Marital Money: Mine, Yours, & Ours!
Life after marriage can be a major blessing but also a great fiasco if you don’t take the time beforehand to discuss some very important details. What kind of details you might ask…well, for example, did you and your new hubby discuss your weekly-without-fail, Saturday afternoon shopping trips to the mall? Or how about that incredible shoe fetish you’ve had for years—the one where you can’t help snatching up at least four to five pairs of brand new kicks every single month? Did you discuss the fact that you have absolutely no intentions whatsoever of depositing “your” hard-earned paycheck into that brand-spanking-new joint checking account—the one the love of your life has so proudly opened for the two of you? Or better yet, did you make it clear from the start that sharing a joint account is the only kind of financial arrangement you’re willing to live with? Does your husband know that for as long as you can remember, you’ve been a huge believer in the idea that “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine, too?!
Now, of course, the above questions are all hypothetically speaking, but they are also hugely symbolic of the kinds of problems that can certainly occur when two people enter holy matrimony, yet haven’t made proper decisions regarding their finances. In my latest novel, THE BEST OF EVERYTHING, Alicia Black Sullivan and her husband Phillip fall in love on first sight, marry six months later and life seems great until Phillip realizes that Alicia has a major shopping addiction. Needless to say, they didn’t see a reason to discuss the subject of money upfront or how it would be spent, so, what I’ve done below is list a few money tips that might have helped Alicia and Phillip and more importantly, tips that might be of interest to you. You may or may not agree with all of them, but here goes!
- For soon-to-be married couples, be honest with one another (before getting married) about your financial history and any current debt you owe. This way, you’ll enter the marriage with full disclosure, as opposed to being caught off guard, and perhaps even position yourselves to tackle the debt together.
- Treat all financial debt and responsibility as if it belongs to both of you. For example, if you owe $10,000 in bills and your husband owes $10,000 as well, then come to an agreement that together you now owe $20,000.
- Open a joint checking account and have all income, yours and his, directly deposited into it. This means that regardless of whether you earn more or he earns more, you both share all income equally.
- Once a monthly budget has been created, determine how much money you will save together and individually: i.e., how much you will each add weekly, bi-weekly or monthly into your individual retirement accounts, how much you will save in a joint savings account, etc.
- Determine how much spending money you will be able to withdraw and deposit into your own separate checking or savings accounts and make sure that whatever that amount ends up being, you will each take 50% of it.
- Discuss all financial decisions before taking any action and more than anything, remember that this is no longer about just you but instead, it is about the two of you who have made the decision to become one.
Those are my top six tips, and while I can already see the mortified looks and stunned-like stares on the faces of some who are reading this, the reason I know for sure that this method really does work is because my husband and I have lived this way since Day 1 of our marriage. That was nearly nineteen years ago, and not once have we had to figure out who was going to pay what bill and how, nor have we had to go without anything we needed. Throughout all this time, we have each been in a position of making more money than the other, however, our agreement has always remained the same—we are both entitled to all earnings coming into our household.
Making the decision to become one in every possible way, even when it comes to money, has made life a whole lot easier for us than I’m sure it certainly could have been, and if you want more proof, just take a poll. Take a moment to find a few married couples who have always had financial struggles and then ask them if they handle their finances together or separately? As a small girl, my mother began advising me on how to manage money—for when I became an adult and was living on my own and for when I was finally married one day and sharing a life with a spouse, and I’ve always felt that her advice and wisdom have made such an amazing difference in my life. Hence, it is my greatest hope that it will also help you in at least some way, too. It is my hope that, through it all, you will somehow be able to have it all—you’ll be able to experience a very happy marriage, maintain your extraordinary sense of style, and also save a respectable amount of money for your future. My hope is that you’ll make much better choices than my characters did in THE BEST OF EVERYTHING!