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interior/[in'tiəriə]/ n. 内部, 内政 a. 内部的, 心灵的, 内地的, 内政...

你家谁管钱?

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We had been married only a few months when Clarissa burst into the living room with her arms full of shopping bags. 'Honey, you can't believe how much money I saved you,' she said.

My wife had just bought a bunch of clothes on sale. 'I was so proud of myself,' she recalls 27 years later. All the more so because many of the clothes were for me; she viewed my premarriage wardrobe, or lack thereof, as an abomination.

I had a different reaction. I told her if she really wanted to save money, she wouldn't have bought anything at all. Clarissa found this logic unfathomable. 'It's like we were speaking two different languages,' she now says.

After this auspicious beginning, you'd figure I'd keep a close eye on our household finances. I don't. Clarissa has handled our day-to-day finances for nearly all our marriage.

It's partly laziness on my part. But it's also a cynical calculation. I figure Clarissa will spend less if she's in charge of sweating out paying all the bills the following month.

Instead, I've focused on the big financial picture: saving for retirement; saving for college; getting the best possible deal on a mortgage for each of our multiple moves around the U.S. for my job.

There is also a marital-harmony component to our arrangement. Clarissa hasn't held a job since our third child was born 17 years ago. The prospect of my earning all the money and controlling all the spending made her feel powerless.

I had prided myself on being quite the enlightened husband for ceding control of our day-to-day finances. Turns out our arrangement is pretty typical, according to the experts. 'In most households, the wife makes the day-to-day budgetary decisions, and the husband makes the big decisions,' says Vickie Bajtelsmit, chair of the finance department at Colorado State University.

There are exceptions. Dr. Bajtelsmit has been the main breadwinner in her marriage, and she's an expert on personal finance. 'I made most of the decisions,' she says.

Different couples figure out the division of labor differently. Sherman Hanna, an economist at Ohio State University, says he does the grocery shopping in his family. His wife, an attorney, makes all the decisions about furnishing their house. 'I have no sense of style whatsoever,' Dr. Hanna says.

As for big financial decisions, Dr. Hanna says he and his wife tend to make them together.

None of these arrangements work well without trust. In the early years of our marriage, Clarissa would sometimes run out of money and quietly pay for things with her personal credit card.

It was hardly ever stuff for herself. Usually, it was clothes for the children or Christmas presents for her family. Clarissa figured she'd pay off the debt when things loosened up for us. But, of course, with three kids and one salary, digging out was hard.

Eventually, I'd find out and explode. Once, it happened when we bought a house. I thought we had no debts outside of a car loan. But when the mortgage lender showed me our joint credit report, I saw that Clarissa had a couple of thousand dollars on her own card. It wasn't a happy moment.

A few years later, we moved again, and it happened again. 'Do I have to move to find out how much we owe?' I asked Clarissa.

Finally, I told Clarissa if she was candid about our debts, I wouldn't go ballistic. We've both pretty much kept up our end of the deal since. And it's been a much happier situation.

We still get in debt sometimes. But since I know about the problem right away, I'm able to take action, such as cutting back on retirement savings until we dig our way out.

Would we be more careful with money if I were completely in charge of our spending? Probably. But marriage is about compromise. And unless your spouse is a complete spendthrift, compromising is a heck of a lot cheaper than a divorce.

* * *

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my fruitless attempt to exchange a pair of Nike running shoes with a torn shoelace eyelet. Nike just sent me a $92 voucher. I'm mailing it back. Earlier, I mailed back five pairs of running shoes that some marketing maven at Reebok sent me in the wake of the column.

I'm not an ingrate. But when I write about a situation in my life, I'm doing it to explore an issue -- not to get special treatment. Nike recently told me that its policy is to honor return requests for the particular shoe model I bought, and I assume that's its rationale for sending me a voucher now. Nonetheless, Nike wasn't willing to send me a voucher when I contacted the company a year ago as an ordinary consumer, so I can't accept it now.

