Recession Mama

{May 15, 2009}   All is Fair in Love and Finances

–By Carla


If you’re married, engaged to be married, ever thought about getting married, or if you’re divorced, remarried or alive at all, you already know this: love and money don’t always mix. Not all couples fight over money, but lots do. It’s no surprise, when you have two people coming together and merging not only their hearts, minds and bodies (hopefully…), but also their checking accounts, savings accounts, investments, views and expectations about money, good financial habits, bad financial habits, FICO scores…and so on. It’s hard enough to combine two totally separate lives under one roof…then throw money into the mix and you might as well throw gasoline NEAR the campfire.

The best advice I ever heard on the topic was to treat marriage like a business…something that romantic types are cringing at right now. There’s nothing romantic at all about that. It makes marriage sound terrible. Not the way I think about it, though. What happens when you start a business? You talk about money pretty much from the start. It’s not a secretive topic that never gets brought up or addressed. Can you imagine what THAT business meeting would be like?

But something funny happens when you mix your heart and finances. Not funny “ha-ha”, but funny odd. For me, growing up, money was used (at times) as a sign of love…not that I’m complaining. We’d go see Grandma a couple of times a week and she’d slip my brother and I a ten or a twenty dollar bill when we were really little and she’d say “shhh, don’t tell your mom and dad”. Ok, your secret is safe. The older we got, the bigger her gifts, like a new car at 16 for each of us. Maybe that was her way of showing us how much she loved us. (I don’t see anything wrong with that if you have the means and you are also grounded in other ways.) But you can imagine how difficult it was for me once I grew into adulthood and into adult relationships, realizing that not everyone did those things. I’m pleased to say I’m (mostly) over that little phase, but it was a bit of an adjustment.

How great would it be if — by law — every married couple had to hire a full-time Marriage CEO. That person would deal only with the financial aspect of the marriage, therefore taking all of the pressure off of the two lovebirds who could then focus solely on being nauseously fabulously in love and nothing else. You’d take your CEO places with you, like out to fancy dinners and when you got the check, you’d hand it over to your Marriage CEO and he’d give you a look like, “Um….you’re pushing it here”…and the waiter would say, “Who’s the random guy in the suit next to your wife, eating a PB&J?”… and you’d say, “that’s Oscar, our marriage CEO. Give him the check when we’re done.”

What a world that would be.

Hey, mama can dream, can’t she?


recessionmama says:

This message is from Heather. I love the idea of a marriage CEO. Where can I get one?

Lydia says:

The sad fact is that most divorces revolve around money issues. The money isn’t really the problem, it’s a major symptom of the problem – lack of communication about money and being on the same page with your partner. If you can’t find a marriage CEO, try THE TOTAL MONEY MAKEOVER by Dave Ramsey. Also, talking, listening and praying together helps a lot, too!

As a divorced gal I so understand this blog! Finances = #1 fight. We were so opposite (on that and sadly many other things). A marriage CEO is a great idea! Can I register for one next time around?? 🙂

Katy says:

Awesome post, Carla. I love the image of the marriage CEO eating a PB&J at the table with you.

I’ve always believed that two people can be in love and not get married. For me, marriage has to be like a business. You need to go in with a partner you trust completely, and that means money!! You also need someone who gets your goals and you get their goals, otherwise the partnership fails. And it’s always nice when you “produce” an actual product, even if it is virtual. That product can be anything from children to running a real business together to something grand like trying to save the world. OK I’m writing enough for a post…maybe I’ll expand this into a post tomorrow.

AP says:

Great post, Carla! How we relate to money often comes from the way we’ve grown up or conditioned with or without it or how the family talked or didn’t talk about it. I would have loved to have had a money teacher (while growing up) to show me the ins/outs of finances. When I saw “driving” as a means to my independence, I was very focused on learning the skill in my Drivers Ed high school class and actually appreciated/incorporated the lessons I had already learned from my dad & brother who passed on some their driving techniques. It was this kind of dedication that earned me a near-perfect score on my DMV test. Now if we only had this kind of education/testing on basic money matters, too!

recessionmama says:

SO true, AP, we really don’t teach “Money 101” in school. At least not when I was growing up. I think there was 1 chapter in 1 class about how to write a check, but not until college did I stumble upon money classes. I took a business class early on and I LOVED it. It was so refreshing to talk about money and learn about different strategies on making it grow. Just loved it. Great comments, y’all. THIS is what RecessionMama is all about; getting us all TALKING about money. Remember the song “Let’s talk about sex”? Right? Salt ‘N Pepa? Ok. It’s my next post. –Carla

Marty Finn says:

I think a marriage CEO is a fantastic idea and would make things so much easier! Especially when people get engaged there’s so much to think about between the dress and the reception and the flowers and the in-laws. Most newlyweds never think about financial part of their new life together.

I work with State Farm, and we often recommend that our customers also add insurance considerations into their “things to think about” list of to-do’s when getting ready to say “I do.”

As this article highlights, there are a lot of different insurance buckets to be evaluated and acted upon to make sure guys and gals get the right coverage together before they tie the knot (and in some cases, even save money by doing so). I think one of the best ways to get started with all this is to meet with an agent in-person to discuss both of the spouses current coverage, needs, etc and make a plan for what they’ll need in the future.

Another thing to think about, which may help new couples starting out in building a financial future together, is to build an “emergency fund.”

With the economy in its current state, it’s just good sense (as many finance experts will tell you) to have money set aside in the event the unexpected happens.

An easy way to get started with this is to use a financial calculator to chart out where your money goes each month and how that will impact your situation.

There are a lot of different calculators out there but one I’ve found helpful and comprehensive is available from Kiplinger:

As newlyweds think about how to establish their emergency fund, we at State Farm urge our customers to incorporate the cost of potential insurance deductibles – auto, home, health, and others – in the event of a claim – as you never know when an emergency will arise – and having some backup funds for those costs can make all the difference!

Does anyone else have any other helpful tools people can use when starting out as newlyweds trying to build a solid financial plan to get started on the right foot?

[…] it’s important for there to be a CEO, or CFO, in a household.  Carla mentions this idea in a previous post.  One person should be the one to be in charge of the ins and the outs of cash flow, balancing the […]

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