Michael on October 22nd, 2008
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Is your spouse good for your marriage?

You: What?

Is your spouse good for your marriage?

You: I heard you the first time.  I’m just not sure what you mean. I don’t think I’d technically be married without my spouse.

True enough.  What about financially, is your spouse good for your marriage?

You: Is this about a dowry?

No, it’s about how your life partner’s financial habits can impact your marital satisfaction.

You: Now this is sounding like an article from a magazine displayed at the supermarket checkout article!

Ouch.  But it got your attention, didn’t it?

You: Maybe. Or perhaps it was the headline about Bradalina. I’m not really sure.

I’ll take it either way.  A relatively recent article in the New York Times, The Key to Wedded Bliss? Money Matters, discusses the importance of having a spouse with a similar financial disposition.  Here’s my favorite paragraph of the article:

Today, while most of us marry for romantic reasons, marriage at its core is still a financial union. So much of what we want — or don’t want — out of life boils down to dollars and cents, whether it’s how hard we choose to work, how much we consume or how much we save. For some people, it’s working 80-hour weeks to finance a third home and country club membership; for others, it means cutting back on office hours to spend more time with the family.”

I love that paragraph so much because it captures the element of choice. Much of the financial writing these days implicitly tells us how to deal with what’s been handed to us as opposed to mapping out a plan to achieve what we want.  Within a marital setting though, achieving our dreams can typically only work if both spouses want the same things.  Imagine one spouse cutting back to spend time with the family while the other is working like crazy to make that beach house a reality.

You:  I don’t have to imagine – that sounds just like my buddy and his wife.

Indeed, such stories are everywhere and can make your lives (both financial and marital) more challenging.

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Did you find your financial soulmate when you found your true love?  Or is it more of an “opposite’s attract” phenomenon when it comes to money issues? Do tell!

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2 Comments to “Personal finance and your spouse”

  1. Bekki says:

    My husband and I are almost exact opposites when it comes to finances. He grew up in a family that started out with rough times (marrying at age 18 with no job will do that) and by the time he was 8 or 9, they had lots of money to buy anything their little hearts desired.

    My husband is also an only child who got spoiled rotten by his mom. She would tell about how when he was little, nomatter how tight money was, she would manage to squeeze out $5 a week to buy him a brand new action figure.

    And so began our financial downfall…

    My mother-in-law was also quite the shop-a-holic, and my husband inherited that trait from her as well. By the time we were married, he was 29 years old, working for his father in the construction industry.

    Oh, and he was GROSSLY underpaid. Even with 10 years experience as a full-time plumber, he was getting paid less than an apprentice. Anyway, that’s a whole different story…

    Anyway, fast forward three years. My husband is now partners with his father in a very successful business. We don’t pay ourselves much, but it’s a heck of a lot more than he made when he was working for his dad. We found ourselves with a significant amount of money left over every month after paying the bills.

    My first thought was: Yes! Now we can use this extra money to pay off the mountain of debt we aqcuired in order to buy groceries when we were dirt poor!

    My husband’s thought? Yes! Now we can go out to eat, I can buy more DVDs and comic books and stuff… YAY STUFF!

    In his heart, he truly wants to pay off our debt, but when it comes down to making the necessary sacrifices, he can’t bring himself to do it.

    One thing that’s helped was putting personal spending on an allowance. We each get $30/week to spend on whatever we want. Mine goes into a savings account, because I can’t spent money on myself while we’re in debt. His goes to feeding his comic book addiction.

    The problem comes with things like trips to the mall and eating out. Like his mother, he LOVES to shop. Not like, “Hmm, we need X so let’s go and buy it.” it’s more like “Hey, let’s go to the mall and see what useless crap we can blow money on! It’s awesome!”

    For him, a lot of it is just so deeply ingrained in him that he doesn’t even realize that he does it.

    I came from a family with virtually no money, so not spending on extra stuff doesn’t hurt me one bit.

    What’s saved us is that I handle the checkbook. Every Thursday, we get paid. I deposit the paychecks, pay the week’s bills, and all but $100 of what’s left over goes straight into a savings account. If it remains in the checking account, it’s too easy for him to spend it!

  2. Michael says:

    @Bekki – thanks for the post. Looks like opposites attract for you and your husband. Communication is key and my sense (and hope) is that a happy medium will allow for balance in your life – financially and otherwise.

    Love the comment – keep visiting!

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