if she lives in a household making $150k. I'm SHOCKED, SHOCKED, I say SHOCKED!

I liked it all better when my wife made more than I did.

Posted by: Bethesdan | September 20, 2006 2:04 PM

I didn't know Singletary swung that way. Anyone have her number? ;-)

Posted by: Random Guy | September 20, 2006 2:04 PM

Maria always has a unique point of view. Remember how a few blogs ago she said that a stay-at-home-parent's job was dependent on his or her sexual performance?

I'm sensing a trend here.

Posted by: Kooky | September 20, 2006 2:04 PM

Okay all you perverts. Get on your knees and pray for forgiveness (and a SAH spouse that puts out good0.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 2:07 PM

If you go into a marriage and refuse to be submissive to your husband, chances are, you've married a dweeb.

On the other hand, if you completely trust the just authority of your husband, you probably married a leader.

think about it girls. Did you marry a dweeb or a leader?

Posted by: Father of 4 | September 20, 2006 2:18 PM

F04, sometimes, you're just not funny.

Posted by: The original just a though | September 20, 2006 2:20 PM

Fo4, did you marry a dweeb or a leader?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 2:22 PM

Fof4 - I took the third option - I married another woman. ;-)

Ok, so I attempted to. It's not legal yet. But I still got the dress and the relationship.

Posted by: Snarky | September 20, 2006 2:24 PM

Fo4, I married an equal. We are both leaders, and partners.

Posted by: Ms L | September 20, 2006 2:25 PM

More importantly, Fo4, did your wife marry a dweeb or a leader? I personally married a stud.


Seriously, the whole idea of either spouse being submissive is bizarre to me. LIke Ms. L, we're equals and partners and we're happy that way.

Posted by: Megan | September 20, 2006 2:28 PM

A long time ago, when it was fun to ridicule Dan Quayle for his intellect (or lack thereof), he was asked if he or Marilyn was smarter. His answer was that he was too smart to answer that question either way.

Maybe he couldn't spell potato, but at least he knew how to deal with his wife. (And no, I am not a Quayle defender). I just thought it was funny.

Posted by: Rockville | September 20, 2006 2:30 PM

Did you marry a dweeb or a leader?

What about if we are both dweebs who lead?

Posted by: alexandria mom | September 20, 2006 2:35 PM

My dog is submissive. Does that count? Can I be a leader now too?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 2:36 PM

father of 4,

I married a hot head, like myself, except I am much nicer than he is. I don't understand the submissive thing either.

Posted by: scarry | September 20, 2006 2:37 PM

Man, my dog does not even submit to me. That must make me a super-dweeb.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 2:37 PM

Amazing! There are a teeny, weeny, itty, bitty number of instances where not being able to legally marry has a financial benefit.

Of course, not hitting the higher tax bracket as a couple gets counterbalanced by the fact that my income is taxed as if it were considerably higher than it is, because I have to pay taxes on my "imputed income" of my company's contributions to my same-sex domestic partner's health insurance. So don't be jealous, you poor married people suffering from this grave injustice. Everything about being in a lesbian family isn't sunshine and daffodils.

Incidently, we take child care out of my non-legal-wife's (smaller) check too. Not because we're sexist, but because the mortgage and most of the other bills come out of my paycheck and there's not enough left there to cover childcare.

But -- and I think this was the point of whoever said "that's just how they budget" -- it isn't "her" responsibility and "not mine." All families have to figure out how the household expenses get paid for, and if both adults work, usually some form of "I'll pay for X and you pay for Y" is involved.

Posted by: Liza | September 20, 2006 2:39 PM

Isn't it still fun to ridicule Dan Quayle?

Posted by: nutmeg | September 20, 2006 2:40 PM

My husband and I have our own strengths, so we take turns deferring to each other. He has great debate and reasoning skills, so I defer to him when we have to complain at a store or to the bank or to haggle at the flea market (he's great at complaining!). I have better planning and designing skills, so he defers to me then. It all balances out.

When we argue about politics or religion or the Redskins versus the Ravens (GO SKINS), no one defers, ans we have to agree to disagree :)

Posted by: Meesh | September 20, 2006 2:41 PM

"I married another woman."

For her next trick, she'll make a silk purse out of a pig's ear.

Yeah, that won't be legal either. Go figure.

Posted by: Yazoo | September 20, 2006 2:43 PM

I meant "AND we have to agree to disagree."

Good thing I didn't say anything about my superior editing skills!

Posted by: Meesh | September 20, 2006 2:44 PM

My cop have an excellent good-cop/bad-cop routine that we employ when dealing with individuals and companies who have failed to follow through on their promises. If you've ever seen the scene in LA Confidential where the two detectives to question the DA, it's something like that; I play the part of Bud White.

Two years ago, my husband's investment guy screwed up badly in making sure funds were available for our condo closing. He's still afraid of me.

Posted by: Lizzie | September 20, 2006 2:49 PM

I'll probably get blasted for this, but thank you current administration! The tax breaks and benefits to working families since 2002 have had an incredible impact on the tax burden my family has had to shoulder.

Back in 1997 when my husband and I made $48,000 combined, rented an apartment and had no kids, we payed a whooping 20% ($10,000) off the top of our salary in combined federal and state/local taxes. Now in 2005, with two kids, a hugh mortgage, itemized deductions and combined salary of $84,000, we actually managed to pay around 10% (less than the $10,000 we payed back in 1997) in combined federal and state taxes. Everything we deduct is completely legal, because of payroll deductions (retirement, medical) we are under the Alternative Minimum Tax radar. We qualify for the child tax credit, contibute to 401K/Simple IRAs, deduct college loan interest (up to the max), deduct state and property tax, deduct mortgage interest, deduct charitable contributions, put money into a Flexible Medical Spending account, and Deduct the up to $5,000 for Child care expenses.

Forgive me if I am confused, but I am not sure how current tax laws are penalizing working families?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 2:51 PM

Back to the question of how to make outdated laws catch up to modern life. Maybe a lot of laws should be revamped, but I also think we need new ones.

I think that there should be public pre-school for all kids who are at least 2. I think that companies should pay for at least 6 weeks of maternity leave, and hold the job open for a year. I think we should invest more in public education because that is the only way the next generation will do better than ours.

Posted by: Rockville | September 20, 2006 2:53 PM

"All families have to figure out how the household expenses get paid for, and if both adults work, usually some form of "I'll pay for X and you pay for Y" is involved."

Does every couple out there keep separate accounts or something? We both have direct deposit into the same checking account so, other than things that get taken out before payday such as health insurance, there's really no division. WE are paying for everything.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | September 20, 2006 2:55 PM

Rockville:
How do you propose paying for public preschool for all children over 2 years of age? More taxes perhaps?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 2:56 PM

Same here, Rockville Mom. All our money goes into one pot. It is never your money or my money. It is OUR money and our bills.

Posted by: Rockville | September 20, 2006 2:56 PM

Rockville:
How do you propose paying for public preschool for all children over 2 years of age? More taxes perhaps?

Yup. I would gladly pay more taxes for that.

Posted by: Rockville | September 20, 2006 3:00 PM

Rockville, I agree with you on the preschool thing. My daughter is way ahead of one of my nephews because she is going to preschool; it should be available for all children and families who want to go.

