Friday Financial Foul Ups: How Getting Married Wrecked My Finances

This week’s Friday Financial Foul Up will feature a post by Mrs. Micah from Finance For a Freelance Life.  Since I started blogging six months ago, she has been one of the most helpful people I have met.  I am glad to call her my friend in the blogosphere, but most importantly,a friend away from the interwebs as well.  If you aren’t already, you should follow her on twitter (@mrsmicah) and see what exciting things she is up to (in November she participated in Nanowrimo, donated marrow, and did outstanding on her GREs).  In honor of her 2.5 year anniversary she wanted to share with you her biggest financial foul up to date… getting married.  I hope you enjoy.

If you would like to add your own financial foul up to this series, please contact me here.

I just celebrated 2.5 years since my biggest Financial Foul-Up. It was so big that I even have pictures. See?  If you thought “but wait, that’s a wedding photo!” you were right.

My biggest financial foul-up was getting married. I’m not talking about the wedding either. That came in under $5,000 and was primarily paid-for by my parents. I made the dress with lace given by my aunt and plain white muslin. Micah wore a suit. We had a low-key lunch. And apparently it was fun for more than just us because several of my friends told me their weddings were inspired by ours. But we’re talking about financial foul ups. The foul up came not in the wedding but in the marriage. Because while I had several thousand in savings and no debt, my new husband had over $100k in car and student loans. Eep! That F-d over my financial life pretty thoroughly. We’re digging out faster than many people, but since neither of us is interested in a high-paying field it’ll still take a while. After talking with Brian about the whole thing, I started coming up with alternatives for a more financially-responsible marriage.

Alternative One: Marry a Financially Responsible Man

There’s a lot to be said for this one. If Micah had very poor money skills, I would probably have stopped dating him to get away from the train wreck. As it was there was a lot he (like many other people) didn’t know about personal finance. I knew about his debt long before we got engaged, but he lived in such a small way that I knew we could make it work as we paid the loans off. Unlike some, he didn’t have grand expectations of life just after school, nor a desire for lots of gadgets or cars or anything else. It helped that he had grown up without too much and had been used to making do with less his whole life.

Though I married my man, I think there’s nothing wrong with rejecting a man entirely because of his debt or the way he handles his finances. Financial problems can tear a marriage apart, and if he’s not willing to be a responsible partner with you then it’s much better not to marry him. If you’re thinking about marrying a man in debt, stop to ask how he got there (high-level education with partial-tuition scholarships and parents unable to pay the difference in Micah’s case) and whether this will continue to be a problem after you get married. If he’s willing to stay in debt in order to live at a level he can’t afford and if financing that level caused the debt in the first place, then you’re better off away from the oncoming financial wreck. On the other hand if he’s been splitting a $600 1-bedroom apt with a roommate (cheap in DC) and eating peanut butter sandwiches every day, then he’s probably a good bet.

Alternative Two: Wait Until the Debt is Repayed to Get Married

I think this is also a legitimate thing to require of a future partner. If they’re dealing with a substantial debt it may be wise to ask them to repay all or a lot of it before you tie the knot. In our case, the sum was big enough that it would have taken a number of years to get it paid off. If it could’ve been done in one year, we might have postponed the wedding.

Alternative Three: Not Combine Our Finances

Some couples don’t combine finances after they’re married. How this affects their debt depends on state laws and the time when that debt was incurred. Because Micah did not have a lot of credit card debt (and we paid that off first thing after the wedding) and had a good credit score, we combined finances and even have a joint credit card account. If I had established credit on my own before our wedding, we might have done things differently. In cases of older couples, particularly those who have been married before, it makes sense sometimes to keep things entirely separate if you can make it work.

Alternative Four: Get Married Anyway

Which is what we did. So there, Brian and My Next Buck readers, that’s the biggest, most life-changing, worst financial decision I’ve ever made. But after 2.5 years, I still think it was a good one. Some men are just worth $100k.


Do you like this series? Check Out The Previous Foul Ups:

Foul Up #13 – Evan (My Journey To Millions) – Speeding Up Payments on Loan Interest, Not Principal
Foul Up #12 – Elle (Couple Money) – Stretching Yourself to have a Comparable Car to Your Friends
Foul Up #11 – Revanche (A Gai Shan Life) – Sibling Bailouts Cost More than Just Money
Foul Up #10 – Brad (Enemy Of Debt) – There’s Nothing Interesting About Interest-Only Loans
Foul Up #9 – Jason (Redeeming Riches) – Buying a Car with a Balloon Payment at the End
Foul Up #8 – David (Money Under 30) – Being Too Eager to “Move Out” and “Move Up”
Foul Up #7 – Matt (Debt Free Adventure) – Upside Down and Paying The Price
Foul Up #6 – Brian (MyNextBuck) – Overdue Books Prevent Me From Renting an Apt
Foul Up #5 – Kelly Whalen (The Centsible Life) – Poorly Planned Vehicle Purchase Costs $24,000
Foul Up #4 – Stephanie (Poorer Than You) – Signed My Life Away at Age 17
Foul Up #3 – Deliver Away Debt – How I Wasted Over $10K and 11 Months
Foul Up #2 – Brian (MyNextBuck) – Quick Fixes to Weight Loss
Foul Up #1 – Brian (MyNextBuck) – How I Didn’t Earn $3000 in Free Money

19 Responses to Friday Financial Foul Ups: How Getting Married Wrecked My Finances
  1. Peter
    January 8, 2010 | 8:02 am

    I’m thankful that my wife came to our marriage with absolutely no debt. Her parents had paid for her degree, she had been living at home to save costs, and was driving a paid for car. A debt free bride! I on the other hand came to the marriage with $3000 in car loans and about $15,000 in student loans. Not horrible, but more than I cared to have. We quickly paid those debts off, and it’s a huge load off the relationship not to have those money pressures.

