TIME Congress

Congressman Proposes Putting a Woman’s Face on the $20 Bill

"It is time to put our money where our mouths are, literally"

The push to put a woman’s face on American currency got a bump Tuesday from a Congressman in Illinois.

Representative Luis Gutiérrez, a Democrat, introduced a bill calling for a woman’s portrait to appear on the $20 bill. The “Put a Woman on the Twenty Act” would direct the Treasury Secretary to convene a special commission that would ask the American public for their suggestions and then make recommendations on who would replace former President Andrew Jackson on the note.

“If this is a country that truly believes in equality,” Gutiérrez said in a statement, “it is time to put our money where our mouths are, literally, and express that sense of justice and fairness on the most widely used bill in circulation.”

The move comes in the wake of the viral Women on 20s campaign, which hosted an online poll of 15 potential faces to appear on the bills. Voters can now pick one of four women finalists: Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt and Wilma Mankiller, the Cherokee Nation’s first female chief.

And it follows a comment on the matter from President Barack Obama, who, after a little girl asked in a letter to him why there weren’t any women on U.S. currency, said having female faces on American bills sounded like a “pretty good idea.”

“I’ll keep working to make sure you grow up in a country where women have the same opportunities as men, and I hope you’ll stay involved in issues that matter to you,” he said in a reply to her.

Read next: Read a 9-Year-Old’s Letter to Obama About Putting a Woman on U.S. Currency—and His Response

MONEY the photo bank

Some Women Will Get Naked Before They Expose the Contents of Their Handbags

Photographer Jeremy Goldberg is on a quest to uncover the mysteries contained in the handbags of women around the globe.

Let me see your handbag, Jeremy Goldberg said to fashion icon Iman. He made her dump all its contents on a table. Then he instructed her to stand against the wall, and he shot her and all of the items she’d been carrying.

The resulting images are part of the Los Angeles–based photographer’s Purseonal project. For four years, Goldberg has been asking women around the globe—famous personalities like actresses Emmanuelle Chriqui and Stephanie March and Facebook Vice President Carolyn Everson, as well as district attorneys, students, and commuters—if he can rummage through their purses and wallets and photograph the mysteries contained therein. He then pairs mugshot-style portraits of each woman with her purse(onal) cargo. To date, Goldberg has photographed more than 300 women in New York, Los Angeles, Sydney, London, Tokyo, Seoul, Malaysia, and Singapore; he recently exhibited some of the results at Tokyo Photo 2014.

Goldberg is drawn to learn more about his subjects by exposing what they carry when they think nobody is looking. “Women’s purses are generally off limits,” he explains. “Even a husband would never dump out his wife’s purse and go through the items, but that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.”

Goldberg generally shoots fashion and portraiture—actors, musicians, company executives, etc.—for publications ranging from Adweek to Gotham and advertising clients including Oxfam and Sony. He points out that magazines often include a “what’s in your bag” or “what’s on your desk” feature, but they’re not real. Readers hoping to gain insight into the personal lives of celebs instead see photos that are typically staged with products the celebrities endorse. “I didn’t want to see Zooey Deschanel’s perfect lip glosses, but the hair tie used to hold her credit cards together,” he explains. “I didn’t want to see a model’s perfect life, but her juvenile court summons….I’m much more interested in seeing someone’s unpaid parking tickets, Starbucks receipts, etc.”

Purses have long been symbols of status or style. For Samantha in Sex in the City, the trendy Birkin was a must-have bag because of its popularity among the glitterati; Meryl Streep, in her role as fashion editor Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, used her lineup of purses to reinforce her power and intimidate her subordinates. World leaders like Margaret Thatcher, Michelle Obama, or Queen Elizabeth II have used a well-selected bag to put citizens at ease with a feeling of normalcy or set a “get-down-to-business” tone. Last fall, “Scandal” star Kerry Washington accessorized with a purple Prada clutch she designed to raise awareness about “domestic violence and financial abuse.”

