I got engaged to the woman of my dreams a few months ago. There are countless things I like about her, but one of them is that she is incredibly conscious about her spending. We are generally on the same page about our finances, but 1) we haven’t completely revealed our finances until now, and 2) she is a few years younger than me and is in a different financial point in her life (i.e. student loans).
The Financial Date Night
Now that we are both on board and ready to get married, we had a financial date night. We made dinner, poured some wine, and after the food was finished, we cracked open our spreadsheets and our bank accounts. I had read about this “financial date” concept before, and it worked wonders.
- We agreed on it days ahead of time
- We were both running on full bellies
- We already had my own budget spreadsheet template to work with, so we just had to plug in numbers
Mrs. Dozer enjoys being financially responsible, but not to the same degree of detail I do! She did not have a firm budget written down and balanced all her bills in her head. That said, she has zero credit card debt, a few high-interest student loans, and a nice job with a nice income. She’s doing great on her own, but we may be able to do better as a team.
We tracked down all Mrs. Dozer’s monthly financial obligations. Mrs. Dozer has eight simple outgoing payments to make each month, and these are well-covered by her income. Three are student loan payments, and the others include a phone bill, car insurance, and other reasonable items.
Now We Had a Budget
Mrs. Dozer’s car situation was the next item on the schedule. Her car was about 14 years old and had just died on her. She needed an upgrade. We live in a snowy, mountainous area, and she commutes about a half hour each way to work every day. There was room in Mrs. Dozer’s budget for a decent car.
This is where strategic thinking came into play. With the assumption that we are going to be one team going forward, I looked at our looming car purchase versus our existing budgets. There were a few factors:
- After my tax-sheltered investments, I generally invest another $1,500/month in taxable accounts
- Mrs. Dozer’s budget has room for the car we have in mind, but it would eat up more than we would like of her budget
- Mrs. Dozer will have all three high-interest student loans paid off within the next 2-3 years under her current payment plan
Here is what we decided:
- I will purchase the car under my name and make the payments. Mrs. Dozer will be the primary driver for insurance purposes.
- Mrs. Dozer will pay off her student loans with monthly payments she already had budgeted, plus an amount equal to the new car payment (about $500).
Essentially, we added a car payment to our overall budget, while also smashing her student loans. Mrs. Dozer was paying about $300/month just in student loan interest. We have already eliminated one student loan using this plan, and another will be eliminated within two months. Mrs. Dozer will have over $500/month surplus in her budget after her student loans are gone.
With no more student loans, I suggested she contribute the newly freed-up $500/month toward a Roth IRA until it is maxed out each year. I will still make the car payment under my own name. In this scenario, I contribute about $500/month less toward my own taxable investment account, but Mrs. Dozer contributes $500/month more to her tax-sheltered account. At the same time, she will probably be able to increase her 401(k) contributions to more than they are now, but we will re-evaluate when we get to that point.
In this scenario, Mrs. Dozer gets a reliable, appropriate car. We also knock out her student loans and eventually make use of her allowable Roth IRA contributions. Working as a team and shifting things around makes no change in our combined finances, but leaves us both in better spots in the short-term and long-term.
I highly recommend a financial date night!