Color of Money: Love and Money - Coping in a marriage with your financial opposite

Michelle Singletary on

WASHINGTON -- A dating couple recently asked my husband and me, "What's the secret to a good marriage?"

My husband said, "Don't let your wife see you drink from the orange-juice carton."

We all laughed -- and then came the serious answer.

For us, the secret is shared values, and this is particularly true when it comes to money.

This doesn't mean that if you're a spendthrift you can't marry a saver. Life will be challenging if you marry your money opposite, but if you have common goals and work to find a middle ground, you can have a successful marriage.

But what if you married without realizing you were on different pages financially?

We're coming up on Valentine's Day, so I wanted to address an issue that arose in a recent online discussion. A reader expressed concern about her money-opposite marriage.

The backstory: The wife is a U.S. citizen. She didn't indicate the nationality of her husband, but they both are living abroad and plan to move back to the United States. They met and married as middle-aged adults, and they have no children. It's a first marriage for both.

"The plan is to buy a house in an area we like and can afford. I have enough savings to cover at least half of the cost of the house. I am the current breadwinner, with a long-term, part-time contract gig."

The problem: "My concern is that my husband's highly specialized work, his passion really, has never paid well and has dwindled to very little over the past few years, and he just doesn't seem worried about it. Or rather, he can't see himself doing anything else."


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