Posted by: scarry | September 20, 2006 3:04 PM

I don't think I would agree with public preschool at age 2. Studies show that kids only benefit for a brief period of time from one year of preschool (age 4). Actually the benefit diminishes by the end of first grade. Children who went to preschool and children who did not do not show significantly different academic results by the end of first grade. So the non preschooler aged kids catch up in that first two years of public school. That being said my DD will attend two years of preschool (age 3 and 4). But I am not anticipating any life long advantages from that. We are doing it because we can and to stimulate her for the here and now. Not to give her any academic edge in the future. Also there is a school of thought that early preschool education (below age 2) is actually harmful. That the work of a toddler should be play and play alone. But a lot of that can be debated. But I am all in favor of raising taxes to secure 4 year old preschool and maybe even 3 year old preschool. Even if it does not give the kids an academic edge, it beats sitting in front of TV for the here and now.

Posted by: NewName | September 20, 2006 3:06 PM

For those of you who are married and keep your money separate, would you mind sharing your rationale? To me it seems like less than a family if you are not sharing your money. But that's just my first impression-- I'd love to have you change my mind.

Posted by: Just curious | September 20, 2006 3:07 PM

In defense of Michelle Singletary:

She is upfront about her beliefs and who she is. If you find that offensive, you can choose to get your financial advice elsewhere. She gets paid for her opinions, and that's what she provides. She would be a phony if she pretended to agree with everyone just so as not to offend your delicate sensibilities.

You may think she's crazy for being so religious or for how she defines her personal relationship with her husband, but she is smart, educated, successful, and happy with what seems to be a happy, close-knit family. So it's obviously working for her. She tells people what, in her experience, really works. You can take her advice or leave it. Personally, I'm inclined to give serious consideration to advice of someone like Michelle, who has a solid marriage and family life and a flourishing career.

But no one's forcing you to do the same. You're free to find happiness however you like, and so is Michelle. So back off, haters!

(What is it about the profession of religious beliefs that sets people off? No ones forcing you to agree, so why do you get so hot and bothered about it?)

Posted by: pro-Michelle | September 20, 2006 3:09 PM

Another frustrating thing about Singletary is that she pushes readers to tithe to some sort of religious organization. Now, if tithing is part of your faith, more power to you. However, to insist that tithing should be a mandatory part of a budget, without taking into account individual circumstances, is just irresponsible. It's just another example of her religious or moral convictions taking precedence over sound financial advice. That fine for an individual to decide, but someone dispensing advice has no business pushing their convictions on others.

Posted by: Another No Vote | September 20, 2006 3:09 PM

I am not advocating preschool because I think it gives kids a lifelong academic advantage. I just think that it is a good idea for families because so many of us use daycare, daycare can be very expensive, and daycare settings can vary widely in terms of quality. I just think it would be great for working families to know that whatever their circumstance, their child is in good quality care while they work.

Posted by: Rockville | September 20, 2006 3:10 PM

My DD goes to a daycare with a preschool. Is that uncommon?

Posted by: NewName | September 20, 2006 3:13 PM

Kind of off-topic, but can you use the contributions you make to a 401K through your employer on your income taxes?

Posted by: jaime | September 20, 2006 3:17 PM

No! Michelle says if you aren't religious, find other charitable causes to support.

It is *completely* responsible to make giving back to your community a line item in your budget. It's part of being a good citizen, IMO.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 3:18 PM

No, it's not uncommon for your daycare to have a preschool, mine does too. What I meant about being ahead of my newphew was my daughter's speech and social skills. He doesn't get to play much with other kids, so he is a little backwards.

Posted by: scarry | September 20, 2006 3:18 PM

In defense of Michelle Singletary:

She is upfront about her beliefs and who she is. If you find that offensive, you can choose to get your financial advice elsewhere


And that is what some of the people on this blog were saying: That they do not find Michelle's POV all that useful or appealing and that we would prefer to get our financial advice elsewhere. No one said they hated Michelle. Disagreeing with her or not finding her advice useful is far from hating her. Personally, I don't know here. How could I possibly hate her. But she is a columnist and people have the right to their opinions about her, just as she has the right to her own opionions.

Posted by: Rockville | September 20, 2006 3:19 PM

I believe people were expressing their opinion on why they're voting against having her on this blog again. Several people noted she seems like a fine person, but not someone they'd seek out for advice due to their differing views.

That doesn't make them Michelle-haters. The only other person who mentioned "hate" today wrote it with regard to cooking.

Posted by: to pro-Michelle | September 20, 2006 3:24 PM

>>> For those of you who are married and keep your money separate, would you mind sharing your rationale? <<<

We have three bank accounts. His checking, my checking, and a money market account. They are all joint. But we still like to have the illusion of "my money" and "your money".

Mainly, it is because I am divorced and my first husband handled all the bank accounts. He was OCD and routinely banned me from using the checkbook or debit card because I did things like void a check, which then made the checks out of order and sent him into a panic. So I like having the illusion of financial freedom, even if in reality the accounts are joint.

In the end, we know all the money is "ours" and all the bills are "ours". Plus, we both have about a five hundred dollar limit on purchases before we have to clear it with each other. (although, neither of us shop much.)

Posted by: to just curious | September 20, 2006 3:25 PM

"Kind of off-topic, but can you use the contributions you make to a 401K through your employer on your income taxes?"

The money paid into a 401K is a qualified pre-tax retirement contribution. Which means that the money contributed to a 401K does not show up as part of your taxable income on your W2. No, you cannot deduct it twice by deducting it on your 1040.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 3:25 PM

"No! Michelle says if you aren't religious, find other charitable causes to support."

Ah, but what if:

1) You are religious, but refuse to give money to your church because of management issues; and

2) Prefer to give *time* to charitable causes.

I asked her that question once and she said I should give money instead, that I shouldn't care where the church sends it. Some of her advice is good, but after that exchange I take everything with a grain of salt.

Posted by: In MD | September 20, 2006 3:25 PM

Oh my god, I agreed with Rockville-- Somebody's going to get hit by lightning!

Posted by: to pro-Michelle | September 20, 2006 3:27 PM

And what if your faith requires you to tithe but you can barely make the rent or pay the bills, even after cutting down on non-essentials. Do you skimp on food in order to tithe? Do you not pay your creditors in order to pay your church?

It is not all black and white, which is why I am against mandatory tithing. People should give what makes sense to them.

Posted by: Rockville | September 20, 2006 3:27 PM

>>>Kind of off-topic, but can you use the contributions you make to a 401K through your employer on your income taxes?<<<

Absolutely, you should get a tax statement each tax season from your 401K.

Posted by: to jamie | September 20, 2006 3:32 PM

Oops, I was thinking IRA not 401k. Previous poster was right. You cannot deduct it twice.

Posted by: to jamie | September 20, 2006 3:36 PM

I am absolutely fine with Michelle's religiously infused advice. I'm religious, and I agree if you don't like her brand of advice, tune out. That said, I myself chose to tune her out forever after she said she defers to her husband in all situations where there is a tie - I guess if she puts so much trust in him, then I should be asking HIM for financial advice.

Posted by: The original just a thought | September 20, 2006 3:38 PM

My husband and I keep our money separate but not really. (I ignore Michelle Singletary's advice. :-) We got married when we were over 40 and were both used to having our own bank accounts. So we kept them. That way neither one of us has to worry whether the other one has been to the money machine or written a check - it's for their account.

