Does money decide marriage?

Spendthrifts and tightwads make for a lasting marriage, especially in times of recession, according to a study.

Haimanti Mukherjee Haimanti Mukherjee
सितंबर 10, 2010

Spendthrifts and tightwads make for a lasting marriage, especially in times of recession, according to a study.

A new breed of Romeos and Juliets are defining lasting love these days. They come in the form of one partner being a high roller and the other being thrifty. In this cashstrapped era, money or how it is spent, has become the deciding factor for a marriage to either thrive or perish.

We live in times when wedding vows have changed from 'till death do us part' to " till distance or differences do us part". It's highly unlikely for people to get married with a fairy tale future in mind. Most studies prove that people shun dreamy, overtly romantic notions and opt for more grounded realities. Some may call it unromantic, but men and women have come to the conclusion that it's similar interests that works when it comes to a marriage that beats odds to last longer than others.

When it comes to money matters though, it's still the old theory of 'opposites attract' that makes for good pairing. Two profligates together in a marriage is a disaster waiting out to happen after the good times end in a couple of years. And two penny-pinchers will miss out on all the fun and bore the hell out of each other. A recent study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Michigan and Northwestern University, says spendthrifts and tightwads tend to have a record of more successes out of marrying each other.

The underlying theory being what people hate in themselves, they also hate in other people. And the more they hate that quality in themselves, the more they tend to avoid it when getting into a lifetime commitment with someone.

"I love spending on shoes and clothes. At times I spend a few thousands only to realise I have not even used those products yet," says airline executive Payal Chatterjee, who will be marrying her long time love Niaz Ahmed soon. " Now I do not think much about arguments on what to spend on, but after marriage these issues are generally blown up manifold," she says.

The financial aspect is perhaps most important when deciding on the kind of life that lies ahead.

Especially since it's not raining rupees anymore, no matter how impressive your CV may be.

Recession and aspiration make for strange bedfellows. We can't quite let go of the dream of a perfect life ahead with a house, a car, good school for children, branded clothes, eating out, entertaining friends, travelling abroad etc neither can we forget that the market crashed out at the most inappropriate time ever, forcing us to rethink expenses like never before.

"An expense such as a weekend trip or buying that LCD TV on an impulse is no longer the norm these days," says architect Madhup Mazumdar, who runs his own private firm. His priorities have changed a little since his carefree days as he has a newborn baby to think of. Earlier he and his wife Debangana, a media strategist, would often eat out, watch movies and entertain friends. Thankfully, he also believed in saving for the rainy day ahead, and never went for any big buys without putting a lot of thought into it - he has seen people around him suffer for doing the same.

Lifestyle expert Rachna Singh of Artemis Hospital says she has seen a massive rise in the number of couples broaching the financial aspect of a marriage than even a year before. " People are generally shy of broaching this topic. Some think it may be rude. In an arranged marriage, people think it's inappropriate for them to bring up the subject as such things are best left to parents.

But times have changed. We, as counsellors, often take up the role of villains and ask couples to talk about expenses openly. We cite examples of young couples who haven't and suffered later." Money matters are breaking more marriages than ever before, the world over. Infidelity and incompatibility, the major reasons for divorces earlier, have taken a back- seat. It's the financial aspect that puts the maximum pressure on a relationship these days. Says psychologist Anu Goel, " The maximum fallout has been in the infotech sector, as far as India is concerned.

I have come across so many couples who have suddenly seen their marriage move into a very rough patch. Neither the man nor the woman could pinpoint the reason for the downslide in their relationship, but they knew there was trouble brewing. Once they sat down, discussed and started looking back, they realised it all began with money. A sudden change in lifestyle owing to reprioritising on the spending amount was taking a toll on the relationship." Even if not diametrically opposite, a system of checks and balances would work well for most couples. Supreme Court lawyer Meenakshi Lekhi says she has seen quite a number of marriages disintegrate because of non- clarity of financial responsibilities.

"It's especially true in case of most double- income households.

Most working couples, though very committed to spend their lives together, are very individualistic when it comes to spending money. It's mostly like this EMI is mine, that yours, and the rest we spend the way we like. It works well till one of them loses his job or has to do with less money with pay cuts rampant in most industries. Their marriage suddenly starts showing signs of strain, and in some cases it eventually breaks up," says Lekhi.

Add to that the fact that women in general aren't good at managing their own finances. Lekhi says she has come across a lot of cases where even the earning woman's money matters are taken care of by the husband simply because she does not want to understand the complexity of savings, bonds, and the like. But when these couples break up, the women especially are at sea about their own money. "In most cases, the husband knows how the wife's income is spent, but the wife has no clue about the husband's spending pattern. Men are not forthcoming about how and where they spend their money." Debangana, was never a spendthrift - but she had never thought too much about where and how her monthly income was spent in the first six years of her marriage. " Now with a child and more responsibilities, I have naturally begun to make mental notes of where my money is going.

