My husband and I met, and within three months, I was handling his finances.
Our money journey began when I asked him if he had an IRA. When he said “No,” I immediately got to work. We opened an IRA for him, so he could get started on his retirement savings. He contributed the maximum amount and invested the money in several mutual funds. He was just 25 years old.
Within another month, I was handling all our individual finances.
I understand that this sounds crazy and it could have gone wrong if:
- We broke up soon.
- I took his money.
- I didn’t know anything about money or investing.
Fortunately, none of these what-ifs were the case.
Aligning Our Financial Values
Our financial relationship wasn’t as radical as it appears on the surface. Our basic financial values were similar. And the ones that weren’t became more aligned over time.
Neither of us was overspenders. We didn’t have financial secrets, expensive habits or costly hobbies. But we did have some significant spending differences. I was cost-conscious, to a fault. That meant buying store brands, shopping only at outlets and off-brand retailers, eating out infrequently and saving obsessively.
My husband preferred to eat out more often, frequented brand name department stores and wasn’t much of a bargain shopper. In fact, one of our first fights occurred when he wanted to shop at the local department store and I threw a fit. We had a designer outlet store in the vicinity, where I bought my upscale clothes at bargain prices, and he didn’t want to go to my store.
I finally convinced him to give the outlet store a try. And, with a shopping bag full of Calvin Klein clothes, he began to come around.
Over the years, as he shopped high quality, low-price, I won him over. Today, he’s a bigger bargain hunter than I am and eschews paying full price for any article of clothing. We also don’t dine out too often and prefer eating at home.
Our financial values weren’t tremendously out of whack initially, and today we are very much in sync.
Investing in Earnest
In my early 30s, we were both working and I wanted to invest more of our savings in the stock market. Yet my spouse was worried about the market volatility and thought stock market investing was too risky.
So, I wrote a research paper with statistics that showed the outperformance of stock market investing over time. With data to back up my claim that the stock market was the way to build wealth, he agreed to support my plan to invest more of our savings in the financial markets. After all, it’s tough to disagree with the long-term annual stock market returns of 9 percent.
That was another turning point in our financial relationship.
It’s widely accepted that couples should have open conversations about their finances. There are volumes of research substantiating the negative effects of debt and financial stress on a relationship. And, being open helps ward off money secrets, splurges and undiscussed debt.
Discover: 6 Ways Happy Couples Talk About Money
However, we rarely talk about our own money. Sure, he knows our net worth. Of course, we both save for retirement in our workplace and IRA accounts. But, when it comes to drilling into expenses, income and investing, he doesn’t like to think or talk about it. That’s okay with me.
If a restaurant menu or vacation idea is too expensive, we both walk away. Neither of us is extravagant, so money is simply something that I invest and manage for my job and the family.
Of course, we discuss a big purchase — a television, a house or a vacation. Or we make guesses about the price of neighborhood home for sale. But, that’s the end of our specific money chats. The day-to-day bill paying, financial account management and investing are rarely discussed.
For most couples, I would not recommend our family money arrangement. In fact, if a family lacked someone skilled in DIY investing, I’d guide them to invest with a robo-advisor to build wealth for the future.
But our story shows that financial rules aren’t etched in stone. When it comes to money, you should figure out what works for you and your family. There isn’t just one way for couples to handle their finances. The conventional route may not be the best one for you.
Learn about six money mistakes that can lead to divorce.
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