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.
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