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Color of Money Live With Michelle Singletary
Love, Money and Marrying a Millionaire

Tuesday, February 29, 2000 at 2 p.m.

Michelle Singletary
Michelle Singletary

It's no secret that money plays an important factor in our relationships. Money is one of the top reasons why couples break up. It is also one of the top reasons why some couples get together as evidenced by the women and the alleged "millionaire" who chose to participate in the recent Fox special, "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?"

By one measure, this show was disgusting. By another "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?" was pathetically revealing-about our values as a nation when it comes to money. Clearly, even given recent events, the producers were capitalizing on Americans' obsession with getting rich by any means.

But I want to hear from you. What causes so many clashes between couples when it comes to money? I'll also be on hand to answer questions about your money and your honey.

Stop in Tuesday at 2 p.m. to share your stories and strategies and get answers to your financial questions.

Buffalo, NY: Hello Michelle,

I would like your opinion on a situation that I find myself in. Since I've been in law school I've been involved with a woman. The problem is that I really love doing public interest work and plan on continuing my career in this area. This does not make her happy and she continues to remind me of the money I could be making in private practice, my potential etc... what do you think?

Michelle Singletary: Good afternoon and welcome to another discussion about money. In this case it's money and your honey.

Now to answer Buffalo's question.

Mr. Buffalo I suggest you think long and hard about whether this is the woman you might want to marry. Trust me, doing the down times when you ain't so much in love and this woman is nagging you that you aren't making enough money for her you will begin to question the marriage. Clearly, your values are different from hers. It's not that she's wrong. Nothing wrong with making enough money to choke a horse. But the public needs lawyers dedicated to the cause too. And, we don't need them backed by women who think they are not manly cause they didn't go for the big bucks. Your situation is exactly what I try to get across to couples. It's so very important to hook up with a honey that shares your goals in life. If your pooky is on your back now about your "potential" you better believe she will be giving you grief after you get married and she wants that 4-bedroom, single family home with a BMW in the garage. Talk some more but if she doesn't see your point and what you want to do with your career head for a different pasture. Good luck!

Bethesda, MD: I just started a relationship with someone who is very fiscally responsible and I am so scared to talk about my finances. I don't know how to broach the subject of my incredible debt with him - especially since I don't talk about it with anyone. This debt was all accumulated when I was in my 20s and now that I am in my 30s I realize what a mistake I have made. It is probably the one skeleton in my closet that I am extremely embarrassed about as well as scared about the finances hurting the potential that this relationship may have. What is the best way for me to handle telling him?

Michelle Singletary: If you just started the relationship no need to bare your soul or your empty bank account. Have fun, pay down your debt and stop worrying. If this relationship gets "I can't live without you" serious then you can explain what happen. By them maybe you will have corrected your bad money habits and you can go on to live happily ever after.

Wallaby Heights, Md: Hello, my question concerns my Life position:
I have no money
and I have no honey
I'm naturally sweet
but can't afford to eat!

What should I do, Oh learned one?

Michelle Singletary:
Don't sob
Get a better job
Save your money
then you can get a honey

Dupont: My boyfriend just finished graduate school and has student loans. He is in his late 30's. He used to have a bad credit rating and is really worried about the debt but I think that planning ahead is important too. I want him to look into setting up an IRA or some retirement funds. He wants to pay off his debts first. I think he should do both. What do you think?

Michelle Singletary: Depending on the interest on the loans and the amount of the student loans, your boyfriend is right. He should pay off his loans. If the debt load isn't too bad he still might be able to start investing. But remember this is his problem and let him handle it. Sounds like you are supportive and you are on the right track but he's got to begin cleaning up his credit.

AnyCity, USA: Here is what I consider a difficult question: How does one member of a couple handle it when the other member just stops contributing financially to the family, but doesn't really admit that this is what is going on? Married, with children, two jobs, etc. and suddenly one of the paychecks is used up outside of the partnership -counseling fees, etc-. There isn't much point in trying to make one's spouse feel guilty, in my experience, and it certainly isn't worth denying one's children a reasonable facsimile of a two-parent home, but it is a long way from what I had in mind!!

