OutToLunch The importance of financial compatibility for couples

By Denis Jjuuko

Usually, the end of lent ushers in the merry season in Uganda and there is nothing merrier than weddings. Huge marques, tulips flown in from abroad, flowing gowns for the bride and fitting tuxedos for the groom. A cake as high as the pyramids. Entertainment like never before. A fashion show for the guests. No stone is left unturned.

If you haven’t yet received a message about somebody getting married, you are most likely too young to be invited or nobody thinks you can afford to contribute. You are most likely a student. If not, the message is coming.

It is hard to know why people decide to marry the people they do. In the past, families largely decided. A family with a man ready to marry would approach the family of a damsel ready to start a new life. Families avoided those they didn’t consider good enough. The couple itself getting married wasn’t very much involved. Many times, they didn’t know each other. Compatibility was never an issue. You got married and figured it out and tried your best to make it work.

Compatibility has come to mean whether two people can live with each other, which is euphemism for tolerating each other’s excesses. It is one of the things that a lot of people getting married focus on. Many people can learn to live with each other. Couples learn that a partner snores or squeezes toothpaste from the middle and talk about such issues or ignore them.

The hard part for most people to learn to live with is money, the lack of it or most importantly how to spend it. It is what some experts call financial compatibility. If one is too frugal and another is a spendthrift, that can strain the relationship. Imagine if your partner turns up with fancy designer clothes every time they get paid or books a holiday in the most exotic of places, it can be financially stressful. Also, frugality can strain a relationship.

For many couples, signs of financial incompatibility start during the preparations for the wedding. An expensive wedding the couple and their families can’t afford, impressing people who won’t be there past 12.00am of the wedding night.

There was a time a bank in Uganda promoted a loan product for the wedding. Imagine being at the wedding reception on Saturday but thinking about a debt collector’s phone call on Monday!

I read that financial incompatibility is one of the leading causes of divorce in countries like the United States. Marriage and having children is many times an investment or financial issue. So is divorce.

When you are a couple that is financially compatible and both earn some income, a lot of costs are shared together. Rent or mortgage, school fees, medical bills and many other costs could be shouldered together as a couple.

Where a couple is not financially compatible, there is always a strain on one person which ends up leading to divorce. This puts the parties involved to lose money. Divorce takes time to be finalized and people who are unhappy at home end up unproductive at work or tend to make wrong decisions due to stress and other factors.

Then there are costs of divorce. Lawyer fees, time off to attend to court sessions which sometimes end up as protracted battles especially where there is a lot of money involved. Assets that belong to a couple end up sold, which in many cases set the couple involved back financially.

Where people shared bills, such as rent or mortgage, divorce or separation may lead to each meeting these costs separately. If the couple had one car, now two people may each need a car. One person may also be expected to provide more in terms of child support and such other things.

This has reminded me of John (not real name) whose businesses seemed to do so well. Whatever he touched seemed to turn into gold. Then we heard they were divorcing. Everything ruffled from there. The couple owned a house in a fancy Kampala suburb, which was sold as part of the settlement. John could no longer offer it to commercial banks to secure loans for his businesses. It has been a downward spiral for the business until today.

So if marriage or even dating is on your bucket list this year, are you financially compatible with the person you are in love with?

The writer is a communication and visibility consultant. djjuuko@gmail.com

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