"Money is a problem in our family. I can't imagine it isn't in everyone's," says a working wife.
"You can't do much without trust," comments a husband.
Both are participants in what author Caroline Bird calls in her book, "The Two-Paycheck Marriage," the "great revolution of our times."
"No couple is untouched by the issues two paychecks present," says Bird, who estimates that by 1990 two-thirds of all women and four-fifths of all men will be working.
Some professional couples in the Washington area, whose joint incomes range from $45,000 to $80,000 (average white-collar federal government salary is $22,000) talked recently about handling two paychecks. They're breaking ground for radical social changes, although most would be surprised to hear it. As Bird noted during a stop here, people are backing their way into the revolution.
Most of the couples are what Bird calls "poolers"; they merge their two checks in a joint account as a symbol of mutuality. According to Bird, pooling is favored by marriage and money-management counselors and is practiced by three out of four working couples.
"Our attitude has always been that he who needs gets, regardless of the effort involved or where the money comes from," said James Whitley, 49, a D.C. architectural contractor.
He and his wife, Gail, 49, who owns Children's Inn, a D.C. school for young, children, share business as well as personal expenses. Whitley's office is on the floor-above the school.
Money-management specialists, according to Bird, believe partnership rules are helpful for poolers. Attorney John Foster and his wife, Mary (not their real names), both in their early 40s, agree.
"If either of us is going to write a check for more than $100 - except for the grocery store, which is assumed - we call the other or talk about it the night before," said Mary Foster. "It's useful to make you think about what you're doing."
The Fosters prefer a more traditional form of financial management. "I cook and he pays the bills," she said. "Of course, it's more elaborate than that, but I am amused by people who ask, 'Does he do the laundry or run the vacuum cleaner?' because that's not the issue.
"The household has to be run and the finances have to be managed. We are each very much aware of what the other is doing, but he has a facility for estate planning and federal taxation and I'm a very good cook. So it would be silly for me to intervene in the details."
Poolers Barry Pierce, 31, an FTC administrator, and Ellen Pierce, 27, National Endowment for the Arts administrator, share household and financial management. Their only real argument about money came when she opened her own checking account.
"It wasn't to separate the money into 'yours' and 'mine'," said Ellen Pierce, who keeps only a small balance in the account. "I needed to have the feeling that there was a bit that was mine, and I could do what I wanted to with it. It's my play money - he has stocks."
Money experts would back her up, according to Bird. Instead of total pooling, they recommend both partners have some which doesn't go through the family account. Everyone, the experts say, needs the freedom to be a little absurd with money.
After years of pooling, teacher Barbara Ridley, 44, set up a separate account into which her entire check now goes. Both she and her husband David, 47, havve benefited from the change.
"I'm not very careful," said Barbara Ridley. "There's usually one check I forget to write down and can't remember. He's very meticulous, balances out to the penny. When I got my own account, if I messed up I was the only one bothered and that helped our relationship considerably.
"I do pay - in proportion to what I make and he makes - for enough things. Even though everything is going toward the same purpose, when I had my check in a lump (joint) sum, the feeling of 'ours) wasn't very personal. This way it's my responsibility, my check, and I have authority over it.
"The mental side is important," she added. "It's not trying to hide or be devious in any way. He can look into my checkbook anytime. It's merely making me have a voice in my destiny which I think I should have."
Women who are making money have more power, says writer Bird, and dealing with that becomes the central issue in a two-paycheck marriage.
As one wife put it, "Our struggles over money are not a matter of what's yours and what's mine, but who has the decision-making power."
Although all the couples said they talk over major decisions, the ultimate power usually resides with the man, as is the case with Clarence and Janice Pearson.
"Anything important we both decide on," said architect Clarence Pearson, 36. "Usually if there's a conflict, we'll go my way, I guess basically because I make the most money. We don't have those kind of decisions often."
"We probably get along so well because I accept the male system more readily than most people do," said Janice Pearson, 34, National Education Association financial assistant. "I listened carefully to those marriage vows and they said he was to provide and I was to obey."
Not all disputes, however, have to be resolved in favor of one partner. With patience and ingenuity, couples are working out ways to honor their differences.
The Pearsons, for example, do not agree on what to do with savings. "He thinks money ought to work for you and I say 'great, but what good does it do if I can't get to it when I want to,'" said Janice Pearson.
They resolved the dispute by splitting $10,000 in savings five years ago. Today both are pleased. Janice has seen her savings account grow and Clarence has four pieces of property and his original $5,000.
(They still don't agree, however, on furniture for the living room, which remains bare except for a grand piano, a Persian rug and a large Sam Gilliam painting.)
The Pearsons' formula for handling money left over each month after bills are paid: "Fifty percent goes into savings, 25 percent into a contingency fund for emergencies and 25 percent we blow," said Clarence. "If it's $50 or $500, that's what we do."
For most couples the advantages of two paychecks far outweigh any problems. As Washington attorney Dorothy Acosta notes: "One thing that helps in solving money problems is having more of it."