Do I Have To Give Her Money?

ZFsYJxdUSometimes, I get emails that make me wonder what people are thinking.  I had to think about this one for several days before responding, and I think the email response that I sent wasn’t very good.  It was too safe, and I didn’t really say all the things I was thinking.

Here’s the email:

“Hey Kate, I’m in the military and I am married.  My BAH is used for the rent on our on-base housing.  My wife doesn’t work.  Am I obligated to give her money?”

The answer I gave was mostly kind and encouraging, emphasizing that marriage is a partnership and that they needed to work together towards common goals.

Here’s what I wanted to say:

“I don’t know, do you want to stay married?”

or perhaps:

“You are going to have to give me a lot more information if you want me to condone you being selfish with your money.”

or maybe even:

“Grow up!”

I just don’t really understand why someone would ask this question.  In my mind, when you say your wedding vows, you are joining together in a lifetime commitment in everything.  Including money.  Yes, one person may have more income, or one person may have more debt, or one person’s life might be more expensive (hello, grad school!), but once you are married you are dealing with all these things as a team.  You talk and work together to look at your income and figure out how you are going to spend it in the way that makes both of you happy.

How much the actual money is mingled is up to each individual couple.  Most couples find that having mostly joint accounts is the most effective way to ensure that there is a full-integration of money management issues.

(I am making some assumptions here.  I am assuming that both parties are sane, rational people and neither the writer or the writer’s wife has a drinking problem, a drug problem, or a spending problem.  In those situations, the rules are totally different.)

There is another option, which sounds like what the writer thinks that marriage looks like.  You can act like two separate people, and look out only for yourself, and the chances are you will be unsuccessful with your finances, or unsuccessful with your marriage, or both.

There are 100 questions that I’d like to ask the person who wrote this letter, but it is generally a bad idea to get into a disagreement with a stranger.  Questions like:  How do you currently manage your married finances?  Why doesn’t your wife work?  Did you talk about money at all before you got married?  Have you talked about money since you got married?  Do you have a spending plan?  How do you expect your wife to purchase necessary things (even if it is just new underwear) if she doesn’t have a job and you don’t think you should give her money?

However, I’m just one opinion, and goodness knows that people disagree with me all the time.  If you received this letter, how would you respond?


About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • KenLand

    It is a perfectly appropriate question if he is a Neanderthal.

  • Double D

    For my wife and I, my paycheck going into my personal account, I knock out all the bills with my name on them primarily because I am a control freak and don’t want to get into financial troubles and lose my clearance. Then I transfer everything over to our joint for my wife to pay her bills. Once all that is done, we work out the list of stuff we want and see what we can get.

  • Nancy

    I think it would depend also about the spouse’s spending habits. Does she/he spend frivolously and then want more money to shop for the necessities? Money only goes so far, there are some that purchase their wants before their needs. And when the time for the needs arise, there isn’t any money, so they complain.

  • ldajnowski

    Hey bud, a marriage is a partnership so both help each other to the maximum extent possible. If you don’t want to help your spouse then get divorced and go on with your life. It is that simple.

  • 4M

    That’s no way to live, you’re a team now. If you want to have “financial peace”:

    Have one account for the checks to go into, and that account pays the bills and sends spending money to two other individual accounts.

  • Eleanore

    needs it for girlfriend who is married and told him the baby is his.

  • Need help

    My husband walked out on me and i am disabled but do part -time work not enough to make ends meet had to turn to the state for help,he got his benefuts started and i haven’t seen him in 2 years ,PLEASE HELP ME GET SOME KIND OF BENEFITS!!!!!!!!!

  • guest

    I dunno, we had a run in at the last unit my husband was in command of with a spouse…yea…lets just say certain stereotypes exist for a reason. She came to me with a sob story about having no money for her or the kids, that he was making her destitute, yada yada. I told the hubz, he called the guy into the office, told him he needed to start providing for the family etc. Guy simply says yes sir and leaves.

    3 months later he comes in for a AER loan to pay the mortgage. Husband starts asking all sorts of questions and the guy finally tells him that she racked up 70 grand in credit card debt in his name while he was deployed living with another man, he took her back, she got angry at him controlling the finances, burnt all his stuff on the front lawn three months prior and he’d been living with friends while paying the mortgage on the house and he’d recently found out neither of his kids…were his.

    Husband tells him he needs to call the cops to report the identity theft (they were divorcing) and the next day she comes raging in talking about how all his money was hers, she owns him, she’d take him for all he’s got, she’s going to bankrupt him and get my husband arrested for interfering in their finances etc. Some of these guys are afraid to ask the question because of fear of reprisal from the command, but some times….they REALLY do have valid reasons for asking. I wouldn’t judge unless you know the entire story because most LOGICAL humans don’t ask that unless they have a dang good reason too.

    • JMM

      Sounds like my ex-wife, but as a parting shot she told my command a bunch of BS and ended my career as an army aviator. At least I got the kids and escaped from her.

  • motorhead

    Life sux sometimes when “for better or for worse” desperately needs to lead to “we do part till death” if one spouse (ex-wife in my case) fosters a belief that hubby’s money is family’s money, and wife’s money (equivalent paychecks) is hers to do with as she pleases. In my case “as she pleases” included a boyfriend (same one for three duty stations-he followed her) at every (did I forget to say “every?”) duty station. During my meager pack-out after 22 years of married hell I found her diary! OMG. She got the kids, car, houses, shirt, etc., I got to keep my Harley. WIN: my kids are DNA-mine.

