The World Of Japanese Husband Salaries

The World Of Japanese Husband Salaries

In Japan, there’s the salary you get from your company. And if you are a married man, there’s the salary you get from your wife. It’s called “okozukai” (お小遣い), which is sometimes translated as “pocket money”. Think of it as a husband salary. That’s what it is.

Traditionally, Japanese women control a family’s finances. Even if the wife works, she still is supposed to manage the household’s money. As The Japan Times pointed out, in around half of Japanese households, the wife controls all the finances. (Note that the number is down from previous years in what could be a generational shift.) And in 30 per cent of marriages, both the husband and wife control the finances together. And in only 20 per cent of households do the husbands control the finances.

Japanese law does not allow joint or family accounts (only individual accounts!); so when it’s said that the wife controls the money, that’s exactly what it means.

Often, when married men in Japan befriend other married men, a common question might be how much one gets for okozukai. Every year, the Japanese media even reports on the average monthly pocket money Japanese husbands get from their spouses.

“I met my wife, who is eight years older than I am, while working at a diner as a student,” 35 year-old Shinya Horikawa, who works at a video game company, recently told ZakZak. “After we got married, there was a complete change. Now, of course, my salary and everything in the house is controlled (by my wife).”

According to ZakZak, the average okozukai last year was 39,600 (US$396). That includes the husband’s cell phone bill, which in Japan is usually a little over a hundred bucks. It also includes other things, such as eating out and booze or cigarettes for those who drink and smoke. What’s more, if you are into video games, music, or books, well, that comes from your husband salary, too. Want a new game? Use your allowance. Want a haircut? Well, take it out of your pocket money. Need new clothes? Use your okozukai. By managing money like this, families are, on average, able to save the equivalent of over $US200,000.

It’s not strange for Japanese celebrities to say on TV they only get a couple hundred bucks’ worth of allowance from their wives.

Of course, some people get much lower allowances. The previously mentioned Horikawa complained to ZakZak about his monthly 90-dollar allotment, adding, “As hard as things get, I just cannot stop smoking. And though I work for a game developer, all the games I’m able to afford are free smartphone games…”

Wives, who are managing the money, also usually get an allowance, which they use to go out with friends or go shopping for themselves. The average is 22,600 yen ($226); women with children get, on average, a lower allowance, while women without children get significantly more. For example, according to Livedoor Home, married women in their twenties without children reported an average allowance of 47,351 yen ($473). Certainly, young married men without children typically have a higher okozukai than those with them.

Many Japanese wives don’t just have their okozukai. Some also have “secret savings” called “hesokuri” (臍繰り), which can be literally translated as “belly-button money”. According to The New York Times, a poll revealed that 55 per cent of married women keep a secret stash of cash that their husbands, who perhaps don’t check the household finances, are totally unaware of. This isn’t new, and it’s not necessarily selfish: There’s a famous story of a Chiyo, the wife of 16th century samurai Kazutoyo Yamanouchi, who saved up her hesokuri to buy her husband a magnificent horse, which ultimately helped earn him fame in battle.

In the West, there are those husbands who certainly turn all the household finances over to their wives. Heck, Willie Nelson said he does. This isn’t a Japan-only thing, either, by any stretch. However, it does show how much power Japanese women ultimately do have in the country. Let’s be clear, there are certainly glass ceilings and inequality, fraught with structural problems, such as insufficient daycare for working women. But one of the ways women have long ultimately wielded power in Japan is through controlling the country’s purse strings.

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  • I think the unwritten law of women controlling mens money is a globally universal process.
    but then again, if i was allowed to control my own money, the MRS would of left me along time ago due to my immense hunger for cool toys
    (thats why i get my parcels delivered to work now 😛 )

  • That system is pretty close to identical to how our finances work, the only difference being that our account is a joint one even if I don’t know the online banking passwords and details.

    • Brothers, a moment of silence for Uncle Freeze who’s nuts are no longer with him anymore.

      • No no. They’re still here. They’re in a little locked box in my wife’s handbag.

        If I’m good she lets me borrow them once a month.

  • I got a simple solution. Pool all the money together, pay all the bills with it. Anything leftover, halve it and give one half to the wife and one half to the husband. Simple, fair and effective.

      • No one said you can’t save some (or all) of your half. Although having a joint savings that you put a further percentage into is probably a good idea.

