Blountville, TN

Success in Marriage and Relationships goes with Success in Managing Finances

John M. Dabbs

Successful relationships are built not only on mutual attraction and love, they are built on trust and devotion to one another. The same is nearly identical for sound financial status for a couple. The love should not be about money, only the desire to provide for each other, and your families.

Learning from mistakes

In my first marriage, I made plenty of mistakes. Not only was I making relationship mistakes, and misjudging priorities, my reign on the finances was not as tight as I thought. We were mostly a one income family that had four people to feed, and two people spending the same money with different priorities. When I was at the end of my rope, feeling unappreciated and abandoned with only my two children, I was able to get my head on straight with the help of friends and family.

My children had to remain my first priority, and work remained second - as a means to provide for them and keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. Fortunately for me, keeping food in my belly has never been a problem. My family supported me and my sons and helped me through what some relate to feeling as though there was a death in the family. Fortunately, the death was of love and not a loved one. I wanted my ex-wife to be happy, and knew that I couldn't make her happy. She didn't make us happy either. Even before the divorce, our finances plummeted.

I was on a family vacation, visiting family out of town when the shoe dropped. First my soon-to-be ex-wife cancelled at the last minute and said she couldn't go on the vacation we'd planned. I made the first trek of our vacation successfully, and in the midst of returning from the second leg my truck broke down on the interstate - three and half hours from home..

We managed to flag down a highway work crew who helped us call for a wrecker, who towed all of us to a local garage. They had to order the parts, and we'd have to stay overnight somewhere. I called my wife at the time, and asked if she could come and pick up the boys, and that I'd sleep in the truck to save money. She said she couldn't come - she was camping at her "friend's" house and didn't know where he was. I called my uncle who'd we had been staying with, and he picked us up and ferried us back to his home and put us up for the night. The next morning he brought us back to the garage (an hour and a half away) when they called and said it was almost ready. Upon arrival I thanked them and pulled out my bank card to pay - to find there were no funds in the bank. Thankfully, I had emergency cash in my wallet and had enough to cover most of the bill and took their address and balance to mail them the rest when I arrived back home. There had been several hundred dollars in that bank account before we left town. A few weeks later, I started the process to end our marriage.

New life

Through work, I met another person and her son - who was nearly an adult. We soon became close friends and they invited us out to the lake with them one day. We swam, went canoeing, and had some much needed relaxation. It was the start of a long friendship.

She introduced me to her father a few weeks later, when we were spending more time together. It turns out he was a financial advisor and had worked for Prudential, before moving to a smaller boutique brokerage. We'd often make small talk and he'd inquire about my 401k at work, and asked if I had a Roth IRA, etc.. He explained his "milking stool" philosophy to me about retirement.

"Retirement requires a three-legged approach. Social Security is your first retirement leg to stand on. You'll topple over without some balance, so you need a second leg - your pension, or a 401k. Those two legs will keep you from flopping over as easy, but you need a third leg for stability. You need a Roth IRA or other investment building while you are working if you are going to be stable in retirement." - Paul B. Lewin, Financial Adviser

Her father made sense, and soon had me saving more money in my 401K that my employer matched to a point, and starting a Roth IRA to build my third leg. I soon found myself more easily managing my money and knowing where it was going. It helped not having someone else spending from the same accounts at the same time.

Soon I was able to build an emergency fund, and start saving some money for an actual vacation - instead of "visitations". My new friends grew closer and we continued seeing each other. We began going to work out together at the Fire & Water School in Blountville, Tennessee.

The mixed martial arts school is owned and operated by an former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier, who at one time operated Collins Expeditions. H. David Collins uses his school for teaching not only martial arts, but Sunday School and Church on Wednesdays and Sundays. His programs begin with an hour of physical training, followed by a prayer service and another hour of martial arts training. We usually opted to leave after the workout, though we occasionally stayed to learn some self defense moves.

Collins would have fundraisers to help finance repair costs and heating fuel expenses for the winter. At one such fundraiser, we attended a Luau at the school. There was food, music, movie playing the background, and dancing. I asked my friend Nikki to dance, while Blue Hawaii was playing in the background. When Elvis started "I Can't Help Falling In Love"... I looked into her eyes, and knew I was in love. I proposed a few months later.

Relationship foundation

As we build on new relationship during our long engagement, we agreed to keep our finances separate. She would continue to work and so would I. We'd keep our homes, and renovate them as we could afford. The boys would soon all be out of school. Her son graduated first, my oldest second, then the last... they all attended college or technical school as well. My youngest is in his final semester of his undergraduate degree a I write this.

We've continued to support our sons and pay our own ways as best we could. We buy each other things, and share expenses. I buy groceries, she pays all of the cell phone bills (we have unlimited voice, text, and data), and we each pay for our own utilities.

It seems rather odd, but it works. We keep our money separate. I know what I have and she knows what she has. We've each offered to give the other money when the other was low - but neither of us needed to do more than dig into our savings to get by a few days until payday. Sometimes she pays when we go out to eat, or dinner and a movie, sometimes I do... at other times we share the costs when our sons are with us.

I've helped her start a Roth IRA too, and spent more time with her dad. He gave me a few books to read to learn more about the both the national, and world economies. After some guidance and mentoring, he talked me into taking my FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) licensing exams to become a registered representative, so I could sell mutual funds. We worked together for a brief time until he moved to Florida. I've not been able to do enough business working by myself to maintain my status with the brokerage, and was forced to let my position go. I remained full-time at my primary job - and now I write in my down time.

I've grown to love my wife more and more each day. She is devoted to me, and her son, as am I to her and my sons. I'm also devoted to her son's success and help him all that I can. Together we find we enjoy each other's company, and working together on her son's food truck when he needs free help. I continue to manage the books and help direct their Roth IRAs - though I am not the beneficiary of either of them. I do not need them to get by.

Her son is her beneficiary, and my sons are my beneficiaries. I've left her a life estate so she can remain living at what ever house we are living in at the time, if I am the owner. Life is good.

We continue to support each other emotionally, spend quality time together, and keep our finances equal but separate. Having both come from a previous marriage, we both have baggage that works for us in keeping these things separate. Maybe such advice will work for you as well - just modify it to suit your own personal circumstances. Everyone, and every couple, is different.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Johnson City, TN
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