You now have an idea about my upbringing, let me tell you about Ken, The man I married.
Ken’s parents were born into upper-middle-class families. His father became an architect, and his grandfather had been a builder, so perhaps the family was predisposed to investing in real estate. Indeed, Ken’s father saw it as one of the better investment vehicles. As you can imagine, Ken has always wanted to own and invest in it.
Ken’s dad eventually owned his own company and mom stayed at home and raised their four kids. Ken was the oldest and only boy. Over the years of our marriage, and my career in financial planning, I have queried Ken as to what he remembers about money in his childhood. Like me, he always felt like there was enough money, but he didn’t feel “wealthy.” He has only one memory of his mother complaining that there wasn’t enough money “to go to the grocery store and feed all these children.” Beyond that, he doesn’t really remember money being a source of conflict in his family, or even being a subject that was discussed openly.
In my early years with his family, I was in awe on my first Christmas with them because the gift giving was beyond anything I had ever experienced before. Having shopped with my mother-in-law, I noticed that I go directly to the back of the store to the clearance racks, while she gravitates to the newest things on display.
It goes without saying that we had very different relationships to money when we first got married, and clearly we’d had very different family situations growing up. Yet one thing we had in common was a fear of being without money. This led us both to be committed savers, but don’t be fooled in thinking we were perfectly aligned financially.
Let me tell you about our money struggles. First of all, you have the classic situation where one spouse bears the responsibility for paying bills and making most of the financial decisions. While it generally works for us, there have been many occasions when I’ve felt enormous resentment over this chore.
Another huge area of struggle—actually, fighting—has been our differing views over the use of our savings. Remember that I learned from my parents to save and invest in the stock market. Ken, on the other hand, wants real estate. He believes that we should be enjoying the fruits of our labor by owning a weekend home on a lake or in the mountains. We have been fighting about this for at least 10 years.
It’s not that I don’t see the value in owning more real estate; I just don’t want to part with the cash. I also hate the idea of increasing our monthly bills for utilities, property taxes, insurance and maintenance on another property. I feel that the financial burden would fall on my shoulders and I don’t want any more of this type of responsibility.
But Ken and I have been able to work through our differences and have been able to build a very solid financial picture for our family.