So if the outside of a purse can communicate so much about its owner, what can the insides reveal? In Goldberg’s words:

The outside represents how people want to be seen, but the inside represents who they really are—most people never expect anyone to see inside their purse, so there’s no artifice. But it’s open to interpretation. What does it say when someone carries a huge purse but it’s almost empty? What does it say when they carry an asthma inhaler, almonds and a pack of cigarettes? What does it say when their purse and their face is perfect, but the inside of their purse looks like a crime scene? There are so many unusual little items. One person had a note reminder not to kill themselves but just to buy needles—turned out it was about knitting needles for an arts and crafts project.

Goldberg includes everything within his subjects’ bags in his photos, but artfully arranges the contents to “hide or highlight” various items, balancing a respect for personal privacy with his own curiosity and desire for unvarnished truth. Identification cards or prescription information, for example, are judiciously covered in a way that does not expose drug names or account numbers. Viewers are invited to pore over the details and construct their own narratives from the objects presented.

Though the actual shoot with his digital cameras lasts a speedy 5 to 10 minutes (the majority of which are devoted to arranging the contents) and have the look of quick snapshots, it has taken Goldberg a long time to work out the tools and aesthetic for the images. He collaborated with German designer Thomas Schostok to create a presentation that combines the portrait and still life with salient details about the subjects—name, city of birth, occupation, location, date of portrait, and type of purse. The images and information are digitally collaged onto a dirty and distressed index card that could have been pulled from the bottom of the bags he photographs.

As for getting permission from his subjects, Goldberg says most people will quickly consent to posing for the portrait but hesitate when they realize they have to dump out their purse. “There’s a moment of panic,” he says. “I see them mentally cataloguing how embarrassing the contents of their purse may be before they agree.”

Given the intimate relationship women have with the things they carry, strong reactions aren’t surprising. Says Goldberg, “One woman said it was a bit of a thrill for her, as her husband got to see her naked, but even he wouldn’t go through her purse.”

This is part of The Photo Bank, a recurring feature on Money.com dedicated to conceptual photography on financial issues. Submissions are welcome and should be sent to Sarina Finkelstein, Online Photo Editor for Money.com at sarina.finkelstein@timeinc.com.

TIME world affairs

GDP Is a Bad Measure of Our Economy—Here’s a Better One

one-dollar-bill-bundles
Getty Images

GDP growth is being challenged by a new holistic set of variables and shows the U.S. lags behind in crucial areas

Are we in the midst of a great paradigm shift?

That was the question raised this morning at the Skoll World Forum by Michael Green, the Executive Director of the Social Progress Imperative and the force behind the Social Progress Index (SPI), a new trove of data which offer a holistic snapshot of the health of societies across the world. Using 52 social and environmental indicators across 160 countries, the SPI offers a rigorous, granular and more meaningful alternative to the gospel that is Gross Domestic Product (GDP); what has become the official, if flawed, measure of a nation’s standing in the global economy.

The United States, the world’s wealthiest country in GDP terms, ranks 16th in “social progress.” Compared to our economic peers, we underperform on a number of dimensions, particularly those related to health: life expectancy, premature deaths from diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular and respiratory failure, fatal car accidents, and even maternal and infant mortality rates.

The gap in these standings underscores the limitations of GDP. By focusing exclusively on economic growth, GDP misses – or worse still, externalizes – the costs and value of a number of critical elements of well-being: basic human needs like nutrition, medical care, and shelter; access to education and information; and environmental sustainability – not to mention things harder to measure like rights and freedoms, tolerance, and inclusion.

The SPI is hardly the first challenge to GDP. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the first UN Human Development Report, created by Mahbub ul Haq and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and informed by Sen’s work on human capabilities and positive freedom. Accordingly, the UN Development Programme re-conceived of development as a function of human potential, rather than economic growth alone, and its Human Development Index (HDI) measures life expectancy and educational attainment alongside standard of living (GNP per capita). More recently, the UNDP has published HDIs adjusted for inequality and gender inequality along with a multidimensional poverty index. The HDI has also laid the groundwork for a number of different approaches to measuring quality of life, among them, the OECD Better Life Index, gauges of happiness, and important assessments sustainability, among them the Sustainable Society Index.

