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The Husband In Training

This week, Carol and I celebrate 24 years of wedded bliss. Okay, maybe not always “bliss.”

Carol likes to remind me, I am still a husband-in-training. Thankfully, we have separate bathrooms. That makes the “lid up” argument easier to deal with. However, my bride is convinced my bathroom is a haz-mat zone.

Additionally, it has been brought to my attention that I keep the TV too loud and make too much noise in the morning. Evidently, I make too much noise when I brush my teeth. I don’t put the recycling in the proper containers and I have the sense of humor of a 12-year-old.

Despite these criticisms, it is reassuring to know that my wife is perfect.

Although no one will argue that marriage is easy, you can make it easier on yourself.

Before you get married, recognize that a big diamond ring and an over-the-top wedding are a waste of money. According to, the average wedding in 2016 cost more than $35,000.

Take a step back. If someone handed you 35 grand, what would you do with it? My guess is you would not have a huge party for 400 semi-friends and acquaintances. A wedding is a single day…don’t make it the kind of thing requiring a lifetime of payments.

Instead, use funds to pay down debt or to buy a house.

Once the big day is behind you, keep social media in check. Neither the Kardashian’s nor your Facebook friends can live your life. Determine what you need to be happy in life. There is an increasing body of research showing the more time spent on social media the higher an individual’s depression and jealousy. Regardless of what is on Instagram, your neighbors and friends are dealing with the same dirty diapers you are.

Put down the cell phone and listen with purpose. In the last 24 years, I have learned I should just listen and my long list of solutions is not needed. Evidently, listening does not mean I should sarcastically finish each of my wife’s sentences with “Uh-huh, uh-huh…and then what happened?”

Life is too short for an unsatisfying career. Carol used to mock my incessant recommendations for the Johnson O’Connor Aptitude Testing. After completing her doctorate she confessed she wanted to go through the program. If you are going to do something for 40 hours a week for 40 or 50 years…it better be something you are good at and something you like. Otherwise, you will hate yourself and those in your life will find you intolerable.

Develop a “reverse budget” in which savings is the first bill you pay. Otherwise, savings is merely an after-thought with a random chance for success.

Set aside 6 months of living expenses to cover emergencies. You never know when your air conditioner will die and your spouse will be very cranky with no A/C in August.

Identify “needs” vs. “wants.” The things you think are needs might not be on your spouse’s list.

Don’t carry a credit card balance. The average American has $5,700 in credit card debt. However, households with the lowest net worth carry double the national average. Credit card companies do not lend money out of the kindness of their hearts.

Cars are depreciating assets. Buy them used and drive them until the wheels fall off.

A home is the place where you raise your family. It can take many forms. A house is a physical structure requiring constant maintenance, insurance, property taxes and up-keep. You do not own a trophy house—it owns you.

Saving for retirement is much easier if you start young and contribute consistently. Take advantage of your companies 401k match. It’s free money.

Assume an individual saves $5,500 per year between age 22 and 35 and earns 8% per year. The total investment is $71,500. If they never add beyond age 35, but continue earning 8%, they will have $1.2 million at age 65.

If they wait until age 35 to start saving, they must save more than $10,600 per year for 30 years just to get to the same point at age 65. This requires saving 4.4 times as much.

Marriage is difficult and I am sure I will always be a husband in training. However, the longer I’m married, the more I appreciate the freedom that comes with financial discipline….and occasionally listening to my wife. 

Dave Sather is a Certified Financial Plannerand owner of Sather Financial Group. His column, Money Matters, publishes every other week.