我们刚结婚没几个月的时候,有一天,克拉丽莎拎着大包小包的购物袋冲进家来,对我说:“亲爱的,你都想不出我给你省了多少钱。”

我亲爱的妻子当时刚刚买了一堆的打折服装。二十七年后的今天,她提起此事时说,“我那时真是为自己感到骄傲。”更何况,其中很多衣服都是给我买的;她检查了我婚前的衣橱,也可能压根儿就没看,总之她觉得我所有的衣服都该更新换代了。

当时我则是另一种反应。我跟她说,她要是真想省钱,就不该花钱去买东西。克拉丽莎认为这种逻辑不可理喻。现在回想那时的情况,她的结论是:“我们好像在说两种不同的语言。”

你们也许会想,经历此事后,我会去关注一下家里的财务状况。其实我没有。我俩的婚姻生活中,日常开销几乎都是克拉丽莎控制的。

我这么做部分原因是出于懒惰,部分也是因为一种幸灾乐祸的想法。我想,如果让克拉丽莎来想方设法应付下个月的所有开支,她花钱就会悠着点儿了。

其实我关心的都是大的开销:为退休存钱;存孩子们的大学学费;尽量拿到条件最优惠的抵押贷款──因为工作的缘故,我们经常搬家。

这样的安排还有促进婚姻和谐的考虑。十七年前,我们的第三个孩子降生后,克拉丽莎就不上班了。我是家里唯一的经济来源,要是再掌控全部经济大权的话,她就会觉得自己无足轻重。

放弃对日常开销的控制权是一个明智的决定,对此我颇为自得。其实,根据专家的统计,我们这种安排是相当典型的。科罗拉多州立大学金融系主任Vickie Bajtelsmit说:“在大多数家庭中,日常的财务开支都由妻子来做决定,大主意则是做丈夫的来拿。”

当然也有例外。Bajtelsmit本人就是家中主要的经济来源,她是一位私人理财专家。她说:“大部分决定都是我来做。”

不同家庭夫妇有不同的分工。俄亥俄州立大学经济学家谢尔曼·汉纳(Sherman Hanna)在家中负责日常采购,家居布置则由他的律师妻子来拿主意。汉纳博士说:“我对装修风格之类的东西一点感觉也没有。”

至于大的开销,汉纳博士说一般都是夫妻俩共同做决定。

不过,如果没有信任作为基础,上述的所有安排都解决不了问题。在我们婚后的头几年,有时候会出现超支的情况,这时克拉丽莎就会悄悄地拿自己的信用卡来买单。

造成超支的一般都不是她自己的东西,而是孩子的衣服,或是给她家人的圣诞节礼物。克拉丽莎的想法是,如果我们超了支,她就自己把钱补上。不过,要养三个孩子,赚钱的却只有一个人,维持生活是很艰难的。

后来我终于发现了这个情况,忍不住大发脾气。有一次,我们买了一栋房子,我本以为我们只欠一辆汽车的贷款,再没有其他欠款。可是,贷款机构把我们的联名账户记录给我看时,我发现克拉丽莎的卡上欠了两千美元。这可不是什么让人高兴的事儿。

几年后我们再次搬家,同样的事情又发生了。我问克拉丽莎:“我是不是非得到搬家的时候才能知道我们到底欠了多少债呢?”

最后,我告诉克拉丽莎,如果她能坦白我们的债务状况,我就不会发火了。此后我们俩基本都能遵守这个约定,情况就好多了。

虽然我们有时候还是会欠债,不过因为我能够及时了解情况,也就能马上采取临时减少退休金存款之类的措施来度过难关。

如果全部支出由我来掌控,我们花钱会不会更谨慎呢?有可能。不过,婚姻是需要妥协的。妥协的代价总比离婚要低,除非你的另一半根本就是一个挥霍无度的人。

几周前,我在文章里提到我想换一双鞋带眼开裂的耐克跑步鞋,结果没有成功。最近耐克给我寄来了一张92美元的代金券,被我寄了回去。之前还有一次,专栏文章发表后,锐步一位销售经理给我寄了五双跑步鞋,我也寄回去了。

我不是一个不识好歹的人。不过,我在文章中提到自己生活中的某件事,只是为了探讨一个话题──不是为了得到特别优待。耐克公司最近通知我,根据政策,我买的那种鞋子是可以退货的,所以他们现在再给我寄代金券的话就是合理的了。不过,一年前当我以一位普通消费者的身份跟耐克联系时,他们并没想给我寄代金券,所以现在我也是不会接受的。
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