A couple carries a bunch of matooke. Where there is love, there will be trust, transparency, and accountability hence good financial health. PHOTO/ MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI


Couplenomics: Success with love and money

What you need to know:

  • When it comes to budgeting as a couple, there are three common approaches. Some merge everything together and share all income and expenses, create a joint account that both people contribute to for shared expenses.

Most couples fight over money, especially in marriage. It can be a sensitive and subjective topic for two independent individuals to traverse agreeably, unless intentionally handled. 
That said, there is no one-size-fits-all way of navigation, though there are numerous tips that have worked for some, to consider. 
Important to note are three different dynamics that come into play concerning incomes: a more common scenario in the Ugandan culture is where the man brings home the lion’s share. 
The others are when both the man and the woman earning the same, and where the woman brings the bigger contribution. Each of these dynamics breeds unique circumstances.

Money talks 
Mr Livingstone Mukasa, the co-founder of Four One Financial Services, a financial advisor, and Ms Susan Tashobya Tabaro, executive director, of Rapport Counselling, a counselling psychologist both concur that couples must start financial conversations in the early stages of the relationship as one of the pillars for marriage success.
Mr Mukasa says: “One of the most fundamental actualities that cannot be emphasized enough is that the man and woman each have a relationship with money before coming together,” adding that finding a way of ‘marrying the two relationships’ into one as the two become one is extremely essential.  

A woman collects money from a bank. Some couples have managed to meet all their major financial obligations with a joint account. PHOTO/ EDGAR R. BATTE

Furthermore, as couples are counselled to embark on the relationship venture knowing that none is perfect, they must uphold each other’s strengths while tolerating each other’s weaknesses, Ms Tashobya emphasises that this also applies to finances. 
“Being cognisant of the fact that each will discover financial behaviours, both good and bad, as the relationship advances is very key,” she says.

Avoid conflict when saving as a couple
Consequently, it prepares the minds of the two individuals to admit where the other is stronger, to cover each other in their weak areas, to freely explore different strategies that either or both think might work and have the muscle to genuinely assess their impact to take the necessary steps forward no matter how hard.
“My husband and I had agreed to a joint account but discontinued it the moment we realised it was not working for us. The savings were used up in a manner that none found beneficial to the progress of the home hence causing unnecessary strain to our relationship,” she elaborates.  

When it comes to budgeting as a couple, there are three common approaches. Some merge everything together and share all income and expenses, create a joint account that both people contribute to for shared expenses. Others maintain separate accounts, or keep everything separate and split the bills.

Joint accounts
Mr and Mrs Johnson Serunjoji, both civil servants, have had two joint accounts in two separate banks for the last six years of their marriage. 
Resultantly, the couple has been able to meet all their major financial obligations such as building, a goal they set for the family.
“We agreed to a 50 percent contribution towards the joint account and then independent accounts for the rest of the income. Each was, and still is, cognisant of the other’s income and expenditure patterns hence working well for us,” Mr Serunjoji says.
For Ms Carol Namakula (names changed), a joint account led to a year’s separation from her husband of four years. 

“Money had always been a subject of contention even during our six months courtship but bearable or so we thought. That was tested when my husband lost his job during the pandemic as all hell broke loose,” she says.
Ms Namakula had to continue depositing on the joint account whilst carrying the responsibility of sustaining the home.  On the other hand, her husband relied on gigs as he sought for permanent employment. 

“The deal breaker was when I received a Shs1m withdrawal notification we had not talked about at all. With a history of reckless spending behaviours that had plagued our relationship for a while, I chose to ask for the bank statement. That was when I learned that my husband had been withdrawing large sums of money and deleting the messages from my phone. It was already annoying that he had made these withdrawals without sharing with me. However, it was too much for me that there was no new business venture or a land title to show for all the money. I was further agitated by the way he reacted when I confronted him. As such, we have been separated for a year now,” Ms Namakula intimates.  

Setting goals 
Concepts such as joint accounts, investment, savings, and retirement plans are best achieved where there are clear family goals the couple is working towards. 
“A client of mine is in a dilemma after the husband refuses to move into a house she built for the family.  He argues that he was not involved in that major decision and so as an African man, he cannot move into a woman’s house,” Mr Mukasa elaborates.
In a conservative society, Mr Mukasa emphasises the need for keenness to observe the gender roles in a home. 

“The fact that the woman is earning more should never be ground for taking on the role of a head, and being the ultimate decision maker concerning the goals of a family. Additionally, the man must position himself to remain relevant as a head in the event the woman is earning more,” he says adding that this is when the supportive role becomes very relevant on his part. 

In the above case, for instance, the woman could have involved the husband at the negotiation level and let him hand the cash to all the service providers. 
On the other hand, the man did not have to wait until the house is done before addressing the issue. He could also have positioned himself to be supportive. In all this, it would help the woman not to assume she is doing it for the family, or the two would have come to an amicable compromise for the good of the family. 

A woman buys fruits in Busega Market.  Couples should separate wants from needs during goal setting and budget allocations. PHOTO/ MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

Mr Mukasa stresses that in goal setting, both parties must participate in dealing with money leakages that eventually swallow up the family’s income.
Often, when the man is the breadwinner, some women tend to make demands that depict little or no consideration of how the money will come, as long as their wants are met.
It is thus imperative that couples separate wants from needs during goal setting and budget allocations.  

“Be realistic as to set goals that are within your limits. Do not just choose a school, hospital, or rental home without a careful thought of how deep they are digging into your pockets. Budgeting is also key so financial needs are not assessed in silos hence explicit fund allocation,” Mr Musaka says.
Furthermore, the couple must involve the children to learn the value of money from an early stage.
“They need to know that leaving the tap running or flushing the toilet anyhow costs an extra buck and that because we can afford ice cream does not mean we shall always buy it. That way, impulsive spending is curbed. However, it neither means that you cannot spend on something they crave for now and then nor that one must explain their financial decision all the time,” Mr Mukasa says.

The power of love 
Ultimately, where there is love, there will be trust, transparency, and accountability hence good financial health. 
“Honestly, my husband and I have never talked about money. I am more aggressive than him hence often earn more from side hustles topping up my salary. But somehow, each one of us knows what to do without assigning. We have a clear direction concerning what we want to do and we just do it,” says Ms  Nakyeyune. 
According to her, that she earns more never even occurs to her.

“It’s not even about turns or anything. I cannot refuse to pay rent when I have money, waiting for whenever he gets money. I cannot drive the car twice and not fuel because I am the one who fuelled the last time. We love each other and work together,” she says. 
Ms Milly Nassolo Kikomeko, a lawyer says: “We swore to be in each other’s life and business so finances cannot stop us. I am very open not only about my income but also expenses and that helps me keep track of expenses and to control myself, as I will have to give accountability to my husband,” she says.

Her husband, Mr Robert Tumusabe Kikomeko, the executive director, of Maisha Holistic Africa Foundation, says: “My wife brings her salary which is good for transparency. Combining it with my salary, we plan for and make decisions on expenditure together”.