What distinguishes the SPI is that it is the only comprehensive measure that excludes economic variables.

Instead of replacing GDP, the SPI data complement it by allowing for an assessment of a country’s performance relative to GDP. On this scale, Norway is #1, followed, in a tight band, by Sweden, Switzerland, Iceland, and New Zealand. Canada is the highest performing of the G7 countries and Brazil leads the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China), followed by South Africa, Russia, China and India. Russia may have a much higher GDP per capita than Brazil or South Africa, but ranks much lower on social progress, coming in at 71.

GDP surely matters. Economic growth and development around the world have raised billions of people out of poverty. The SPI data bear this out; we have made great strides towards the Millennium Development Goals of providing nutrition, basic medical care and access to education for many who lacked such.

But it is important to note that “social progress” does not always correlate with higher GDP—sometimes even when we get richer, things can get worse. Striking examples and areas of concern include environmental sustainability (measured in the SPI by greenhouse gas emissions, water usage and biodiversity). Countries like the U.S., but also rapidly developing countries like China, India, or Brazil consume more as they grow.

The U.S. is also not alone among wealthier countries grappling with diabetes and other issues of morbidity. And of course human rights, and political rights and freedoms, do not always improve with economic growth. Countries like Costa Rica “overperform” on social progress relative to GDP, rich countries like Kuwait, fall significantly short on a number of “progress” measures.

The good news: “GDP isn’t destiny,” says Green. In other words, policy matters, too, and we can choose to invest our surplus GDP in human or environmental capital. Should we choose to. The SPI leaves political economy, and politics, for another day.

In some ways, measures like SPI tell us things we already know: countries that have made substantial and historical investments in their social safety nets score well. The same is true for nations that are relatively homogenous, and—in the case places like New Zealand—somewhat isolated and immune to immigration pressures. It turns out that inclusion counts for a lot. For example, even with impressively high access to advanced education, the U.S. scores much less well on equality in educational attainment. On “access to communications” we rank lower on Internet and mobile phone use than our wealthy peers – despite being home to Silicon Valley.

In other ways, the SPI also allows for counter-intuitive findings, particularly when it comes to inequality.

With detailed information about access to basic services and opportunities, from healthcare, education, and housing to decent policing, freedom of movement and religion, and freedom from discrimination, the SPI is a measure of inclusivity and distribution; as with other alternative indices, a country cannot improve its progress score by simply boosting GDP. However, there is little or no correlation between Social Progress Index scores and the standard measure of income inequality, the GINI Coefficient. One implication: pro-poor measures and investments may matter more than redistribution per se.

All this suggests that measures like SPI offer more than a snapshot; they can be harnessed as a policy tool. Interest in applying the Social Progress Index, an idea hatched at the World Economic Forum two years ago and put into motion as the Social Progress Imperative with support by Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter, has grown dramatically; initiatives using it are under way in 40 countries and the European Commission is creating a customized SPI for the EU. In the U.S., Michigan will announce that it is using an adaptation of the SPI to guide a development agenda for Detroit and other cities. Somerville, Massachusetts is also on board. Expect to see more.

The SPI is also part of a larger revolution – across business, civil society, and government – to measure what matters. Asking the right questions is a critical step towards getting us to better answers and social outcomes, which would be progress indeed.

More from New America:

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Workplace & Careers

Seattle Business Owner Will Pay $70,000 Minimum Wage to All Employees

CEO will take nearly $930,000 pay cut to help fund the raises

A Seattle-based company will pay a $70,000 minimum wage to all employees, regardless of their job title, after the CEO read a study that found pay hikes up to that threshold led to significant improvements in emotional well-being.

Dan Price, founder and CEO of Gravity Payments, a credit card payment processing firm, stunned his employees with the generous minimum wage plan, which will ratchet up salaries over the next three years, the New York Times reports.

Thirty of Gravity Payment’s 120 employees will see their salaries double over the next three years, while Price himself will take a pay cut from $1 million down to $70,000 a year, or minimum wage by his standards.

