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Subject:  Re: Poll: Poll:Couples investing together for FI Date:  8/10/2003  12:30 AM
Author:  SoftSimp Number:  269 of 5268

The easiest way to keep everything fair is to keep things separate, and then negotiate how to share common expenses.

This statement boggles my mind. I did this with my roommate, but not with my husband.

I'm not saying you're wrong and if this works for you, great. I also noticed that a few others here share your perspective.

To me, feeling the need to keep things "fair" between married partners implies a lack of trust on one or both their parts. It implies that one party may to try to unjustly benefit at the expense of the other, and things need to be spelled out as "his" "hers" and "ours" in order to prevent that from happening.

I can see that this might be the case if the two of you have very different goals and spending habits. For instance, if one of you wants to save for a cushy retirement and the other one wants to spend it all now because "you can't take it with you," then there would be a definite need for some ground rules and separate assets might be in order.

However, if two people are so far apart as that in their goals and attitudes, I don't see how the marriage can work over the long term. In the example I just gave, what would happen when the couple reaches retirement age? Would the partner who had scrimped and saved for their retirement tell their spouse "I'm off to Aruba, too bad you don't have any money and have to continue working, I'll miss you!"

I think maybe a better way to deal with financial issues would be to see if you can reach some common ground. If one is a spender and one is a saver, maybe they can agree to consult each other for any purchases over $50. Or maybe the saver can explain his/her point of view to the spender to help the spender see how NOT spending money actually benefits BOTH of them much more than the current clothing fad or a brand new car. It's possible that the spender just doesn't understand the "why" behind the attitude, and can learn. And maybe the saver can learn to splurge a little, on occasion, because it doesn't make sense to put off all your fun until you retire.

The argument that one partner makes more than the other, so the partner who earns more should get to spend more doesn't work for me AT ALL. They both knew who the other one was and what their earning potential was when they got married, and they accepted them for better or worse. If the high earner were to suddenly find themself unemployed, would that mean that he/she should not spend any money because he/she isn't earning any income?

It may be that I simply can't understand these types of relationships because they aren't the type of relationship I have. So I'll tell you about mine and what works for us.

Until I met my DH, I had never intended to marry. I changed my mind after we'd been dating for a while because he was different from anyone I'd ever known. And we are direct opposites in a lot of ways:

He has an easygoing, kind, outgoing nature and I'm an introvert and tend to be pretty self-centered. He's blue collar and I'm white collar. When I apply myself, I can earn at least 4 times what he can. He can't stand the way I do laundry and I hate that he doesn't notice when the garage needs to be cleaned out. I'm constantly learning new things and he's content to plunk himself in front of Sports Channel.

But on the really important things, the big things, the things that matter, we agree completely. Our children and their futures are extremely important to us. We both would rather put a dollar into savings than spend it on something that will be gone tomorrow. We love the woods and natural things. We like to camp on our vacations rather than lie on the beach doing nothing. We don't mind staying home on weekends. We're OK with not having trendy clothes or brand new cars.

When I married him, I knew he wasn't good at fixing things and didn't have a big earning potential. I worried that it might be a problem for me to accept that I earn more than him, that I might feel he isn't "pulling his weight." I gave that careful consideration before we got married, because once I made that commitment, I intended to see it through, "till death do us part." And I decided I could live with it. If I wanted more money, I'd just have to earn it myself. It really wasn't any different than when I was single - the same held true then, too.

Since we've been married, things have changed considerably. I've had two children, I've taken time off from work, we've made a conscious decision for me to stay home while he works. Granted, I do continue to work at home, and I earn a very nice hourly rate - but with kids underfoot, I don't work nearly as many hours as I would if I had a "real job." In the last 2-3 years he has actually earned more than me, first because I was pregnant with our second child, then because that child had medical needs that took me away from work for weeks at a time, and then because having a toddler around can be quite distracting!

But regardless of which one of us is out-earning the other at any given moment, it's always been "our" money. Just like it's "our" house, "our" kids, "our" retirement, and "our" decisions. IMO, if that's not the way it is, what's the point of being married?

I handle the finances. Every 6 months or so I show him where everything is, tell him where we're at, we talk about where we're going and how we're going to get there. And then he forgets it until the next time. He doesn't worry that I might be robbing him blind, he just trusts me to either make the decisions that will most likely benefit us as a family, or ask for his input if I'm unsure. He can do this because he knows that our core goals and outlooks are the same.

When I decided to invest in real estate, I said "We're going to buy a rental property," and we talked about it. He understood that I had a good idea of how to go about it and I was pretty confident that it would benefit us. He trusted my decision. I handled everything - I learned what I needed to know, I did the looking, the negotiating, the fixing and the renting. The only thing he did was sign on the dotted line to secure the financing (since I'm self-employed, his job is handy for things like that). It takes a lot of trust to make a commitment for many thousands of dollars to buy a property, sight unseen.

It may sound like I do everything, but I don't. He takes care of the day-to-day mundane necessities of life, like laundry, groceries, meals, etc. because I can't be counted on to remember. I'm always engrossed in some project or playing with the kids or out in the garden or over at the rental or busy learning something new. He's the dependable rock and I'm the flighty dreamer.

The only thing that is actually separate is our retirement money, but the only reason it's separate is because the government says it must be so. In fact, all our retirement money is in his name - 2 401ks and an IRA. Way back before he had the 401ks, I started the IRA for him, but I never got around to setting one up for myself. I'm not worried about it - I count that money as "our" retirement money, because I have every confidence that we'll either still be together when retirement time comes, or one of us will be dead (in which case, the other one gets all the assets). If both of us happen to die it all goes to the kids - all three of them equally, including my stepson. He's "ours," too.

OK, so now you understand why I think the way I do and why its difficult for me to understand keeping things separate. In our marriage, there really is no "mine" or "his," there's only "ours." So it doesn't matter who earned it or who benefits from it or who works harder or what is fair. As long as we continue to do things for "our" benefit, we both benefit.

Our 11th anniversary is coming up soon, and I'm just as sure that we made the right decision as I was then. I can't imagine either one of us changing so drastically that our core values shift enough to change that.

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