    • Think you missed the part where he stated there are no joint bank accounts. So you would have to withdraw your entire earnings each week.

  • That’s really interesting, not something I would have imagined.

    We keep out finances separate, it just seems easier. I’m not a child any more so I don’t think I’d feel comfortable getting an allowance. Isn’t that a perk of being an adult, you take responsibility, buy what you want and live with the consequences?

      • Getting an allowance is about team work? If I asked my wife to let me control her salary completely and I would allow her to have a monthly allowance, she would kick me, hard.

        EDIT: To be clear, if my wife and I worked out an allowance together that was within our finances, than fair enough, but this article is clearly saying that the woman chooses how much she allows her man to spend, and men compare what allowance they are allocated like children do at school.

        • i have complete and utter faith and trust in my partner to control my finances and not be presciptive or cause a fuss over it

          if you cant do the same with your wife, maybe its time to register on rsvp

          • I feel like real trust and faith would be not giving out an allowance and actually treating your partner like an equal whether you are responsible for managing the finances or not.

            I give my kids pocket money because it’s MY money, which is why I have to give it to them, they don’t have access otherwise. I don’t give my wife pocket money, because it’s OUR money, and it would be insulting to treat her like a child. I TRUST her to use as much money as she feels like she needs to. Controlling her salary and then portioning out an allowance for her would show an absence of trust. I can’t even fathom my wife coming to me and saying “Do you have $50 in your wallet, I need to get a haircut?” and me turning around and saying “No sweetums, you already used up your allowance. Perhaps you should spend it more wisely next time mkay?”.

            Perhaps you or your partner can’t be trusted with money, and therefore require a set allowance? Do they set your bed time as well? Do you get grounded if you stay up too late? Adults take responsibility and accept consequences, to do less than that is to act as a child.

            I completely understand one person managing the finances, but I can’t really get behind one person controlling the finances. That’s a pretty significant distinction.

          • I guess that’s the difference. They don’t have the child link. To us an allowance is something we use to teach kids about money and spending responsibly. To them it’s something the person who sets the household budget does for everyone (regardless of age).

          • Okay, that makes sense. “The person who does the finances controls the budgeting”. You’re probably right that the word ‘allowance’ is what got to me. For me personally, I’m pretty content with not having to explain my purchases to my wife, and vice versa. Perhaps because we both don’t tend to spend a lot of money anyway – maybe if we were more spend-happy an allowance would make more sense.

          • Perhaps because we both don’t tend to spend a lot of money anyway – maybe if we were more spend-happy an allowance would make more sense.

            Funnily enough that’s probably what they’d respond to these comments with. “We don’t spend money impulsively so it’s not an issue”. “Why would you need to spend so much money that living on an allowance would be a problem”? “Don’t you trust your husband/wife enough to look after you”? “What sort of a man is so controlling that he won’t let his wife do the budget by herself”?

          • ah you misunderstood me
            i wasnt talking about the allowance bit

            more so about how i can trust my partner to give her all my money and let her manage it and not have to worry about her running off to the cayman islands or coming home to boxes of new shoes everyday

            i would still have 100% access to the cash whenever i wanted. I just dont have to think about it

        • But that’s the key. It’s an agreement where they both get an allowance. All the money goes together, then the bulk of the money gets spent, then the allowances are given, and then the rest goes into savings. The wife does decide how much everyone gets but I really don’t see that being a huge issue in a relationship that made it to the marriage level.

          I can’t imagine doing it myself but I’ve got to admit it has it’s charms. As it is I know roughly how much I’m going to be left with at the end of every week, so it’d be kind of nice to have a hassle free way of knowing for better or worse, I get $150 on a Friday to do whatever I want with. I’m never really losing anything because any extra goes into savings or whatever.

          • It doesn’t sound so bad when you put it like that, although the article doesn’t really make it sound like it’s an agreement so much… and you did leave out the part about the wife keeping secret money aside that she doesn’t tell the husband about.

            I just can’t help but think about it in an old patriarchal family, where the man controls both his and his wife’s salary and gives her an allowance that he deems fit for her, and is in a position to deny her access to her money. I can’t get around the basic idea that you can tell another adult that they’re “not allowed” to do something, it just sits wrong with me, that concession of both power and responsibility.

            I thought it was a cultural thing, but a lot of people here seem to get it, so perhaps I’m just off base.

