Can pay, won’t pay: The dilemma of spousal debt
Posted Friday, June 15 2012 at 18:00
- Spouses are increasingly finding it difficult to lend their better halves money if only to avoid bitter fallouts on the due date. Just where do you draw the line between a loan and family support?
In Martin Makau’s household, debts between him and his wife Martha are a serious issue as one must return what they say they will repay.
Being businesspeople, Makau is in the mobile phone business while his wife in beauty and cosmetics, financial advances are a daily affair.
Their businesses are only 100 metres apart along Nairobi’s Moi Avenue and quite often, either will pop into the other’s shop for a soft loan.
“We understand that this is business money and if you do not return what you borrow you will leave the other party in a precarious position,” Makau says.
This style, they say, has extended to their family’s finances.
“When she asks me for money, I don’t ask questions but she knows she will have to return it. One time, I was shocked when she returned money she had used to buy herself a dress and shoes for the children,” Makau says and breaks into prolonged laughter.
The financial discipline they have revolves around the understanding that each is able to pay their side of the bills and that one is borrowing money to advance this capacity.
“It does not make sense to borrow money from outside the family while there is money in the house. We are open about what we are doing with the money ,” Martha says.
This mode of operation sharply contrasts with how Erick Odipo and Mercy Wanjiru run their financial affairs. Odipo will never be caught asking for money he gave his wife. The accountant earns about twice his teacher wife.
“I think she knows when to ask me for money and how much. She isn’t the extravagant type so I am not worried about her expenditure,” he says.
Odipo pegs his style to the understanding that the two of them are one, although he has left room for individual expenditure: ”When one fulfils his or her part of the bills and saved what we have agreed upon in our joint account, the rest can be spent the way one wishes.”
These interviews reveal a tendency where repayment of debts depends on if the money borrowed from a spouse is going towards business, family expenditure or personal matters.
What is most important though is if the promise to pay is kept because if there is no promise, there are no expectations.