Busted Halo
February 18th, 2003

The Spoils of Marriage

What We Needed to Do for Love and Money


Two weeks before our wedding, Steve and I bought life insurance. Our insurance agent was impressed. He claimed that most young couples weren’t that responsible. I agreed and stated, “They should be. Marriage might be love but it’s also business.”

It’s not romantic but true: marriage is as much a financial merger as it is a mushy union. For Steve and I, however, wealth amalgamation meant zipping our sleeping bags together and tossing all our underwear into the same laundry basket. But little things add up. By the time we had been married 30 days, we’d accumulated a large purse of wedding gifts and an entirely new wardrobe: clothes suitable for Steve’s new job.

Earn A Little
Wealth happens, if you plan . Marriage can complicate the process. Suddenly, two parties have a stake in what’s bought, saved, and sold. Decisions become discussions. After Steve’s first paycheck, we sat down and spreadsheeted a budget. We found: his income minus the car payment, our recent cross-country move, and his new clothes equaled zip. That meant: no rent, no groceries, no nothing. We reluctantly asked his parents if we could live with them a little while longer. We also resolved to build a better budget. Spend a Lot
No simple task. Joint accounts mean dual withdrawals and, in our case, one bounced check. Joint accounts also require a mind shift as any pre-nuptial financial privacy vanishes. Accountability becomes paramount and tempers can flare. Initially, I scoured bank records and quizzed: did you spend this? Where? Why? The tyranny became stupid, so Steve and I compromised. Now we have one joint account for family bills and investments and two private accounts?one for him and one for me.

Sock Some Away
Dividing lines can be less clear, however. Steve now owns half of my purchases and I am liable for his debt?and vice versa. For some, this legal fact is a nightmare. I once had a friend who so needed to have ?her stuff’ and ?his stuff’ that she and her fianc? bought all their furniture?separately?before they wed. Fortunately, Steve and I are not so neurotic. We’ve successfully dumped all our pots and pans in a pile and called them ours. One hang-up remains, though. I consistently refer to the Ford in the driveway as “Steve’s car.” Steve finds this amusing. He has always considered it ours, even before we were engaged.

Which is proof that money and marriage can work. But not without effort. Not without a negotiated budget, private spending money, an emergency cache, and robust compromise. Steve and I have strained: we started a retirement fund, paid off the car, and saved a solid financial cushion. To do this so quickly, however, we have sacrificed. We have lived with his parents, forgone golf, and resisted funky haircuts.

And it’s paid off. We’ve now moved into our own apartment and soon will not have to live paycheck-to-paycheck. It’s simple math. By, briefly, making money a priority, we can now afford the true joy of marriage?worry-free love.

How important is money in love?

The Author : Sue Birnie
Sue Birnie writes from Ontario in Canada.
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