Would you marry someone with different financial values?

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Would you marry someone with different financial values?

Postby Cely » Sun Sep 20, 2009 4:49 pm

My boyfriend and I have been dating for three years. We are very much in love, and talking about marriage.

The problem is, we have very different financial values, and it makes me feel like a future together could be doomed.

38 years old
Good job (I make about 30% more than my boyfriend)
I carry very little CC debt (I use it for work purchases, or sometimes travel; right now I have $900 to pay off, which will be paid within 30 days)
Over $10K in an emergency fund, with an auto-transfer of $500 into this account every month
I contribute 12% to my 401k
Car is paid off
Condo with mortgage that I am aggressively paying off
Note that paying off my car and starting the EF happened during our time together (both in the past 1.5 years)

33 years old
Good job
Around $8K in CC debt; he has had CC debt in the thousands since we've been dating
No EF, no savings
Contributing 2% to 401K, just started this last year
Putting his house on the market now, it is likely he will need to borrow $10K from a friend to sell it

We've talked about my concerns, and he feels judged. He said he is willing to change things/work on things in order to make our relationship work, but (from personal experience) I feel like making financial changes has to be self-directed, or nothing will really stick. If we were married and had a family, I would be sick to my stomach if I didn't feel like we were on the same page with saving, debt, and so on.

I want this to work but part of me thinks we are too far apart on this issue. I would love to hear advice from people who have been in this situation, and how they made it work (or if it didn't).

Thank you!

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Postby Avistew » Wed Sep 23, 2009 7:31 am

I think sharing values is very important, and talking about it.
My husband and myself have different financial values, but they're not extremely different, we communicate a lot and find compromises.

If the differences are big enough that they could end in arguments, in hiding things from each other, in not trusting each other, it's definitely worth having a very long talk.
People can change their habits, but they do have to understand why, and not just do it to please someone else.

Ultimately the decision is yours, but I would say that it's better to end a relationship before you are married and possibly with children than after, so if you can't see it work, it's probably not worth it.

If you think it can work and are both willing to compromise, you might be able to work together as a couple.

I would suggest keeping separate accounts at first and not having credit cards at both names. It might sound bad, but if he gets in more debt you don't want to become liable and lose your money because of his mistakes. And if he has you to fall back on, he might spend more thinking you'll just cover for him anyways. Which would be unfair.
So I'd have a joint account for all common expenses, to which you both contribute, while keeping your individual ones.
It's also worth thinking about what type of contract you'd want for the marriage.

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Postby ekrabs » Wed Sep 23, 2009 7:56 am

Not me! Personal finance is so important to me that I need some level of compatibility there.

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Postby brad » Wed Sep 23, 2009 12:22 pm

A lot of married couples keep entirely separate finances. It can get complicated when you have joint ownership in something like a house, but you can usually work something out.

My common-law wife and I have always kept our finances separate. We own a house together, but I pay the mortgage (my salary is a lot higher than hers); we divide the other bills up between us based on what's equitable.

I think the biggest issues come when you get married and assume you need to now intermingle your finances and you don't want to take on your spouse's debts, etc....in cases like that I really think it's better to keep them separate and not offer to bail someone out if they're drowning. They won't learn if they get rescued all the time.

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Postby Sam » Wed Sep 23, 2009 3:10 pm

Me - professional with good salary, balance my check book/account (and all our other check books), stick to a spending plan, pay the bills on a schedule, study the bills, paid the credit cards in full (when I used credit cards), paid off my student loans way early, always saved, always saved for retirement, track our spending.

But I'm the spendthrift in the relationship.

Mr. Sam - profesional with good salary, doesn't keep a check book registrar and has never balanced his checking account ever, spends as much money as he has in his account, paid bills when they arrived in pink envelope (meaning the electric is going to be turned off), when he paid his own bills he never paid any attention, he was paying only interest on his MBA student loan for more than a year and never noticed that the balance wasn't going down, was never much of a saver.

But, he is much more frugal than me.

Before we bought a house together (before we were married) we sat down for a finanical summit and disclosed all assets, all debts and credit scores, etc. Once we bought that house I took over all budgeting and bill paying for any and all joint bills. We used a joint account for house bills, we still do, and we each paid in according to our salary level. When we bought the house together I made a significant investment because I rolled profits from sale of my former house into our house, we entered into a contract to cover what would happen if we split.

Once we got married I ended up reading Ramsey's TMM and we got focused on living a debt free life (we paid off $50,000+ in debt most of which was Mr. Sam's debt that he brought into the marriage, half was student loan for MBA) and I took over all debt management which included paying all the bills and we slowly merged finances, but Mr. Sam keeps his own checking account and I keep my own as well and then we have several joint accounts. We pool all our money to pay joint expenses and for savings goals (which I also manage) and we each have an allowance (same amount despite the fact that I earn more) for day to day spending. Any purchase over $300 has to be discussed and agreed between the two of us.