When it's bill paying time, my husband usually pays the misc. bills and I pay the mortgage. Although this month he paid the mortgage and other bills and I get to pay the property taxes.

So we have separate accounts but we work with it like it's our money.

Posted by: Rockville | September 20, 2006 3:44 PM

Let's fight about Weingarten. Maybe he would even join us and give us financial advice, or even advice on balancing family and work. The more I think of the idea, the more I like it.

Posted by: The original Rockville | September 20, 2006 3:46 PM

Who shall we fight about tomorrow? Achenbach? Hax? :-)

Posted by: Fract'l | September 20, 2006 3:46 PM

Well, it seems like nobody likes Leslie's point of view either, but you're all still reading her blog.

So let Michelle Singltary do a guest blog, and you can all have fun ripping into her personal beliefs all day long.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 3:46 PM

"For those of you who are married and keep your money separate, would you mind sharing your rationale? To me it seems like less than a family if you are not sharing your money. But that's just my first impression-- I'd love to have you change my mind.
Posted by: Just curious | September 20, 2006 03:07 PM"

Can't speak for anyone else, but my experience is that when I was married, we kept everything in the same accounts, shared the same credit cards, . . . he called me one day to say he wanted a divorce, like yesterday. I was out of town taking care of my dying mother. In the few days I was gone, he cleared out the joint accounts and opened new ones in his name, leaving me with little. Removed my name from the credit cards. While it all washed out in the divorce agreement, it left me high and dry at a difficult time.

If I marry again, I would hope that I'd be smarter in my choice than I was at 27. But I'd still want a pre-nup and separate accounts, with a joint one for joint expenses.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 3:49 PM

>>> For those of you who are married and keep your money separate, would you mind sharing your rationale? <<<

My wife and I have completely different theories on money management. She is extremely frugal and fearful of debt. Her normal theory is to pay max on any revolving debt, such that she literally has 0$ in liquid assets for a week at a time. On the other hand I have had plenty of rainy days in my where having 0$ in the bank for a week would have meant that I would have had nothing to eat for a couple of days. I would rather pay a little more interest on the revolving debt than pay my cash down to 0$ every month.

This is something so fundamental to each of us that we cannot/have not compromised on it.

Instead, we keep constant track of what the household income is and split the monthly bills and savings donations proportionately. I pay 60% of monthly bills and savings and she pays 40%. The remaining free cash flow we each have is either used to pay revolving debts we incur or to save/invest as we see fit. Not that these savings/investments are separate, just that they we each get to choose how to manage that money.

She still pays down to 0$ most of the time.

Posted by: Random Guy | September 20, 2006 3:51 PM

Hax is a manhater.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 3:52 PM

Top 10 Classic On Balance posts:

10) Those statistics can't be true, my sister's experience is different!

9) You are arguing from the specific to the general, whereas I am making a reasoned argument with specific examples, see the difference?

8) If you don't breastfeed, you are a terrible person; if you do breastfeed, you are a terrible person.

7) All of your problems are insignificant compared to mine, as you will soon see.

6) How dare all of you rich white navel-gazers steal so much time from your employers?

5) Father of 4, I can't believe you would say that, you ignorant sexist pig!

4) Don't worry, new person, Father of 4 is really a tender-hearted jokester and you shouldn't take him so seriously.

3) I'm not a troll, you're a troll!

2) Can't we all just get along?

1) Leslie, what a terrible topic, why can't you choose something better!

Posted by: Letterman | September 20, 2006 3:52 PM

"Remember how a few blogs ago she said that a stay-at-home-parent's job was dependent on his or her sexual performance?"

Why do some people pretend that marriage doesn't usually have something to do with sex?

"Man, my dog does not even submit to me. That must make me a super-dweeb."

Or make your dog a cat. ;)

"Who shall we fight about tomorrow? Achenbach? Hax? :-)"

Heh. How about whether Eris or Xena is a better name for that new dwarf planet? :)

Posted by: Maria | September 20, 2006 3:53 PM

Hax, Hax, I vote for Hax. Maybe should would do a guest blog.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 3:53 PM

I still have trouble wrapping my mind around the married but separate bank accounts thing. I guess whatever works for you, but like,

if you're out with your son and buy him a toy using "your" money, do you go home and seek 50% reimbursement from your spouse because he's a jointly-produced child? What if the child incurs large medical bills -- who pays out of which account? It just all seems so overly complicated to me.

If you can't reach an agreement on how to spend your money together (or worse, don't trust your spouse to be responsible with your (plural) money), how do you stay married? Why do you get married in the first place if you're so protective of "your" (singular) personal money? You're supposedly committed for life, but you won't share your money?

I know this will sound very rude (but I honestly don't mean to be) and will set people off on the attack, but I seriously DO NOT GET IT!

(running and ducking for cover now)

Posted by: old fashioned type | September 20, 2006 3:54 PM

11) Scarry is not Irish. I know lots of Irish people and none of them see her at the meetings.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 3:56 PM

Hax is not a man-hater unless you believe that all women should be submissive wives. In that case, you must be Singletary.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 3:56 PM

Hax is not a man-hater unless you believe that all women should be submissive wives. In that case, you must be Singletary.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 3:57 PM

Many of the posters here are correct in stating that the problems discussed in the book are faced by two-income married couples. The secondary earner very well could be, and in many cases is, the husband. We note that in the book. That is why the book is subtitled "Modern Families, Outdated Laws."

The reason for the title "Leaving Women Behind" is because that's what legislators were actually doing when many of our institutions were formed. And we are aware of the defects in these institutions primarily because of the movement of women into the labor market.

Also, characteristics of men and women workers mean the defects in our institutions have a bigger impact on women. For example:

• Women are less likely to qualify for employer-provided benefits because they are more likely to work part time.
• Women move between jobs and even in and out of the labor force more frequently than men, so they suffer from traditional policies that reward life-long jobs (for example vesting in a pension plan).

When society changes, policy must also change. We should make the income tax system marriage neutral, introduce "earnings sharing" to make the social security system more fair, make health insurance portable, allow flexibility in work hours and benefit packages, and create more generous opportunities for portable retirement savings. These changes will help men and women. However, they will help women more.

Posted by: John C. Goodman | September 20, 2006 3:57 PM

Bravo, Letterman! Ever consider doing a guest column?

Posted by: Fract'l | September 20, 2006 3:57 PM

Weingarten thinks marriages don't count until you have kids. Lots of fodder for the childfree folks.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 3:58 PM

We have a mine, yours, and ours accounting system. We each pay the bills and we pay proportionate to what we make. So if one spouse brings in 60% of the hhld, income, that spouse pays 60% of the bills. We each have our own accts for discretionary spending. We call it mad money. We don't have to ask each other what we spend our mad money on. But the largest acct is the joint acct. It works for us. In reality we have multiple accts but we really view it all as our money. We don't hestitate to ask one another for some money if we run short on mad money. After all it is a loving partnership not a business partnership.

Posted by: NewName | September 20, 2006 4:00 PM

12) People aren't following the rules and it makes me angry! Why isn't the Washington Post monitoring this blog better?

