“Don’t ever let love so intoxicate you to the point of opening a joint account.”
This was the advice one of my mothers-in-Christ gave me long before I got married. I understood that it was based on her own experience, as well as those of women she had counselled. Still, I couldn’t help wondering whether or not the experiences of an unfortunate few made the practice wrong.
Emeke, who recently started dating Ese, expressed his desire to run a joint account with her should they eventually get married. “I like it because it shows openness. It worked great for my parents.” Unfortunately, Ese holds the opposite view. “I don’t like the idea at all. It was horrible for my mother. If we’re saving together towards a common goal or project then that’s fine, but just running a joint account together like that, no please.”
On the surface this looks like yet another item of baggage being carried over from parents’ marriage into that of the offspring, but a closer look reveals otherwise. When asked why she so vehemently rejects the idea, Ese says, “I don’t like the idea of having to ask for money every time I want to do something. I want to have my own money.”
Apparently, this is a common misconception when it comes to how joint accounts are run. Ibukun explains, “Operating a joint account doesn’t mean a woman has to ask for money for every little thing. In my case for instance, my husband and I agreed on an allowance for me every month, which is mine to spend as I please. I can make my hair, buy him surprise gifts, and do whatever I want to do without having to ask him every single time. It’s not an issue at all. We are one, and true oneness includes oneness in finances.”
However, Ese further explains, “The idea of joint accounts also turns me off because I have always believed that it is “lazy men” who want to run joint accounts, in order to avoid bearing the burden of being breadwinner and provider. Of course I would not let him carry the load alone; but let my contribution be because I want to, not because I have to, running a joint account and all that.”
That, right there, is the crux of the matter. If you read between the lines, you will see that the question is not whether joint accounts are good or bad, but whether a woman’s money should be used to run the home instead of that being the responsibility of the husband.
Ejiro and Jide, after dating for two years, got engaged. When it came time to plan the wedding- which they were paying for, not their parents- they split the cost 50-50 at Jide’s instance. It felt a little weird, but Ejiro had been living independently for a while, so it wasn’t that much of a big deal initially. They agreed that Ejiro’s half would go into the traditional wedding, while Jide’s half would go into the white wedding. Budget set, they started planning. Then one day, Jide suggested Ejiro pay for the wedding dress. “Why? Isn’t that your side of the budget? The white wedding?”
“I know babe,” but it’s all the same thing, let’s just tick the items off our list. Ejiro agreed. Soon after, he suggested she pay for the cards. “But that comes under the white wedding, doesn’t it?” Jide snapped. “Why are you making this such an issue? Isn’t all the money eventually going into the wedding? I hope running a joint account with you won’t be a problem!”
Stunned, Ejiro declared that it would indeed be a problem; Jide usually let her pay her half for restaurant meals when she offered, but she never knew how serious it really was. When she confided in her friend Odinaka, she was told, “That is how Yoruba men do; they split everything with the woman, even children’s school fees. I can’t imagine my husband even being interested in my money.”
Is this a matter of cultural differences, then? Kate says no. “I’m Isoko but my husband is Yoruba. He doesn’t let me handle any expenses. He insists on being the man; he pays for every single thing. I use my salary for my personal stuff, but most of it I invest.”
Emeke, who wants to run a joint account like his parents did, is not Yoruba; he is from Delta State. So obviously, it comes down to about four schools of thought.
1. A man should pay for everything in the family, while whatever money the woman earns remains hers. In this case obviously, a joint account doesn’t come in, and adherents may even find the idea repulsive. A man should take care of his woman and his family, instead of eyeing his wife’s money. Odinaka belongs to this school.
2. A man should be the breadwinner and provide for his family, but his wife can support him where it is needed; either by augmenting what he provides, pitching in for projects or tiding the family over when he is financially challenged. When the need arises she contributes from her personal account. Ese belongs to this school.
3. Bills should be shared, and husband and wife should contribute equally; after all they are equal partners. In this case, neither party is likely to be shocked at the suggestion of a joint account, since everything is split down the middle anyway.
4. The man doesn’t work or earns very little; therefore the woman is the provider and in some cases even gives him a monthly allowance.
That, dear reader, is what it really comes down to. It’s not whether joint accounts are evil or not. It is about the individual’s understanding of roles in marriage. As Ese puts it, “Are you not a man? If you see yourself as the provider, you wouldn’t be counting on my money.”
About the author: Joy Ehonwa is a writer, copy-editor and online proofreader who is passionate about relationships and personal development. She runs Pinpoint Creatives, a copy-editing, ghostwriting and transcription business, and blogs at www.anafricandiva.wordpress.com and www.girlaware.wordpress.com