Moneywise: Getting it together: Marriage is a financial commitment as well as a personal one
Part One in updated series on money and relationships: Sharing households; legalising relationships through marriage or civil unions; dissonance, divorce, and equitable asset distribution; and truncated or extended families moving forward.
The composite case illustrations are not intended to resemble, nor should they be interpreted to describe any individual or family, living or deceased.
Wedding bells are on the sea-sparkling horizons as we fully embrace the month of June, that traditional time of legalising committed relationships.
Her Story. She stepped gracefully out of the carriage, and taking her older brother’s hand proceeded slowly up the church steps. The showers late last night had cleared off, the sun rising early this morning in perfect harmony with the sea, radiating reflections of pink and coral across the surface of the turquoise bay, the water shimmering, yet so still, almost as if Mother Nature was holding her breath. She had always loved those quiet special mornings, listening to the peeper frogs’ message fade as the new day dawned. It was starting perfectly, just the way she had always envisioned it, on this, their very special day.
The breeze picked up, flipping her veil, just brisk enough to chase off some of the humidity, the waves across the harbour danced and sparkled, emulating the reflections of rainbows in her sapphire and diamond engagement ring. “It’s the same blue as your eyes,” he said when he proposed. “I just had to get for you, you are so special.”
He Is A Wonderful Person. She had been attracted to him immediately. Well, for all the obvious reasons, but also he seemed so mature, had a good sense of humour and she admired his determination to succeed and his genuine kindness to her family. It had not been an easy life for her parents, who had really struggled to keep home and work together. She emulated them, scrimping, and saving to achieve her own self-sufficiency; today, she felt so proud of her accomplishments. She had been determined to manage the entire wedding herself, on a very modest budget, and she had. Best yet, it was all paid for. Just goes to show what you can do when you put your mind to it, she thought.
It was going to be a scorcher, but she would feel cool in the exquisite off-shoulder gown. She had had doubts that she could do that style justice, but the price was so heavily discounted, she would earn the right to wear it well. Many months of walking, then running, and weightlifting later, she felt reborn as a woman in love, a woman in control of her finances, a woman meeting her ultimate destiny.
As the music of their very old-fashioned favourite song wafted through the massive cedar doors, she smiled took a deep breath, and walked confidently into her new life.
The Reality Of Regular Living. Three weeks later, they are ensconced in their renovated apartment. Relegated to the household money manager role, she starts the monthly bill payment process. She opens his last credit card bill; the balance due is in excess of $25,000. Incredibly, she thought she read it incorrectly. “What is this,” she cried? “You told me everything was paid for!” “It was for the ring, I had to get it,’” he said, “you looked so beautiful, you deserved it”. “Why didn’t you tell me”, she said? “I hate owing money, it’s the story of my parents life. I can’t even think the same way about this ring now, it really wasn’t a gift!” He said “Why are you getting so bent out of shape, everyone uses credit cards, what is your problem?”
His story. He considers himself an intelligent, articulate, responsible person. He has always worked for as long as he can remember. Sometimes, two or three jobs to get what he wants when he wants it, including an advanced education paid for and successfully graduated. Jobs have been easy to obtain because his reputation as a reliable employee precedes him. He has made a decent amount over the years, but savings are small. His philosophy is that there is time enough for asset accumulation later. Life right now is too short to slow down.
She is a wonderful person. He was happy to find a local soul mate, someone that shared his values and future perspective. She is well liked by his family, although, they have commented that she is a more than a bit obsessed with “counting the change and watching every dollar”. That will change, he reasons, that she will feel more comfortable with spending allocated amounts once they put the future plans into action.
An interesting scenario, it couldn’t really be true, could it? In fact, they are, all too true.
Money is an emotional issue, the first to cause distress in a relationship and the last to be discussed in a calm, forthright manner.
Regrettably, there is no mutual meeting of the couple’s money mindset as the first, but not the last, serious argument about money erupted a mere three weeks into the formal relationship. They stumble on for years together, unwilling, and unable to compromise their positions. Then, life happens.
These life situations are all too familiar to a matrimonial counsellors, and family financial planner practitioners. To be financially successful together, couples must define what the money expectations are for each person in the relationship, and communicate about handling money at every step of important (and often not so important) financial transactions.
For every marriage or union, however, glowing the future life together potential appears, there are those relationships that will not survive, even on a short-term basis, forget about long-term. This is not to say that couples, wherever they are, and whomever they wish to commit to should not seriously consider formalising a caring lengthy relationship of equals to carry them together through the triumphs and travails of their lives. No one should have to live alone, if they truly want to share successful living with another person. Love is the constant work-in-process that builds the successful long-term relationship.
Next in Part Two - Money rules for informal and formal relationships. Part Three Divorce displaces the sparkling horizon as the couple disagrees over asset allocation.
Martha Harris Myron CPA PFS CFP(USA) JP is a Bermudian journalist and cross-border financial planning specialist focused on offshore financial perspectives and the challenges for international citizens living, working and straddling the North Atlantic pond: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Europe, and the island of Bermuda, the premier international finance centre. email@example.com.The Royal Gazette. This article is intended for general educational purposes only and cannot be used for specific individual tax, investment, or retirement advice, nor can this article be relied upon for any personal financial planning purposes.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone, and not