Posted by: Fract'l | September 20, 2006 4:01 PM

No offense taken. It really is an illusion. We have joint accounts. He is welcomed to get money from my account, as I am welcomed to get money from his account. We both buy stuff for our son and pay bills. We don't keep a running tally of who is spending more on him. I guess in reality we don't care about money; we just like the illusion of independence. I trust him or else I would not have married him and certainly would not have had a baby with him. Just some people have strange money hang ups. So we try to accommodate each other's baggage.

Posted by: to old fashioned | September 20, 2006 4:06 PM

We have always had separate accounts. We split the bills as evenly as possible, Mortgage, he pays a little more because his salary is larger, utilities etc., we split down the middle. I paid for child care, he paid for car payments. With whatever income is leftover each can spend (he likes wine, I like books) or save (for a trip maybe) no questions asked. In fact when we were engaged it was strongly recommended that we have separate accounts as money issues can become a bone of contention in a marriage. we decided to avoid that from the start and so far it has worked out well.

Posted by: working mom of two | September 20, 2006 4:06 PM

>>>If you can't reach an agreement on how to spend your money together (or worse, don't trust your spouse to be responsible with your (plural) money), how do you stay married? Why do you get married in the first place if you're so protective of "your" (singular) personal money? You're supposedly committed for life, but you won't share your money?>>>

I think that people are mis-characterizing those of us who manage money differently. It is not that we won't 'share' our money. Wife and I have a common savings account, a common money market, cars/house in both names, etc. Whatever money is needed each month comes from the joint savings account. But, it is clear that I do not wish to see this account dwindle to $0 for any reason. It is equally clear that she expect all revolving debt (incurred in fixing up the old house we bought) to decline rather than increase, and so I need to be paying it off. Either of these situations isn't taken care of, and it's an argument.

Also, there is visibility. We use Microsoft Money. She can see my accounts and I can see hers and we both can see the joint accounts.

If ever the perception is that I am spending too much money the way to handle it would be 1) hand me another bill to pay every month or 2) tell me to put more into the joint savings account each month.

This cuts off the "I cant believe you bought a new Putter!!" converstation that couples fight about.

So really, whose setup is straining their marriage more? Mine or yours? (not to be overly direct)

Posted by: Random Guy | September 20, 2006 4:10 PM

We keep our mad money acct because we both feel we should have a little run around money that we don't have to justify to the other person. I love to blow mine on clothes and VLI for our daughter. DH likes to go to sporting events and buy more magazines then any one person can read in a lifetime. Why is that wrong?

Posted by: NewName | September 20, 2006 4:11 PM

"So if one spouse brings in 60% of the hhld, income, that spouse pays 60% of the bills. "

This is what I mean by complicated! Do you pay 60% of this month's Visa bill, even if most of the charges were for your spouse's stuff, or do you break every bill down into proportions that are mad money-related and jointly-related.

Also, since neither DH nor I is salaried (our earnings vary week to week), we'd have to recalculate our earnings at least monthly to see who was supposed to pay what portion of the mortgage this month. And what if I had a good month commissions-wise, but it happens to be July and the electric bill was through the roof, so I had to pay more of it, is that fair?

if it's a "loving partnership" anyway, why not just get rid of the accounting headaches and toss it all in the same pot?

Posted by: o.f. type | September 20, 2006 4:12 PM

The wisdom of family order is found in Ephesians, chapter 5. What woman wouldn't want the profound love that is in turn required of the husband here?


22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church-- 30for we are members of his body. 31"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."[c] 32This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Posted by: Joe Loiacono | September 20, 2006 4:13 PM

We have joint accounts for savings and expenses and separate accounts for day to day money, which often end up blended in the end (getting gas, buying groceries, buying dinner, getting cash, etc.). We did this when we moved in together before we were married and everyone who knew this said we were nuts then but it has worked for us.

I can see how people with different temperments need a different set up. That said, in my opinion all efforts to make things equitable should be made. If partners make different amounts, the contribution to joint expenses should be proportionate to income and comparable discretionary amounts available to both partners. Anything else will probably lead to resentment, as there are many contributions to a family that are not financially compensated. I suscribe to the theory underlying community property laws, that is, spouses contribute equally to the welfare of the marriage, regardless of who earns the money and each are entitled to 50% of each dollar earned by either spouse.

Posted by: Au Park Mom | September 20, 2006 4:13 PM

This is a very slanted article. The IRS rules do NOT single our married working women. If the husband is the lower wage earner the same rules would apply. And suggesting that all child care taxes only come from the womans paycheck are sexist.

Posted by: Charles | September 20, 2006 4:15 PM

Hax is a manhater'

she is not, she gives great advice. She calls it like it is. She's way better than that Ask Amy person. Amy gives terrible advice. You people get cranky in the afernoon, don't you?

Posted by: experienced mom | September 20, 2006 4:15 PM

We had a system much like NewName when we lived together but were not married, and it worked fine. When we got married and I went back to school (and thus had no income) it seemed to make sense to merge things into one, and we've kept that up since, even when we've both had income.

I'm happy with the way we do things now, I think because we mostly have the same philosophy and police ourselves pretty well, so we don't have a lot of friction. But I think the "mad money" thing can be helpful - and I love that term for it, NewName.

I think what is alarming is when there is not a sense of having a joint responsibility for the majority of household expenses, which I've seen with some friends, and can happen regardless of what accounts the money is in.

Posted by: Megan | September 20, 2006 4:15 PM

We're a joint-account family, and I never ask my spouse to "justify" his spending on the things he likes, even if I think they're dumb, they make him happy and I want him to be happy. Nor do I have to justify my "dumb" purchases to him, because he wants me to be happy too.

Neither of us abuses the discretionary spending, though, because we're both committed to the same common financial goal, which at this point is saving for college for the rugrats.

Posted by: to NewName | September 20, 2006 4:16 PM

Not technically married, but wish we could be, so I'll tackle the question I raised by asserting that 2-income families deal with expenses by "You pay for X, I'll pay for Y."

My non-legal-wife and I keep our checking accounts joint in name, but separate in practice, because we deal with the logistics of day-to-day money management differently and trying to keep track of everything in one account would make her leave me. :)

There's no "please reimburse me for your share of X." Very occasionally, when there have been unexpected and high expenses (ie the car needs $600 of repair), one or the other of us says, "Can you give me $X?" Usually it's been her, but not always.

We both consider all of our money to be our money, and all of our bills to be our bills. (Maybe except for $ gifts from our parents. Those the giftee mostly keeps.)

What I'm responsible for is the monthly maintaining of most of them, since most of the money is in the account that I also am responsible for managing. She's responsible for some of the bills in the same sense.

We have a 7 month old son, mine by biology, hers by legal adoption. When he started child care, it was logistically easier to adjust the bill management and have that money come out of her checking account.

For those of you married-or-wish-you-weres who only have one account or set of accounts, how do you divide the labor? Is there any relationship between being the bill payor and the earner of more money?

Posted by: Liza | September 20, 2006 4:16 PM

OK, maybe this isn't clear. We each get the equal amount of mad money (fun money). The rest goes into the joint acct. If he made 60% more then I did and everything minus mad money from his pay check goes into the joint, then he is paying 60% of the bills. Does that make sense? It is not like we take a VISA bill and say you pay 60% and I pay 40%. It is just simple math. If he makes x and I make y and x is more then y. Even after deducting T (mad money) from both x and y, he is still contributing more to the joint and hence paying more. Does that make sense?

Posted by: NewName | September 20, 2006 4:18 PM

don't say breeder!

