lack of communication, or stupidity?


I was listening to Dave Ramsey’s podcast and a woman called in. She wanted to ask a routine question about life insurance, but when quizzed by Dave she made a startling admission:

Dave: “So what does your husband make per year?”
Woman: “I’m not quite sure.”

He quizzed her a bit more. He thought at first she didn’t know exactly, and just wanted to get a general range – but it soon became clear through her pauses and stuttering that she really HAD NO IDEA. She had no idea, even within a very broad range, what her husband made. She just giggled and told Dave that her husband had told her not to worry about such things. And the worst thing? When he berated her about it, she seemed to think he was making a big deal about nothing, because money was just something men were supposed to take care of…

If you are married and read this blog and don’t know your spouse’s income within a few tens of thousands per year, please stop reading and get your life in order. Now. I was appalled. Can there really be married people like this left in the western world? Really?

Apparently there can be. This woman knew almost nothing about their financial situation. I was left wondering how many men – even if they were not the primary breadwinner – know nothing about the family finances. I don’t mean that from a sexist perspective, simply from a statistical perspective. Not knowing the family finances seems to me to be the equivalent of addiction to crack cocaine – you simply don’t give a crap about anything while you’re having fun, or you’re simply so far gone that you are oblivious. How can you be so blithely ignorant of something so important?

Every married couple should have a clear picture of their finances. I don’t know every single last detail about Bubelah’s spending, and she doesn’t know about mine. At the same time, neither of us is in the dark about the ‘big picture’ – we both know where the money’s coming from, where it goes, who our insurers are, and so on. I couldn’t imagine someone asking Bubelah where my IRA was held, for example, and having her struggle to answer. She may not know what the balance is there, but she knows who holds it and what the password is to access the website. I don’t know exactly what’s in her brokerage account, but I know which company and the password to access their website.

We have truths in our lives we assume to be the most basic, common and universally held truths – and other people don’t know crap about the same things. You assume everyone understands these things: you don’t smoke while reading in bed. You don’t take the toaster in the bathtub. You don’t launch a bug bomb in a closed room and then take a nap there. You don’t keep your money in your mattress. The list could go on a long time, and get up to slightly more debatable subjects: you should never go into debt, you should save for the future, you should understand the basic principles of finance. Yet listening to shows like Dave’s I realize that many people have a filter, or a blinder, or simply aren’t willing to see many of the things I think they should be ABLE to see. Really, I’m at a loss. People amaze me… and not in a good way.

photo by 1Happysnapper