Ask Paul: I can't afford a coffee without pocket money from my husband


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Dear Paul,

I have been "pink recessioned". I was earning $60,000 a year and then overnight I lost my casual job. I was fortunate to have enough in savings to clear all my debts, but in my panic to do that I didn't really think about what was going to happen next. Now for the first time in my marriage of 13 years I don't even have the money to go buy a coffee.

My husband earns so much that I simply don't exist as far as government benefits are concerned. So my question is, how do I have this conversation to, I guess, ask for pocket money? And what is even reasonable to ask for? - Helena

paul clitheroe

Goodness, Helena, I've been answering readers' questions since our first issue in mid-1999 and I thought I had answered just about every money question known to humanity. But this is a new one.

Vaguely similar questions are more usually along the lines of relationship breakdowns and one partner (all too often the female) having no access to money, control-freak male partners and so on. But from the light tone of your email, my sense is you and hubby are a good pair. Even better, you make it clear that there is ample money coming in from his work.

So, I reckon the solution to this one is a nice meal and a great bottle of red and a chat about a line of funding until a new position opens up for you. As his high earnings makes you ineligible for government support, I hope he will have a bit of a chuckle and suggest an amount. If not, or he is a man who loves a budget, why not jot down a few points about what is a sensible amount.

Seriously, though, I hope this conversation goes really well. While most modern relationships don't "fully merge" family funds, it seems to me we agree to marry or partner for better or worse. In your case this is a moment of "worse" and I would like to think that he will be really happy to assist during your pink recession.

Do send me an update; I reckon quite a few of us will be waiting with bated breath to hear how it goes!

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Paul Clitheroe AM is founder and editorial adviser of Money magazine. He is one of Australia's leading financial voices, responsible for bringing financial insight to Australians through personal finance books, the Money TV show, and this publication, which he established in 1999. Paul is the chair of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and is chairman of InvestSMART Financial Services. He is the chair of Financial Literacy at Macquarie University where he is also a Professor with the School of Business and Economics. Ask Paul your money question. Unfortunately Paul cannot respond to questions posted in the comments section. View our disclaimer.
Kathleen Roach
January 27, 2021 6.41pm

Why is it after 75 if a person is still in full time employment you cannot contribute to super. I know the workplace will still pay super. Please explain. This information was told to me recently. Thx

Craig Beasy
January 27, 2021 6.45pm

G'day Paul & Helena, & best wishes for a much better 2021 compared to last year. I thank you Paul for your candor, wisdom & common sense suggestions. I empathize & support Helena in her discussions over that beaut dinner & fine bottle of red; I'm in the same boat as she is incidentally, due to a permanent, but manageable back injury . . . . but on the flip side as to who is the bread-winner.

The difference is, my wife doesn't accept the validity of me receiving from her a set, but modestly generous amount . . . e.g. 10% of her weekly income . . . . she averages over $1,000 - $1,200 gross per week & when it comes to respectively topping up our own cars tanks, it's $30 in hers, $20 in mine. Anything else I have to literally beg for, & give " good reason " why?

In complete contrast: My late father, during a 38 yr Primary School Teacher & Principal career, fortnightly gave my mother, in relative economic terms, $300 cash without fail, & correspondingly increased it when he moved up through salary brackets. Dad took full & serious responsibility for paying Utilities, insurances, car purchases, savings goals, superannuation, etc. But he always made sure my late mother had sufficient cash for the weekly shop, clothing the family, school fees for four kids, birthdays & other extraneous occasions.

It's such a blight on our nation's community that " all families " don't do that. Australia would be significantly better off if each family did so.

Cheers, all the best & looking forward to hearing how Helena responds;


Basil Brush
January 27, 2021 7.05pm

How is it that married couples don't have a joint account, rather than a mine and your money mentality?

Marriage or even a committed relationship is a partnership in life and all aspects of that life.

Do they do their own washing, cooking etc?

Maybe this is the modern way, but completely foreign to my thinking.

Jane Frost
January 28, 2021 7.31am

We have a couple of friends that have separate finances. I can see positives and negatives in both. How can you both be committed to paying off a mortgage sooner if only one pays for it? How can you have common goals. Would you have bought all those things you don't need, that often get discarded or never used, if it was with shared money?

Jo T
February 12, 2021 11.19am

It's been a hard subject to bring up. Just before we got married, more than 10 years ago, we have setup a joint account to be used for common expenses. Each of us to place some money when it is low, eg. only having $200 left, but this is not done very regularly and hard to maintain. Also, for each other peace, we are having our own bank accounts and not trying to check what each other has been spending on. However, any big spending should be discussed on, something more than $1000. Saying this, I've earned more than him, more financial savvy, and have been the person responsible for paying all the bills etc. So, instead of asking more money from him, I just assign him some utilities bills or car insurance bills to pay, ie. making him has enough money for personal spending but not too much. And, if I'm not employed, it will still be hard for me to bring up and discuss the whole financial thing with him as he does not has any clue on bills, and might be hard for me to start asking for pocket money. Helena's question gives an opening eyes on how important it is to know each other financial understanding and expectation before making commitment to live together, at least having some discussion at high level , also on common good and worse circumstances.

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