Friday, April 20, 2007

ADA: This Is What It's Like In This Dimension

Alternate Dimension Andy (ADA):

In this dimension, I have an incredibly hot wife. That's right. I got married. Before I even graduated college.

I know. Can you fucking believe it? You so wish you lived in this dimension right now.

Anyway, before I married this lady, she and I went into non-Jesus-style pre-marital counseling. The idea was, "This really seems like it's going to work, but are we just fucking kidding ourselves?" In NJSPMC, she and I learned a pretty alarming fact: of the approximately 50% of marriages that end in divorce, most cite money problems as a serious contributing factor. Tad Sears, the totally awesome dude who led the NJSPMC suggested that we make a budget together.

While it is probably impossible to reliably measure why people get divorced, I do believe that if a couple can't even get their financial act together, they may have trouble taking care of slightly more complicated things like "cleaning the living room before in-laws arrive" or "raising a child." I'm not going to say, "THE SECRET TO A GOOD RELATIONSHIP IS HAVING A BUDGET" or anything as asinine as that. If you're in a shitty relationship, managing your money well isn't going to change the fact that you're in a shitty relationship. I will argue, however, that because we manage our money well, we fight about money far less than other couples. We have one less thing to fight about.

The number one thing my wife and I do to manage our money well? We make the money management automatic. My retirement contribution is automatically taken out of my paycheck and put into my 401(k). Then, our allowances are direct deposited into our respective checking accounts. The balance of my paycheck is direct deposited into our joint checking account. All of hot wife's check goes into our joint account. We use our joint checking account for rent, bills, groceries, insurance, etc. Note that this requires absolutely no recurring work on our part; our employers handle all of the deposits for us.

Reason I mention this, ADA: if you are employed, these are all things that it's likely you'll be able to do. Most employers do direct deposit. Most employers have a retirement plan. It's not hard to make it automatic.

By making it automatic, you're ensuring that you're not cheating yourself. That you're not saying, "I can afford skipping the retirement contribution this week, since I'm so far ahead." You're also making it less tempting to dip into your everyday expenses to fuel what should be allowance-style expenses; if the math has already been done for you, you can't very well argue, "I don't remember how much I've spent on myself this month, but I'm sure it's okay if I take out another $100 from my checking account.

I don't think I've got all my shit together. I don't think I'm the best organized person in the world, or the person best qualified to give you financial advice. I do believe in this plan, though, and if you implement it in your own life, you'll see changes immediately.

The platitude they use in the finance biz is "pay yourself first," and trite though those words may be, that's a great way to remember this lesson.

Pay yourself first, ADA. Seriously.

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