Some basic questions on joint family finances and daughters in law.

The questionnaire below is for a research for a newspaper article. How would you answer these questions?

The Questionnaire:

1)      Do you talk openly about money in your family? So, for example, do you know roughly how much each member of the family makes, what their typical monthly expenditure is, and what they contribute to the joint family expenses pool (if there is such an arrangement in the home)?

2)      Are you happy with the financial arrangement(s) in your family set-up, in terms of dividing up responsibilities and taking on expenditures, as well as enjoying the benefits of living in a joint family set-up? Details and examples of what works and what doesn’t would be welcome here.

3)      Do you sometimes find it difficult to tell other (especially older) family members that you can’t afford something they’re asking for immediately? Are you able to talk to them openly in case they have exceeded the limit for the agreed-on expenditure from the family pool, or spent on something you think frivolous?

4)      Are big investment decisions discussed with everyone, or do one or two people in the home take a call and the rest have to live with their choice?

5)      Do you feel there is interference from other family members in how you spend your/your spouse’s money?

6)      Are you able to put money aside to invest in, say, a retirement plan or to buy a property of your choice?

7)      If you have siblings or brothers/sisters-in-law sharing a home with you; do you find the financial arrangement satisfactory? How do you divide up taking on household expenses, and taking care of older members in the family?

8)      Do you find that money issues sometimes turn into ego battles? Are simple issues of not being able to afford something immediately turned into a “you don’t respect us or our wishes” scenarios sometimes?

9)      If you could share your experiences of the first few months of settling in after marriage; for the women, how they made room for themselves to also assert their economic rights within the home; and for the men, of bringing a new person into their homes and helping the household adjust to their needs as much as helping them settle down in the current family arrangement.

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Reply from the Indian mother in law.

How can the society ensure that marriage (and homemaking) does not result in women becoming financially dependent on their husbands?

A daughter in law’s legal rights in her in law’s house are the same as her husband’s rights. Whatever is his, is hers.

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26 thoughts on “Some basic questions on joint family finances and daughters in law.

    • Exactly… A survey should be as neutral as possible. This is quite feminist in tone leaving little room for mysogyny, and chauvinism (means leaving little room for honesty/leaving room for spam)

      • Which question did you think is not neutral ? How would you frame/change the questions to make them neutral?
        The survey, I think, aims to find out how women deal with finances in joint families.

        • For example, question 3: “Do you sometimes find it difficult…” It assumes that there is a problem. Moreover, it assumes that the older generation is dependent on the younger, and that demands are made. I would probably have asked a neutral question on who makes the decisions on big expenses (something like question 4. first)

          Even if question 3. was to be asked, there should have been one related to the reverse scenario to balance it out – do you have to depend on others to sanction your expenses and how do you feel?

          For question 4, I would have stopped at investment, and asked follow-up questions depending on the response. The second part of the question is leading.

          Question 5, the word “interference” is negative. Maybe “have a say”.

          Question 8, too leading. If such anecdotes do not emerge from neutral questions and the reporter feels the need to prod for them, sometime milder like: do discussions on money proceed smoothly? Can they be a source of tension?

          Overall, the impression I got is that the reporter already was leaning in a certain direction. This is natural but it’s more ideal to ask neutral questions and see what emerges, even if you have an initial hypothesis.

  1. I’m not sure if you wanted a foreign DIL’s perspective but I like this topic and wanted to answer. :)

    1) I knew what each member of my Indian family made and I had a general idea about expenditures though not specific. Some of the expenses were shared and how it was divided depended on which family members were affected. For example, FIL and Uncle ji split the cost of remodeling the kitchens to make two brand new kitchens at the same time.

    2) I was happy with it but I was also mostly unaffected.

    3) If I tell anyone in the family I can’t afford something they do not understand it. I’ve seen them do the same thing to each other and it didn’t matter if the amount was small or large. Most of the time it isn’t about actually being able to afford it, it was more about sticking to a strict budget in the home and not wasting money.

    4) One or two people make the call. Mostly the men in the family.

    5) I got some interference but dismissed it and was subsequently left alone.

    6) Yes. It was encouraged by my inlaws. They never wanted me or hubby to spend our money.

    7) We did not have adult siblings in the home.

    8) Yes! I have experienced this. Saying you don’t have the money seems like the worst offense ever!

    9) I simply stated my thoughts and stuck to what I said. So if I said I couldn’t afford something or wasn’t going to give money for it, I didn’t give in later and provide the money. I also insisted on paying for the expenses that I made excessive. Basic power and water would have to be paid for anyway but me having my own personal air conditioner should not be my in-laws expense IMO. So I made it a point to always pay that. I also bought things for the house that were useful to both me and my MIL. It may sound rude but I didn’t consider the other family members as this was our time to bond and I took advantage of that. Everyone was happy about this. I truly think that helped my MIL not to feel as if I was going to take over, but rather that it would be our space and I had no intention of getting rid of her/taking her place, etc.