Michelle Singletary: So sorry for your situation. Have you tried suggesting you both automatically deposit your paychecks in to a joint account? Then the two of you can sit down and sort out the various bills. The most important thing is to not let this drag on. Confront the problem head on. Set up a time to talk, grab all the paycheck stubs and bills and try to work it out. Can't be any worse than what's happening now.

Washington, DC: My partner makes less than half what I do, has no savings at age 31, and lives from paycheck to paycheck. I am two years older, have a home, and significant savings. We get along great and are moving in together very soon, but I do not feel comfortable combining all our assets...now or anytime in the foreseeable future until we are more settled. This is a constant cause of arguments because he feels we cannot grow together as a couple and truly trust each other if we don't share everything. I think there is a middle ground-- I like the pooling resources for bills, but still have separate finances on the side, until he shows some more responsibility with money. ANy suggestions? Thanks!

Michelle Singletary: Oh sure he wants to pool the money. Who wouldn't. You got all the assets and he's got all the attitude. Move in if you must (although I wouldn't until he got his act together) but keep your money in your own account. I bet he doesn't like the word "half" either as in he pay half the bills.
Trust your gut. It's telling you are headed for an upset stomach.

Silver Spring, MD: Michelle - I think one thing that's forgotten in the talk about couple's finances is that even if you pool your cash, each person needs some spending money. A stay at home Mom shouldn't have to fudge the grocery bill to get a new pair of jeans, and a 'turn it all over to the wife' working husband shouldn't have to beg for a new zip drive for his PC. I also think from a motivational point of view that spouses who earn more should get more personal spending money. The higher earning spouse should foot more of the communal bills, but they should also have more personal 'mad money'. Nobody wants to work hard to see all their earnings disappear or get spent by someone else.

Michelle Singletary: I don't agree with this 'the one that earns the most gets to spend the most.' I also don't think the one that earns the most must pay the most. I feel a marriage is a partnership so all earnings belong to the "marriage." Otherwise, you do get into this "I make more than you, so my needs are more important." It shouldn't matter who is bringing in the larger share of dough. But you are right that it's important to work out a little play money fund in which each spouse can spend like they want. In my case, my husband loves all things computer and electronic. So, we work that into the budget. I'm too cheap to have a hobby so my play money fund is pretty low.

Fairfax: Hi Michelle.

I like this forum - Carolyn Hax meets Louis Ruykeyser! :--)

Anyways, my SO talks about me putting her on a clothing budget - sometimes jokingly, sometimes seriously. As a guy, I am of course clueless about women's clothing. Any idea how I can -a- learn about what this stuff does cost, and should cost, for a professional woman, and -b- approach the budget issue w- my SO?


Michelle Singletary: Funny guy. Well a women's clothing budget in a year can cost the same as a BMW or a used Ford Escort without wheels. Depends on her taste. I'm a Target/Wal-Mart woman myself. So, my husband doesn't worry about me. Start by taking a look at what she spent last year. That should be a good guide. Once you do that try to determine if that's really how much she wants to spend in a year on clothes. Once my husband and I did a budget I decided I was spending too much even at Target. It's all very personal.

Mountain View, CA: My honey and I earn comparable salaries - his slightly higher than mine - but he has more expenses than me. When we go out, we pretty much take turn treating each other. However, once home, I'm the one cooking and cleaning most of the time...what's the best way to divi up the chores?

Michelle Singletary: Want to send your honey a message that you want him to clean and cook? Stop cleaning and cooking for the both of you. Simple as that. When you make a meal, make it for one. Do your own washing and let his pile up. Unless he's an ape, he'll get the message.

Lanham, MD: I won't be able to join the live discussion, so I'm submitting my question ahead of time. I hope you have time to provide some guidance.

What is the most equitable way to handle the finances when one partner makes $250K and the other makes $45K? Currently, we each put equal amounts into a joint account, from which we pay our shared living expenses; the rest is kept separate. As you can imagine, for the person making $250K there is a lot more left over for deposit into an individual account. Also, when buying a new home, do you think that the person making more money should pay more toward the down payment and monthly payments, or should the couple simply buy a home that can be afforded with an income of $90K so that the expenses can be split equally?

