Who Did I Marry, Financially?

 

This is a guest post from “Him”, the personal finance blogger behind Make Love, Not Debt. You can follow Him on Make Love Not Debt’s Facebook Page or on Twitter @lovenotdebt.  

Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

When I realized that my now-wife was “the one”, I also realized that I have no idea what was going on with her finances. It didn’t help that she didn’t want to tell me anything about her finances. So when I found out that she had almost USD $150,000 in debt, I had to re-think what that would mean for our future.

At that time, we were both in graduate school. While I wasn’t entirely debt-free either, it was a more manageable USD $15,000. I had begun planning all of the things I was going to do when I was finished with my studies; first of course was to pay off my debt. But then afterward: Buy a new car! Buy a house! Buy bottles of expensive Champagne! Buy an engagement ring!

You can imagine, then, when she finally dropped the debt bomb on me. I never wanted money to be a big deal in our relationship, but after the debt revelation money was going to play a much larger role. While I had my expectations of how we would handle finances together as a couple, they were instantly shattered.

Much of this was complicated by our past and our future. My upbringing was a modest one, with two immigrant parents working their way up from middle class. Her’s was a privileged one, coming from a well-off family that was in the middle of decline. My future income potential from my career is much higher than for her’s. From the beginning of our commitment, we would have to learn to try and see eye-to-eye on finances.

It has been difficult, to say the least, to find middle ground. My wife expected that her salary would be able to buy much more than was possible. I expected my salary to afford us the beginnings of financial security. She has had to come down a bit and realize that her amount of debt, combined with her relatively low salary, would only afford her the most basic of things. I also had to come down and realize that my salary was now our salary and that by being forever connected with this person, I am also forever connected with her debt.

Over the years we’ve come to realize that our individual expectations about money did not necessarily reflect our combined expectation. My wife now sees the value of having a modest emergency fund and saves a rather large amount of her paycheck into her retirement account. I now see the value of an occasional splurge and the long-term value of well-made, sometimes expensive goods.

This isn’t to say that our system is perfect; indeed it is far from it. We have more than the occasional argument stating that I am cheap or that she is reckless. After the yelling has stopped, we sit down and talk.  At the end of the day one or both of our egos have suffered minor bruises, but we always find a way to come together.

 

 

Were the finances between you and your partner at odds with each other? How did you come together to find common ground? Is it still a source of tension in your relationship?

 

This post was featured on the Mo Money Mo Houses, thank you!

 

A 30 something French girl embarking on a journey towards Financial Independence. I blog about money, travel, simple and deliberate living, freedom and choices. You can find me on Twitter, Google+, or Reach Financial Independence's Facebook Page

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Comments

  1. my wife and I have always been on pretty similar ground when it comes to our finances. It makes the stress a lot lower.
    Sean @ One Smart Dollar recently posted..Starting an Emergency Fund Can Save Your Bank Account + $100 GiveawayMy Profile

  2. Thanks for sharing that story. It made me think about my situation when I got married. Fortunately, she neither of us came into it with any debt. We are both extremely conservative about spending money, which I didn’t know before we were married, but I’m glad it worked out the way.

    It’s interesting to ponder how much you really don’t know about your spouse before you get married.
    Terry recently posted..5 Keys to Sell Books Like Hotcakes with YouTubeMy Profile

  3. Ouch. That’s a bit of a shocker, I hope you’ve been able to work together mostly well, despite the occasional disagreement! Luckily, money is one of the things that my spouse and I are fairly aligned in viewpoint on.
    Anne @ Unique Gifter recently posted..Family TraditionsMy Profile

  4. That’s a tough subject that I don’t think I qualify to comment on much. $150,000 sounds like an incredible amount of debt especially if her salary doesn’t come close to comfortably pay it off. I’ve always believed in honesty and openness of finances in relationships – no matter how terrible the truth might be. It helps to make a step back from it all, pretend you’re a 3rd person looking in on yourselves and try to get an accurate perspective on things without all of the emotions associated with certain behaviors ie. frugality or splurging. Just pretend you’re someone else and you’re taking an unbiased, honest look at what’s on the table and how the money is being spent. I don’t think too many people can do this without getting irrationally involved.
    Veronica @ Pelican on Money recently posted..The Thank You Letter that Landed a JobMy Profile

    • It is hard to coldly consider money in your relationship, but it should be the way to go. Being open is the key, the only thing is, when? Do you want the guy to run away after the first date or wait until you are sure he is the one, and maybe mess it all up then? not an easy situation.

