DEAR READERS: On April 11, I printed a letter from "Wondering in Washington," a man asking why young men in general today have the attitude that "any money I earn is mine" in a marriage or live-in situation. He said when he married, he and his wife considered what they earned to be "theirs" -- not his or hers. When I asked my "younger readers" to chime in, I was inundated. Some excerpts:
DEAR ABBY: My husband was 26 and I was 24 when we got married. To me, how young couples handle money says a lot about their attitude toward marriage.
My mother always said, "If you can't trust a man with your money, why would you trust him with your heart?" I kept that in mind when I was dating, so when my boyfriend and I married, we didn't have serious underlying issues like addiction, compulsive spending, etc. -- MOM OF 2 IN SEATTLE
DEAR ABBY: My first husband controlled all the money, my pay and his. He bought what he wanted, but didn't always pay the mortgage or utilities.
In my second marriage, my money is my money and his money is his. If I earn 60 percent of the income, I pay 60 percent of the shared bills. Whatever is left is up to my own discretion to spend, and the same goes for his paycheck. -- LEARNED MY LESSON IN FLORIDA
DEAR ABBY: I'm a man in my mid-30s; my wife is in her mid-20s. Many of our friends keep their finances separate, and the reason usually involves hearing their parents argue over money. What I find interesting is that the wife usually came up with the idea.
I believe the separation of incomes starts with young women embracing messages of empowerment they heard growing up and applying them not only to the workplace, but home, as well -- plus a healthy dose of entitlement that seems common to their generation. -- JUST SAYING, IN WISCONSIN
DEAR ABBY: Male reader here. Gone are the days of the stay-at-home wife who takes care of the house and raises the children. I'm as guilty of those preconceptions as anyone. I thought marriage meant being totally devoted to your spouse and you discussed everything.
I now believe both parties in a relationship have financial responsibilities to the other. In my first marriage, the majority of financial responsibilities fell on me. The financial obligations in my second marriage are different. We have a separate maintenance agreement. I pay only part of our living expenses. I can spend whatever I want, when I want, on whatever I want. This has prevented many disagreements.
I think the way to handle finances in a relationship is a rock-solid legal agreement and a lot of premarital counseling. Then there are no surprises. -- J.G. IN TEXAS
DEAR ABBY: I'm 32, recently married. I earn more than my husband, and I'm better at managing money.
We plan to set up a joint account for household expenses, joint vacations, etc., and maintain individual accounts for whatever money is left. That way, we have a certain amount of independence and freedom.
We don't consider our relationship to be disposable. But when you grow up like we did and don't marry until your 30s, you live a considerable amount of your life independently. We are happy with this arrangement. -- MODERN MARRIAGE IN MICHIGAN
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