Greg wrote a very popular (and controversial) piece about how keeping separate finances is a marital disaster waiting to happen. It’s started a great discussion about how married couples should handle money, and I thought that it was time for me to weigh in. So, here are some of my thoughts on why “nothing is mine and everything is ours.”
When I started dating my husband, he had a few small financial problems. Thankfully, nothing major was going on, but there were things that still had to be addressed. For instance, despite having a college degree, he had a low-paying job and was living in a high cost of living area. He had approximately $2,000 in credit card debt and no plan to pay it off. Additionally, he was attempting to make a living as an actor – which many of you know is a very hard thing to do.
Once we started getting serious, we quickly realized that he needed to make a career change to have the kind of lifestyle that we wanted. Together, we decided that he would go back to college for the second time to obtain a degree in an industry with a need for new recruits – mortuary science. This career change meant that he would move to a different city to attend school full-time. It also meant that his earning potential would decrease significantly as he pursued his degree. Luckily, he found a funeral home where he could live for free in exchange for working for them part-time. This arrangement benefited both parties. Greg had a place to live, and the funeral home got some relatively cheap labor.
Unfortunately, as the weeks and months started to tick by, we found that Greg was constantly coming up short. He was frequently “robbing Peter to pay Paul” and his credit card balances began growing at a rapid pace. To top it off, he still had close to a year left in his schooling and was already working part-time in addition to his studies. What could we do?
Combining Our Lives, Combining Our Finances
During this time period, we began falling deeply in love. It didn’t take much time to figure out that we would be together forever. Consequently, our finances began to somewhat interweave. I soon began making his credit card payments as he finished his degree. And why shouldn’t I have? I knew that any debts that he incurred would soon also be my debts. We became a team – financially and emotionally. We created a plan to pay off his credit card debt by transferring the balance to a new 0% interest card. As we joined forces, his credit card debt soon dwindled, and we began moving into the next phase of our relationship – our engagement.
Once we got engaged, our finances truly became one. We started saving for our wedding, and I was working hard to pay off my first car. I made very little, but I was living at home while he finished mortuary school. Therefore, I could save or pay off debt with almost my entire income. When his part-time gig with the funeral home ended, Greg took a job as a waiter at a pizzeria to hold up his part of the bargain.
We made progress quickly. Along with some help from our parents, we paid for our wedding with cash. Was it the exact wedding that I wanted? Maybe not, but I wasn’t willing to go into debt to have everything my way. And although we had made great financial decisions since we began dating, we were now saddled with the $17,000 in student loan debt that he acquired during mortuary school. However, I never thought of this as “his” debt.” It – along with everything else – was “ours.” Afterall, finishing mortuary school also meant that Greg would be getting a higher paying job as a mortician. How could I rationalize benefiting from his new high salary without sharing the burden of the schooling that got us there in the first place?
Marriage = Partnership
The way I see it, a marriage should be a partnership in every sense of the word. We share a house. We share our lives. We share our children. Why in the world would we not share the income that we both work to make? In our household, we are 100% a team. Simply put, there is no escape hatch. We share our successes, our failures, and life’s disappointments. We are each other’s shoulder to cry on and also each other’s biggest cheerleaders. I vividly remember when Greg was honored as valedictorian of his college class. I beamed with joy and felt the same pride as if I, myself, had earned this accomplishment. Why? Because his success is my success. Because I worked hard to pay our debts while he was in school. Because I supported him in all of his efforts and cheered him on all the way. Because we are a team and when he wins, I win.
For Richer or Poorer…
We have had an amazing 7 years as a married couple…but I know that it may not always be this way. One of us could get sick and need constant care. We could easily succumb to some unfortunate circumstance and have our lives altered forever. And if that happens, you will find me here…working to find a solution to our problems. Maybe I will care for him through extreme sickness, change his diapers, and feed him his meals. Maybe we will experience a financial catastrophe that will leave us penniless. Regardless, by his side is where you’ll find me…cheering him on and making our lives the best they can be. And if someone ever messes with my husband, you can bet that I will karate chop their face. That’s what marriage means to me.
On the other hand, if Greg would somehow win the lottery, you would find me living a luxurious life…traveling the world with a bottomless gin and tonic in my hand. That’s also what marriage means to me. Like I said before, if he wins, I win. We will succeed or fail together – and together only.
Obviously, I am an opponent of having separate finances as a married couple. Do we always agree on every financial decision? No…but overcoming those challenges only makes us closer. Do we always get what each of us want? No…but working together and reaching an outcome that we can both live with is what makes us whole. I am in this for the long haul….”in sickness and in health, for rich and for poor.” I do not believe in separate lives or separate finances. We share everything, and doing so morphs us into one powerful and stong superbeing! Together, I truly think that we can accomplish anything…..and I wouldn’t have it any other way.