Question Of Money
( Originally Published 1918 )
THE second big reef upon which the matrimonial bark is in danger of being ship-wrecked is the question of money. If all other matters are satisfactorily adjusted, while this re-mains a thorn in the flesh of one or the other member of the partnership, there is bound to be disagreement and unhappiness, with the ever-present possibility of an ultimate breaking away from a situation which has grown to be intolerable.
There was a time when man and wife were looked upon as one, and that one was supposed to be the husband. His will was supreme. He owned the home, the furniture in it, the clothes on his wife's back, and many times he thought he owned her also, body and soul., The wife had no money of her own ; she was not supposed to need any. Even men of great wealth, with this attitude of mind, would refuse to allow their wives a penny for their own personal use. These unhappy women could not have the pleasure of paying cash for anything, whether they were purchasing household supplies or their own personal equipment; all must be charged to the account of the overlord. This gave him the privilege of growling over the bills as they came in each month and grumbling at the wife's extravagance.
She therefore lived in a constant attitude of fear. She did not dare breathe without the permission of her lord and master.
This relationship of master and slave is always a degrading one, not only to the slave, whose soul is subjected to continual indignities, but equally so to the tyrant, whose harsher and more cruel. qualities are accentuated through the frequent opportunities offered to him for their expression.
Fortunately for the human race, this idea is gradually passing away. With the increased economic independence of woman, her more general participation in public activities; and the recognition of her rights as a citizen, has come an appreciation of her value in the home which has given her a position of ever-increasing importance and power. No self-respecting man today wishes to tyrannize over his wife, even though he-may still have something of an idea of the superiority of the male sex and the desirability of his keeping a firm hand on the helm.
A great many people of the present time have found a solution for the financial problem which works fairly well in a good many cases. This is the allowance system, the husband giving the wife a certain amount of money each month which she may call her own, and may spend as her fancy dictates. Sometimes this allowance is intended to cover all the expenses of the home, her personal expenses being included. Under, such conditions the wife is very apt to spend almost all of the money upon the household needs, neglecting herself at times to an unwise degree. In other cases an allowance, proportionately much smaller, is made for her own personal expenses, and in this case she probably feels a little more freedom to gratify her own wishes.
For a certain type of woman this arrangement works very satisfactorily. If the wife has never been financially independent, receiving simply an allowance from her father in her girlhood, she finds it not at all humiliating to receive an allowance from her husband. She is willing to let him decide how much of his salary he thinks he can afford to let her have, and asks for nothing better than this feeling of freedom within limits.
There is another type of woman, however, and one who is coming more and more into evidence. She left her father's house to enter the business world, and had been financially independent for years, it may be, before she was persuaded to give up her own professional or business career to make a home for a husband and children. She does not like the idea of an allowance, because it carries with it the suggestion that she is no longer financially independent. Apparently, the man earns the money and she lives on his earnings. Feeling that the money is his, he generously condescends to give her a certain sum each month which she can call her own. The feeling of dependence is very galling to her, and, al-though she may not give expression to it, it becomes an increasing source of irritation.
This situation is not based upon a foundation of justice. Therefore, it cannot be permanently satisfactory.
What is the real situation between these two individuals?
We have here, in the first place, two independent persons, each of whom is perfectly competent to earn his or her own living. They have decided, however, that their lives will be richer, fuller, more complete, if they join together in establishing a home. In other words, they enter upon a partnership. The highest efficiency calls for a division of labor. To make a success of their joint undertaking, under present conditions, the energies of one, as a rule, must be devoted almost exclusively to the business of making and maintaining a home, and caring for the children who form so vital a part of the great undertaking. The other must concentrate upon the business of earning the money needed for the maintenance of the home. In the majority of cases, it is found advisable for the woman to undertake the first of these labors and for the man to undertake the second.
The time may be coming, when this will not be so. It is quite possible, for example, that, as a result of the present war, there will be cases in which the man, having been deprived of the power of earning a satisfactory income, can, with better success, devote himself to the home-making, while the woman continues to develop her capacity in the business world where she has secured a footing while he was serving his country.
Whichever one is busy in maintaining the home center, however, it should be understood by both of them that that work is just as vital to the success of the firm as the efforts of the one who goes out into the arena of business.
It is difficult for the man, in the midst of his varied activities, to realize how much of his success he owes to the quiet persistency, the unfailing confidence and faith, the ofttimes penetrating intuition, and the always helpful suggestions of the little woman in the home. Deprive him of her constant ministrations, and he will turn out to be less than half of the man that he is today.
All great men recognize this fact, and do not hesitate, to give full credit where credit is due. "I owe my success to my wife," is heard repeatedly upon the lips of some of the greatest men of our country, and we know that they are speaking the truth. Smaller men are not so ready to give open expression to their recognition of this fact, for fear it may detract in some way from their own reputation for business astuteness.
What, then, would seem to be a fair arrangement of money matters between these co-equal partners?
In the first placc, let it be understood that the money which comes in is the joint product of their personalities. The quiet work of the wife in the home is just as potent a force in the husband's success as are his visible efforts. It should be looked upon, therefore, as their income, not simply as his salary or wages.
They have, then, a certain sum of money coming to them each month. What will be the equitable division of this money? It would seem to be perfectly fair to set aside the sum absolutely essential for the expenses of the home, and to di-vide the remainder into two equal portions for the personal expenditures of the pair. If the husband has to meet some daily expenses, such as carfare and lunches, the amount needed to meet this drain upon his pocketbook should be taken from the household expense money. There may be other reasons for making the husband's amount of spending money a little larger than that of the wife, but this is a matter which will be very easily adjusted, because, in the majority of cases, the wife will be the first to recognize the justice of such a procedure. The very fact that her husband recognizes her as an equal partner with himself will fill her with a desire to be equally thoughtful and generous in her attitude toward him.
In this connection, it may be well to consider a little the question of money in relation to the children, as they begin to develop into separate individuals.
In many families the custom has prevailed of giving the little ones pennies every once in a while, with the injunction to run and buy a stick of candy. This is deliberately training children in the spendthrift habit. They get the idea that money is always to be spent immediately upon its receipt, and so they grow up without the faintest idea of the importance or value of saving.
A much better plan is it to begin as soon as the children are old enough to enter school, for in-stance, by giving them a little weekly allowance. If no more at the beginning than a penny a week, let them know that they can count upon this with assurance, and then occasionally suggest to them little purchases which will require the saving of several weeks' allowance. Let the amount be increased as the children grow older, and occasion-ally give them an opportunity to earn an additional sum by some special piece of work. Not that all of their duties in the home should be performed for money, because this deprives them of the feeling that a certain responsibility rests upon them in the home, as well as upon the parents.
At the present time there are so many splendid inducements for children to save, such as the savings banks in the public schools, that parents may well begin at once to place small sums of money regularly in the hands of children, and then see to it that they are properly conserved. In this way the valuable habit of saving may early be established.