Toll-free: (877) 631-6311 | Local: (602) 626-3100 |
Office Closed
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Till Death Do Us Part

Till Death Do Us Part

I met my wife at gifted and talented camp in the summer of 1989, when I randomly put my head in her lap and asked for a kiss.

Boy, did I get lucky.

I got lucky because we are both CFs and didn’t even know it. We didn’t fill out a questionnaire on money habits before we kissed each other.

Some people have the misfortune to be a CF and fall in love with someone who is a high roller.

Marriages go sideways for a bunch of reasons. Sex problems, substance abuse problems, but the worst problems of all are money problems.

Money Problems

If one person in a marriage is a CF and the other is a high roller, you might say they have different philosophies on money. But that isn’t accurate. The CF is psychologically hard-wired to be a CF and the high roller is hard-wired to be a high roller. It is highly unlikely that either of these people is going to change, outside of a significant emotional event.

If you’ve ever been married and spent any time trying to change your spouse, you know how that works out.

Like what you're reading?

Get this free newsletter in your inbox every Thursday! Read our privacy policy here.

That’s why it’s important to have this conversation and to observe the other person’s behavior before you get married.

I was thinking the other day—when I graduated from business school in 2001, from the University of San Francisco, my wife, my mother and I went down to this magical place called Bix on Gold Street.

Gold Street was essentially in an alley right off Montgomery Street, downtown, and Bix had a speakeasy feel to it. I remember ordering my first ever martini. We walked out of there with a $72 tab, my biggest of all time. I was wearing one of my new Men’s Wearhouse suits and I felt like a high roller.

I was 27.

Now THAT is CF behavior. If my wife was someone who ran around dropping thousands of dollars in high-end department stores, the marriage just would not have worked. But she was even cheaper than I was. She only stopped clipping coupons a few years ago. She will still use them occasionally, if she comes across a good one.

Again, I cannot emphasize how fortunate we are.

I have seen marriages where one person spends and one person saves. Most of the arguments devolve into “you worry too much” or “you don’t worry enough.” Whenever the unhappy couple goes into a store, there is tension.

Dishonesty arises—one person will hide money from the other person in the marriage, creating secret accounts to keep it safe, and the other person will go to great lengths to attempt to conceal their spending. It becomes no longer about money, but about trust. Fights happen spontaneously, out of nowhere.

As we have said before, CFs can be unreasonably cheap and high rollers can be unreasonably profligate. And it is almost impossible to meet in the middle when it comes to this stuff. There is only black/white, right/wrong. My way is the right way and your way is the wrong way. The social workers and therapists who work in the marriage counseling business are completely unequipped to deal with money issues.

People get divorced over money. Hell, people die over money—especially people with gambling problems.

Like what you're reading?

Get this free newsletter in your inbox every Thursday! Read our privacy policy here.

This is serious business.

I don’t claim to have the answer for everyone, but I can tell you what worked for me.

Keep Your Money Separate

Before we moved in together, my wife and I agreed to keep our money separate—really separate. I have my money and she has her money.

If I want to spend it on something ridiculous, like a luxury backgammon board, there is not much she can say about it. It is my money.

If she wants to buy three dozen dresses, there is not much I can say about it. It is her money.

We split common expenses. In the old days, we split stuff 50/50. Then I started making a lot more money than her, so now we split stuff 80/20 or 90/10. We split the groceries 67/33, since I eat two-thirds of the food. If we go out to eat or do something fun, I pay.

As for the mortgage, she pays x and I pay 5x and we actually keep track of how much principal each of us has paid down, in a spreadsheet, as well as our percentage ownership of the house. For example, I currently own 81% of the house and she owns 19%. So if we sold, I would get 81% of the cash and she would get 19%.

If this all seems hard, maybe it is, but guess what:

We. Have. Never. Fought. About. Money.

I agree with a lot of what Dave Ramsey says, particularly about debt, but not when it comes to money in a marriage.

Like what you're reading?

Get this free newsletter in your inbox every Thursday! Read our privacy policy here.

“Your spouse isn’t your roommate,” he says, “and this isn’t a joint business venture. It’s a marriage! You don’t run your household and your life separately. Your job is to love each other well, and that includes having shared financial goals—which is hard to do when you have separate accounts.”

I beg to differ. My wife and I just celebrated 21 years of marriage, and we have had plenty of shared financial goals: five houses, brokerage accounts, hedge funds, moving across the country, different jobs, you name it. Never has it been necessary to pool our money.

Even if it is an accounting fiction—so what? It keeps us happy, which is what it’s all about. If we combined our money, then we probably wouldn’t have the luxury backgammon board—and one of us would carry a resentment.

To Have and to Hold

I think a lot of people feel like they’re not truly committed to a relationship unless they commingle their funds. Like, they’re holding something back.

And yes—it’s possible to have separate accounts and still fight if one person is a CF and the other is a high roller. But separate accounts makes it easier.

As usual, it comes down to communication, and being able to argue effectively without being contemptuous, which is an entire book in itself.

I wish you luck. This stuff is hard. The important thing is to have a system that works. It doesn’t have to be precisely like my system, but it has to be an agreed-upon set of rules that creates the minimum amount of conflict. And if pooling your money works for you, then great—I’m glad you have a system.

I can tell you what not to do—don’t do what doesn’t work. If it’s not working, I suggest you stop that immediately.

From This Day Forward

We’ve reached Week 10 of The 10th Man personal finance series, which seems like a nice round point at which to take stock.

So far, I’ve talked about: ways to make more money, poorness as a chosen mentality, the optionality of cash, the importance of scalability, why you should save until it hurts, the philosophy and unproductivity of debt, CFs and high rollers and why it’s hard to sell centrism in personal finance, and of course, mortgages.

