Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Direct Report to the Boss Lady
In my book’s last chapter, “Happy-Ever-Aftering Takes Work,” I quoted wives and husbands who steer clear of arguments over money by the simple expedient of having the wife assume complete financial control.
It works, to promote not only domestic harmony but fiscal responsibility, judging from a great deal of testimony, from both genders. In that sense, according to one admittedly improvident husband, “men may well be the biggest beneficiaries” of these fiduciary arrangements.
As this wife of a spendthrift explains, “My husband has never signed his own paycheck and freely admits to anyone who will listen that he would have it no other way. Because without me in charge he would be in the poorhouse or a destitute alcoholic. Some men should never handle funds. All major spending is discussed between us, then decided on by me. He gets monies when I think he needs it.”
Of course, not all wife-led marriages adhere to this strict prescription. Many chief-executive wives prefer to have their husbands remain chief financial officers, or chancellors of the exchequer. But judging from postings on FLR message boards over the years, more and more couples are opting for the power of the purse over the wallet.
Here’s how it works, according to Ken Addison’s popular introductory book to wife-led marriages, Around Her Finger: “Ideally, the household finances should be consolidated and managed by the woman. The husband should operate under a budget that she approves, and he can appeal to his wife for exceptions to that budget.”
Fumika Misato goes into a little more detail on her Real Women Don’t Do Housework website, strongly advocating this system to wives starting out in the lifestyle:
“As head of the household, you control the family finances. He is required to justify his expenses to you. But there is absolutely no need for you to explain anything whatsoever about the family finances to him. If you give him a budget it is his duty to follow it; if you require approval for certain purchases, he must obtain such approval. You, on the other hand, are free to spend as you alone see fit whether, in your judgment, for the benefit of the family or merely for your own enjoyment. For example, if you want to buy a new car, that is your decision alone but if he wants to purchase a new shirt he must seek your permission.”
One of Lady Misato’s faithful followers, Au876, described how this dynamic operated in his wife-led marriage: “My wife now has total control of all our assets. My check goes by direct deposit into her account, and I am given an allowance which she sets and adjusts as she sees fit. I am not allowed nor do I ever question any decisions she makes about finances (or anything else for that matter).”
How, one may ask, does this unequal status reflect the courtship ideal inherent in wife-worship? It may be a stretch, but I really think it’s there. Work with me here, as they say on sitcoms, and conjure up the knight errant returning to court and laying some trophy of battle (the Holy Grail, perhaps?) at the feet of his queen or lady fair.
Or picture a caveman returning to his cave and throwing down his bloody kill at the feet of his cavelady. Perhaps he had to carve off a cutlet or two to eat en route, but I assure you he’d have preferred to lay the carcass intact at her feet. That’s the thrill of manly service to the she-creature who rules his heart.
That’s the same hard-wired macho impulse, slightly twisted, that has guys emptying their wallet onto the railings of strip club stages on Friday nights.
But, as I said, there are other working and workable FLR arrangements, some of which give the husband more discretion in family finances.
“In our house,” one husband explains, “it’s my job to keep up with the finances. My wife is the breadwinner and of course she has the final decision how the money is to spent. The way it works is I keep the books and if she wants to know some details, I report to her. I have some money for my personal needs, so I don't have to ask her or keep track of those expenditures.”
Another husband can buy whatever he likes without wifely permission, until he reaches a hundred-dollar threshold: “My Wife and I are both accountants, so it wasn't a problem when about a month ago she decided to assume full financial control along as part of her role of having final authority in our marriage. She decided I will receive a weekly allowance of cash from her to use anyway I wish, but I need to get Her advance permission on any purchases over $100. I'm not allowed to write any checks or making any savings withdrawals from our bank accounts.”
An interesting variation on these arrangements is where the wife controls the finances but relies on her husband for financial advice, keeping the books and handling all relevant paperwork. She just makes the decisions and signs the checks.
As Ken Addison puts it in Around Her Finger: “If, as a practical matter, the wife feels that she wants to defer the administrative component of managing the money (e.g. balancing a checkbook), then she can delegate this task as she would any other. If she decides to delegate this task, however, it is important that she get regular and frequent updates on the status of income and expenses in the home.”
Fdhousehusband (of the blog her househusband’s life) explains it how it works in his wife-led marriage: “In Her Household, my Wife earns almost all the money but i pay all the bills. i am really more of just Her secretary though. i prepare a budget every year that She then reviews and approves… i am to stay within the budget and advise Her whether proposed spending is within the budget. She can always change the budget and like a good secretary my job is to just advise Her of the choices She has to make.”
Another husband describes a variation of the same matriarchal theme: “The money is my wife’s, but one of my duties is to be the accountant. She is President and CEO, and as an underling, I make regular financial reports to her to let her know how her finances stand. As for big ticket items (cars, vacations, etc.) She has me do extensive research on all the possibilities. She will have me give a presentation to her, briefly going through pros, cons, options etc… In the end, though, she makes the final choice, regardless of whether I thought it was the very best one or not.”
Au876 is also privileged to be his wife’s financial advisor, financial secretary and, ultimately, accounts payable clerk: “Bill-paying is a chore as are many other aspects of financial management. I get all the bills ready for payment and she signs the checks. My wife often has me gather information on an investment she may be considering or do other research, such as comparing prices and etc. She often asks my opinion. When she does, she expects an informed opinion. However, after I present what she has asked for, she makes the decisions. Sometimes I never know what they are, but I have been asked for an opinion and that by itself thrills me.”
It was a decade ago in Lady Misato’s Wife Worship Forum that I first read Au876’s description of his wife’s stringent financial control. So I asked him, deeply puzzled, how he could buy his wife any special or expensive presents for Valentine's or Christmas or birthdays without funds? His answer came as a revelation:
“This is in reply to your question of how I could buy my wife expensive gifts. I can't. There is no way possible because I do not have free access to any remotely large sum of money. If she wants something, she buys it and I must say she does not hesitate to splurge on herself. Before she took control of the finances I would buy her expensive gifts from time to time. She appreciated them but often exchanged them for what she really wanted. Now she buys what she really wants. But the big plus is how much more she appreciates the gifts I do buy for her. It may be an inexpensive sweater, some new underwear, candy or even flowers from time to time, but she knows I have had to save back from my allowance to make the purchase and she knows I have given up some pleasures for myself to please her. She seems to appreciate them much more than she did expensive gifts that caused me little hardship.”
I was deeply impressed by the extent of Au876’s devotion. Now, after many years, I am privileged to confirm from my own daily experience the truth of what he wrote:
“There are very few things you can do without money. If your wife controls the money, she largely controls what you can and can not do. Meanwhile, she can do what she wants with no approval or permission from you.”
Yes, it’s a primal thrill for any wife-worshipper to relinquish all financial power into the hands of his queen, but I will whisper one teensy-weensy caution that others in the life have passed on to me:
Be careful what you wish for. Giving up financial control may be a point of no return on the road to wifedom.