Play the fooly-wed game!

One of the first articles I ever wrote for The Motley Fool was actually co-written with my wife, who also then worked for the Fool. It was more than 11 years ago (which is 77 in Internet years), and we hadn’t yet marked our first anniversary. We called it our “Couples Manifesto,” and it ended up being one of the more popular articles on the site that year. That inspired a bunch of Fools to create the “Couples and Cash” online seminar and, eventually, a book of the same name.

Fast-forward to 2011, and my wife now is a mental-health counselor and children’s book author, and besides my job as a newsletter advisor, I’m the financial planner for Motley Fool employees. I recently met with a colleague and his fiancée, and thought I’d bring along an article that was pulled from that old seminar. We called it the Fooly-wed Game, based on the classic game show “The Newlywed Game.” The show is still on TV, but its heyday was the 1970s when Bob Ewbanks was the host. For the kids in the audience, here’s a taste:

Unlike The Newlywed Game, the Fooly-wed Game was not designed to cause violence between couples and was not an excuse to say “make whoopee” on TV. Rather, it’s a way to get couples to discuss money, possibly identify problem areas, and maybe have a little fun.

The Audience Can Play Along

Nevertheless, as I read the original version, I thought it could use some updating — and perhaps some audience input. So below is the new and improved Fooly-wed game. Play along at home with your own spouse/partner/cellmate, and then offer any improvements in the comments below.

Here’s how to play: Read the question aloud, then each person should record her/his/its answers on her/his/its own sheet of paper. Don’t peek at each other’s answers. The fun (or contentious) part of this exercise is comparing your responses at the end.

  1. What would your partner say is the annual income your family would need to be happy?
  2. Place the following items in order of importance (1=top financial priority, 10=lowest financial priority):
    • furniture
    • retirement
    • car
    • clothes
    • vacation
    • really good/healthy food
    • entertainment (dining out, movies, etc.)
    • college
    • gifts
    • home
  3. Discussions about money are: A) Easy and constructive; B) Occasionally difficult but eventually lead to a resolution; C) Usually combative and lead to arguments; D) Nonexistent.
  4. How much would your bank account have to sink to before you panicked?
  5. How much is too much to spend without consulting your partner?
  6. Would you loan money to friends or family? Would you borrow money from friends or family?
  7. What are the three best purchases you’ve made as a couple? The three worst?
  8. You get $1,000 back as a tax refund. What would you do with it? What would your partner do with it?
  9. You view money as: A) A necessary evil; B) The path to happiness; C) Nice to have, but I won’t sweat over it; D) Where’s my wallet?
  10. Which of the two of you is more likely to:
    • Know how much is in the checking account
    • Buy an expensive gift
    • Look for the best deal
    • Know how the stock market fared
    • Do the taxes
  11. Do you think that when the creators of The Newlywed Game chose the phrase “make whoopee” as a euphemism for sex, they considered the fact that some people would think of the whoopee cushion (invented in 1930)?
  12. When it comes to investing, your philosophy is: A) The stock market can be beaten by buying the most promising stocks, B) Don’t try to beat the stock market, buy index funds; C) Avoid the stock market, it’s too risky; D) Chicken makes the best stock.
  13. If there’s one thing we could improve about the way we manage our finances, what would it be?
  14. Which relative or friend would you consider to be a financial role model?
  15. How much is reasonable to spend on a vacation?
  16. And finally who checks the credit report for errors and how regularly?

Playing the Fooly-wed Game could lead to a range of outcomes, from “We were meant to be together!” to “How did we ever end up together?” If your result more like the latter, it might help to get professional financial advice to act as an objective referee. Either way, the process will ideally lead to constructive actions that head off potential future disaster.

So print out the questions, grab some pens and paper, prepare some pleasant beverages, sit down with your significant other, and play the Fooly-wed Game. You may learn a thing or two about that person who shares your bed and bank account. And when you’re done, you can yell, “Whoopee!” and whatever other sounds you associate with that word.

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