Divide and Conquer and the Modern Family

My husband and I married in our thirties and we have the divide and conquer philosophy on many of the household duties. My friends and colleagues have mentioned divvying up financial and household matters. When Consumer Reports recently cited that only 30% of couples knew the major financial assets and how to access them, I was not surprised.

ModernFamilyWhile I hope we are not as wacky as the family on the TV show Modern Family, to this day, my husband and I still keep our own bank accounts that are jointly titled. We decided to make one the household bill pay account and the other the rainy day savings account.

I am the owner of the bill pay account. When we were first married, I would write checks twice a month. When my career put me on the road, my husband took over the bill-paying duties from “my account.” He immediately set up online bill pay. When my days of travel ended, I took back the bill pay duties. When I first logged in, I didn’t see any of the bill pay accounts. I had wrongly assumed that the bill pay accounts and pending transactions would be available for both online users to our joint checking account. That is not the case; you can only see the bill pay accounts created under your login. I immediately took over my husband’s username and now we both use one login. I’m now on a soapbox recommending this setup to all of my clients.

If either my husband or I were unable to pay the bills, the other could easily step in. Sharing usernames is against both of our banks’ user agreements and if I call for support, they won’t answer my questions because I am not allowed to be in my husband’s account. Silly! I’m not a big rule breaker, but that is one I break all the time.

Now that I am caring for my parents, the online access offered by every company and most state and federal services has been a major time and frustration saver for me. When my parents’ insurance company and the financial institutions that hold several investment accounts refused to accept my durable power of attorney (this is a lot more common than you can imagine and I will cover this next month), my dad worked with me to set up online access so I could act on my parents’ behalf.

Setting up online access to your accounts does not negate the need to have a current will or power of attorney. However, this information will make it infinitely simpler for someone to step in and help if you are unable to manage your accounts, if even only temporarily.

To get your details organized, you can download a free copy of the account and documents checklist, or order the MemoryBanc Register that will prompt you through the process.

I hope you will consider making this change to how you manage your household accounts and bill payments. It’s a kindness your loved ones will appreciate if the information is ever needed.

– Kay
Kay Bransford
Chief Curator and Founder, MemoryBanc

6 thoughts on “Divide and Conquer and the Modern Family

  1. So GOOD to hear (OK, “read”) the relief and weight off your shoulders since your parents were moved to the assisted living apartment! I had worried about the toll that experience was having on you, personally. I noticed a while ago that in your posts, you’d always start off by explaining, reiterating, what had happened in the post only a day before.

    If you’ve ever watched TV shows like “Kitchen Nightmares”, “Hell’s Kitchen”, or ones like those, every time they come back from a 2 minute commercial break, there’s a “recap” of what’s just happened. It’s like…OK, it’s only been 2 minutes. Are they only playing to an audience with zero attention span?

    It finally dawned on me that it was probably something ingrained in you from dealing with your parents, and you may not even be aware of it. Please know I mean this as no disrespect, just that it’s really wonderful to see the difference having that weight lifted from you, like a freedom to just be yourself, write as yourself.

    I look forward to reading about your journey from here, and hoping for an easier time for you.

    1. Hi – thanks for your note and feedback. I actually had readers make comments that made it clear they had no context so I tried to add in some context for the “drop ins.” Now I am moving on to address specific topics and when I do that, won’t provide reference — and when I need to the links to the stories will help for those with no history or a short attention span!

  2. Kay, this is really great advice. Because my mom was divorced and lived alone from the time she was in her 40s, she’d long ago given me signature cards for her checking accounts. For her checking and savings accounts, I helped her create online banking and set up online payments for most of her bills. Now that she is living with dementia and is in assisted living, I can easily pay her bills for her and check on her accounts to be sure everything is in order. I still have POA , but you are correct in saying that, for financial institutions, the POA is often useless.

  3. thank you for your responses.
    my situation is getting worse by the day. my father has a serious foot/leg infection. I am getting sick going into the house. he is not driving because he can’t get anything onto his foot. I am buying his cigs. I go over and try to fix dinner and serve it but my mother w/extreme dementia just screams at him – he puts his fist in her face.

    I have a hired a lawyer – and thank god I got signed Power of Attornery’s when I was here a year and 1/2 ago. I am trying to get access to their finances – as bills have not been paid for at least 2 months. I have no one to assist me – my siblings have passed away. I am just trying to stay healthy as I am not young – 59 ys and not in good health.

    Thanks so much for your input and support.


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