In short, I'm the spender but I have much better money management skills and I'm a bit OCD about our personal finances. Mr. Sam is not a spender but his managment skills (despite the fact that he has the MBA and has professional number skills) suck.

The key for our success is that we share the same goals, we wanted to get debt free and we did (except for the mortgage), yes I did the heavy lifting on that project, but we were on the same team, we want to live below our means and save a good chunk of money, again I do the heavy lifting but we generally agree on this goal.

The allowance system cuts down on the number of times we have to talk about finances, and Mr. Sam does sometimes get annoyed at my OCD but he also appreciates what that focus can do for us.

(Follow Sam's financial and real estate adventures.)

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Postby sandi_k » Thu Sep 24, 2009 9:30 am

I wouldn't marry someone who doesn't share the same long-term vision. Values is a little harder to pin down, since a lot of PF comes into play as you gain sophistication and SKILLS and awareness.

Our story is a lot like Sam's. I've always been a saver, started retirement investing at 24 with $50 a month, always managed my money reasonably well. I did use a credit card, and in my 20's and 30's I did typically carry small balances, because I refused to NOT save, and I wasn't tracking my spending as carefully as I should. So I made small mistakes, but did a lot of things right.

DH balanced his accounts by looking at his ATM receipts. :D He never would have started retirement savings in his 30's if I hadn't managed it, set up accounts, and transferred funds.

We maintain both joint and separate accounts, mainly because I like the credit union close to work, and he likes a Big Bank with lots of ATM access across the state.

We sit down and talk about goals, plans, priorities. Last night, in fact, we discussed whether a concrete project should be done on a smaller scale or a larger scale, discussed hiring a contractor for replacing a small deck, discusses a slow down in his work, and how he should feel free to use our EF if he needs to.

This has EVOLVED. Early on, many would have said we were not a good financial fit, since I care and he doesn't. :D

What has worked for us is to agree on the big things, and then I find a way to transmute small actions into larger goals. For some couples, there might be resentment at one person taking on the "heavy lifting" as Sam termed it. For me, I'm GRATEFUL to be allowed to manage the funds in a way that makes my personal insecurities feel less insecure.

We bought a house that was less than we were told we could "afford." We paid cash for all large improvements, doing a lot of DIY work in the early years. Now, we do one major project on the house per year, and pay cash. We put 30%+ down on cars, and drive them for 120K miles and/or 10 years. We don't shop recreationally. We bought our own business to diversify income streams.

So keep in mind - this is a process. What would be the key to me - how willing is your guy to be flexible, open and honest, and set aside funds for savings if you ask it of him? If not, then that's an issue. If it's a matter of ignorance and unsophistication, that can be overcome.

Good luck!


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Postby galactic » Fri Sep 25, 2009 5:24 pm

i am also in a marriage of two extremes.

i have always been frugal. i pay attention to every financial detail. i am a saver, in fact i tend to stuff money away and not realize just how much i've managed to put away. i am really uncomfortable unless i've got a big nest egg in case of emergency- i am always chasing a better sense of "security" which to me means money in the bank and a good job. i have a phd, and did my education straight through after high school, in 8 years, on very few student loans. i don't make a ton of money yet as a new grad, but once the market rebounds and i am after my first long-term job i will be well compensated.

my husband is a big spender and poor decision-maker. if he has a nickel, it's burning a nickel-sized hole in his pocket. he also pays no attention to the finances whatsoever, and was often overdrawn and/or in collections on his own. he was deeply in debt when we got together, and worked a series of crappy jobs that didn't pay well, because he didn't know what he wanted to do with his life. being with me provided the stability in his life that he needed to figure out what he wanted to do, and chase down his dream career. (twice, actually, since he got hurt and had to give up the first dream career.) he's shaped up quite a bit overall, but i still claim he's about 3x as expensive as i am.

not long after we moved in together, he blew all his money on trivial crap he couldn't even account for once. we nearly got evicted. seeing his mistakes affect someone else shook him pretty badly. he asked me (the responsible one) to take over the finances, and that's how it's been ever since. he saw how well we could live with some sacrifices of trivial crap i don't think he even missed, and found it an acceptable compromise despite the ego hit. that's how it worked out for us in the end.

now, we're in acceptably good financial shape considering that we've just finished 10 total years of education and over the majority of the last 8 years have generally lived on one income between the two of us.

based on the finances alone, you'd think we make a terrible couple. but no. we make each other happy in so many other ways. finance is only one aspect of our lives. i'm actually a bit of a control freak with money (see insecurity complex above) so handling the money is fine by me. he handles plenty of other stuff, it balances out pretty well.