Like what you're reading?

Get this free newsletter in your inbox every Thursday! Read our privacy policy here.

I said back in June that personal finance is actually more complicated than institutional finance, because there are so many decisions to be made. So we’ve covered a lot, but there is lots more to cover.

At this point, I want your input. What do you think we haven’t covered that needs some attention? What personal finance topic(s) do you want to see written up in The 10th Man?

Click below to share your thoughts:

We’re calling it a survey, but it’s just one question. And you can submit a one-word answer or take as long as you want.

This 10th Man personal finance series is going to continue for a while, so you should probably take this opportunity to weigh in.


We welcome your comments. Please comply with our Community Rules.

Sep. 22, 2018, 2:36 p.m.

I am a somewhat reformed CF (I realize that you never stop being one totally - but to agree with a previous article by Jared, at some point you need to start living life a bit more “richly” if you have the means - which I have).

This has also worked for us for 16 years of marriage: a la Dave Ramsey, when we got married (me 42, never been married, able to be el cheapo with no one to bring a different perspective on life) and she, 38, she was quite fearful of what life would be like.  She liked the fact that I had money saved because in my wife’s previous marriage, she had been married to a spend-thrift.  But she likes to spend money as well.  Anyhow, I suggested that we just do up a joint budget that we could both agree on and all she could think of was a ball and chains when she heard the word “budget”.  But I said that I would be fair and that after we figured out the budget, I did not care one whit what happened with the money within each category.

So we actually did the old-fashioned envelope thing and we take out x dollars every 2 weeks and she has envelopes that she handles and I have the ones that I take care of.  And we each have our envelopes for the “fun” stuff.  And if you ask her, she will say it has been the most freeing thing in her life.  She lets money build up in her clothing envelope, and then when she has time, she goes on a spending spree and spends it all - with no guilt or worry.

I won’t go into more details but offer these suggestions to make it work:

- there needs to be a “fudge” factor - nothing is ever perfect.  If one envelope is short, be willing to take it from another envelope.  e.g. if her clothing is a bit short and she needs something, I just tell her to take it from my clothing envelope (as mine often builds up because I hate shopping).  If the groceries are short, steal it from another envelope.  A corollary: want to make this NOT work - be a stickler with every category like a constipated accountant

- have envelopes for just about everything; we found we needed a “friends have just showed up from “away” and want to go out for supper”.  Happens a lot because we live in a beach community.  So we have an envelope for “unexpected friends” and money goes in it each pay.  Before we had this, I dreaded being at the end of our pay period and all of our “dining out” money was gone and friends would show up.

- all the major expenses (hydro etc) get paid out of the chequing account.  And there needs to be some surplus there as well for the ups and downs.

- review it every couple of years.  And if your spouse says they are running short on an on-going basis, don’t be a CF but instead just say “how much does it need to increase by” and then if at all possible, say yes.

Enough said.  Just wanted to say that other systems work - it’s just a matter of what works.

Also, I should say that as far as personality types go, my wife and I have common ground - she is a spender but I am a saver but we have common ground in that we are both “security” conscious - mine drives my need to save every day and hers drives the need to have money in the bank - a bit of saving grace that allows us to work together.

Sep. 22, 2018, 2:20 p.m.

First word is “Cheap”.  Next one is up to your imagination…
Sep. 13, 2018, 11:08 p.m.

What is a CF?

Albert Mellinger 57891547
Sep. 10, 2018, 12:52 p.m.

I am a CF and my wife is the anti-CF. She calls a budget the “b-word”. We have a business. Long ago, we agreed to saving 1/3 of our income. Who does that? Anyway, the business is successful but I still resent her large credit card bills, although we still save the 1/3. I am clearly insane! But I think separate might have been better.

PS, nobody tell her that saving X% *is* a budget.
Sep. 7, 2018, 9:14 a.m.

Just another note on personal experience.  My parents kept there finances separate (back in the 50’s) much as John Vigilante describes. Mom did not work outside the home. It worked well for them so shortly after we married I suggested a similar arrangement to my wife. She was incensed - so we went with joint finances.  We lucked out. I am CF, she is CerF but I wish we had not done the joint finances thing because it does lead to resentment when one would like to splurge on something but the other objects.
When my eldest daughter married, she was CF but her husband was not. So I suggested they keep finances separate and it has worked well for them. One outstanding benefit - he can splurge on her and be appreciated for it. If it was their money, the emotional impact would be quite different.

Joe Toronto
Sep. 6, 2018, 12:26 p.m.

I can deduce the meaning of CF from context, but what does it stand for?

Roger Boese
Sep. 6, 2018, 10:12 a.m.

Re: Till Death Do Us Part
I’ve been profligate in the past and learned to be a CF from my wife. She still clips coupons and saves like nobody’s business. We still keep separate accounts. I’m retired and provide 80 percent to the household and she saves most of her income. It works very well.

The 10th Man

Fundamental investing and technical analysis are vulnerable to human behaviour—but human behaviour itself is utterly predictable and governments' actions even more so.

Read Latest Edition Now

What you always wanted to know about investing, but that you didn’t know to ask

Get Jared Dillian's The 10th Man

Free in your inbox every Thursday

Privacy Policy

Get in Touch

PO Box 192495,
Dallas, Texas 75219

Toll-free: (877) 631-6311
Local: (602) 626-3100

Copyright © 2021 Mauldin Economics, LLC. All rights reserved.
The 10th Man

Wait! Don't leave without...

Jared Dillian's The 10th Man

Instinct and financial experience combined by a former Wall Street trader and served in one of the industry's most original, entertaining, contrarian voices. Get this free newsletter in your inbox every Thursday!