Read more at the New York Times.

MONEY Autos

3 Ways to Avoid Costly Rental Car Insurance

airport sign for car rental companies
Chris Rank—Bloomberg via Getty Images

When you rent a car, you will be asked if you want car rental insurance. You might already have it — but it may have gaps. Here's how to figure it out.

I’ve been rear-ended in a rental car by a hit-and-run driver. And on my last business trip, the rental agent almost foisted a car with a scratched-up bumper on me. (Thankfully, I remembered to inspect the vehicle before I left the lot and asked for a different one.) So I know firsthand the importance of making sure you have adequate coverage when you rent a car. Without it, you could face enormous bills and a damaged credit rating if you can’t pay them.

But I am also frugal, so there is often a tug-of-war going on in my head when I rent a car: do I pay for the rental car company’s coverage or not? Purchasing it can literally double the cost of a car rental. Sometimes the coverage is even more expensive than the daily rental rate.

Fortunately there are some good alternatives for those who want to be protected and save money.

1. Your Own Car Insurance

If you own a car, then you (hopefully) have car insurance, and this is probably your first line of defense. You want to make sure you are adequately covered in four areas:

Loss of use: If you wreck a rental car, the rental agency will charge for the days that car is unavailable to other customers. My own auto insurance does not provide this coverage, so I use a credit card that fills this gap. (More on that in a moment.)

Collision/Comprehensive: Collision coverage typically covers damage to the vehicle if you are involved in an accident, while comprehensive coverage often pays for damage to the car due to theft, vandalism, flood, fire etc. Remember, your current deductible will apply. (Using the right credit card to pay for the rental can be helpful, since it may cover your deductible.)

Liability: This generally covers damage to another vehicle(s) and/or medical bills to others injured in an accident you caused. If you have an umbrella policy, that coverage may provide additional protection.

Medical/ Personal Accident Coverage: Does your personal auto insurance offer coverage for medical bills sustained in an accident, and will that extend to a rental car? Do you have good medical insurance? (Note, consumers who are injured in an accident sometimes find their own medical insurer balks at paying those medical bills.)

2. Your Credit Card Coverage

Many credit cards offer rental car coverage. This insurance is usually secondary to your personal auto policy, and that the claim will first be filed with your own insurer. (A few credit cards automatically include primary coverage.) But it may cover deductibles or expenses that your personal auto insurance doesn’t, such as loss of use. However, you’ll need to be aware of exclusions, which may include rentals in some foreign countries, certain types of vehicles such as pickup trucks or full-sized vans, or travel on unpaved roads. Full-time students may also be excluded from coverage.

Like most third-party coverage, it typically covers expenses related to the rental car but not to other cars you damage or people or property you damage in an accident. For example, when I reviewed the coverage offered by the credit card I use most often, I noticed the following are not covered:

  • Damage to any vehicle other than the rental car;
  • Damage to any property other than the rental car, owner’s property, or items not permanently attached to the rental vehicle;
  • The injury of anyone or anything.

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind here is that you need to read the details about what is and isn’t covered before you get to the rental car counter.

If you’re thinking about getting a new credit card that provides rental car coverage, keep in mind that your credit score will be a factor in whether you’re approved. You can check your credit scores for free on Credit.com to see where you stand.

3. Private Third-Party Coverage

If you purchase travel insurance, you can often add rental car coverage for a small additional fee, says Damian Tysdal, publisher of TravelInsuranceReview.net. But, as with credit card coverage, it usually doesn’t cover everything. “It is really just for collision and loss of use,” he says. “It won’t cover a car you hit, or harm to others.”

You can also purchase coverage through a third party, even if you don’t buy travel insurance. For example, American Express cardholders can buy “Premium Rental Car Coverage” for most rentals for a flat fee of $19.95 or $24.95 per rental (not per day). It is primary coverage, and there is no deductible. It also provides additional coverage for accidental death and secondary coverage for medical expenses, and covers vehicles the basic automatic coverage doesn’t (such as luxury vehicles and SUVs).

