Japanese housewives call it へそお金 – Heiso Okane – Belly button Money. In the West we might refer to it as a “Squirrel Fund” or a “Runaway Fund”.
It’s the secret hoard of cash that (mainly) women skim from the family budget. Traditionally, one reason women gave for having a secret stash was “just in case”. In a scenario where the husband is the main bread-winner it is easy to imagine an unsatisfactory relationship with the wife being trapped, unable to “escape” for financial reasons.
With around 40 per cent of marriages ending in divorce, and co-habiting relationships breaking down even more often, it’s no surprise many British couples keep a bit of money stashed away in case something goes wrong. But what is surprising is that in most cases this is quite a sizeable sum. Usually, totalling around £6bn, according to research from internet bank Cahoot in 2003. As a psychologist recently quipped “– it’s not just a wad of tenners in your knicker-drawer”
In that same Cahoot survey, 61 per cent of respondents admitted to secretly hoarding cash. Interestingly, 69 per cent of women are likely to keep a secret stash of money. This is compared with 53 per cent of men.
Some refer to it as financial infidelity, although in many cases the other spouse is totally aware of the situation. In some cultures, during the early 1950’s, there were many marriages where men simply turned over their pay to their wives. The wives would then give their husbands some spending money and they would run the household with rest. That contrasts sharply with other marriages, where the husband would take care of all financial responsibilities and give his wife “an allowance” to spend how she wishes.
Meanwhile, it is reported in Japan financial hardship has forced many to use their bellybutton money to make ends meet. The annual survey of housewives’ financial arrangements by Sompo Japan DIY Life Insurance showed that the average “bellybutton stash” has plunged by 20 per cent since 2008 to an average of just 3.7 million yen (£25,000). The Sompo survey also reveals alarming insights into why the housewives are so attached to their secret money. A good proportion are hiving-off the funds in the hope they can secure a divorce at the age of 50. To enjoy their late middle age in financial comfort and away from their husbands!
The fact is financial security is very important to most of us, a lack of it can be extremely stressful. Even if you have no savings and have perhaps found yourself in changed circumstances as a result of redundancy or illness there are ways of managing the situation. If you are experiencing financial problems the worst thing you can do is nothing.