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How Important Is It To Be Financially Independent In A Relationship?

If you're cohabiting or married, the conversation on if you should have your own or depend on someone, always comes up. xoNecole weighs in.

Dating

I never really considered the notion of saving for a rainy day until I went through my own struggles with money. As a child, going shopping for school supplies filled me with both anxiety and excitement as the thought of having tons of fresh, unopened items meant the start of something new ahead. As an adult, August signifies the beginning of my wallet dwindling in preparation to send my sons off to school again.


When my significant other and I couldn't start our kids off with what was supposed to be mandatory for their first week, my inner guilt came across as fury towards my children's father. I blamed him for not having enough to send just one off with everything he needed, cursed him for not making enough to make ends meet, and argued with him over bank statements and spending habits from months prior. In hindsight, he did the best he could with what he had and his response to my tangent reminded me of a lesson I learned through observation growing up: "What do you have? Where is your money?"

A girl has to have her own, right?

I recently spoke to a friend who told me about some financial roadblocks she's hit. She was a stay at home mom who worked really hard to maintain her household including raising her two daughters alongside her husband. They were now faced with living with in-laws or moving into a shelter. Without prying into any of her business she did not expose herself, I listened to the weariness in her voice as she told me stories of depending heavily on her husband.

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"I didn't think to work. He took care of anything me and the girls wanted and needed, and I grew comfortably into life at home, without a job," she told me. I've heard this story too many times before. I sympathized with her, trying the stay-at-home mom move myself and realizing a mere a month and a half in that I had to support my own family, even if my partner did work.

There were things I wanted for myself that I could not buy. I grew accustomed to sticking my hand out to my partner for money and in a cycle of asking for things excessively, my partner felt frustrated and eventually, rejected my demands. What did I have for myself? What was I doing for myself?

Through my own experience and taking my friend's account of dependency into consideration, I was led to ask several married women and stay-at-home mommies about their thoughts in relying on their partners. Many had careers and suggested having separate bank accounts to avoid the headaches and hassles of finances. Some found purpose in their lives in raising their children at home and still held their own from past jobs that didn't allow them to be contingent on their spouses paycheck. Others reminded me of trust and the significance of that part in traditional wedding vows that swears you tough it out for richer or poorer. "For me, I have to believe my husband won't leave me without anything, especially with children, because we made an oath before God," one girlfriend told me.

In watching my mother marry someone with a much higher credit score and more stable lifestyle, who later divorced her and left her in a financial bind that affected immediate family members, I've become slightly cautious of putting all my faith in one basket and living off of someone else's income. I don't ever want my reality to suddenly shift because my world was wrapped in someone else's and I couldn't do for me. As a young girl, I did bad all by myself, and as a woman, I know the importance of having your own.

Read what these five ladies had to say about the importance of women having their own, trust, and financial dependency:

Having Your Own

I have always been independent, down to changing my own motor oil. When I got married, that didn't change–I just learned to combine my powers with his. The freedom of being able to buy what I want without having to explain why is awesome. Plus if he ever falls short financially, I have the power to pick up the slack. – Kimani Fisher-Wynter

Too often a woman “having her own" in a relationship is positioned solely as financial independence. But, we forget that money is tethered to other aspects of our lives. Obviously having your “eff you" money in place is important. But, having your own is also about mental and emotional independence. Financial freedom equates to freedom in so many other arenas of your life. There's peace of mind that comes from knowing you have options. – Tyece Wilkins

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The first time I realized that women were supposedly an extension of their man was post nuptials when a woman asked me "so, who are you married to?". That immediately gave me pause because I am my own woman and although my husband is an amazing man, he is my partner, not my parent. I never knew that some women were assumed to be codependent because my mother was always very independent and my husband's mother was as well. I have never felt like I had to choose my relationship over my career because I married a man who wanted an independent and capable woman. I think that is one of the most important parts because it is difficult to have and maintain "your own" if you are with a person who wants you to rely solely on them. As the director of an education nonprofit, I am many things to many different people. It certainly helps to know that I'm married to someone who supports that and is not envious or annoyed by it. My independence is not a burden to him but a blessing, and I love him for it. – Brittany Brady

Financial Dependency

At 28 years old, I will be celebrating 6 years of marriage this Fall. I've worked outside of the home and have also had the pleasure of being a stay at home mom for over a year - a personal choice that was very important to me. While I now take pride in being able to significantly contribute to my households income, I never felt less than when I wasn't bringing in a check as a SAHM. Being home gave me a chance to re-group, figure out exactly what I wanted to do and most importantly bond with my baby. I also financially prepared to be home, so I made it a point to have my own and even started a successful small business from my kitchen. My clique of millennial mommy friends all have hustles and business' that we run when our families are asleep - it's all about maintaining a sense of self. – Jhéanell Adams

I've been a stay at home mom for roughly nine years and being financially dependent on my husband is honestly the best fit for the vision we have for our family. It's our highest priority for me to be home raising our children and my mind to be fully dedicated to that at this point in our lives. So, while he's out making the money to support our family, I'm home building the foundation for our lives–emotionally, spiritually, and academically. Sure, it hasn't always been easy not having my "own" money to do what I please, but at the end of the day, the bigger picture requires a joint effort, and my contribution doesn't require a financial aspect. Sure, I worry about the what if's, but aren't the most financially independent people as well? I mean we live in an unstable world. I definitely try to take the time to stay abreast with the job market, to better myself and hone my skills so I'm prepared when and if the time comes that I may need to support myself and my family. I trust that it will be okay. I trust that my husband will hold it down while he has to, and in the event that he can't, I trust that I'm resourceful enough as a person to pick up the pieces and do what I have to. Having a trustworthy partner and having the utmost confidence in yourself is what makes financial dependency a somewhat easy pill to swallow. – Tiffany Perez-Figueroa

Should you have your own or is it okay to depend on your significant other? Let me know your thoughts and share your own stories in the comment section below!

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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