Getting married will have a larger impact on your finances than any other life event.
2nd place is having kids …. but that’s not even close.
Getting married means merging your finances with your spouse, which can be the biggest financial triumph or failure of your lifetime. Your marriage will impact your career, what decisions and what risks you can take. You will give up control of how you spend money, you’ll be making joint decisions about what to buy and how much you’ll spend, or even more likely you’ll get a bill for someone else’s decisions. You’ll have other people to consider when investing money or starting businesses; you’ll no longer be able to act on your own instincts, you’ll be forced to consult with someone else, who probably isn’t as experienced or knowledgable.
Even in the modern era, where women have substantial careers and far more opportunity, men still carry the social pressure to provide. This starts in the dating process, women place far more importance on money and status of their partners than men do. The reason that most husbands make more money their their wives, isn’t because men have higher average earnings. It’s because women demand that their partners be of equal or higher status than them. Women by and large look for partners who will raise their own status. This may not be immediate and sometimes isn’t directly tied to money. Women are attracted to guys with high ambitions, even if their young and success has not yet been realized. When women tell their family and friends about a new beau, there is far more concern over the man’s status and career than their physical appearance. This is why certain jobs that are thought to be high status or high paying are so attractive to women, like doctors, lawyers and bankers.
Note for Men: Your career is only as impressive as you present it. If you can’t easily explain what you do or how successful you are, she’s not going to care. A doctor making $200,000 will be more attractive than an executive for a electrical distribution company making $400,000.
Virtually no women, especially successful ones, will date someone who is beneath them economically; definitely not beneath their status. Female doctors, lawyers and executives almost always date other doctors, lawyers and executives; they never date the barista or bartender.
Men on the other hand are far less picky when it comes to money and status. Most men don’t care or have low expectations for a potential partners career. I’ve been mentally prepared for the likelihood that I’ll marry someone who makes little to no financial contribution to the household.
To be clear, I’m not seeking this and I don’t prefer to date women with less money than me. The idea of ending up with someone who had their own successful career would be highly appealing, I just know it probably won’t happen.
What you want to avoid is someone who isn’t supportive of your pursuits. You need someone who makes helps build your confidence and wants to be supportive of your goals in a real way. Everyone says they want to be supportive of their partner, most people either don’t know how or don’t want to make the personal sacrifice to do so. Being supportive of your partner means doing things that will help them when they need it and encouraging their pursuits. Sometimes this means Encouraging a bad idea or something you don’t agree with. My father was the primary breadwinner ever since my parents got married. My mother has switched careers and gone back to school multiple times. She’s started a business several years ago that has lost money every year. My dad is still supportive of her efforts and encourages her to keep pursuing her career. Secretly he’d love it if she retired. It would free up an enormous amount of time and relieve stress for both of them. They could take back control of their house which has been dominated by the business she is running out of the living room. They’d also save several thousands of dollars in losses which she produces.
She doesn’t really take her career that seriously and definitely is not motivated to make money. Half the time she doesn’t bill her clients what she is entitled to and she doesn’t track her expenses to write off on her taxes. Despite all this, my dad has been supportive of these efforts even when it would be better for everyone to quit.
What isn’t supportive is situations where one person is doing everything they can to provide and the other doesn’t appreciate or understand their efforts. I’ve been in relationships where I can be having a difficult and high stress time at work and my partner completely disregards it. I’ve had times where I’ve spent 100 hours in a week working on an important project or traveling to an important meeting and her response was to get annoyed I missed dinner with her parents or wasn’t around to make dinner or do the chores. A relationship isn’t sustainable if your too busy to spend time together, and your partner should be a priority, especially if you are married. The problem was that she made me feel guilty for working or prioritizing our finances. It was the type of relationship where she expected me to provide for her, but then want to hold me back.
This also applies to how you manage your money, not just your career. If you know anything about me from reading any of my posts, you know that saving and investing money is core to my values. Being financially secure and independent is an important aspect of my life and key to maintaining happiness. Dating someone who doesn’t share this value will ruin your life. Spending your life working and investing to build a life while your partner spend frivolously will ruin any marriage. If you fundamentally disagree on how to manage and spend your money, your marriage will fail. You’ll have a constant tug of war every single day ….. and both of you will lose. you’ll feel used, she’ll feel controlled, you’ll both be miserable.
Marriage is also an opportunity. You can marry someone who has similar values and goals that you can support each other in achieving. You can have someone to lean on when times are rough and someone to share your success with when times are good.
Your partner doesn’t need to make the same amount of money as you, but it helps. Having a second income you can rely on provides diversity and supplements your lifestyle. You will both be able to lean on each other when one wants to take a risk in their careers. Your spouse can be your fall back plan when you have a problem. They can also encourage and support you, making you more successful.
Getting married will change your life. Just make sure it makes you both better.
Check out my new book The Big Four: The Big Four Decisions That Will Ruin Your Finances and Family.