Confession: every time there is a “how do you manage marital finances?” post on APW or other marriage blogs, I tend to fall asleep on my keyboard about ten comments in. I really want to care, honest. I feel like I should care as a feminist and as a grown up, especially one who has a) legal training and b) a fairly unusual financial situation. But, god, money talk really hits my zzzzzzz button. I know, UGH, I’m one of those stereotypical loser chicks who simpers, “Money scares and confuses my uterus! I just leave it up to my husband, he’s better at that stuff anyway.” (These are usually the same chicks who say things like, “I’m just better at housework so I do more of it!”, but that is not the case here. Unfortunately, if Collin and I really divided up responsibilities based on who was “better at” something, he would be left to do EVERYTHING except read and parallel park.)
Two weeks ago, I would have told you that the extent to which our finances were separate or merged was blurry and unimportant to me. Then we went to open a bank account in South Africa.
The plain fact is that while we are in South Africa Collin will be the sole breadwinner. This had been pretty much true in the US, too, but I at least had the potential to earn. I don’t have a South African work visa and it will be really hard for me to get one. We are fortunately able to live off Collin’s salary alone, but it definitely helps that I have savings to grease the wheels and throw money at some of the problems with settling into life in a new country. So we brought over a chunk of my savings in a certified check to open our South African bank account and use as “seed money.”
Then we found out that South Africa does not have joint bank accounts. And because my name was on the check it could not be deposited in Collin’s account. And because I do not have a work visa I am ineligible to open a South African bank account. The teller said, “You’re basically on extended holiday.” I ran out of the bank in tears. This is not vacation, this is life.
I pulled myself together and we sat down with a banker and opened Collin’s account. He explained that I could be added as a signatory on Collin’s account and use a bank card in Collin’s name. The last time I was in that situation I was 16 years old and on my parents’ account. That was twelve years ago, and for half of the time since then I haven’t even had parents. I am past that phase of life.
For all practical purposes, it will be a fine solution (I at least won’t be putting my hand out for a weekly cash allowance, which is the terrifying vision that first flashed through my head), but it just… makes me feel like a child. It hurts.
So our seed money is going back in my US account and we’ll be eating some foreign transaction fees for a while. And I’ll be swallowing my pride as I buy groceries in my husband’s name.