          • Oh yeah. I couldn’t do it myself. I can just see how such a system works. I think it helps that the man still has plenty of power in the house. The wife just has an important/powerful job of her own.

            I think the reason we see it in terms of control is because that’s the only time we’ve ever really seen it work. When we’ve seen it in action it’s about one guy deciding he’s the only one with a job, it’s his money, so he gets to eat first. On the same note sex would seem terrible if we’d only ever seen awful husbands do it. =P
            For them it’s just a matter of a household needing two jobs to be done. One of them has a job generates the money, the other is in control the money, but ultimately they’re both doing their job to ensure success for the family. As long as that’s the goal it seems like it’d function fairly well (although it does remind me of hearing someone try and sell me on the idea of communism…).

  • 5 account system, works wonders.
    Joint: Mortgage
    Joint: Spendings
    Joint: Savings
    Single: Yours
    Single: Theirs

    Rather than contributing $ amounts, contribute % of salaries (in case of dual income) equally. E.g 10% of yours, 10% of theirs. Work out what percentage to each account works for your income, lifestyle, living situations, etc etc etc.

    Requires a lot of initial set up and budget planning, but in the long run saves many arguments.

    • Seconding this – very easy to maintain after the initial set up as well.

      Any money left over from what you transfer to the joint accounts is yours to spend on anything you like (for me: gadgets, for her clothes).

    • We do this with one difference: No single accounts, but we each have a copy of a joint credit card. Works well.

      • The single accounts are kind of the equivalent of the ‘husband salaries’ from the article. They provide an argument free, no-questions asked, manage it yourself personal spend. Not to say that personal spend can’t come out of the joint spending accounts, just it needs to be discussed before hand.

  • My wife and I just pool our money in a joint account. We are both pretty savvy with money so there’s never any arguments.

    As much as the Japanese love their technology, their banking system is still in the dark ages. I don’t know if things have changed since I visited in 2001, but you couldn’t use any old ATM. You had to find an “international” one or go to the bank itself if you wanted money.

    • Agree, it’s an oddity to me how they don’t have better payment systems. That may stem from the ecosystem of controlled money rather then simply being behind the times.

      I spent two weeks there and withdrawing money was something to think ahead about, not on a whim. Only certain ATM’s work and only so many are in English as well. And EFTPOS is a rarity. 7/11, banks and post office’s were the only guaranteed way of finding an ATM, although some shopping centres did have a few.

    • I don’t think it’s a case of Japan being behind so much as it is Australia being miles ahead of the pack when it comes to convenient banking. Eg if you go to the US, you’ll find they lack proper electronic bill payment systems. Want to rent a place? You’ll be expected to hand over a series of signed and dated bank cheques for the rent for the year.

      Australia’s very fast at adopting new technologies where those technologies allow us to be lazier.

  • I suppose it depends on your definition of ‘control’ in our household. I’m good at budget forecasting but bad with credit cards, so as soon as my pay comes in a bit over 40% is direct debited each way to our savings account and to my husband, while I keep ~15% for spending. My Glorious Husband uses that money for our rent, groceries, bills and always picking up the tab when we go out to eat. My allowance is safely designated for frittering away, and I neatly sidestep the temtpation to rack up debt by not having a credit card (Visa debit ftw).

    All of this was my idea. I have total control of my own accounts and our joint savings account, and I decided how much money needed to go where.

  • I know a few couples (none of them Japanese) who do this, and it really does work well. Yet another thing to like about Japan, though, is that this is the norm!

  • Good article,
    I live in Japan ad just thought I would add this little observation.
    I saw a McDonalds add here once that advertised to the husbands that get okozukai, the husband got 500yen for his daily allowance, but McDonalds were offering a 300yen lunch meal. At the end of the add the husband said Lucky! I never thought of a Maccas add being funny until I saw this one.

  • Our household is quite the opposite.

    I live with my girlfriend and I manage most of the funds in the house.

    It’s her responsibility to keep the house clean & cook meals and so forth however for the most part I manage the funds.

    She does sometimes make money from her hobbies (she sews clothes & toys) and she uses that money to buy herself things occasionally or food but as it stands for the most part, my wage pays for bills, rent & other expenses and she takes care of everything else.

    It’s worked really well for both of us. I guess it’s about finding a balance.

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