Money & Finances

Love, Marriage and Money (April, 2003)

Once upon a time a cute little song was written to describe how love and marriage “go together like a horse and carriage”. Today most of us have a problem visualizing how these two subjects tied together. Simply put, if the horse is in front of the carriage pulling, then the two are likely to go in the same direction, reaching their destination at the same time. On the other hand, if the carriage is in front of the horse, the carriage isn’t going to go anywhere and the horse is only going to stand there, wondering why nothing is happening.

Marriage is much like the horse and carriage. There are two partner involved. If both have the same goal in mind – say starting a family – and they are working together to reach that goal, things happen. Together they travel down the same path to achieve the goal of having a family. On the other hand, if one partner doesn’t want a family and wants to wait, and the other partner wants to start a family immediately, most likely nothing will happen. They will both be standing there, like the horse and carriage, wondering how or if anything is going to happen.

The issue of money is the same way. It’s important that you talk about your feelings of money before getting married. Talk about how much money you each make, and how much do you save, spend, or owe? Discuss how you want to use the money once you are married. Is one of you a saver and the other a spender? Does one of you have a lot of credit card debt and the other none? Do you both owe on credit cards? How much do you know about each other – and are any of your fears related to money?

Money is one of the primary factors in couples divorcing. The horse and carriage are not pulling in the same direction. Your fiancée wants an IRA, 401K or a savings account while you want to purchase a house. You want to get pregnant and begin a family while your spouse wants to hold off until finances are better and things are more secure.

Then comes the income tax bill. You might feel that you are equally responsible for paying taxes while the other says “I make less than you so I shouldn’t have to pay an equal amount.” Or what happens when there is a tax refund – one of you wants to invest it and the other wants to replace the dilapidated refrigerator with a new one they’ve been eyeing?

The problem with money is not the money but how you each individually think about money. Where did you learn about finances? Who taught you to budget? What fears do you have? We all know the typical phrases: “money doesn’t grow on trees”, “a penny saved is a penny earned”, “here today, gone tomorrow”, “money is dirty”, etc. But now comes the big questions – how are you and your fiancée going to share the money and how do you plan to save for the future while getting the monthly bills get paid? Or what if you want to buy something and not let your spouse know about it (say a gift, or a can’t-live-without-it sweater)? Do you plan on having a joint household checking account with allowances doled based on need, earning ratios, or simply 50/50? How much will each of you contribute to the household account? Will it be based on earnings or a different formula mutually agreed upon? What about three accounts – one for the household, one for you, and one for your spouse?

If you do not talk about money before marriage, know that these questions will surface when you go to pay the rent and there’s no money in the account. Then the “blame” game begins with arguments and eventually no talking at all – except maybe to the attorney – whom, by the way, will want to be paid.

Avoid the money pitfalls from the start. Talk about these issues. Be honest with yourself and your soon-to-be spouse. Discuss your spending habits, desires, fears, and goals to resolve the arguments before they even begin. Love, marriage and money can “go together like a horse and carriage” when you’re pulling together towards the same goal. “For richer, for poorer…” how will your financial future look?

By: Rise H. Plimley, E.A.

Accounting and Tax Consultant

928-777-8165 or

Rise Plimley has been an accountant for over 25 years. Her firm, Rise H. Plimley, Inc., specializes in advisory, accounting, and income tax planning for individuals and small to mid-size businesses.

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