As most pre-marital counseling books and any good “Should we get married?” articles on the internets will tell you: before you get hitched, you need to talk turkey. Cold hard cash turkey. Aside from the smooshy love stuff, marriage is very much a business proposition. You’re agreeing to become one entity and you not only take on each other’s crazy families and friends, but financial baggage and liabilities* as well. With this in mind, I appreciate Mr. T’s willingness (after much consideration, of course) to accept me, debts and all.
Although mostly** responsible with credit cards in my younger days, like many new college grads, I found myself saddled with a monstrous pile of student loans that took all the fun out of the diploma. Add to that a new car payment a couple years later (sista can’t drive the 89 Corolla forever, you know) and then more loans for grad school, and I was quite sure that my highly-educated, multi-job-holding arse was a drain on society. At least, I consoled myself, I contributed to retirement and socked away savings here and there.
My finances were always a bit hazy for me as (apparently) I only played with Quicken instead of utilizing it to its full potential. This realization hit the other day when I officially dubbed T the CFO of our household and handed over my financials. (I’m the COO, in case you’re wondering. CEO is probably a day-to-day battle.) T likes to tell the story of a mid-semester moment when I asked, “Will you pay my bills please?” Of course, I meant “Will you facilitate the paying because my brain is so full that I’m afraid these extraneous deadlines will leak out and I’ll forget to pay my credit card?” He likes to cast a sugar-daddy spin, but I assure you, the cash forked over is mine all mine.
The original request did lead to the inevitable “What shall we do with our finances?” conversation that all pre-weds and newlyweds (should) have. Joint everything? Completely separate? What makes sense? We’re still figuring things out, but as CFO, T wanted to get a better handle on where I stood financially. Just how many students loans are out in the ether? What type of assets do I have (ha, ha, ha)? As it turns out, the picture is much rosier than I expected!
I assumed that my pile-o-loans meant that at almost-30, my net worth was still negatory so I headed into my financial updating (aka entering 6 months of receipts into Quicken, reconciling accounts, etc.) with a sad heart. Somehow the stars have aligned and I’m actually in the black overall! (Yay for paying off my car and socking away money in retirement.) Needless to say, T is pleased and actually said (with a mystified grin), “You’re not a debtor! I assumed you were a debtor and you’re not! You’re not really a drain on society anymore!” (You’re now astounded at the romance in this relationship, aren’t you?)
At this point, you may be wondering if this post has a point. Well, a few small ones:
1. My grandpa was right. Start saving for retirement early. As in your first job. As in the first opportunity you get, put pennies away. It doesn’t matter if it’s only $50 or $5 a month, it all adds up and before you know it, you’re no longer a drain on society.
2. If you’re contemplating matrimony, be up front on the finances. The majority of marital fights stem from money, and it pays to start the slate clean. For example, if I had tried to hide my student loans (as if that were possible), or if I fibbed about credit card debt (of which there is none, woot!), believe you me, T and I would be having words. And that is no way to start a marriage!
3. Regardless of your financial arrangement, know where the money’s going. As CFO, T is in charge of managing the accounts, but it is still my responsibility to know what’s going on. While I think it makes sense to have one person keeping tracking of cash for simplicity’s sake, all parties should know what’s up. Most practically, I need to know if my pennies are turning into airplane parts and T should know just how much my shoes cost (he’s happy I shop at the Rack, by the way). Realistically, we both need to be aware of our affairs in case something bad happens. If T gets abducted by aliens, I need to know how to keep the lights on.
Well that’s all the financial advice this comm major can make at the moment.
* This is totally my most romantic post ever!
** Compared to most, I did well with credit cards in college until those scammers came by with their free T-shirts and prizes. I am fully supportive of BANNING credit card companies from soliciting on college campuses.