Childcare expenses are where we absolutely do not compromise on," she says. Though they haven't even cut down on expenses like travelling or meeting friends occasionally since she and her husband Madhup consider this an integral part of a healthy marriage, they have become more cautious about impulse buys like expensive electronic gadgets. "We have even stalled our plans of a big car and are just putting all our efforts into investing in a property first, since the time is ripe," she explains.

The boom time generation is used to seeing the good times - fresh MBAs, IT employees who joined at huge six- digit salaries, never had a reason to be frugal in their spending. More so if both people are from similar industries with high income levels. But the last year has changed a lot of things.

NRIs have come back after being chucked out of their jobs and people earning six- figure salaries have suddenly seen their earnings drop like never before. Says Lekhi, "Finances is one of the most important areas that decides the future of a relationship, but unfortunately it's also a tricky subject to broach while planning a wedding. Everything seems hunky- dory then. But it's the most important part that gets left out of discussions - and often when one settles into ones own pace, suddenly the future seems more intimidating than previously thought." Chatterjee says that though she does not pay much heed to her fiance Niaz's insistence that she buys things which are more worthwhile, such as gold, mutual funds, or bonds, she knows it's good advice. "I guess I will understand the importance of it after getting married," she says.

Ashish Mathur, also an architect running his own firm, while indulging his wife, Shivani with clothes, jewellery and other items, believes money is best spent on gadgets that serve a purpose either at home or in the office. Property investments too, he feels, would give good returns in the long run.

And though even he doesn't mind indulging in some of the latest gizmos once in a while, going over the top is never an option.

Mazumdar, however, drives his wife crazy with Excel sheets on expenses and investments to help keep a tab on his money. " Any loan amount you have taken from the market should never cross 40 per cent of your total take home salary. This is one thing that I never forget, and it has helped me a lot in the long run." Singh says marriage itself creates the co- relation between money and relationships. You live together, have bills to pay, EMIs to take care of, and of course, indulge in a bit of the good life. Keeping everything in mind, it's only wise to talk about the financial aspect before the wedding vows. "Patience, maturity, and respect for one another, are all virtues that can keep a marriage going when things aren't looking up. But once money problems creep in it's very difficult to be patient and understanding. People lose their cool and troubles take a nasty turn as it's a sensitive issue," says Chatterjee.

Singh says when money problems begin to mushroom, ego battles cannot be far behind, which is the death knell for relationships. " Why marriage - any relationship in society these days is decided by your social strata. Who you interact with, where you go out to entertain, what you buy are all decided by how much you can spend. This wasn't the case in our parents' time. You cannot even blame the couples because our socio- cultural milieu is such that we spend most of our times with colleagues. Competitiveness creeps in naturally and eventually puts pressure on marriage, especially when the going, all of a sudden, isn't so good." Deepika Singh, a public relations executive, who got married two years ago, had been living an independent life for a very long time. Driving throughout the city in her Maruti Esteem, juggling work and socialising used to take up most of her time before marriage.

But now she has changed her priorities. " My husband, Arvind, is into event management.

We both love the good life- branded clothes, entertaining friends, eating out everything included. But at least one of us had to think a little hard for longterm benefits," she says. In their case it was she. She sold off her car and invested in a property in her hometown, Lucknow. " These days we have our expenses divided. If he pays the rent, I pay the house loan's EMI. I have also invested in a few mutual bonds and have become more careful about what I am spending on." It's only when you begin to think early that you can have a smooth life ahead. A little more thought and an open mind towards discussing money matters before tying the knot will help couples solve a lot of problems that hit them once the euphoria of togetherness dies down. Before you say " I do" it's wise to say " I dough".


Why you must say ' i dough'
The top three reasons for marriage break downs all over the world are money, infidelity and poor communication. In the last few years money has taken precedence over all other reasons, and it's for this that counsellors are urging couples to talk about financial matters before taking the plunge. The first thing that every woman should be extremely careful about is joint accounts. Experts advice to maintain individual accounts rather than joint ones as it has been seen that joint accounts pose a lot of problem if a relationship breaks down.

It's also easier to keep a tab on expenses if accounts are individual. In some cases, joint accounts have been the reason of conflicts for couples. Do not ever let credit cards take over your lives. When the bills reach the house, the blame game on expenses begins. Prioritise about what to spend on and what to avoid. If couples start speaking about how they like spending their cash, a lot of problems won't feel like unforeseen. It helps people understand each other far better. Don't be shy of discussing money matters before it's too late.

 

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