Do you and your husband budget and plan expenditures together?
Unfortunately, many families in Malawi don't manage their finances as a partnership. Some husbands and wives don't even know each other's salaries. There's a wide array of reasons for this: perhaps the husband doesn't want his family to worry about money especially when his finances are shaky; or the wife doesn't want her husband to be jealous of her higher earnings: If I tell him how much I earn, why, he might just reduce his contribution to the household.
If you keep your finances a secret from each other once your relationship becomes serious, that isn't going to change when you get married. So it's best to start financial collaboration early.
When I met my now husband in 2009, it took us only about six months to realise we were one day going to get married and we started discussing how we could combine our funds to buy a house together. Independently our finances couldn't stretch to buy a good enough house but put together we had a lot more financial firepower.
You don't have to put all your money together but if you sit down and discuss how much you have and any money you expect to have in future you can make a plan to rival any individual plans.
Don't be too quick to go into financial partnerships with friends before you figure out what you can achieve with your own husband. Personally, I would be very wary about going into a business with a friend.
If you’re not married be cautious about merging your finances. I know one girl who combined all her finances with a boyfriend only to lose out big time in the end. She called his place of work to ask for him and was told he had been made redundant six months before. When she questioned him, he just said he didn’t want to talk about it. The next morning, when she woke up he was gone. She only later found out that he had left her lots of debt. He had access to all her accounts and had been doing deals in her name.
He was gone. She knew where he was, he was at his parents’ house in a state of depression, and to repair her name she had to pay back all the debts out of her own pocket. It took her a good three years to clear them all. You have very little control and claim over a boyfriend so it’s best to move with caution.
I know another girl who got married to an unemployed man. He had access to her funds and was busy spending the money on other women! This is obviously completely unacceptable. They have now separated.
I recommend having one bank account that you share with your husband/partner and separate personal bank accounts for other things. Clearly personal preferences differ; the point of my two stories is to warn you of the potential negative consequences born of forming business partnerships with anyone, even a spouse.
Here’s some homework for you: tonight you and your husband should sit down and make one major investment plan for 2013.
“A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship.” John D. Rockefeller
For 2 years until early 2014 I wrote a weekly personal finance and business column for Malawi's leading media house, The Times Group. The target is middle-class, working African women.
This is a reproduction of the articles that appeared in the weekend edition of Malawi News.