Love the chat! Thanks in advance!

Michelle Singletary: Interesting. You understand that all this musing is my own opinion and what works for me might not work for you....but. I just don't understand all this separating stuff. Why get married if you are going to spend your whole married life calculating each others exact share. In my house given your income it would be happy days. We would be making $295,000. No his. No hers. Just ours (and boy would I be jumping for joy). I really don't know what to say about the house other than buy what you can comfortably afford. Given your situation I might opt for a less expensive house then the bankers would say you can afford since you only make $45,000 and you have to contribute your share of the bills based on that.

Washington DC: I have to respond to your last person about pooling-combining assets when you make more.
I've been there, done that. I made more money, more responsible with money, did the joint everything accounts and credit cards...until we divorced. He took the credit cards and drained the bank account, and guess who was left with the bill when he didn't pay on them...?!
Now, older and wiser, my current hubbie is a blessing. He has his and I have mine, accounts, credit cards, everything, and it works out perfectly. Again, I make 3 times more than he, but he pays certain bills that his pay can cover, I pay more of what my bills can cover, then we have fun with whatever might be left.

Its great and he supports me on furthering my career and I support him on his. He is my guiding light and has advanced me more than I would ever have done on my own and I know, he is soon to make substantially more than myself and it will all go to retrospect and be just as satisfying. Its a fun challenging race to see who can go further in life and we have fun with it...even with kids!

Michelle Singletary: What can I say. We learn from our mistakes but sounds like you married a louse. Sounds like your second should have been your first. If we all think that our wives or husbands will run off with our money than perhaps we all shouldn't be trusting enough to get married. I won't say it can't happen to me but I took a long time to find and date my honey (8 years before we married) and so I don't see pooling my funds with him as a risk. Having said that ultimately, you have to do what makes you comfortable, even if that means separate accounts.

Washington DC: Michelle

On the guy concerning the clothing budget, I am female working in a political DC environment. I soon found that I, too, must require a clothing budget as did my husband before me when he got a zoot-suit job -I spent $300-$500 on him one Christmas alone-.

I found the easiest way was to set aside $50 every payday or every two weeks, whichever applies, to purchase one business suit on sale at Macy's, Hechts, or in Falls Church. Macy's and Hechts has sales each weekend, especially since its season change, and they're getting rid of stock.

My hubbie was very understanding as long as its only one outfit, although I found a great store liquidating in Falls Church that had $150 outfits for $19. He told me to go back and get more!

You guys just have to be compromising partners and learn to communicate without all the guilt-trips.

Michelle Singletary: Everybody's got advice. Seriously, sounds like a plan although for $200 a month I could clothe my whole family. Of course, I don't shop at Macy's. As I've said Target personnel all know me on a first name basis.

Over the Rainbow: My husband and I have been married for 3 years. We generally live pay-check to pay-check, not for lack of trying to save, it just always seems that something comes up the minute we get just a tiny bit of cash stashed away.

My question is: My mother gifted some stock to me -in my name only- and it is valued at around $50,000. Should I put this in my husbands name also? We share everything else, bank accounts, etc. This just seems like an awful lot of money not to have his name on it too. What do you think?

Michelle Singletary: Now, ask yourself if your hubby got $50,000 worth of stock what would you want him to do? I can hear some out there saying," No, girlfriend don't do it. He might run off with your money." But sounds like you trust him, that you are working toward the same goals. Share your money honey. Also, use this gift as a chance to begin saving and investing. Look into opening a discount brokerage account and start adding to that nice little nest egg.

Dupont Circle: Michelle, I think all of this his-her split the finances stuff comes from no one wanting to appear "the sucker." You know, the one making it all and giving it away. What do you think?

Michelle Singletary: Interesting observation and perhaps right on target. But love is a sucker's game anyway. You give your love away and hope and pray you will get back the same in return. Why should it be any different with your money. It just comes down to do you value money more than your heart?

