Chase Vedrode, a financial advisor at Northwestern Mutual in Chicago, married his partner, Jason, in October 2017. Here, he talks about how they combined their finances and stay on track with their money goals together.
It’s funny to think of it now, but I actually met my husband, Jason, because of his finances. I was seven months into my job as a financial advisor, and a friend passed me his contact information.
Jason came into the office and we combed through his details to do some basic financial planning. It was all business, very professional, although I did write in my case notes, “Jason seems like a really kind human being.” Later, he added me on LinkedIn. I asked him on a date in October 2014 — and we’ve been inseparable ever since.
When we got married three years later, that meant officially merging everything about our lives — including our finances. We’re still newlyweds, but we’ve already learned a lot about how to tackle money together.
Before we even talked numbers, or the logistics of merging finances, we had to be honest with ourselves about ourselves. I’m the spender and Jason is the saver. He grew up never having quite enough money, so he has anxiety around that. Before we were even married, he’d say, “I’m going to make this purchase, OK?” He’s cautious about everything he buys.
Frankly, I haven’t been that way in the past.
With that in mind, we made two key moves. First, we opened a joint savings account and both committed to putting a certain amount into it every two weeks. Second, I got a credit card and really lowered the limit. That’s my allowance for the month. There’s no cheating on the allowance when you don’t have the option to do it.
SCHEDULE FINANCIAL MEETINGS
We now have a meeting on the calendar every other Saturday morning to discuss our finances. Inevitably one gets canceled or moved because life happens, so we’re averaging about one a month. This took us a while to figure out. Before, we’d be on the couch at 10 p.m. and Jason would suddenly want to talk about combining checking accounts. I’d immediately get annoyed, explaining that I do this all day for a living and it was the last thing I wanted to talk about that late at night.
Physically having the discussion on the calendar ensures our finances are always top of mind, and we can both come prepared with our talking points. This is where the nitty-gritty happens, whether we’re talking about how to streamline our five joint and individual accounts down to three or going over the details of our budget. The frequency and consistency of meeting in person is so vital.
SET BOTH SHORT- AND LONG-TERM GOALS
Our wedding was wonderful, but it went way over budget, and we went into debt to pay for it.
Some might despair at starting a marriage in debt, but we found having a short-term goal to pay it off really helped us hit the ground running. We were able to step back and say, “We’re going to be laser-focused on paying this down.” That’s the lens through which we set up a monthly budget, and it really helps to have that as a touchstone. It also solidified the emotional component that yes, all of our finances are in the same pot now, and we’re working toward a common goal.
That said, Jason and I also feel that it’s important to look ahead to the next stage of our lives. Our longer-term goal is to buy a condo by summer 2019. That keeps us excited and even more motivated to pay down our debt — so we can move ahead to the next goal!
REGULARLY REASSESS WHAT’S MEANINGFUL TO YOU
Your finances and your goals are not static, so when something unexpected comes up, you need to be aligned. If I have a great month or Jason gets a bonus, it’s a surplus for both of us. Our key word is “meaningful”: How can we use this extra $1,000 in a way that’s meaningful? I might have something higher on the list than he does, but typically his No. 1 is my No. 2, and vice versa.
Talking about money can be stressful, but merging our finances and aligning our goals has only helped to solidify our bond. It’s been fun to watch our debt dwindle away, see our savings grow and imagine what we’ll do together in the future.
Photo courtesy of Nakai Photography.