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Hesokuri And Okozukai


wealthymattersIn Japan,traditionally, the housewife controls the family budget even if the husband is the sole breadwinner, and the husband is given a small allowance to spend as he desires.This allowance is called Okozukai. In some cases, particularly bright women will have the Okozukai structured as a percentage of the household revenue, encouraging the man to work harder.The husband spends his Okozukai on himself, often on after-hours drinking with colleagues.

The wife, in contrast, often seeks to build secret reserves of cash.These secret reserves are known as Hesokuri from hesokuri-gane, meaning ‘money hidden in the navel.In the popular imagination it has two very different purposes. On the more noble side it is money that wives — keepers of the purse — maintain for emergencies or old age.On the less noble side it is a fund they maintain for themselves, to go out for lunch with their girlfriends or to buy something for themselves since stereotypically Japanese husbands rarely purchase gifts for their wives. In most cases, Hesokuri is built over the course of years from small savings put aside and interest compounded on the principal.Mostly this fund is accumulated after the wedding, but a few women confess to having saved money on their own before getting married and not telling their husbands about it.Most women believe the men know nothing about these liquid reserves.Women whose husbands have a tendency to get into debt or are abusive see Hesokuri as providing an option of a life away from their spouse.

Understandably, the average amount of Hesokuri varies by age.The average Japanese housewife in her 20′s has ¥1,460,000, or $18,537, hidden from her husband. The average Japanese housewife in her 50′s has ¥4,000,000, or $50,797, hidden from her husband. Most of the time, this money is hidden at home, and is almost always kept in cash so there is no record of it that can be found.

More than three quarters of the women who have Hesokuri believe their husbands have no secret money of their own.For those who do believe their husband have private savings, they estimated the amount at only ¥364,000, or $4,621.

The major financial institutions in Japan estimate the level of Okozukai and Hesokuri in Japan to try and project consumer confidence levels, household liquidity levels, pent up consumer demand, and possible new financial products that might be useful (and profitable for the creator). Paying attention to these numbers gives you an idea of Japan’s economic climate.

Hesokuri can be seen as a corrective to family laws in Japan that favour husbands.The Civil Code forbids joint bank accounts and so housewives without incomes of their own usually have to draw household expenses from their husband’s account. And while titles to property can include both names of a married couple, the party who is not responsible for the loan–usually the wife–must explain where the money she is contributing to the property comes from. Many foreigners are baffled by Japanese divorces in that a woman who seeks a split usually comes away with nothing, even after decades of marriage. That’s because the idea of joint property is, in a legal sense, non-existent. If the husband is the one making the money, that money always belongs to him. However Hesokuri is legal since the Civil Code also stipulates that there is no such thing as theft within a family unit.

Also,in Japan, a man can give his wife a one-time, tax-free gift of up to ¥20 million, but it can only be in the form of property where the wife will make her principal residence, or in the form of cash that will be used to purchase a property that will be her permanent residence. The main reason for this condition is to offset inheritance laws, which stipulate that a wife receives half of her late husband’s estate, with the other half divided among their children. This law has always caused problems because in cases where the husband did not leave enough behind and the children want cash instead of half the family house, the wife may have to sell her half to pay them off.This ¥20 million gift gives the wife a larger share of the house even before the husband dies, so the portion that goes to the kids is much smaller,thus guaranteeing her a roof over her head.

This traditional way of managing household finances is slowly dying in Japan.Today only half the households in Japan  practice it in this form,In another 20% the husband is the holder of the purse strings as in other parts of the world and in the remaining 30% both the spouses work and have their own separate salary accounts.The husband usually pays the mortgage and the wife for the utilities,in these cases.

 

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About Keerthika Singaravel
Engineer,Investor,Businessperson

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