    IMO, women who just married into a family should be realistic in what kind of duties they take on. Don’t start out taking on more than you can handle and don’t start out doing things you don’t want to do forever. Once you do it once, it’s your chore for life. So make wise decisions about what you feel is reasonable and then stick to it.

    • I am also a foreign daughter in law..
      I like your take on this Americanpunjabanpi

      For the past 2 years I’ve been living with in laws in India and even though we don’t directly talk about money and earning with each other, we just seem to know what we can afford and what we can’t.
      Luckily, no one in our family is a spend thrift!

  2. Seeing these questions, I can only say I’m thankful never to have had these kind of complications in my life! Its just my husband and me, and we have always been completely honest about money with each other, even though our attitudes to it and ways of spending are very, very different.

    I have seen joint families where 1 and 3 are very difficult – there is little open communication on money, and people who are doing better tend to secretively buy things that the others couldn’t afford – for e.g. someone I know cooks chicken furtively in her own kitchen, because she couldn’t buy chicken for the larger family that often, but would like her kids to have some. The sad bit is that living together with this kind of secrecy and having to look over your shoulder for who might be watching, ultimately makes you paranoid.

    I’ve also seen that the joint family system tends to promote free-loading, since usually basic expenses are taken care of (one can’t really watch family members going hungry), so some people stop working or are really under-employed and don’t contribute their share.

  3. I’ve never lived in a joint family. But (this is a verrrry poor example I know, but it’s all I have!), whenever my friends and I go on trips together, we decide on a budget, we appoint someone to be the Bank, we give that person a certain amount of money, to be spent on common stuff like dinner bills or grocery shopping etc.
    We each have our own money as well of course, which we use as we choose to.
    There might be differences in opinion when it comes to choosing flights and stuff, but not to the point that we fight about it. We just consider the best option for the majority and go with it, and if the others insist on choosing a different flight or something, then they’re free to take it and join the rest of the group at whatever point we will meet at.

    It works out pretty well, and I’ve been with this group of people since 2008, sharing and working on budgets for vacations, short-trips, holiday home rentals, amusement parks, dinners and lunches, pot-luck parties etc.

    I’m guessing it can work out the same way in a joint family set-up as well, if the whole thing about “elders” and stuff is taken out of the way and everyone works on mutual respect for each others’ boundaries.

    • Actually this is a good example, in the sense that it highlights how things might work more smoothly if hierarchy were taken out of the equation. In the past, hierarchy worked probably because the “family” was the unit, and the survival of the whole unit was what was important, not the needs of individuals.

  4. of course, it’s different in a joint family than the scenario that I’ve just mentioned, I know that.
    With my group of friends, we’re all earning members, and we all contribute equally.
    But in a joint family, it may not be the same, so things will get more complicated.

  5. I dont live in a joint family, it’s just me and my husband and kids . but i lived in one when i was growing up. didnt affect me much since i was studying and left home as soon as i got a job.
    My mom hated the system, my dad earned , my grandpa controlled the finances and his investments , and my grandma ran the kitchen budget, then when they got really old my mom took over and had the time of her life :-)
    now my brother lives with my parents and my SIL works and as soon as she came in, made sure the money they earned was separated, they both pooled a fixed into the household expenses fund monthly and do whatever they feel like with the rest.
    My dad’s not so happy with that setup , he likes control, but SIl doesnt really pander to him and neither does my brother. Mom is quite unhappy with SIl’s choices of Bhaji apparently especially since SIl refuses to cook, and much prefres to hire a cook, mom hates cooks so cooking falls on her so that is an ongoing issue.
    so they plod on, making each other miserable i guess.
    I keep far far away from that mess.
    I always drill into the boys that once are not dependent on us ( earn independently) they should move away to the flats we have for them or somewhere they want so that we dont crimp their style and they dont’ mess with our life. we’ll meet for maybe sun night dinners???? or something and everyone will be happy, i cant get over how we treat adult kids .. feed them, pamper them, control them and call it culture. sad.

    • // My dad’s not so happy with that setup , he likes control //

      If he likes control , why was his earnings and investment controlled by your grandpa? Why did he not asserted himself and had control over his money ? and now it seems he wants control over your brother finances.

      This is the biggest issue in a joint family . One does not get to control their own lives, and to compensate will control their children lives , who in turn control theirs and the cycle goes on.

      // then when they got really old my mom took over and had the time of her life //
      Same thing as above . Mom had to wait till grandma passed the control to be happy.

      //Mom is quite unhappy with SIl’s choices of Bhaji //
      So now mom wants to control SIL choices , even in something as mundane as bhaji. Making each other miserable over cooking responsibilities …is it even worth it?

      The easiest solution will be for the mom to cook only for mom and dad , leaving the brother / SIL to their own means to manage their food . But that will mean accepting their choices of getting a cook / what bhaji to cook etc. Can the mom do that ?

      This post make it very clear .. only people happy in the joint family are those have the control .. usually the oldest generation. and so every one waits to become the oldest generation .. that’s why they all long for children / children marriage / grandchildren … those are their steps to promotion towards control

      • yes i agree 100%, unfortunately they continue to live in misery :-) unless the participants do something, meaning unless my SIL takes the step of moving out and in turn being called a homebreaker !!! things will continue in the same status quo.
        There is no incentive for my parents to live separately, my brother supports his wife in money matters but doesn’t care about her difficult home life.
        they are all educated individuals and if they choose to live in misery thanks to social conditioning , i doubt anything i say will change their mind.