    Sometimes if you know the person is a good person, and are dedicated to getting rid of the debt and not living like they’re rich – it’s ok to take on their debts like you have. As you mention though, it can be a bad sign, and you need to be careful making that lifetime commitment when there are money problems, which can also be signs of other problems.

    I know you two have good heads on your shoulders, and you’ll be debt free too as soon as you can.

  2. Kristen@TheFrugalGirl
    January 8, 2010 | 8:40 am

    Aww, I love this post, especially the last line. Yay for happy marriages!

  3. Paul @ FiscalGeek
    January 8, 2010 | 9:29 am

    Great story Mrs. Micah. Sounds remarkably similar to mine with me being the Micah. Fortunately my wife chose #4 too.

  4. Jeff
    January 8, 2010 | 11:13 am

    Great story Mrs. Micah,

    It was as if I was reading it through my wife’s eyes. I was Micah, and still am. Of course you know I’m working to get ride of the debt, but I sure do feel bad about it. I sometimes think back to the options you detailed. If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t get married until I was debt free.

    Just like you and Paul’s wife, my wife choose number 4 too. I’m so happy she did because I couldn’t imagine one day without her.

    Thanks for sharing your story. Jeff

  5. SS4BC
    January 8, 2010 | 12:59 pm

    Wow, this was a great article. Loved it MrsMicah! =D

  6. Healthy Amelia
    January 8, 2010 | 1:47 pm

    Thanks for making me smile. Some men ARE worth $100K (and women, too). I’m lucky my husband chose #4. Unlike Micah, my debt was the really bad kind – credit cards! And I got into the debt in the worst possible way – being completely irresponsible and oblivious about my finances. My saving grace was that just about when I got together with him, I had my light bulb moment and started turning things around. Since getting married 4 years ago, I’ve paid off ALL my debt and started saving in earnest. It’s really great being on the same page financially with your partner. I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

  7. April B
    January 8, 2010 | 3:46 pm

    LOL! I also married my man despite severe financial issues. I also had some of my own. Combined – it’s a financial disaster! I definitely would have made better financial decisions in hindsight, but I would have married my man regardless – he’s definitely worth the $$$. It’s been almost ten years and I am still very happy. :)

  8. Mrs. Micah
    January 9, 2010 | 7:58 am

    I’ve enjoyed reading the comments and seeing that I’m definitely not alone in this. :)

    I’d be interested in hearing if anyone has ever broken off a relationship because the person was just too financially-irresponsible.

  9. Mrs. Money
    January 9, 2010 | 8:58 am

    My husband had what I call the “debt shoebox” full of collection notices and bills he was ignoring… Thankfully it was under $5,000 and I helped him pay it off and learn how to manage money better. I’m glad I didn’t leave him too. :)

  10. Jane
    January 10, 2010 | 1:54 pm

    Hope he’s worth MORE than only $100,000 lol. And also, hope you don’t think you’re better than he is, just because he has more debt than you. That’s a recipe for disaster.

    When is Brian going to start posting his own stuff?

  11. Mrs. Micah
    January 10, 2010 | 3:37 pm

    Well yes, he’s priceless. :) As for the rest, I’m better at some things, so I handle them, he’s better at others, so he handles them, and we both keep each other in the loop. Works well.

  12. Mr. Micah
    January 10, 2010 | 5:48 pm


    Thanks for trying to defend my honor, but Mrs. Micah is better than me when it comes to getting an education and making wise financial decisions!

    Sure, her parents are richer than mine, and I’ve already had to pay for grad school . . . but still. She got way better scholarships than I did at the undergraduate level. And her GPA at the undergraduate was higher than mine. And she was an honors student, and I wasn’t. And her GRE scores kicked mine in the proverbial bum (i.e., she’ll get much better scholarships and stipends and whatnot at the graduate level than I’ve received).

    In other words, she’s smarter than me when it comes to getting university degrees, and she’s made better financial decisions than I have. If that doesn’t make her better than me, at least with respect to both those hugely important life skills, I don’t know what would.

    But her being better than me makes her hot. And that means that I win, in the end, because — of the two of us — I married the more successful partner. I’m better than her when it comes to picking spouses. 😉

  13. Jesse
    January 11, 2010 | 1:10 pm

    I agree, this can be a problem. For us, we eloped, and got married younger than most people ever would which meant that we had very little income, and even less debt. We racked up some debt together but still not too much and we realized the error of our ways earlier enough before we were too deep that we aren’t having too much trouble climbing back out. Not to say that we haven’t made any mistakes, but I think we dealt with marriage pretty well :)

  14. Ken
    January 11, 2010 | 6:22 pm

    I would say you best know your future spouse’s attitude toward debt BEFORE marriage. It doesn’t take long to know what they’re like. Spending behavior tells the picture pretty clearly. Hats off to Mrs. Micah for choosing a spouse based on his money habits and perspective. We each have to decide what we can live with or without.

  15. Clayton
    January 13, 2010 | 7:00 pm

    my wife and I did pre marital counseling and seriously spent hundreds of hours talking about finances and money and all. It has still been challenging, but openly talking and not accusing each other when money is missing and just going and finding where it got spent has helped us a lot.

    November 30, 2015 | 7:56 pm

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