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Postby nossorc » Sat Sep 26, 2009 10:39 am

i am not married and probably wont be for a little while, but my belief and understanding is a marriage takes sacrifice and compromising, if you can work together to make your differences work I believe you will have a successful relationship/marriage. If you are 2 stubborn set in your way people, this relationship will be very difficult and have a less likely success rate.

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Postby DoingHomework » Mon Sep 28, 2009 4:30 pm

I'd marry you Cely. You sound perfect. But alas, I found someone as perfect as you years ago and we are still happily and prosperously together.

I think you have the right, responsible, and mature ideas about finances. I don't think this is an area you need to compromise on. There are things that are a matter of opinion that two people need to compromise on if they are going to be happy together. But there is a right way to be responsibile and mature with money and YOU aare doing it. I think you need to have a "grow up now" talk with him and get him to realize that he is being immature and irresponsible. If you don't you will find yourself enabling him forever and you will be responsible for his debts.

Now, more importantly than this, I think if you are going to make a marriage work you need to be able to communicate and solve problems together. Men are pretty dense. I should know, I am one. He probably sees this as a big joke and probably thinks you are limiting his fun. You need to do the cave girl thing and hit him on teh head with your club (figuratively not literally) and tell him that if he doesn't step up and be a man he ain't gonna get you. In a few years he will realize that being a man no longer means the best at hunting dinner and building shelter - it means the best at putting dinner on the table and providing financial security.

And yes, I get it that you are already capable of taking care of yourself and he doesn't really have to "be the man" but I think you are intuitively sensing the concern that if you spend your life with him he is going to drag you down and damage teh security you have developed on your own. It is now YOUR job to communicate that concern to him as a serious concern and then give him a chance to step up and do th eright thing.

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Postby richidea » Tue Sep 29, 2009 6:05 am

You just hit me at my painful spot!

I am married for almost 3 years. My wife does not work and does not give much attention to it. She is perfectly happy with the money I earn and some extra from her parents. But she is spending as much as she like. All our argues are about money lately.

When I was planning to get married, I had 6 months earnings at savings accounts and was not worried. But step by step, better to say "spend by spend" and I am in debt now. I do not know how to act now since it is an unknown situation to me. I am trying to deal with it so I found this website and forum and hope it will help me.

Of course, I cannot give you an advice what should you do, but I can say you to be extremely careful. Maybe you should sign some internal contract to obligate yourself about mutual finances?
Rich Idea
<a href="http://www.ideatogetrich.com">Ideas to get rich</a>

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Postby DoingHomework » Wed Sep 30, 2009 9:19 am


It sounds like you are just leaving the "honeymoon phase" so to speak and you can probably turn this around. I'd venture to say that every married couple argues now and then and money is a common topic. But in your case perhaps you can turn it around by engaging your wife in a common dream that you can work toward. Before you were married, did you both dream of a house and family? A vacation somewhere? Something else?

What if you said to her: "Remember that vacation we wanted to take? Let's try to save up for that..." That might be a way for both of you to work together on a plan and then experience the reward. While saving up for a vacation and spending the money might not be consistent with the philosophy of this forum, it might help with your long term goal of educating yoru wife about the virtues of financial responsibility.

The bottom line is that it sounds like she may not even be fully aware of what her spending is doing to your (both of you) security. Her parents are her emergency fund.

But you have not been married that long and you can probably still turn this around. The last thing you want to do is make it about conflict. If you engage her is managing your household money she might just catch on to how good it can feel to build something.

Good luck

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Postby richidea » Sun Oct 04, 2009 11:56 pm

Thanks DoingHomework.

I did not mean to turn this particular topic into my own by posting previous message. I just wanted to put my situation on board, so Cely sould be aware of possible outcomes.

But, you are absolutely right that I can turn this situation to be the way I want. I am experimenting with some possible solutions, so I am sure that we will deal with it in recent future.
Rich Idea

<a href="http://www.ideatogetrich.com">Ideas to get rich</a>

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Postby Cely » Mon Oct 05, 2009 5:06 pm

Thanks for all the great replies, everyone! This is very helpful. I actually feel more hopeful about this situation, and my options for handling it.

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Postby smartwonderwoman » Tue Oct 06, 2009 7:19 am

My husband and I have big difference when it comes to financial aspect of the family. He has a more serious outlook in handling finances as if sometimes I am thinking he is not enjoying life anymore because he only work for the money and not enjoy money at all when in the contrary I enjoyed my earnings and live life as if there is no tomorrow. As we grow older and had kids, we learn to compromise with each other. I learn to be more matured in handling finances especially in making debts. Now I am trying to settle all my payables because I want to compromise with all the hardwork that he has been doing for the family. I also asked to be more lax and enjoy. I think that the financial difference cannot prevail over the love we had for each other so we learn to mend things that we were not compatible with. I hope this works for you and your boyfriend too.
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