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Money manipulations start up even before marriage

Q: I make a good bit more than my spouse-to-be and am in grad school to increase my earning potential. S/he (keeping gender out of it for your sake) makes far less in a job s/he enjoys. The problem is that my spouse-to-be is terrible with money and loves to spend, so I want to keep our money separate so s/he will have to learn to manage the money s/he does have, rather than looking at what I bring in and saying, "Ooh, let's (insert terrible financial idea here)." I would also like this to motivate him/her to want to make more money. We are talking about someone with seriously low earning potential here, which my parents always mention, by the way. Do you think my strategy makes sense?

A: I don't know, what do your parents say?

If you took that bit of smartassery seriously, please postpone the wedding.

The real question is: Whose money is it? And the answer is, you are about to marry this person. It's time to take "mine" and "yours" out of this conversation, and introduce "ours."

There's nothing wrong with separate accounts. But separate philosophies and separate rules are for people with separate lives. In determining whether your strategy makes sense, the person you need to ask is your fiance/e.

Pick your reason. If you choose principle, then that says free-spending spouses are still equals in their marriages and must be treated as such.

If you choose pragmatism, then that says a free-spender who is forced to accept an allowance will find ways to spend beyond it.

Interesting omission: Your letter doesn't even register your beloved's opinion of his or her own money-management skills. You do indicate, however, that this is someone you: neither trust nor respect; discuss unfavorably with your parents; and intend to manipulate into leaving a rewarding job, because you want more money. Read your own letter.

Even if my negative impression is wrong, you left plenty of room for one by having nothing complimentary to say about the person you plan to marry. It's all about the changes you plan to make, which brings back our two friends, principle and pragmatism. Principle says it's not your place to change someone. Pragmatism says, good luck.

You're about to get married, so start behaving like a married person. Both of you will learn about your differences sooner or later, but please opt for "sooner": Marriage is an as-is sale.

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Money manipulations start up even before marriage 02/29/08 [Last modified: Friday, February 29, 2008 5:00am]

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