“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage.” At least, that’s how the song goes. Maybe lyrics of financial counseling or talks of money matters would put a damper to such a catchy and whimsical tune.
But Stella Dart, 34, a woman who graciously accepted an invitation to tell her story of love and money for Fabulous & Frugal, implores young adults to have the heavy, uncomfortable talks about money prior to nuptials, so marriage can have more dimension, perceptive and duration than that of the content of a school girl’s love song.
First Comes Love
KIS: So, tell me your story.
SD: We met at a SOBs [Sounds of Brazil] at Varick Street. I was moving to California to start graduate school and I thought it was my last time going out in New York City. Muhammed asked me to dance. I thought he was Brazilian. He seemed interested in what I had to say. He asked for my phone number and later told me that he was from Morocco which I later found out was a lie. He was really from Tunisia.
KIS: Why would he lie about his nationality?
SD: Muhammed thought I would not know about Tunisia, which he was right about. So, he said Morocco because it was better known. Looking back, it was a pattern–lying– smoothing things out with lies. He had also lied about what school he went to. I guess because I was going to a prestigious school in California.
Then Comes Marriage
KIS: But, obviously, you overlooked all of that and married him six months later.
SD: Yes, because I was utterly swept off of my feet.
KIS: What exactly, “swept you off of your feet?”
SD: Muhammed was very attentive. He understood my sense of humor–which not many people do. He was really smart and really sweet. He was emotionally open. He just…touched my heart.
KIS: How old were you when you married?
SD:I was 26. I wasn’t planning to get married, I was planning to go to California.
KIS: Did you guys talk about financial roles and responsibilities before getting married?
KIS: So, what were discussions around money and marriage like?
SD:The focus was on him getting himself educated and together.
Then Comes Fighting, Foreclosures and Your Finances Completely Disparaged
KIS: What did you begin to notice about his money management (or lack thereof) once you were married?
I began to notice that there were cultural differences with regard to money. For example, I noticed that a lot our money was tied to his family obligations back in Tunisia. Also, I realized that I was very cautious with money, not materialistic. But he was concerned about name brands. It was annoying for him to care about that. He was always trying to keep up with the “Joneses.”
I also think that because he spent my money freely, he did not have respect for how hard I worked to earn it. Now, I have more respect for my father now because he drove an hour and a half each way to a hell hole [referring to his job] because he had four kids. We went to camp. We went to college. Even if he did not like it, he still got up.
With this marriage, I felt that I had no freedom or stability. And you are supposed to give up some freedom in exchange for stability with marriage. I got nothing.
KIS: Where do you think you would be financially had you not married this guy?
SD: I would have probably stayed in California, perhaps in a different career from teaching. One that paid more. I would like to think that I would have had a down payment on a house by now.
KIS: With hindsight being “20/20”, what advice would you like to give for those thinking about marriage?
Look at a man’s track record. Does he finish what he starts?
- If he didn’t finish his education, ask why.
- Look at his job history. Is he jumping from job to job. You want someone to prove that he has accomplished his goals–that he follows through.
- Don’t have a joint checking and savings account for a while.
- Don’t think about “potential.” Look at what he has going for him right then, not the future. I used to think that Muhammed was really smart and could do so much. But now, I don’t think about “could”, I look at who he is at face value…
KIS: Wow! Thank you for your insight. I appreciate your vulnerability, wisdom, and perspective.
SD: You’re welcome.