All About The Benjamins

As you all know I have been following Serenity23 and friends as they blog their way through the book, Power to Prosper for the next 21 days. Today’s topic was near and dear to me: matrimonial money. I really liked the guest post today and rather than blog in Serenity’s comments I decided to respond on my blog.
Myron and I have discussed at length the best way to handle our finances once we get married. I’ve never been married and he’s been divorced so it was imperative that we get a handle on our money styles and even examine how we observed our parents handling money in their own marriages. It’s important to both of us that money not become a sticking point or a thorn in our marriage.
From my personal experience, I have a checking and savings accounts. I rarely write checks but I keep some for those off times when I have to write one. I debit nearly everything and rarely carry cash. I pay all my bills online. I also have debt, in the form of my mortgage, car note and student loans.
Myron on the other hand, has a checking account and doesn’t have checks at all. He debits or pays in cash. He pays bills online or has them drafted out. He has minimal debt. His car is paid for (though we will be selling it after the wedding to get him a newer one).
My parents have separate checking accounts. They make all household purchases jointly and swap money back and forth between them as needed. That is the system that worked best for them. I think Myron’s folks have everything joint. (Correct me if I am wrong, baby.)
Since I have been designated the family CFO, initially I think that we will keep our current checking accounts and definitely have a joint household account to pay bills from. The joint account will probably morph out the wedding account we’re going to set up. We will probably roll with that for a while, then have another conversation within 6 months to a year, to re-assess what we need to do going forward. I don’t see anything wrong with easing ourselves into the process. We already think of the money as being in one pot anyway.
One thing that we probably need to discuss in more detail is what is our threshold for individual purchases. Is it $100.00?? $250.00?? We are definitely in agreement that we need to be accountable to each other over a certain dollar amount, we just need to nail that figure down and agree on it.
Another item we need to discuss in more detail that we’ve started having conversations about is retirement. We are an older couple (we’ll both be 37 when we get married) and it’s imperative that we get real serious about looking WAY into the future. I have an 401K from a previous employer that needs to be rolled over at some point and I haven’t been saving for retirement at all since I got laid off in February 2009. He is in a much better position by working for the state because he has a 401K AND will be eligible for a pension. We probably need to up his contributions because we both have a lot of catch up to do. We have both cashed out 401Ks from previous jobs in the past. If there is something I could take back from my 20s, that would definitely be it. That was definitely not a good financial move.
Other money related discussions that we’ve had: how to handle requests from family for money, what we are going to do with my townhouse, and my penchant for shoe shopping!!! LOL!!  🙂
I think discussions about money prior to getting married are ESSENTIAL. But once you have the conversations, that doesn’t mean they are over. These types of talks should be fluid and ongoing. I am grateful that we have overcome our initial discomfort with talking about money with each other because it will make conversations down the road much easier.
Commenters, any thoughts that you’d like to add??

8 thoughts on “All About The Benjamins

  1. I’m so late…

    So glad ya’ll had this discussion.

    I was watching True Life “I’m a newlywed” and was appalled when one of the couples sat down AFTER the wedding, AFTER the move, AFTER it mattered (in my opinion) to discuss money.

    The husband had a $5,000 balance on his credit cards that the wife had no idea about. She had student loans and a much smaller credit card debt. She was shocked to learn of his debt.

    I was shocked they hadn’t thought to do that before. I’m not saying money should make or break ultimate matrimony, but you’re gonna need to know what you’re walking into before you walk into it.