Posted by: another top ten | September 20, 2006 4:19 PM

If my husband loved me as he does his own body, I would be in a mess of trouble (considering he smokes, drinks, eats a high cholesterol diet, and considers sleeping on the couch a form of exercise.

Posted by: Ohio | September 20, 2006 4:22 PM

>>if it's a "loving partnership" anyway, why not just get rid of the accounting headaches and toss it all in the same pot?>>

Partners is still plural. One pot would be singular. Not to be snarky, just that merging finances with your spouse is not the same no-brainer as moving in with your spouse.

In the case where your income varies week-to-week I can see how it would be harder to split things up on a reliable basis. But that could be solved by adding more to a "joint" account each week. And if one spouse made a little less this week they can just take it from the joint pot.

Posted by: Random Guy | September 20, 2006 4:22 PM

What woman wouldn't want the profound love that is in turn required of the husband here?

Can we get a better accounting of the price one pays for such profound love? Seems kind of high to me.

Posted by: To Joe | September 20, 2006 4:23 PM

So our husbands are supposed to be analogous to our saviors? Excuse me while I go retch.

Posted by: Rockville | September 20, 2006 4:23 PM

For those of you married-or-wish-you-weres who only have one account or set of accounts, how do you divide the labor? Is there any relationship between being the bill payor and the earner of more money?

We are joint account people and my husband pays the bills and does our budget. Mostly because he enjoys (and can actually set up) an excel spreadsheet. I do things like figure out if it is a good idead to refinance the mortgage or research car loans. I make slightly more money. It is a matter of skills and preferences, not control. We both have total access to all of our accounts.

Posted by: AU Park Mom | September 20, 2006 4:29 PM

Please stop making me squirt iced tea out of my nose. It hurts!

Posted by: To Letterman et al. | September 20, 2006 4:32 PM

"OK, maybe this isn't clear. We each get the equal amount of mad money (fun money). The rest goes into the joint acct. If he made 60% more then I did and everything minus mad money from his pay check goes into the joint, then he is paying 60% of the bills. Does that make sense? It is not like we take a VISA bill and say you pay 60% and I pay 40%. It is just simple math. If he makes x and I make y and x is more then y. Even after deducting T (mad money) from both x and y, he is still contributing more to the joint and hence paying more. Does that make sense?"

It sounds like algebra homework to me! ;-)

I guess what it boils down to for me is, why does it even MATTER who makes more? Aren't you a couple, that is to say, one household unit?

I just would find it so insulting to sit down on payday and compare the relative size of our paychecks. I would think that would make one or the other feel inferior from time to time.

Posted by: to NewName | September 20, 2006 4:36 PM

Our accounts are joint; I pay all bills and keep track of funding levels. I also do most of the stuff around the house, including repairs and electrical work, because I really enjoy it and don't feel obligated to do it if I don't feel like it for some reason.

He does the laundry because he is Mr. Obsessive about his clothes. Also, he walks the dogs at 5:45 every morning.

