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Your Money and Your Man [Book Review]

I’d been looking for books that offer advanced financial advice on what adults in their 20’s-30’s should be doing to ensure a secure future. But, personal finance info targets older folks and focuses on the basics, credit repair, or retirement. I found a copy of Your Money and Your Man on a personal finance shelf at the library and decided to check it out. Your Money and Your Man by Michelle Singletary, offers women some financial advice for life in general but focuses on dating/courtship, marriage, and raising kids.

Watch the video, listen to the podcast episode or scroll down to continue reading.

Generally speaking, men and women should both pay for dates, either splitting the bill or taking turns paying. Men shouldn’t have to do all the romancing nor should they have to profess their love through the amount they’re willing to spend on pricey gifts. I don’t believe in unmarried couples living together unless they’re engaged with a set wedding date because it’s a bad idea to mix finances with someone to whom you aren’t married.

I’ll admit that I’m frugal and lacking in the romance department. As a result, I agreed with most of Singletary’s views on dating and weddings. For the most part, expensive engagement rings and weddings are a waste of money for the average couple. Engagement parties, weddings, and baby showers have become a tacky ploy to get people to buy the couple stuff.

I did side-eye the idea of two people with different spending patterns entertaining the idea of marriage. Love doesn’t conquer all and two people with different views on finances thinking that they’ll balance each other out is a gamble. Finances can be a major issue during a marriage and are one of the most common reasons for divorce. Couples should resolve differences in financial beliefs during the engagement and go their own ways if they can’t reach a resolution. Singletary didn’t advocate for people getting married under these circumstances. Yet, she seemed unwilling to state outright that such a couple doesn’t have any business being together.

I disagreed with Singletary on the points of prenuptial agreements, joint bank accounts, and one of her examples of compromise.

Singletary agrees with the opinion that prenuptial agreements are a sign that a couple doesn’t love or trust each other enough. This was one of the few points for which Singletary presented no facts to support her views. But based on that logic, why advocate for couples exchanging credit reports before marriage? Or having detailed conversations about their current views and planned expectations for finances? Why is it ok to have conversations about life events that might arise in a relationship but not what would occur should the relationship end?

I don’t understand encouraging women to achieve financial independence before marriage. But then advising against protecting the assets accumulated from that work and sacrifice. By all means, couples should fairly divide assets accumulated during the marriage. But, assets accumulated or based on efforts before marriage should remain with the person that accumulated them. I came to Your Money and Your Man with that belief and the info presented by Singletary did nothing to change my mind.

I view a fair prenuptial agreement as nothing more than an agreement on the division of assets in the event of divorce. If you view it from that perspective, it’s no different than drawing up a will or purchasing insurance. We all hope that we’re not going to die early, become disabled, or suffer a serious injury/illness. But, it’s responsible to make preparations in the event one of those things should occur. A prenuptial agreement shouldn’t be any more controversial than planning other life events we hope won’t happen. It isn’t much different from the open communication plan that Singletary promotes elsewhere in Your Money and Your Man.

The person you fall in love and are in a relationship with can be different from the person you divorce. It might be better to discuss the division of assets while cool-headed and in love rather than amidst the emotions of a divorce. Singletary states that only 1% of married or engaged couples have a prenuptial agreement. Yet about 50% of marriages end in divorce. Given the discrepancy in percentages, prenuptial agreements are not a “plan to fail”. If anything, prenuptial agreements would be a good idea for more couples.

I understand Singletary’s perspective on joint finances and that money should be “ours” rather than “yours” and “mine”. But, there’s nothing wrong with a couple having joint or separate accounts. Couples should choose what works best for them. The “Financial House Rules” are a great idea for avoiding financial disagreements. Having a couple put in place an actual plan for how they’ll communicate should help to ensure openness and honesty.

I agreed with Singletary’s statement that relationships need compromise but took issue with the example she provided. She shared the story of a woman who contacted her for advice. The woman and her fiance both owned their own homes and each had their own reasons for not wanting to move into the other’s home. The common sense solution would be for them to sell their homes and use the proceeds to buy a new home together that would fit both of their needs.

Yet it seemed that Singletary advised the woman to compromise and sell with no mention of the fiancé compromising. She focused on the woman being unwilling to compromise rather than them both being stubborn. Her rationale seemed to be that the woman should give in and sell her house because it’s easier than trying to find another man to love/marry her. It’s terrible advice on various levels and a poor example because it’s not a compromise.

Recommendation

Your Money and Your Man is a bit basic but I was still able to learn some new things. Women are the book’s intended audience but the advice is also applicable to men. Singletary’s personal beliefs influence some of the advice so Your Money and Your Man leans Christian conservative. This might be off-putting for some but I thought it was easy to ignore.

The advice offered in Your Money and Your Man won’t apply to everyone but it’s helpful to know what the different options are and how to select what’s right for you. The breakdowns in each chapter explain how to take action on the advice offered and are very useful. The Financial Communication Checklist is also a great resource for couples.

I found exactly what I was looking for in the “Major Money Milestones” chapter which provided guidelines on financial goals you should strive to achieve broken down by age. It wasn’t as detailed as I would have liked it to be but it was still valuable. I had almost no prior understanding of the different types of life insurance so the “Getting Down To The Basics” chapter was also very informative for me.

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