Other third-party services such as Protect Your Bubble, offers rental car coverage for $7.99 per day and covers rental car damage and theft, and personal effects protection, with no deductible. However, like other third-party coverage, it doesn’t include additional liability coverage or personal accident insurance so you’ll want to make sure you are adequately covered there through your own insurance policy or find out whether that coverage is available through your rental agency.

“If you are looking for the best coverage, look to your personal auto insurance,” says Tysdal. If you don’t own a car or have minimal coverage on your vehicle, you may need to piece together the best coverage you can from the options available.

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

MONEY Taxes

Is Your Tax Refund Too Big?

massive amount of cash in pocket
William Howell—iStock

Getting a big check from the IRS is exciting, but it might not be the best for your long-term financial health.

Taxpayers getting back money from the government this year have received an average refund of $2,893 so far, according to March 26 data from the Internal Revenue Service. That’s a nice bump up in cash flow, and a lot of people look forward to it as a chance to splurge, pay down debt or add to their savings.

But those people could have had that money all year, had they withheld less of their paycheck. Getting a big refund means you essentially gave the government an interest-free loan, when you could have put the money in a savings or retirement account to earn interest. You may see that money as a windfall, but you should really see it as the government making good on a year-long IOU.

There’s no right or wrong answer to how much of a refund you should aim to get, because it’s very much a matter of personal preference, and it can also be tricky to estimate. No matter how you choose to deal with your taxes, it’s worthwhile to regularly evaluate your withholdings. Here’s why.

Your Life Changes

About 82% of taxpayers receive refunds, but even if you’ve consistently gotten one, a significant life change may affect how much you receive or if you get one at all. Marriage, divorce, the birth or adoption of a child, or a drastic income change should trigger a review of how much you have withheld from your paycheck.

You Should Look for Patterns

Beyond re-evaluating your tax situation in the wake of a noteworthy life event, your tax-filing history will give you a good idea of when you should consider changing how much is withheld from your paycheck. It can be a difficult thing to estimate, because as much as you want may want to avoid owing the Internal Revenue Service in April, getting too much in return may not be the best for your long-term financial health.

“A good place to be is owing a little bit or getting a little bit back,” said Elliott Freirich, a certified public accountant in Chicago. But where exactly is that “good place”? “There’s no right answer. It’s a gray area, but I would tell people if they could kind of keep (their refund) under $1,000. … It’s not like it would go away and they would never have it if they reduce their withholding.”

Know Your Own Saving/Spending Habits

Some people feel that way — that they wouldn’t be disciplined enough to set aside the money they would otherwise get from a large refund.

“It’s sort of like forced savings,” said Jorie Johnson, a certified financial planner in New Jersey. She said she suggests her clients re-evaluate their withholding if their refund exceeds $5,000. “I encourage them to use half of their refund toward their IRA, if they haven’t already maxed it out, and the other half on themselves, as a reward — that’s assuming they don’t have any debt.”

Consider the big picture: Do you look forward to a large tax refund but struggle to meet your savings goals on a monthly basis? If you’re trying to work your way out of debt or regularly find yourself financing your lifestyle while also getting a large refund check every tax season, that’s a sign you need to revisit your withholding (you might need to re-evaluate your spending habits, too).

Remember that withholding is just an estimate of what you’ll owe, and it may take you a few years of consistent tax outcomes to confidently adjust that estimate to meet your tax needs without owing or receiving a large sum come tax time.

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

TIME psychology

7 Ways Your Mind Messes With Your Money

Mmmmmoney: Get a grip; it's just paper
KAREN BLEIER; AFP/Getty Images Mmmmmoney: Get a grip; it's just paper

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

A new book shows the many ways money makes you crazy

If your brain is like most brains, it’s got an awfully high opinion of itself—pretty darned sure it’s pretty darned good at a lot of things. That probably includes handling money. But on that score your brain is almost certainly lying to you. No matter how much you’re worth, no matter how deftly you think you play the market, your reasoning lobes go all to pieces when cash is on the line. That is one of many smart—and scary—points made by author and J.P. Morgan vice president Kabir Sehgal in his new book Coined: The Rich History of Money and How it Has Shaped Us. Here, in no particular order, are seven reasons you should never leave your brain alone with your wallet.