Posted by: Lizzie | September 20, 2006 4:37 PM

Hey, Joe Loiacono, I'm not saying there aren't wonderful uplifting things in the bible, but that passage isn't one of them. Where do you stand on that infamous speech Bartlett gave on Bible vs. Modern Life the West Wing?

~~~~

A talk show host defends calling homosexuality an "abomination" by saying that that is what the Bible says in Leviticus 18:22 (That verse, by the way, reads: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; such thing is an abomination.") This annoys President Bartlet who proceeds to ask a few pointed questions about just what one should accept from the Bible ------ I'm interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She's a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleaned the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be?" ----- My chief of staff, Leo McGarry, insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it okay to call the police?" ----- "Here's one that's really important cause we've got a lot of sports fans in this town: touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean according to Leviticus 11:7 If they promise to wear gloves can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point? ----- "Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother, John, for planting different crops side by side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? --- "Think about those questions, would you?"

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 4:41 PM

I definitely think that things need to be restructured so that you don't have to work a full-time job to be eligible for affordable, quality healthcare. My brother is a juvenile diabetic who has been trying to get his undergraduate degree while juggling health problems. He's had to work full-time all the way through school so that he could maintain health insurance coverage. That's such a shame. :(

Posted by: MJ | September 20, 2006 4:42 PM

Joe L, doesn't the bible also condemn wearing blended fabrics? Deuteronomy 22:11 and Leviticus 19:19. Pretty sure it also condones slavery in several places, can't think of the citations. Lots of reasons not to take that book too literally.

Posted by: nutmeg | September 20, 2006 4:44 PM

Oops, turns out all that stuff was originally an open letter to Dr. Laura:

http://www-users.cs.york.ac.uk/%7Esusan/joke/laura.htm

Go google...

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 4:45 PM

Let's do a little deconstructing of John's final thought here...

"We should make the income tax system marriage neutral"

From earlier posts, sounds like some of the recent tax law changes have already done that. Short of creating a flat tax, what else could/should be done?


"introduce "earnings sharing" to make the social security system more fair"

Since I'm in my thirties, I'm more concerned about getting ANY social security than making it fair. Also, I fail to understand the problem with both a wife and husband paying into SS and then determining later whether to take the survivor benefit. Any changes could harm pure SAHM who have never paid into the system.

"make health insurance portable"

It's partially portable under HIPPA. You can't be excluded from insurance at a new job because of pre-existing conditions. Not going to argue that we need a lot of work on health care, but again, I'd argue a different focus: making health care more affordable before making it more portable.

"allow flexibility in work hours and benefit packages"

No argument here except to note that single people would like this as well.

"create more generous opportunities for portable retirement savings."

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong - can funds be left in a 401K after a person leaves a job? If not, they can be rolled over into a new account, right? I think the problem with retirement savings isn't the portability, but the attitude of Americans towards saving money. Vesting may be important for 401K match money, but not as much for pension plans. (How many places actually *have* funded pension plans anymore?)

"These changes will help men and women. However, they will help women more."

No, they'll help all people equally. Men, women, children, single, married, parents, childless....we ALL want better benefits, cheaper health care, easier ways to save for retirement. To say that they'll help women more introduces an element of division that is neither needed or wanted in this discussion.

Posted by: In MD | September 20, 2006 4:47 PM

22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

Interpretation: Wives, recognize that you are inferior to your husbands.

24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Wives, you have to do what your husband tells you no matter what.

25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Husbands, make your wives clean as she is inherently sinful and dirty. You should clean her and make her holy in order for her to be worthy of you.

I can do without this kind of love, thank you. After all, I am not into BDSM.


Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 4:47 PM

>>So really, whose setup is straining their marriage more? Mine or yours? (not to be overly direct)

Whoa! You're the one with the problem, not me. I've never lost a moment's peace about how my spouse handles money, whereas you clearly have!

In nine years of marriage, we have never once argued about money. On that subject, we're on the same page. I'm sorry you can't say the same about your spouse, but don't assume that other people have your problems too.

Posted by: to Random Guy | September 20, 2006 4:48 PM

"doesn't the bible also condemn wearing blended fabrics?"

Yes, it does, and there are many Orthodox Jews who do not wear blended fabrics and who do their best to abide by all 617 (I think) mitzvot.

They don't have slaves.

Posted by: Lizzie | September 20, 2006 4:48 PM

My husband and I don't 'split' bills based on who makes more money. It's more like 'The credit card bill is due in a week. I just paid the x bill last week and don't get paid again for 8 days. Can you pay it?' The only time we split a bill (pay with two checks) is when it's a big bill and neither one of us has enough money in our respective accounts to pay it.

It also helps that there's less than 15% difference in our salaries.

Posted by: Rockville also | September 20, 2006 4:49 PM

So a fictional character channeling Aaron Sorkin from a Christian-bashing television show is your fount of wisdom? I like mine better.

If you're not able to receive it, you won't. Some will, and it is for them...

JLo

Posted by: To | | September 20, 2006 4:52 PM

Joe L, either the bible says those things or it doesn't, it doesn't matter whether Aaron Sorkin or someone else put them on TV, that's just publicizing the fact that there's a lot of crazy stuff in there. The book says what it says.

Lizzie, thanks for the info, I had no idea. Glad they don't have slaves though, that would worry me.

Posted by: nutmeg | September 20, 2006 4:57 PM

Late to the comments but:

"I always hear about the "costs of working." These are frequently enumerated as clothes, dinners out, commuting, and childcare; the only honest cost I see is childcare. Families with stay at home parents never eat out? Women who went to work in St. John suits are content to stay at home wearing clothes from Target? At-home parents don't drive the car or leave the house?"

Thank to Quicken I can tell you that since working from home part time as opposed to working out of the home full time I personally saved an average of $247 each month over the last six due to:

- many fewer lunches out/coffees & lattes bought incl. the quasi-mandatory ones
- not paying into office gift pools etc.
- commuting (transit pass) costs
- almost no drycleaning
- changing my cell phone plan
- changing my gym membership
- fewer dinners out/ordered in (not none, just fewer)

The lunches/lattes actually to my embarassment proved to be the big one. This doesn't include anything about buying clothes & shoes or makeup or hair cuts or anything like that.

Posted by: Shandra | September 20, 2006 5:05 PM

I should add those are after-tax dollars too. :-)

Posted by: Shandra | September 20, 2006 5:06 PM

"We each have our own accts for discretionary spending. We call it mad money. We don't have to ask each other what we spend our mad money on."

That also makes it easier to keep a surprise gift for your spouse a surprise, right? :)

Posted by: Maria | September 20, 2006 5:07 PM

Shandra, you're a brave woman for tracking those Lattes. I think there's a large number of us that would be horrified to know what we spend on that stuff - I have a policy of willful ignorance. Though I now work at home too, now, so it's not as much of an issue it once was.

Posted by: Megan | September 20, 2006 5:09 PM

My boyfriend and I plan to split our expenses by how much we make upon marriage, for a few reasons, not the least of which is that I grew up poor and my mother had to support us growing up, so I have a bit of baggage, at least for now, without having some *control* over my expenses - fear of being dependant thing going on. We'll probably move towards everything joint, but even my grandmother always told me to have your *own* money.

Here's my question - if you have joint everything, how do you buy someone a present for your spouse? Seriously - it's something that I never understood, b/c then it's like buying it for yourself.

Posted by: Arl Lawyer | September 20, 2006 5:11 PM

Sorry guys. I really do resist the pull... but sometime your sidetracks get so funny...

Hax... "gives great advice. She calls it like it is. She's way better than that Ask Amy person. Amy gives terrible advice."

This is so true, love to read Amy only to see just how badly she can botch it! I want to know WHY the Washington Post had a falling out with Dear Abby, at least she was seasoned.

anyone? ... experienced mom?

Posted by: Tracy | September 20, 2006 5:16 PM

Sanctioning slavery
Exodus:
21:2 If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.

21:3 If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.

21:4 If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself.

21:7 And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.

35:2 Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death.

There are others, The bible also says that if a man rapes a virgin, he should buy her from her father.

It just seems to me that some (not all) religious people pick and choose stuff from the bible to support their own often misplaced view of the world. If we all took ALL of the bible literally, we would be in big trouble. So the argument that the bible says this holds no water for me. The bible says a lot of stupid stuff that should be ignored.

Posted by: The Bible Says: | September 20, 2006 5:17 PM

"For those of you married-or-wish-you-weres who only have one account or set of accounts, how do you divide the labor? Is there any relationship between being the bill payor and the earner of more money?"

