One of the top most cited reasons for divorce – money! The real issue is the difference of what it represents to each party. One person may view money more like me: as security and a tool to unlock future options. The other may view it strictly as a means to acquire more immediate possessions. While never perfectly aligned, the greater the difference in attitude, the rockier the road ahead.
The Story: Like most people, in my younger days I had an entirely different view of relationships and dating. After purchasing a 1996 Sea-Doo XP watercraft; in 1997, when prior-model-year stock was deeply discounted, I was able to unlock an entirely new venue for dates – the open water.
This was the same watercraft my father zealously opposed for reasons cited in Climbing the Ladder.
Lakes in the Pacific Northwest tend to be on the cooler side, so I purchased a wetsuit for myself and one for prospective dates. I found an amazing deal, over 66% off, on a women’s O’Neill 3mm XS (extra small) wetsuit. To highlight how uncalibrated my wife-picking radar was at the time, that women’s wetsuit became affectionately known as my ‘Cinderella Slipper.’
During the Cinderella Slipper era, one serious relationship developed that lasted several years. We not only came from different perspectives on money, but also different cultures. As she explained her ethos to me, showering a woman with gifts was a symbol of love; and the more expensive the item, the greater the adoration.
There seemed to persist a competition among her peers, of which she always ranked last on account of dating me. I can’t begin to stress enough how dangerous it is to attribute love to the value and frequency of gifts. Needless to say, it was a relationship that taught me a great deal, but was destined to fail.
I met my wife, Katie, post Cinderella Slipper era. As luck would have it, the wetsuit fit her – Bonus!
One question from our very first date that still stands out today: do you have any credit card debt? As the relationship developed, we learned our values were aligned in all of the pivotal categories important to a successful relationship – most importantly, our financial compatibility was strong.
The Breakdown: The obvious conclusion is that divorce is emotionally and financially devastating. On a more subtle level, how do you find a partner interested in shaping a prosperous financial future with you? If you are of the same mindset, you can prioritize without conflict beneficial things such as HSA contributions, 401Ks, 529 plans, debt management, etc.
All too often, however, people don’t prioritize the right attributes when selecting a spouse and end up with a partner with low financial compatibility. The result, at best, is two people stuck in the same boat rowing in different directions.
We spend an inordinate amount of time and energy picking a major in college, preparing for a profession, and selecting an employer. We are taught early on that these are valuable pursuits that will determine our economic well-being; all the while overlooking the most financially critical quest of all – finding financial compatibility in a spouse.
Instead of searching for the foot that fits your glass slipper, it would be worth looking for the partner with high financial compatibility…and it wouldn’t hurt if the wetsuit fit too.