The “most romantic day of the year” is just around the corner, and to celebrate I decided to write about something I haven’t really had the chance to share my experience on yet: what happened to my finances once I got married.
I’m sharing below the most surprising things I learned about myself (and money!) since Rich and I decided to join our finances.
Lesson #1 – Just because you’re “good with money” as a single doesn’t mean joining finances after marriage will be effortless.
Full transparency: in the first few months of our marriage, we fought about money a lot. This was surprising to me because I write about money for a living and my husband is incredibly money savvy. There were a lot of assumptions on my end when we first joined finances. Mostly I assumed because we were both financially literate the money migration would be a snap.
But I’m a renowned spender and former shopaholic and he’s a saver; fireworks were bound to occur. I was naïve to think that being in our 30s when we married – more established, more mature –it would be easier to manage our money together.
Actually, it made things more difficult.
With over a decade under my belt of managing my own money without the oversight of another person, sharing every money decision and having to “run it by” someone really, really chafed at first. And I know it frustrated my husband I didn’t view money in the same way he did.
My advice? Take the ego out of it and understand that transitions are transitions, no matter how well versed you are in the subject matter beforehand.
Lesson #2 – HAVE YOUR OWN MONEY (this goes for the gentlemen, too!)
I still have sole access to my single girl “f*ck off fund” where I keep a few thousand dollars. At first, when we were figuring out where/when/what to merge, I don’t think my husband understood why I felt so strongly about keeping it.
After all, isn’t that why we married because we knew we could do and be more together than we could apart?
Why keep a separate savings account if we’ve done all of this work to join every other aspect of our finances?
Initially, my f*ck off fund was meant for me to fall back on if I ever took a hit in my business, or wanted to leave my full-time job. Now, I have it because I worry if I don’t have “my own money” – especially because there’s now a baby on the way – I’ll become a woman solely financially dependent on a man.
Especially since my husband is the breadwinner by a very large margin.
Writing about finance for the last eight years, I’ve interviewed women and seen this erosion of control play out IRL as well. First, you both have jobs. Then maybe a kid comes along and for a few years the man is the sole earner while the woman is at home. Eventually, she makes nothing and has to ask for money when she wants to do something for herself: like to grab coffee or color her hair.
If you need visual evidence of how women struggle with earning power, look at how many women join multi-level marketing companies in order to have some say in the household economy.
I’m not betting on my marriage to fail, or mistrust my husband. I just want to have some money tucked away that’s my own. For me, it’s important I am able to still provide for myself the things I really, truly want. That’s been a big value for me from day one.
Don’t @ me, but no matter the reason or the situation, I think women need to have access to their own money.
Lesson #3 – Merging money makes it real
In many ways, being married feels no different than unmarried cohabitation.
There’s research that many millennial couples are keeping things totally separate in marriage, but decided to join finances because we believe joining them makes us a stronger team.
And yes, everyone has their own money journey, and every couple manages money differently. The important thing is to find what works for you.
But, in my opinion, joining finances is what really took our relationship to the next level.
I mean yeah, there was a wedding, and we took vows. But somehow managing money as a team really cemented (for me, at least) that we are in this together.
On the days we actively manage – and argue about – money, that’s when being married feels very real in the best way possible.
Lesson #4 – It’s okay to let someone help you
If you follow me and read this site, would it surprise you to learn that I’m actually on an allowance? That I’m not really the one in charge of our household finances?
Here’s how it happened: in February of 2019, just a few months after we married and bought our house, I left my full-time job and went back to blogging full-time (again.) This was an adjustment in income and I was having a hard time sticking to a budget at my new, lower, income.
I couldn’t make it RAIN like I did before when I had a full-time job and a lucrative side hustle. After the non-stop spending of the wedding and furnishing our home, I couldn’t stop.
I was struggling. And my husband knew it. But my ego didn’t want to ask for help. Instead, I kept overspending and we kept fighting and it was a mess.
So, now, I have an allowance in accordance with my income. I get a set amount of money each month into a separate account (so does he) and he never asks me what I do with it. I can do what I want. Same for him.
But once the money is gone, it’s gone. And even though I hardcore bitched about being a woman on an allowance, it’s been better for our finances, our marriage, and me.
Lesson #5 – Let team members play to their strengths
In one of my first jobs, I had a co-worker tell me her Aunt’s husband unexpectedly died. They were an older couple and so he managed all of the financials. She didn’t even know the password to their online bank account and couldn’t get access after he passed.
Fortunately, he was an honest man, and they had plenty of money. But you’ve likely heard the horror stories about financial infidelity, or women whose husbands “controlled the money” and eventually left them with nothing.
So, when my husband said he wanted to be the “financial captain” of our married money cruise ship, I was skeptical. But then I realized… it’s NICE sharing the load.
I’m not a passenger on the cruise ship – I’m the first mate –meaning we communicate and I’m actively involved in 99% of financial decisions we make.
Instead, we play to our strengths. Because he’s incredible at saving money, he’s in charge of the big picture stuff, like making sure we’re setting strong priorities and hitting those targets.
Since I’m more organized and detail-oriented, I handle the micro-financial decisions like paying the household bills and negotiating lower payments and allocating for home repairs.
Lesson #6 – After the transition, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
For a time, it felt like the fighting over money would never end. And once I was in it I could completely see why money is one of the biggest causes of divorce and why couples get themselves into situations where they’re being financially unfaithful. Managing money with a spouse is hard work at first!
But I can tell you if you keep at it, it gets better. Months later we’ve (finally) found a rhythm and groove that works for us.
I like being married. With the stability of his unconditional love and support, I feel as if I can fly higher than I ever imagined personally and professionally.
Fortunately, after some work, managing our money now feels that way, too.