Inflation? What’s that? You’re way too smart to think that if your salary doubles but the price of everything you buy doubles too you’ve somehow come out ahead, right? Wrong. In one study, volunteers were given the opportunity to win money that they could use to buy gifts from a catalogue. In later rounds, the amount they could win went up by 50% but so did the cost of all of the catalogue items. Nonetheless, their prefrontal cortex registered greater arousal after the staged inflation—even when they were warned before the study began that the purchasing power of their money would not increase. The implication: If a corned beef sandwich and a Coke cost $15,000 you’d still be thrilled to be a billionaire.

Keep yer lousy money: Guess what! I’m going to give you $199. Nice, right? Oh, did I forget to mention that it comes out of $1,000 someone else gave me to divide up between us any way I see fit? In multiple studies, when it’s up to one subject to apportion a fixed amount and up to the other to accept it or neither one gets paid, more than half of recipients will reject anything less than 20% of the total. In other words, you’ll turn down a free $199 to deny me my undeserved $801. Your ego thanks you, your checking account doesn’t.

Losing feels worse than winning feels good: Here’s something the Vegas casinos don’t tell you: That high you get from winning $10,000 at the craps table will fade a lot faster than the what-was-I-thinking self-loathing that comes when you lose the same amount. To get people to wager $20 on a coin flip, researchers have found that they typically have to be given the chance to double their money; betting $20 to win, say, $35 just doesn’t cut it. That seems like good sense—but given the realistic shot you’ve got at winning, it’s also bad math.

Simply the best: You know that store that opened on your corner that sold nothing but artisanal beets—the one that you knew would go out of business within a month and that didn’t even last two weeks? The owner totally didn’t see that coming. That’s called the overconfidence bias. The hard fact is, about 80% of new businesses are floating upside down at the top of the aquarium within 18 to 24 months—but nearly all entrepreneurs are convinced they’re going to be in the elite 20%. We bring the same swagger to playing the market and speculating in real estate—and to dancing at a wedding after we’ve had enough drinks and are convinced we’ve got moves. Watch the video later and see how that works out.

The hunt beats the kill: Never mind cigarettes and alcohol, if there’s one substance the government should regulate it’s dopamine—the feel-good neurotransmitter that gives you a little reward pellet of happiness when your brain decides you’ve done something good. The problem is, your brain can be an idiot. There’s far more dopamine released in its nucleus acumbens region—the reward center—when you’re anticipating some kind of payoff than when you’ve actually achieved it. That means expanding your business is more fun than running it and investing in the market is more fun than consolidating your gains. Those are great strategies—but only until the very moment they’re not.

I think therefore I win: I have a perfect three-step plan for winning the Power Ball Lottery: 1) I buy a ticket. 2) About 175 million other people buy tickets. 3) They give me all the tickets they bought. OK, failing that, the odds are pretty good that I may not be the person on TV who gets handed that giant check. But I play anyway thanks to what’s known as the availability heuristic. I think about winning, I see commercials with people who have actually won, I fantasize about what I’ll do with the money when I do win—and pretty soon it seems crazy not to play. The more available thoughts of something unlikely are, the more realistic it seems that it may actually happen. This is the reason there should always be a 48-hour cooling off period after you leave baseball fantasy camp and before you’re allowed to sell your house and try out for the Yankees’ farm club.

Fifty shades of green: Perhaps the biggest reason we’re irrational about money is that we’ve come to fetishize not just the idea of wealth but the pieces of currency themselves. In one study, subjects counted out either actual bills or worthless pieces of paper of the same size, and then plunged their hands into 122ºF (50ºC) water. The ones who had handled real cash experienced less pain—effectively anesthetized by the Benjamins. Other studies have shown heightened brain activity when people witness money being destroyed, with the degree of neuronal excitement increasing in lockstep with the value of the currency. It’s money’s world; we’re just living in it.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Aviation

Here’s How Much Spare Change the TSA Collected Last Year

People are leaving more and more coins behind at screening points

Harried travelers are increasingly leaving their nickels and dimes in the bins used during airport security screenings, which has led to a growing source of revenue for the Transportation Security Administration.

