Lori and Marek Fuchs have never fought in their 16 years of marriage—except over money. In this column, Mr. and Mrs. Fuchs, a real-life married couple with three kids (ages 12, 7 and 5), articulate their very different approaches to personal finance.
This round, he says that with all three children now in public school, the money formerly known as nursery school tuition would look great in a vacation fund. She says, guess again.
Mr. Fuchs: Is it my imagination or has my wallet been a bit heavier lately?
Mrs. Fuchs: It’s actually not a daydream this time. We stopped paying nursery school bills in June.
Mr. Fuchs: That was nine straight years of those suckers, right?
Mrs. Fuchs: Right you are. And, in a few weeks time, with three kids in public school we are—
Mr. Fuchs: Free as a bird! In the mo-nay! Party-party! In the Caribbean!
Mrs. Fuchs: Put down that margarita, Party Boy! I have plans for that money. We are going to use it to pay down that one stubborn credit card. I’ve already got it all set up. I’ve taken the same amount we paid to the nursery school and assigned it right to Citibank. In one year’s time, we are totally debt free, baby. (Besides the house.) Then you should see what I have planned for that money.
Mr. Fuchs: You know I was piling on a little heavily but, seriously, life is tough enough. Can’t we enjoy it a little? Do we have to be so persnickety and systematic about everything?
Mrs. Fuchs: Yes we do! Think about it – we pay that debt off quickly and the money we save in interest payments alone should make you salivate! After all the debt is gone, then we can play – with maybe 20%. But we should put 80% of it away for college. That’s step two. I know you are one to fight for your right to party, but it is not like we’re used to having that money in our pockets anyway. Our friends Mark and Kim McKinney from New Jersey did the same when they bid adieu to nursery school. They didn’t treat it as “found money,” as Mark said.
Mr. Fuchs: True enough, I guess. Besides, that first month what we saved in tuition, we blew when we had to get the Honda’s brakes replaced. My wallet was light as ever. Easy come, easy go, as they say. I guess it’s not money that should be wasted, even on poolside drinks.
Mrs. Fuchs: Right. And with interest rates on the credit cards only going up at this point, it is as if we are getting a 14% return on our money if we pay the card off quickly. Beats giving Citibank that 14% to pay out in huge bonuses.
Mr. Fuchs: We’ll be saving money by not losing it. And not losing money is the new making it!
Mrs. Fuchs: Sad but true! Not that I ever need a strategy validated, but Bill Gustafson, the senior director of the Center for Financial Responsibility at Texas Tech University points out that the money was never discretionary anyway, so it’s not like we are missing out on anything. More importantly, he points to the future. Beyond just a couple of grand in credit card debt, then college….
Mr. Fuchs: Oh no, I was afraid this was coming.
Mrs. Fuchs: He said that as soon as our kids hit another life stage—that of “vocational adjustment”—in other words, when they graduate college and get a job, we should do a similar earmark, this one for retirement.
Mr. Fuchs: The same 80/20?
Mrs. Fuchs: 80/20.
Mr. Fuchs: How about 75/25? I want to get to the Caribbean before I’m totally long in the tooth. I want to look good on the beach when I’m there.
Mrs. Fuchs: Let me think about it for a moment. Um, 80/20.
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