  5. That is a ton of debt! You must really love her to be willing to help her work through it. At the end of the day, I’m sure you will be a stronger couple from having to work together on your finances.
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..Emergency Funds: The Key to Weathering Financial StormsMy Profile

  6. No kidding about not knowing everything before marriage. Sometimes it’s nice discovering the fun, quirky things. Not so much the massive amounts of debt.

  7. This makes me glad that my wife and I are high school sweethearts. We didn’t have time to build up secret debts. That doesn’t mean that we always see eye to eye though. Marriage is definitely about compromise, especially financially speaking.
    justin@thefrugalpath recently posted..Giving Gifts at Work: Where do You Draw the Line?My Profile

    • Thank is very true, many people have a rosy idea about marriage, only to discover that it takes two individuals willing to work hard on compromise to make it work.

  8. Wow. Mr. PoP and I have talked about this before. Would we still have wanted to marry each other if the other had massive amounts of consumer/student loan debt and no viable way to pay it off?
    In all likelihood, probably not. I’m glad it’s worked out for you guys, but I just can’t imagine living day to day with someone who has such a drastically different view of debt than I do. Though it sounds like your wife came to the realization that it wasn’t sustainable and wanted help fixing it (not being bailed out!)… so maybe her views were changing to be more similar to yours before you got married.
    Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted..Income Inequality In RelationshipsMy Profile

  9. Ours we at odds when we dated in the sense that I had debt and he didn’t. But we became a team and worked together to get me out of debt and work towards our future. It never caused an issue. In fact, I think it brought us closer.
    Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter recently posted..7 Steps To Homelessness And What To Do If You Get ThereMy Profile

  10. I’m not in a relationship, but I think right now if I met someone their finances would play a huge part in my decision to be with them. Potentially I’d meet someone 35-45ish, so having 150,000 in debt would be a big problem for me, considering I don’t have much debt and I’m trying to grow my future. If you just starting off in life it’s one thing, but being closer to retirement, it becomes a bigger deal.
    Budget & the Beach recently posted..November GoalsMy Profile

    • I think it would be a deal breaker for me too. Unless the debt is for a business, or a house, or the guy has a reason not to pay. Say he is a high earner investing his salary instead of paying a 3% student loan. $150K consumer debt would probably drive me away.

  11. We have a lot of student debt as well, but it’s something that you just have to deal with and we don’t spend a lot of mental or emotional energy being upset about having a lot of debt. We just keep making our payments and we know that one day it will all be gone if we continue to be diligent.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..When a Renovation/Addition is NOT Worth ItMy Profile

  12. That’s crazy! $150K! Man, that’s a huge bomb to drop. Damn. I guess if you love someone though, you help them carry that debt. But dude, that would definitely change yoru future plans after graduation.

    My wife and me got married when she got pregnant. Courthouse quick marriage…we had nothing. We both had debt and neither of us had a penny to our name. So it was easy for us in that we both were starting from the bottom. Together.
    TB at BlueCollarWorkman recently posted..The Blue Collar VoteMy Profile

  13. Yeah, we are opposites in most ways, and money is one of them! It’s an ongoing journey, finding the right balance.
    eemusings recently posted..Link love (Powered by custard pies and strawberry milk)My Profile

    • It has to be hard, money is such an important part of relationships. I don’t know if I could commit for life to someone who isn’t on the same page financially, and has no plan to be (because I am always right, so he would have to be wrong and bend my way :) ).

  14. Personally, I don’t think that I would be able to marry someone who did this to me. She kept this secret from him for *years* until he had decided that she was the one! I understand why she’d be scared but I believe that this is an issue that should have been brought up early on so that each person is on the same financial footing while deciding where to take the relationship
    Vanessa recently posted..Two months to go!My Profile

  15. Agreed with Vanessa. Everything should be disclosed even before talking about marriage. This’ll be a huge problem because she will be dragging her husband to her debt.
    binary course guide recently posted..Major Activity 11/14/2012My Profile

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