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  7. 1) Do you talk openly about money in your family? So, for example, do you know roughly how much each member of the family makes, what their typical monthly expenditure is, and what they contribute to the joint family expenses pool (if there is such an arrangement in the home)?

    Yes, in our house its quite open and the expenditure is a pool, we are basically 3 couples… my parents me and my brother… and we all contribute… for house expenses and our own private expenses are our own… as of now… my wife and my bro’s wife’s money is saved… and the responsibility of running the house (household exp) is on me, my bro and my mom.

    2) Are you happy with the financial arrangement(s) in your family set-up, in terms of dividing up responsibilities and taking on expenditures, as well as enjoying the benefits of living in a joint family set-up? Details and examples of what works and what doesn’t would be welcome here.

    Yup pretty much, actually since I have set up most things I am… I guess the other members in my family would be a better person to ask this question…

    3) Do you sometimes find it difficult to tell other (especially older) family members that you can’t afford something they’re asking for immediately? Are you able to talk to them openly in case they have exceeded the limit for the agreed-on expenditure from the family pool, or spent on something you think frivolous?

    absolutely…. we all take most decisions together… and are discussed over lunch/dinner with everyone throwing in their two bits… sometiems it does create a ruckus but well atleast everyone has their say… yes sometimes you do get a feeling that too many cooks spoil the food but its still better to have arguments rather than have quiet mumblings…

    4) Are big investment decisions discussed with everyone, or do one or two people in the home take a call and the rest have to live with their choice?

    Generally its me who decides… I also work as an investment advisor professionally so I am generally the one who decides… but yes, like with any client, I do take my family members into confidence…

    5) Do you feel there is interference from other family members in how you spend your/your spouse’s money?

    earlier it used to happen… when my brother was not married etc… over a period of time after some heated arguments too we ahve reached a place where I, he and mom contribute for house hold expenses… and with the remaining money we have we do what we like… earlier many times I felt my brother spent too lavishly and he felt too stifled by my interference… gradually though I think now we all have enough space…

    6) Are you able to put money aside to invest in, say, a retirement plan or to buy a property of your choice?

    Having bought a loan for one brother and having reconstructed our house we all have loans to pay which I and my bro’s under take… we all do save by the medium of SIP’s in equity and debt schemes. I woudl presume most of the people are happy with the decisions…

    7) If you have siblings or brothers/sisters-in-law sharing a home with you; do you find the financial arrangement satisfactory? How do you divide up taking on household expenses, and taking care of older members in the family?

    Like I said we have it split under couples… my mom pays the least as its her house we are using… We ensure mom saves a bit and has enough money to spend if need be without having to always asking the son’s for money… leaving her independent enough.. rest I and my brother who stays with me have to take care of… one brother of mine who doesnt live with us generally manages on his own… if trouble be we all can help each other… though the situtations are few and far.

    8) Do you find that money issues sometimes turn into ego battles? Are simple issues of not being able to afford something immediately turned into a “you don’t respect us or our wishes” scenarios sometimes?

    used to sometimes…we all were young growing up guys…. I supported mom before my bro’s started earning when they started earning and spending on their desires… I felt an acute sense of pain that whilst I waited all this while for the brothers to start earning and couldn’t buy, get things I could because I had to look after them and now that my time has come how are these guys getting things before me… adn this would lead to a lot of fights… over time though… we all have matured and understood things and learnt to handle the situations much better…

    9) If you could share your experiences of the first few months of settling in after marriage; for the women, how they made room for themselves to also assert their economic rights within the home; and for the men, of bringing a new person into their homes and helping the household adjust to their needs as much as helping them settle down in the current family arrangement.

    In our family, all 4 ladies earn. Whilst my mom contributes in the household expenses we have always had a sort of money crisis and we have always asked the wives of all 3 brothers to use their earned money to save and make a back up. Every one if they needed money in the house had to use from the house hold exp money… over a period of time the situation has improved and now everyone has enough space… earlier the situation was not ideal but when the supply is short you have to sacrifice space and privacy.. now its a lot better… still my wife’s money is all saved in SIP’s if she needs anythign she also has a credit card whose bill I pay… I save very little… but then we consider our finances joint… I think my wife is pretty much happy with it…

    there go all your answers … Phew…

    • I liked your description. I don’t think I could ever live in such a set up, but it’s interesting to get a updated glimpse of the nitty gritty of a joint family.

    • cani ask you a question? please dont think I’m commenting on your situation or judging it. My question si would the finances be easier to handle with more control if you all 3 families lived in side by side dwellings? say 3 diff floors etc., where you all paid for your expenses yet were there to support each other and your mom? would you find it easier and would your wife? just a question, curiosity i might say since this is something i’m suggesting to my brother to help him keep peace …pl dont answer if you’d rather not.

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