I earn more money, but partner prefers to pay bills (control issues, I suspect, either that or I'll just pay them all electronically and she hates that). We put my paycheck in the joint account, hers is in a separate solo account and gets transferred in as necessary (and stays separate so I don't spend it if possible, since I'm a spender and she's a hoarder). Savings account is joint but I don't see it online and don't want to. Better that way. We both have a few 'fun money' things (I go to lunch on Fridays and occasionally like to buy a magazine at the grocery store, she likes to order things online occasionally) but mine are regular (and about the same amount every week, if possible) and hers come out of her solo account. We don't have much fun money, obviously, so this works well - if we had more discretionary income, I might get my own account so I could avoid annoying her with my checkcard purchases, which I love to use and she detests.

Posted by: RebeccainAR | September 20, 2006 5:18 PM

WTF? Are you serious? You are totally on the wrong blog today, sir! There is help out there for you. You may want to look into getting deprogramed from your cult.

Posted by: To Joe Loiacono | September 20, 2006 5:18 PM

"Here's my question - if you have joint everything, how do you buy someone a present for your spouse? Seriously - it's something that I never understood, b/c then it's like buying it for yourself.

Posted by: Arl Lawyer | September 20, 2006 05:11 PM

Arl Lawyer, this is a bit of quandry, but for us, it's more about finding something special that they might not have thought of but will love, or buying them something you know they really want but feel uncertain about spending the money on. This works well for my husband and I because we're both pretty good about not splurging on things that are just for us, so I already know of a couple of things that he would really like but isn't buying himself, and I'll get them for him for Christmas. Keeping it secret is tricky though.

Posted by: Megan | September 20, 2006 5:20 PM

If you're not able to receive it, you won't. Some will, and it is for them...

That is such a cop out and stupid answer. If you believe that god gave you brains, would it not also make sense that he meant for you to use them?

Posted by: To JLo | September 20, 2006 5:23 PM

JLo,
Just curious, how do you decide which parts of the Bible you will abide by, and which parts you will ignore. I'm assuming you don't believe in putting a person to death for not observing the sabbath, and that you do not sanction slavery as an acceptable business arrangement.

Posted by: Rockville | September 20, 2006 5:34 PM

When it comes to gift buying for a spouse when you have a joint account, it truly is the thought that counts. Because you are, in a way, sort of paying for the gift yourself too. But, it really ceases to be a big deal. The surprise factor is what makes it a gift.

Posted by: TS | September 20, 2006 5:37 PM

"Here's my question - if you have joint everything, how do you buy someone a present for your spouse? Seriously - it's something that I never understood, b/c then it's like buying it for yourself."

My husband and I have always used a joint account. I pay the bills, so it's never a problem when I buy him a gift. When my husband buys a gift for me, he uses his credit card. I never open his statement. He always opens first and then adds it to the bills to pay. If there's something in there he doesn't want me to see yet, he lets me know and I don't look at the page of itemized purchases, I just pay the bill.

We've never argued about money in the joint account. I make sure he knows our balance, and neither one of us makes a large purchase without consulting the other. I've never told him he can't buy something, but I have asked him to wait. He always respects that.

Trust and mutual respect go a long way in making a marriage happy, not just in managing money but in how you deal with one another in everything from decisions regarding children, discipline, in-laws, careers, etc. If you have "trust issues," not sure you have any business getting married until those "issues" have been resolved.

Posted by: Vegas Mom | September 20, 2006 5:40 PM

"Trust and mutual respect go a long way in making a marriage happy, not just in managing money"

Very true, Vegas Mom. But I think what we joint account people have to remember is that for some couples, having separate accounts is a way of giving respect to different philosophies or personal issues about control, not a sign of disrespect for the joint-ness of marriage. I know I forget that sometimes when I get critical of they way some of my friends do things.

Posted by: Megan | September 20, 2006 5:49 PM

Thanks for you comments...

To Vegas Mom - No trust issues, just dependency ones! :) I have been financially independant since I was 18, so it's hard to get used to the idea of being interdependant (if that's a word) with someone. We are not getting married for at least a year and a half, but have started the dialogue about things. I have finally managed to agree to allow him to help pay my student loans once we are married b/c they become something that is "ours" to deal with and not just for me to - what is more intersting is that two very good friends from high school had the same issue, so maybe it's just something from where I am from, who knows? But like most everything else, we talk, which I believe is the most important thing!

Oh and cheers to your will power of not looking at the itemized bills!

Posted by: Arl Lawyer | September 20, 2006 5:53 PM

You're right Megan. I made a sweeping statement there. Thanks for calling me on that.

I must admit I agree with an earlier poster though -- it just seems so much more complicated to divvy everything up each week, keep all those accounts balanced, etc. But if everyone is open and transparent about it all, more power to them.

My comment was more a reaction to some posters who indicated that they had some kind of trust issue due to a bad past experience (with either a previous or the current partner) or even a reluctance to talk to their partner about a purchase. To me, this is a red flag that there is a communication problem or lack of trust in the relationship. In that case, joint accounts seem more like a band aid over a larger problem than a different philosophy.

Posted by: Vegas Mom | September 20, 2006 5:56 PM

I married young, was broke for several years, had a couple of kids and am now a decent contributor to the economy. My DH makes a lot more than I do (he insists on all of these VLI's, and while I do enjoy them for the most part, I would be more than happy in monk's robes), we have been married a long while (staring down high school for DD1), and we have had two financial systems. The first one--'spend as little as possible, because we are taking on debt.' This was stupid, because we then thought that we could survive this way. And the debt wasn't for vacations and fur coats, but college degrees. Budgeting is better, because then you get a handle on where your money is going and if you need more income for basic survival. The second system is called an allowance. This is discretionary income, an equal amount, that we each get. He blows his on material goods, I save mine up and take trips a couple of times a year. One caveat--you need to have some discretionary income in order to have the allowance. And early on we had to use the allowance for gas, alcohol, movies, food/drink outside the house, botox,etc. Worked for us, but we could have done better. My parents have separate accounts, so I knew from their example that I should do the opposite!

As for all of the religious posts today, I wonder if there is a computer program that could figure out if religion--any--has done as much good in the world as it has bad.

Posted by: prttmr | September 20, 2006 6:17 PM

Vegas Mom, I am totally with you. I actually didn't mean to call you out, it was more like your comment made me realize that I do that myself.

Posted by: Megan | September 20, 2006 6:20 PM

"In that case, joint accounts seem more like a band aid over a larger problem than a different philosophy."

You smart ladies have probably already figured this out, but what I MEANT to say was that SEPARATE accounts seem more like a band aid over a larger problem than a different philosophy.

Posted by: Vegas Bell | September 20, 2006 6:27 PM

I think Vegas Mom has some very good points!

Posted by: Yay Vegas Mom | September 20, 2006 7:22 PM

Oh, too much arguing about religion today.

But to answer one question about how you surprise your partner with gifts if you use one checking account, this is how we do it. For Christmas, we generally get an "us" gift, something we've been wanting and saving up for, like a new armchair for the living room. Christmas is really all about the kids anyway. For birthdays and anniversaries, we just do dinner out, which is enough of a treat just getting out of the house as a couple for a nice evening.

The one time my husband surprised me with an expensive piece of jewelry for a major anniversary, he paid for it by squirreling away small amounts of cash over a long period of time. He hid the cash behind some books on a shelf and evidently I don't dust very often, so I never found it. Ha!

Posted by: 2Preschoolers | September 20, 2006 7:35 PM

Back to a previous off-topic: after-tax dollars.

Shandra, Dryel is terrific, and saves even more on dry-cleaning bills. The generic brand hasn't worked as well for me.

I figured, people talk about the best diapers, so why not add this?

Posted by: Fract'l | September 20, 2006 7:43 PM

People who don't get enough attention on the blog from their posts, so they have to pick on someone else to get attention.

People who can't let anything go from older blogs.

People who sound like blathering, well you know in plain english, I geuss the term is A-Holes :)

People who have serious mental issues.

Posted by: rule 100, 101, 102, 103 | September 20, 2006 7:55 PM

We each have a credit card in our own names. If we put a joint purchase on it, we just pull the money from the joint or write a check from joint and reimburse the mad account. I don't know but it works for us. We love it. It does make gift purchases easier and more secretive. It is not about trust. Just about having fun with a small amount of discretionary spending. I don't know about you but the money management of multiple accts is pretty easy in this day and age. Even with our joint money, we have more then one money market, multiple CDs if different sources. Everything is easily handled with todays online computer packages. But we are both math people, so maybe we don't find it very complicated. My DH named it mad money. At first he suggested the word allowance. But that sounded weird to me. Like a parent gives a kid an allowance. I don't give myself an allowance. So he suggested mad money. It just stuck. Guys it is not a ton of money. We aren't rich people.

Posted by: NewName | September 20, 2006 8:35 PM

#104 = grouchy people.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 8:40 PM

You proved his/her point, oh, poster of category #13.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 9:38 PM

