April 3, 2012

Married Life: Proposing a Merger

Once upon a time, I dreamed big for the future. Out of those dreams, I formulated a life plan wherein I’d be taking a professional health degree of some kind and a PhD, entering a white collar profession, and buying a home for myself and my parents (separate homes, mind) before the age of 30.  After 30 was a little hazy, but I figured plotting the next 23 years was good enough. Also, two degrees and affording two homes was a tough enough nut to crack – I wasn’t ready to plot any more years.

This was before I knew the words “net worth” because, you know, seven years old, but you had better believe that the balance sheets did not include debt. I’d already been writing out the checks for the bills for my parents and knew how I wanted to set up my own budget when the time came.

You may notice, as my mother had, that I had made no provisions in those plans, for marriage or kids.  As far as I was concerned, it might happen, it might not, I wasn’t planning on it or depending on it and figured it wasn’t terribly relevant to the trajectory of my career and money. That was a pretty unsophisticated understanding of how life and marriage works.

Clearly, I was bound and determined to have my own mind and at the time, that also meant keeping my own finances, separate and free. As the years passed, I saw too many bad choices made by one or another couple where there was a divide in the spender/saver continuum, even in my own family, or business decisions gone awry, especially in my own family, and I just couldn’t fathom living in that life.

“If you live in a community property state, not combining finances is just lying to yourself about legalities.” @practicalwed

So once upon a time, I might have disagreed with Meg. Despite my primary marriage example being the relatively healthy and supportive partnership my parents shared in which they had combined finances, I was still certain that I could keep separate finances in any prospective marriage and cope just fine.

Except I’d never coped with two separate systems for myself and my parents so I had no blueprint for a working system. I’d assumed it was only a lack of income on their part and need to control on my part that that didn’t work.

After several months of juggling our separate systems, the time has come to wish good bye to that once-loved independent money philosophy: PiC and I need to combine our finances. Between my OCD control tendencies and his laissez-faire attitude to saving versus spending, I now doubt that we’d get to our final destination in one piece. And we live in a community property state so, frankly, we are combined in the eyes of the law, whether we have combined or not. Entangled, like it or not. (Romantic, hm?)

It’s been as stressful being hands-off while we paid bills separately and waited for incomes to reach stasis as it was maintaining two separate sets of accounts for myself and my parents more than ten years ago.

We just don’t function very well managing our “own” money when we have such different views of it. Part of it is the actual management and lack of transparency. The system isn’t set up well at the moment between our paychecks and direct deposits.

And philosophically, he still viewed his money as his money and spent freely, resenting that an uneven amount of expenses were coming out of his pocket, while I viewed all the money as our money and saved to offset his spending, and resented his depletion of our budget.

It turns out that we need to literally be on the same page to think from the same page. Never thought that’d be the case but there it is.

Starting at the beginning, I evaluated all our expenses and income and set up the target amounts that we’d want in specific pots for our savings and spendings goals. Now, we just have to figure out which banks and which accounts to keep and which to cut out, then actually do it.

Married Life Posts:
Married Life: Benefits
Married Life: Mortgage Prepayment for Refinancing
Married Life: Blending spending styles and learning the art of compromise

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