My husband and I were blessed to start our marriage debt-free. By living at home, working part-time, and earning scholarships, we completed our first degrees without student loans. Our parents were also generous in helping with our wedding. Our first few years together were thus relatively easy financially, even in the summer when neither of us had a job.
Now, however, we are dealing with student loans from our last degrees, talking about buying a house, and figuring out the best way to purchase a reliable vehicle after our van overheated. The thought of debt makes me want to yell “noooooo!” because my parents never liked it (they managed to pay off their mortgage early) and every math course that I took proved debt was bad. (Interest calculations, anyone?) However, debt also seems to be inevitable in many ways.
Mary Hunt’s book Debt-Proof Your Marriage: How to Manage Your Money Together seemed like timely reading right now. Mary is a New York Times-bestselling author who amassed huge debt in her marriage—and then managed to pay it all off (and stay married). She writes with a sense of humour and the attitude that if she could do it, so can you. In the first chapter, she shares her story with no holds barred, demonstrating what she learned about money and marriage in the school of hard knocks.
Debt-Proof Your Marriage is divided into three sections:
- Get Your Relationship Ready for Financial Harmony
- How to Debt-Proof Your Marriage
- Unique Solutions for Common Dilemmas
For most couples, finances are a red-button issue. As I mentioned, my husband and I had relatively little to talk about there when we started our relationship. Now that we do need to discuss debts and finances more, I find it hard. He’s done accounting courses and tax courses and knows more about handling money than I do, but as Mary points out, money is an emotional issue. It’s difficult to reconcile the facts of handling money with how I feel about debt or finances.
“You kissed the single life good-bye, but it’s possible you’ve hung on to your old money ways and attitudes. To complicate matters, you married someone who is not like you and who may also be hanging on to a lifetime of money attitudes—managing methods, financial secrets, habits, goals and beliefs. When you think about it in these terms, it’s not difficult to understand why money causes problems for so many couples.”
The first section of Debt-Proof Your Marriage contains sound, practical advice for couples to achieve financial harmony. Mary puts most of it in the context of money matters, but she says, “”Emotional intimacy is the key to a healthy marriage and a precondition for financial harmony.” A good marriage is crucial to good finances. The first chapters cover topics like money and marriage in today’s world, the stages of marriage, money myths, his needs and her needs, and ways to talk about your relationship together.
In the second section, Mary gets into the nitty gritty of financial decisions. She talks about why you need to debt-proof your marriage and shares six principles for debt-proof living. She looks at the difference between intelligent borrowing and toxic debt (things my husband and I have been weighing lately). She provides charts and balance sheets as examples of what she’s discussing. Mary also discusses tithing or charitable giving, contingency funds, her rapid debt-repayment plan, spending records and more.
The third section delves into more specific issues, like living below your means, repairing credit, and being self-employed.
Throughout Debt-Proof Your Marriage, Mary offers practical, doable tips with grace and humour. She provides plenty of examples (from her own life and others) to show how money affects marriages and how to deal with it. This should be a must-read book for every couple, whether you’re getting married now or have been married for decades. Mary’s advice about both marriage and money is solid and helpful.
Mary Hunt is the founder and publisher of Debt-Proof Living, a money management resource. She is the author of nine books, including The Financially Confident Woman and Raising Financially Confident Kids. She has a syndicated daily newspaper column and has appeared on TV shows such as Good Morning America and Oprah. She and her husband live in Colorado.
Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.