You love, respect and adore your partner completely, which is why it's hard to understand how they're always so incredibly, frustratingly, hair-tearingly wrong about money. In a study conducted by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, a monstrous 68 percent of respondents held negative views of discussing finances with their partner. And five percent even believed that a mere talk about finances would trigger a breakup.
We partnered with Discover Card to find specialized, highly trained experts on love and money: happily married couples at all stages of life. In their own words, they explained how to avoid both breaking up and going broke -- and how they stayed invested in each other.
At ages 34 and 28 respectively, Dan and Jillian Boss Christofferson have been on this Earth for fewer years than some of our other experts have been married. They just celebrated their one year anniversary, and are expecting a baby boy in December. (Way to go, guys.) They partly ascribe their continuing gushy, gooey, newlywed happiness to their financial compatibility.
A huge theme in our success is that we are clear about everything. And part of that is understanding and setting expectations. It's not just about the purchase, but really getting down about expectations on the new purse you're buying. What do you want it for? How long do you expect to use it? That's the next step -- getting to those expectations, understanding what's behind the purchases.
If I buy a purse I instantly want to tell him! And most of the time he's like, "...uh, okay. Why are you telling me?" But I just want to be clear.
The other side is that both people are completely involved in every step of handling finances. It's the simplest way. If you're ever in financial trouble, it's easier to have both of you shoulder the burden. You run into problems when one person is alone in handling money. When they get stressed, they start hiding things, then trust breaks down.
Both of us know that we're on the same side of the money. It's not something between us -- that's a big difference.
Roger Kamholz and Karen D'Souza's journey could have ended early. After a month of dating, she tried to dump him because "he was trying too hard" and "being a weirdo," but relented when he told her, simply, "nope." They've been going strong since -- five years of marriage and eleven together in total. They live in Brooklyn: she works in advertising, he's a writer and editorial manager. They enjoy good wine and cheese and taking pictures where they look absurdly happy.
We both have separate checking accounts, so it's not so different than how we handled money before we were married. Since we both have incomes, there's not a lot of talk over small purchases. We do have a joint savings, though. Obviously at this point in our lives the goal is to save as much as we can. Roger tends to foot the bill for dinners out or things we do out together, and I try to save so both of us aren't just spending all the time.
It helps to know where your money is going. We love going out. Dinners, lunches, wine and cheese on a nice day outside. Some people use sites online or apps. We have a shared Google Drive spreadsheet, and that works for us.
I've been more careful with my spending since we became a couple -- avoiding the small purchases that add up over time. Once we had some savings, we invested some of it in the stock market. We aren't knowledgeable about stocks, someone once told us to just buy companies that we like and believe in and hold onto the shares, and that has worked well for us.
For May and Ben, a surgical technician and transit worker celebrating 24 years of marriage later this year, proper planning is key. (May says, with a smile, that they weren't always financially successful -- until they tried her plan.) They live in Brooklyn, and have an eight year old son.
Feed the whole. Feed the whole, feed the home. It means constantly paying down your bills until you're caught up. Every week when we get paid, we tally up the money, and put it into an account. No questions asked. We pay for the house, rent and certain amounts to bills. Whatever's left over from that week goes back to whoever paid it in. And that's your splurge! You can do whatever you want with that, like going out to a nice dinner or even deciding to put it back into the pot.
It took awhile to set. But after 24 years, you get to know your partner. You can last with them for 500 years. Feed the whole.
Scott Silverman, an advertising executive, and Gail Lafosse, a homemaker, celebrated their 33rd anniversary in August of 2014 in Hong Kong, where they currently live. They were, they revealed, so poor when they started out that relatives pitched in to buy them a refrigerator. Scott calls his ATM card the "connective tissue" of their relationship. (Gail responds: "he is such a liar.")
First, we both spend money. Our kids are getting (expletive deleted) nothing. Nothing!
Zero! What's important is that we're the same way about money. We have the same philosophy. We both spend money so we forgive each other when we don't have any.
To be serious, there is no his or her money. She has total transparency. That's the only way it works. Relationship wise, money is not a fulcrum, it's a vehicle for getting wherever you want to go. We could end up in a flophouse in Utica, and we'd be happy. It's not money itself that's important, it's the attention. Attention and commitment.
Whoever set up Darrell and Bonnie Lee Park on their blind date must be patting themselves on the back: 44 years later and they're STILL married. Though now retired "and tired again," Darrell owned his own business and Bonnie worked for 27 years as a middle school teacher. They live in Tucson, AZ.
My advice? Always say, "yes, dear."
(laughs) We talked it about, and we've never had any conflict over money. We've never been affluent, but we've never been poor either -- although there were tough times when we were unemployed with three children. We worked together to make decisions, consulted with each other on large purchases, and never gave a reason to distrust each other. Loss of trust is the worst thing.
One thing that helped was that our responsibilities were delineated. They were subject to discussion, but I would take care of the business decisions. She would take care of the home decisions, school decisions. She handled all the bills for awhile while I had the business.
Then we he retired, he took over the bills. Then I took them over again, because we felt I should know about how to do them -- well, that we should both know -- in case one of us decides it's time to depart.
Juanita and Albert have been married for an astounding 60 years. They locked eyes on each other from across a Richmond, Virginia bank. (He was a "truly handsome young man," she says, "so I had to keep in touch with him -- even though he was from the country.") The two exchanged letters throughout his service in the Korean War, and then settled down together -- she in real estate, he in banking.
We have a different way for handling our own money, to each their own. But if it's a big purchase -- like if I wanted a new sofa -- we discuss the pros and cons. After we've been married this long, we can almost read each other's minds. We started to think like each other. He knows [that] if I made up my mind about something, I'm going to have it.
I think the most important thing is that we don't go to bed with our partner without speaking. Don't go to bed huffy-puffy. That applies for everything, whether it's children or finances or what. Don't go to bed without being able to say, "goodnight, honey."
How's this for longevity? John and Ann Betar, 103 and 100 respectively, will celebrate their 83rd wedding anniversary in November. He wooed her by taking her for rides in his Ford Roadster and...it worked. The couple wed in 1932. Despite success in the stock market, John still describes himself as "just a peddler of fruits and veggies."
We struggled in the beginning, but, luckily, we were content with what we had. When we needed something, we bought it. My wife didn't handle the finances, but she took care of our 5 kids. She did great.
It's just important to be content with what you have.