Whups, category 15. Going to stop drinking now.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 9:44 PM

about the submissive thing - someone explained this to me and it is actually not as bad as it sounds. The couple agreed that the husband would be the "leader" of the family and the wife would "submit". Since they both love and cherish each other and only want the best for each other, the marriage, and the kids, there is complete trust that the Leadership will not be misused.

All decisions are discussed, just like any other family I know. They each value the other's opinion, so they talk things through and compromise and come to agreement on most things. However, when they don't reach an agreement, the husband makes the decision based on their vows and prior agreement to have him be the tiebreaker. He has never been superior to his wife, a dictator, or demanding.

For example, middle school child could take a foreign language or (phys ed/music/art) in one year, but not both offerings. The husbnad wanted the foreign language, the wife wanted the phyz ed/music/art. After both presenting their arguments, neither was pursuaded to make another choice. Only then was it determined that the child would take the foreign language. The mother knew that it wasn't a bad alternative, just not her choice. Since they had agreed that their marriage would work this way, they both accepted this outcome and went on without extended arguing, hurt feelings, etc.

The leadership and submissiveness actually lead to more harmony in their relationship. There have been times when most of us continue to argue with spouse because we want our way (think it is best) when it really wouldn't be an awful thing to let the spouse have their way.

Other examples are decisions such as buying a new car or a used car, public school or private school. These decisions are discussed and only when agreement cannot be reached does the "submit" to the spouse kick in. And it is actually a rarity since most things can be worked out just as any other couple would.

Posted by: mj | September 21, 2006 7:51 AM

"For those of you married-or-wish-you-weres who only have one account or set of accounts, how do you divide the labor? Is there any relationship between being the bill payor and the earner of more money?"

No relationship. I'm our CFO and always have been, whether he was making more or I was (we've flipped a few times). I do all the bill paying but we create our budget together and he's fully capable of checking out Quicken to see what the current situation is. And our spending philosophies are pretty well in line with each other. We both get an "allowance" (the same amount) to do whatever we want with. Any major purchases we discuss beforehand, sometimes for quite a while.

We find that joint accounts are simpler, especially in terms of cash flow. My husband is only paid once a month while I get paid every two weeks. Things would be much more complicated if we/he had to wait to pay things based on his pay schedule.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | September 21, 2006 8:28 AM

Why is it that certain folks who claim to support both the freedom of speach and religion don't want people of religious faith to speak?

Curious, isn't it?

Posted by: Rufus | September 21, 2006 8:52 AM

"Why is it that certain folks who claim to support both the freedom of speach and religion don't want people of religious faith to speak?
Curious, isn't it?
Posted by: Rufus | September 21, 2006 08:52 AM "

It's not her religious faith I object to. It's the influence it has on her advice, sometimes leading to bad financial advice. She seems like a lovely person, but I'm not interested in her advice.

I'd also hazard that 6 years of having someone's religious beliefs shoved down our throats by the political system hasn't helped.

Posted by: to Rufus | September 21, 2006 8:55 AM

To 2 preschoolers - Thanks! What is funny is that my b'friend and I do that now for Xmas, anniversaries, etc. Today is our anniversary and we had that "you're not getting me an actual present ar you?" conversation - just going to the place we met and spending the day together tomorrow (we're long distance right now, so spending time together is huge). I'm not a big present person, but it's always been something that never made sense to me!

Thanks everyone!

Posted by: arl lawyer | September 21, 2006 9:02 AM

I would have to say this whole submission thing is being blown way out of proportion.

Confucious said, "Filial Piety" but I don't see people blasting having some sort of structured society.

There is Jewish law which may be seen to supercede common law. Islamic law has more weight than common law.

Anyway, I believe my wife and I come from religious backgrounds that would follow the biblical submission of wife to husband, and I take ultimate responsibility for the family. However, we don't get caught around the axel on what the bible says, we usually recognize who has the stronger feelings on an issue and choose our battles. I don't care if we eat Mexican or Thai food when we go out, but my wife may so she decides that night.

If we can't come to a conclusion then I would ultimately be the decision maker and I follow the law, "If mama ain't happy, nobody's happy."

We also have had shared and joint accounts. Due to my wife being self-employed it is easier for her to work expenses and expenditures that way. We live off my income and as long as we save a certain amount each month, I don't care is she runs the account to $.01. As long as she doesn't bounce a check, I'm happy because we've saved and she isn't tied down to a restrictive budget.

And it's taken 12 years and numerous heated arguments to finally get to this stage. My wife and I are different, I'm stubborn when it comes to savings and she's stubborn when it comes to style, preferences of items etc. I'd live in a cardboard box as long as I was dry, warm and happy, with money going into savings.

But I doubt many could use the system we do, CAUSE YOU'RE WRONG!!!! Just kidding.

Posted by: Mr. EstrogenCentral | September 21, 2006 11:00 AM

That should have said, "individual and shared" accounts.

Posted by: Mr. EstrogenCentral | September 21, 2006 11:03 AM

Why is it that certain folks who claim to support both the freedom of speach and religion don't want people of religious faith to speak?

Curious, isn't it?

Posted by: Rufus | September 21, 2006 08:52 AM

Not really. Nobody on this blog has advocated that the government suppress religious speech, which is what "freedom of speech" is really about - the first amendment prohibits government from infringing on speech, it has nothing to do with individuals debating or discounting each other's points of view.

Most of are just saying we disagree with Joe Lo and do not want "financial" advice that is tinged with religious overtones. They can talk all they want about their faith, I just will never agree.

Posted by: Megan | September 21, 2006 11:12 AM

Ditto Megan,
I am always amazed that some people cite the First Amendment to preclude others from criticizing their religious beliefs. The fact that government should not infringe on free speech or the exercise of religion does not bar the free debate of religion by private parties. And it does not preclude private parties from deciding that they don't want to listen to the religious speech.

Posted by: Rockville | September 21, 2006 11:28 AM

to cmac

The idea of filing taxes jointly is based on the notion that married couples should pay less in taxes vis-a-vis filing individually. There is ZERO economic basis to that notion, just the idea that we ought to make it easier/or encourage, marriage. Whether thats a thing government should be advocating via the tax code, is a different discussion.

The marriage penalty occurs when the tax burden of filing jointly is greater than filing seperatly. This is primiarily because of the progressive nature of our tax code.

So, if you are facing a tax penalty, just file seperately.

Posted by: bird | September 21, 2006 12:02 PM

To mj - I'm glad "someone explained this to [you] and it is actually not as bad as it sounds." But it continues to make no sense unless you believe that men are inherently better capable of making decisions. The whole submissive schtick is not about "making family life" easier. It is a system in which one person in a couple is thought to automatically be the superior decision maker than the other simply because of biology. Who cares if the husband "doesn't abuse it?" Participating in a system in which one person becomes the final tie-breakers simply because of a Y chromosome is retrograde and just plain insane.

Posted by: the original just a thought | September 21, 2006 12:12 PM

orig just a thought - it may be insane to you or others, but it works for them. She has complete faith in his judgment and has agreed that she will defer to him when they can't come to agreement or compromise. She doesn't think it has anything to do with chromosomes. And, over the course of their 25-year marriage, there have only been a handful of times when they haven't come to agreement and he made the decision.

I think that this approach to marriage could also work with the wife being the leader/tie-breaker.

Posted by: mj | September 21, 2006 12:54 PM

The "insane to you, works for others" thing doesn't make any sense. Otherwise, in interracial marriages, what would stop someone from saying the lighter skinned person should be the all time tie-breaker because of their biological difference?

Even if it could work with the wife being the leader - when has this EVER happened? Would any man come out with a straight face and say he is a submissive husband in the same way you described earlier? They might joke and say their wife pulls all the levers, but it will be an ironic joke because it is a societal norm that men are not submissive to their partners in the same way that you described submission in an earlier posting.

Posted by: The original just a thought | September 21, 2006 1:25 PM

The "its ok because he doesn't abuse it" rationale reminds me of similar justifications of slavery - if the master is kind, it's actually a great situation.

I'm not saying the two situations are the same, obviously, but the rationale that underlying, fundamental inequality is somehow remedied by the kindness of the person in power is equally incorrect.

Posted by: nutmeg | September 21, 2006 2:46 PM

I agree with this premise to a point. For folks out there in the DC area with a dual income making < 50K combined, God bless you, you deserve a break. But there are a also a lot of professionals bringing in large incomes as dual income families. And it's tough for me to feel sympathy that they are not treated "fairly" in terms of taxes and that they have to pay for the costs associated with being dual income. The additional income folks like that bring in more than makes up for any disparate tax treatment on the additional income.

Posted by: Cliff | September 27, 2006 5:05 PM

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