  2. I think its great that you guys are discussing these issues so extensively PRIOR to marriage because so many people don’t. I know you can’t anticipate every scenario but you guys are off to a wonderful start. The family requests for money did become a problem in my marriage. The issue was that we were the “go to” people when someone had a need. The problem for me became when all of the requests came from his side of the family & then primarily came from the same person repeatedly to the point that I felt like we were “enabling” the person by coming to their rescue all of the damn time ! I resented the fact that my family would do without & not ask & I would find out about the resulting negative situations after the fact, when we could have helped because we were in a financial position to do so. None of this money going out was coming back in mind you, because my ex had the idea that you don’t give it if you don’t have it to lose. I can agree with that to a point, but at some point I became so resentful of the situation that I wanted to send my sister, or cousin, or whomever money because his relative was treating us like an ATM ! It really caused a major conflict & I really had to tread lightly about my feelings because this was one of his closest relatives.

  3. I think the best thing about this is that you’re having these conversations NOW. Joint accounts work for us because we have, pretty much, the same philosophy regarding money. If we didn’t and one of us had a major problem handling financial responsibilities I doubt if that would work. Recognizing weaknesses regarding money individually will prove to be extremely important to your financial success as a couple.

    One thing I’d say, however, is even if you’re going to be the CFO and handle things…have weekly “meetings” where you check in regarding finances, major expenses, stock purchases, money being moved, etc. so that you BOTH are up to speed where everything stands. That way it won’t ever be just YOUR cross to bear since it’s obvious you’re in it together.

  4. There were three BIG parts that lead to the failure of my marriage. And this topic was one, not #1, but one of. I was the CFO in our family. It started out fine, we had a joint account for the household and each had separate accounts. But once my son was born and the older kids came to live with us, and we started buying investment properties, it went down hill on a steady pace. In a failed marriage it takes two to break so I have examined MY faults and this is what I want to share.

    Number 1, I resented the fact that I had to take care of the household finances. My Mom has never paid a household bill. She paid our tuition and bought our clothes and the household food, paid her car note and gasoline. It took me a long time to realize that this was my “normal”, and I’m really OK with my normal.

    I resented the “household money” line everytime there was an unexpected financial matter because it became my responsibility to always make things right. I resented this, I grumbled often but I kept on doing it anyway.

    I am obsessed with my kids education and often I spared no expense on tuition. At one time I had them in schools that it was breaking us to pay the tuition, and I refused to take them out. My feeling was that the Father should take a part time job to make sure that we stayed above water. He did not share that feeling. He felt that we could find more affordable schools. And I felt like I made enough to pay that tuition and that it was really his responsibility to take care of the roof over his family’s head. And he should have worked overtime or another job to make it happen. In his mind I was changing the rules on him as we went along.

    You and Myron have a made a good start. But don’t stop there. Both of you will have to speak up if something makes you feel resentful or like you are the person taking on an unfair share of the workload. Talking about retirement is a good start at mapping out the future. But if you plan to have children, you need to talk about what your thoughts are on educating them and saving for their future. Sometimes the jobs in a household have to change and you may have to switch who leads. Be open to changing roles if necessary.

    Sorry for blogging 🙂

    • No, thank YOU for sharing. You have almost 20 years of marriage lessons to share so PLEASE, keep sharing them.

  5. I’m glad you guys had these convos early on and it seems like this system is already working for you. I never thought about how to handle requests from family b/c I never get any requests from my family for financial assistance. One thing is great for you guys is that you don’t have any kids prior so you don’t have to deal with the scenarios that we were discussing earlier today on twitter and on the blog. At any rate, it’ll be tough for me to reign in my shoe shopping habit, but hopefully I’m working this out now so when my MR arrives I won’t have to hear about this. LOL! Oh and I don’t think you mentioned, but insurance is another topic that is impt to discuss for couples.

  6. Great idea. We’re doing the same thing – we’ll be keeping our own accounts and opening a joint aka house account that we’ll each contribute to. The house account will be for “us stuff” but we’ll still have our own money so I can buy shoes, he can buy video games and we can spend money on each other (B-days, Christmas, etc.) without saying “hey, there’s $200 missing what’d you buy on Etsy?” LOL

  7. It sounds like you guys are covering all the right bases. I agree topics have to be revisited. Things will change and priorities will shift.

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