In the fiscal year 2014, the TSA collected almost $675,000 in loose change, according to the agency’s internal data, up from $638,000 in fiscal year 2013. The amount of money collected has been steadily increasing since 2010, even though Americans are increasingly reliant on digital payment methods rather than cash. Overall, the agency has collected about $3.5 million in loose change since 2008. The cash is used to fund TSA security operations.

Fliers at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport left the most change behind, $43,000. Los Angeles International Airport ranked second at $42,000 and San Francisco International Airport ranked third at $35,000.

MONEY Love and Money

How to Tell if Combining Finances with Your Partner is a Bad Idea

joint finances
iStock

Sometimes separate accounts make for happier couples

A joint bank account can be the ultimate form of financial intimacy.

So say Derek and Carrie Olson, co-authors of the new book, One Bed, One Bank Account. “Sharing a bank account gives couples another opportunity to connect with each other and build up their relationship,” says Derek. “The oneness that a couple will experience through combining bank accounts can’t be achieved any other way.”

That sounds great. But in my experience, it doesn’t work for everyone.

If one or both of you has money drama, co-mingling could backfire. A separate but equal approach to managing money in your marriage—at least until you each sort through your finances—may prove wiser.

A Case Study

Take newly married couple “Brian” and “Theresa” (who prefer to remain anonymous).

They knew just six months into dating that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. “We also realized we didn’t want to merge our finances,” says Brian, 33, a school principal. “We each had independent financial baggage, but we had systems in place to deal with that baggage.” Merging their accounts would only make things more complicated, they explained.

Brian was paying—and continues to pay—for a doctorate program out of his own pocket.

Meanwhile, 27-year-old Theresa, an engineer, has been focusing on paying off student loans. There’s about $65,000 remaining, she says. Her auto debt repayment system is a tad “convoluted,” she explains, with multiple checking accounts tied to various student loan balances.

“It’s complex because of the number of accounts I have and number of transactions I have to keep things moving smoothly,” she says.

How to Manage Money Separately Together

If you plan to split costs evenly, you’ll want to jot down your monthly expenses somewhere that’s accessible to the both of you. You can either both slap down cash or credit when shopping or eating out, or designate one person as the household “spender” and the other as the “payer backer.”

Brian and Theresa adhere to a “modified roommate system,” where they record all shared expenses from rent to dining out on a spreadsheet. Brian usually pays for everything throughout the month and Theresa reviews the itemized list, checks for any errors and cuts Brian a check or transfers money to his account to cover her portion.

“Our agreement is, unless one of us has expressed wanting to treat the other, we split it,” says Brian.

It helps that they each earn roughly the same amount of money; they can evenly afford all their joints costs.

They also communicate a lot. Brian and Theresa hold weekly business meetings to talk about everything from large expenses coming up to the groceries they’ll need to buy for the current week’s meals.

Communication is important in any relationship no matter how you choose to manage the money, but it can be extra important if there’s no bank joint account representing joint goals.

If you’re both going to manage money on your own, you’ll want to check in more frequently to make sure that your saving and spending is measuring up to the goals you want to afford—both big and small.

Now two years into marriage both Brian and Theresa are en route to completing their financial obligations by summertime: Brian will be done paying for his grad program and Theresa will be debt-free. And once they hit those milestones, when “life will be simpler,” they plan to start sharing accounts with the goal to invest in real estate together.

But for now, they’re happy going Dutch. The couple admits that the arrangement isn’t super romantic—“but it’s what’s good for us,” says Theresa.

Every day, MONEY contributing editor Farnoosh Torabi interviews entrepreneurs, authors and financial luminaries about their money philosophies, successes, failures and habits for her podcast, So Money—which is a “New and Noteworthy” podcast on iTunes.

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How can I reduce my tax bill?

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What if I need more time to file my taxes?

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