  • murphieslaw2

    My ex husband taught me some expensive lessons. Put my security clearance in jeopardy. After I figured out he was spending “his money”, I got my own account and he got his but I should have also gotten “ours” for all our joint bills. I went to one of the schools I needed, I was gone 3 months. During that time he did not pay a single bill. He did not feed our elementary school children. The next time I wrote a check for rent, a check to my 12 year old for food ( she got help from a neighbor) and gave her an address to mail the bills to me to get them paid. No one saw his paycheck. He flaunted his girlfriends in front of my children and bought expensive aircraft models while I was gone. the final straw was when he filed income tax for himself to get “his money” ( I was the main bread winner). To be financially dependent upon your spouse is a form of abuse also.

  • linda

    My husband after 46 years, believes it’s all his and if I need any money I need to beg him for it and explain like a child why I need it. Men’s attitude sucks when it comes to money.

  • Tami

    My husband ex-wife was a drug addict who bankrupted him. She didn’t work and spent all the money. When they were divorcing he still have her money, but it wasn’t enough to support her drug habit, so she wrote a letter to his command. Long story short- the command didn’t investigate, just ordered money taken from his check, and there are still (12 yrs later) thousands of dollars unaccounted for. Oh, and we have custody of the child and get no child support.

    • murphieslaw2

      Tami do you have court documents showing you and your husband have custody? Is there an alimony clause in the divorce papers. If so have your husband take them to the Commanding Officer through his chain of command. If you don’t get a family lawyer take her to court to straighten that mess out. If she doesn’t have custody of the kids and there is no clause for alimony she doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

  • james

    no you don’t have to give her money she already has half of all the money you have until you two go to court then she has it all but the first 25 dollars is yours

  • Bill Downs

    I’m sure we all have our horror stories about money and marriage. I would suggest for anyone who doesn’t trust their wife to handle money responsibly have seperate accounts and provide her an allowance based on how much she xontributes to the marriage in a nonmonetary manner (i.e. housework, taking care of kids, etc.). I made the mistake of trusting my first wife to handle our finances while I was in the Navy and after 23 years of service and 21 years of marriage I found myself broke and divorced a year after I retired. I believe had I not allowed her to control my money I would probably been married less than five years and woould have had a lot more money when I retired.


  • Nomoney

    My husband gets the allotment for being married but tells me that he has no way to send me money to pay the bills at home. I am on disability and use all of my money to pay the bills, buy groceries etc. He is in control of the money but expects me to have some money left from what I get monthly. How am I supposed to get money from him?

    • Kate

      Nomoney, There are two separate issues here. The first is to understand that he does not get an allotment for being married. He may be receiving Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) at the with dependent rate.

      Without knowing the state of your marriage, I can’t advise you as to the right course of action. It is generally the position of the military that service members are expected to support their families. However, marriages are also private matters, and most commanders would prefer not to have to get involved.

      If you are headed toward divorce, then the military does have guidelines for how much support service members are supposed to provide to their estranged spouses while they seek a formal support agreement. You can find the exact details, by branch, with relevant regulations at

      Good luck to you!

  • ClaraWill

    My husband and I have been married for 11yrs we have 2boys one with Autism, my husband is in the Army and has been nothing but selfish at first we had a joint account with bank cards I never spent the money on wants the money was spent on needs and whatever was left over was left in the bank but my husband spent money on all his wants and basically bit off more than he can chew. Because now we’re in so much debt its not even funny because of him, He somehow had me removed off the joint account we had and now that I’m unemployed at the moment due to health issues he has completely lost his mind and has become a asshole because he has 3 credit cards that he owes money on, a Military star card, then he went and got a loan for a scooter, rode the scooter about 3 or 4 times then sold it but was still making payments on it then he went and got a loan for a motorcycle, got a used motorcycle rode it 4 times and it completely stop working. And after he traded in our Lincoln Navigator for a 2014 VW Passat with payments of $625 he was paying insurance but now theres none on the car and just recently the tags expired, then have the nerve to come to me and say “I need to help him pay off his bills smh.To me that is ridiculous because never once did he come to me and discuss our finances, I do hair in my home and I put my money towards our children and house bills and groceries. Then come tax time we go file our taxes and he has them put the checks into his account, gives me $300 from the state check and he keeps the whole federal check Is he allowed to do that? Then when you say something and let him know how wrong he is and his spending habits is ridiculous he gets defensive and try to justify his self.
    Is there something I can do or someone I can talk too, to get my husband to stop putting our family in debt and start putting money towards our family and not towards his wants?

  • E B

    Hello Kate,

    My husband served 12 years active duty and 8 years reserve. We have been separated not legally since 1986. I am not sure if he is receiving his military retirement since he will not talk with me about this. Is there any way I can get my portion of his retirement now? Who do I contact?

    • Kate

      EB – first, there is no such thing as “your portion” of his retirement. While military pay is divisable as a marital asset, it is just one part of the overall property division that would occur with a final divorce decree.

      If your husband retired as a reservist, he will be eligible for retirement pay at age 60 (or perhaps a bit earlier based upon certain criteria.)

      I strongly encourage you to pursue a legal separation and support and/or division of property. Depending on the rules of your state, you may not be able to divide property without a final divoce decree.

  • J Humphreys

    My Air Force husband and I were married 48 years before he passed away. We never argued about money. We paid the bills and lived on the rest.

  • no you don’t have to give her money she already has half of all the money you have until you two go to court then she has it all but the first 25 dollars is yours

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