Erhartville, MD: My Boo just can't stop spending. He has run up a $45,000 credit card debt and he's only 28! We live on modest means, he's a dancer and I work for Checker's. He wants to marry me but I don't think I want to be legally obligated to his credit card debt. If we do walk down the aisle, is his bad credit going to hurt my credit rating?

Michelle Singletary: Yes, yes and yes. It will hurt your rating because you know the bills will become your bills and next thing you know you both drowning in debt. Better let you Boo clean up his credit before he sweeps you down the aisle. If he loves you he will wait.

Dupont Circle: You think that each partner in a marriage should have equal spending money? What about a couple with no children and the husband makes like 80% less than the wife? And he makes less because instead of doing what's most profitable he does what he enjoys? And the wife does what she doesn't really enjoy because she has to? Granted the wife has student loan debt the husband doesn't have. But what about that Michelle?

Michelle Singletary: He louse. You saint. Is that what you want me to say. What's wrong with your honey doing a job he likes even if it doesn't pay what you think the guy should earn. Child, life is too short. Get a job you like. Talk to your spouse and come up with a budget and have fun.

Small Town, VA: I'm getting married in a few months and I'm concerned about how my fiance and I will handle finances. I have been working for several years and I'm used to managing my own finances, doing my own taxes, etc.
My fiance is pushing for joint accounts and I'm not sure that I agree. He has a great job and is very responsible, but I'm still reluctant to give up all control. Shouldn't each spouse have some money of their "own"?
Any advice?

Michelle Singletary: You don't have to give up control. Work it out so that you both do the bills or take turns or whatever rotation works. But there should be a meeting of the minds on this or you will have problems once you do get married.

Dupont Circle: You told Washington DC right about "sharing" with someone who can't put up half. My husband and I got married before I investigated his financial resources and although I love him to death and I have helped him see the light, I never would have married him at the time Had I But Known. As it is I find myself threatening him week to week for his contribution.

Michelle Singletary: That's why I say before you get married share credit reports. It can be an eye opening experience.

Columbia, Md: My boyfriend and I make about the same money, with the exception that he has little saving -put himself through Stanford, all the living expenses and what not-. I have significant savings, and my portfolio's worth is significant with my luck in the stock market. We are both aware of each other's financial situation. He is very financially responsible, whereas I am not. I never know how much I have in my checking..but since I am fluid in my accounts, I never really worry. He wants to help me organize my finances and has volunteered to keep up quicken for me. When in a relationship should someone let the other person handle your finances?

Michelle Singletary: When you are married. Let him help you set up Quicken and then learn to do it yourself. He ain't got not rights to your money yet which means he also has no accountability if something goes wrong.

Dupont: I hope I can get this in! My honey and I just got engaged on SUNDAY. We are thinking of a wedding in April, 2001. Combined, our pre-tax income is about $100,000. What do you think is the best way for us to save for a wedding -probably about $15,000 or so- and a house also? Thanks!!

Michelle Singletary: Now you have gone and asked me the wrong question. $100,000 is a lot of income but if you don't have any savings I suggest you take that $15,000 planned for a wedding and put it toward a house cuz you are going to need a lot more than that to buy a house in the Washington, D.C. area. Forget about an expensive wedding dress and feeding relatives, most of whom probably get on your nerves anyway. If you got the money to spare than my all means have the wedding of our dreams but if you are strapped why not take that money and put it toward your house.

Baltimore, Maryland: Have you ever considered holding seminars for young college women contemplating marriage? I am 45 and grew up poor. You can imagine how I think. I have agreed with almost everything you have said. I have a colleged-aged daughter and continue to be surprised about how her friends think. From the time she was 10 years old, I've told her not to even talk with a man who is not willing to work at least as hard as you are and do not share your values.

Michelle Singletary: Sorry, but this is the last question. My fingers hurt.

As you can see I have no shortage of opinions on this issue. I love to talk to young women but also young men about love and money. But above all I believe your values about money (not how much each makes or if you should keep your money separate) is the key to a happy marriage. You gotta want to do the same things with the money coming into the household. It's all about values.

Well, I have to go. This have been real fun. Your insights and questions wonderful. Come back in two weeks.

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