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, 8 and 5), articulate their very different approaches to personal finance.
This week, the Fuchs talk about replacing their recently stolen car with an expensive one. No, a cheap one. No, an expensive one.
Mr. Fuchs: Since our car was recently stolen out of our driveway, we have to get a new one. I vote for a Hyundai.
Mrs. Fuchs: You want to replace my beloved Acura with a Hyundai? I don’t get it.
Mr. Fuchs: You never do, Big Spenda. The point is, this is an opportunity to pare our costs down. It seems I’m willing to take those opportunities, even at the expense of style and you, well...
Mrs. Fuchs: Just because I occasionally like to get a new pair of shoes hardly makes me a big spender. And I loved my Acura!
Mr. Fuchs: Who needs new shoes? I’ve been wearing the same ones since the Berlin Wall fell. Look, since in addition to being a financial columnist, Dr. Mrs. Fuchs, you do couples therapy, I ask — do you think couples with different spending styles are at a permanent and unfixable impasse? Or do you think the Yin and Yang of coming from different vantage points is important for balanced decision making? With some drama, our styles seem to balance each other, but we have friends in New Jersey who say categorically that Yin and Yang don’t work when it comes to innate approaches to spending. You are either a matched set, they say, or destined for a split. Ouch.
Mrs. Fuchs: It all depends on the communication between the couple. Sometimes a Yin/Yang balance can be helpful — if it isn’t flavored with control issues and resentment.
Mr. Fuchs: That sounded really smart. I’m just not sure what it meant. Can you explain?
Mrs. Fuchs: When a couple is able to discuss their overall financial goals and how they want to reach them, then spending styles can be worked out and compromised. What can be troublesome is when one person in the couple becomes the financial control freak — whoops that just slipped out — I mean the financial gatekeeper, making all the decisions and passing judgment. That leaves the other person the role of financial screw-up or martyr.
Mr. Fuchs: So, uh, different styles can work well as long as the couple truly meets in the middle? But if one person always holds sway, they are sunk?
Mrs. Fuchs: I don’t know if you always have to meet in the middle. You do have to be able to talk about it though. There are, with apologies to our friends, plenty of couples who work out healthy situations with one person making the majority of the decisions. But that should be a conscious agreement and it helps to have had a discussion about different spending styles, where they come from and, going forward, where the limits should be.
Mr. Fuchs: Uh, OK. So let’s talk. Between a Hyundai and an Acura, what are we going to get?
Mrs. Fuchs: That’s a simple one — an Acura.
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