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Personal Finance

Can financial opposites coexist in a relationship?

WASHINGTON — There’s an expression in the Christian community that’s used quite often to refer to marriage. Couples are encouraged to avoid being “unequally yoked.”

In other words, being with someone who does not share your faith and values.

But we know, just by nature, that opposites attract. So for my “Honey, I Need Some Money!” contest, I asked couples to share stories of how they deal with their differences when it comes to money.

“I do nearly all the money-management tasks,” wrote an Ohio reader, who, like many, asked to remain anonymous. “While it’s definitely frustrating at times to see how my husband spends money, as long as he is contributing his share of our expenses and putting some money toward savings, I have learned to live with it. I have accepted the reality that I am going to be the breadwinner for our retirement and choose to focus on other positive qualities he brings to our marriage.”

The same was true for this couple: “My husband and I have been married 38 years. We never had a talk about finances until I was a week from delivering our first child. My husband also loves to spend and burns through cash without anything to show for it, which left me to pay a lot more than my half. After 10 years of arguments over the same issue, I told him we would have to divorce if he could not release all control over financial issues to me. He . . . grew to like having no responsibility for money.”


It’s great that they’ve found a way to coexist financially. But what if something happens to the money manager? How will their spouses manage?

Here’s another reader: “My husband and I are definitely money opposites, and it all stems back from the way we were brought up,” wrote Marsha Lucas from Miami. “He was used to buying crappy merchandise in low-end big-box stores, and I was always taught that quality is much more important than quantity.”


As often happens when people can’t agree on how to spend, they attempt a work-around.

“Many years ago, I desperately wanted to buy an elegant dress in Saks Fifth Avenue,” Lucas wrote. “I decided to try and trick my husband by putting the cost on two different credit cards, split down the middle. I was caught and as a result we compromised by me reluctantly agreeing to pay all of my own personal expenditures out of my part-time work earnings. Now I am used to it.”

Many couples spend years frustrated about their financial incompatibility, as the following story shows.

“My husband and I are both retired,” one Maryland reader wrote. “I’m in my 60s. He is in his 70s. He is very cavalier and loose with money. I am frugal and practical. He insists that I utilize my [retirement savings] to purchase clothes, jewelry, furniture, airline tickets, home improvements, etc. That’s not why I saved for 43 years in the workforce! I am weary about this battle, but see no light at the end of the tunnel.”

I’ll be sending my book, “Your Money and Your Man: How You and Prince Charming Can Spend Well and Live Rich,” to these couples. Their stories illustrate why, if you’re going to marry your money opposite — if you’re unequally yoked — you have to come up with a plan to minimize the budget battles. And it’s never too late to bring financial harmony into your relationship.