About the “fragile finances of the Expat Trailing Spouse”


I would like to share this interesting article called “Women, Money and What ‘Dependent Partner’ really means. The Fragile Finances of the Expat Trailing Spouse” from Rachel Yates.

Expat Trailing Spouses, often called “the other half” (a term I really dislike!), are considered beholden of their husbands. As specified in this article, the term itself of “beholden” as ’owing something to somebody because of something that they have done for you’, sounds incredibly ignominious to me.

People often forget that those “trailing spouses” had a career before their relocation. The 2012 Brookfield Global Relocation Trends Survey shows that 49% of the spouses were employed before an international assignment and only 12% were employed before AND during the assignment (source: Jo Parfitt & Colleen Reichrath-Smith, A career in your suitcase. A practical guide to creating meaningful work… anywhere, p.20).

It’s not just those of us who relocate that are in this position. It’s anyone who has chosen to reduce or give up work to manage family commitments, whether you are in constant global motion, or have never set foot outside your home town. If you have no independent source of income, whoever earns the salary holds the keys to your supposed household income.  And while you are legally entitled to a portion of those, it requires court approval to gain access to them, whatever the circumstances. Which also requires legal counsel, who (funnily enough) will want to be paid. (quote from Rachel Yates’ post)

In order to be able to “make financial decision, access accounts and resolve disputes” while your partner spends “a great deal of time out of the country and on air flights” you need to be named on the (bank etc.) account.

As Rachel specifies in her post, the “US Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection has amended the rule requiring evidence of independent income when applying for consumer credit, replacing it with a declaration of household income. This is excellent news for accompanying partners in the United States who had been denied access to credit and left unable to build an independent financial identity, in a country where a credit card or credit history is required for everything from hiring a car to setting up a cell phone contract.

Obviously requirements differ from country to country, therefore it’s really important to know what is required in the country you’re going to live in “if you value your sanity, because things can and do go wrong, and I am willing to bet that it is you who will be left holding the can when it does. If the money is in your sole name, you have control over it; if it’s not, you don’t. Simple as that.”

Rachel gives very precious advices for expats on her blog Defining Moves.



Categories: Being expat, Expat Life

2 replies

  1. I really can relate to this article, Ute. Although I am not an Expat I have not brought an income into the family for over 15 years. That means I haven’t contributed to social security. If my husband I were to ever separate I would be in trouble no income and no way to establish my own credit.

  2. I know that this is a topic many (too many?) women avoid and I did as well for a long time hoping that nothing would happen. But it really is important to know what would be if… it’s surely not “romantic”, but realistic. I don’t mean that people gets divorced or worser things have to happen, it can also be that our husbands/partners need to be hospitalized for a longer period etc. – Personally, I feel more reassured knowing that in the worst case I am entitled to take all the action(s) needed.

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