Just to sum up last week politically, our president celebrated Earth Day by flying Air Force One and four other jets to Japan. While dining on $400-an-ounce Kobe beef and sushi, he gave speeches railing about income inequality. In what might be a robot-based economy, Obama toured a Honda plant where programmable, human-like robots obey every command. And in a tit-for-tat display of one-upsmanship, Obama called a press conference with his mainstream media reporters. The robotics designers were very impressed and admitted defeat.
That said, this week I want to talk about marriage. I have many very flawed theories on the matter that I'd like to hash out, in column form, on the eve of my older daughter's nuptials.
Once they take away the wedding cake (the average wedding costs $30,000), the real marriage begins. Commitment to a spouse is an investment in him or her, and the family, through your marriage. And they commit to you. Some want the big wedding but not so much the ensuing marriage.
My parents used to say that they were not rich enough to get divorced. Money, or the lack thereof, often can be the reason that marriages last. Or, as the great Tennessee philosopher Lumber says, "Boys, the reason our marriage works is that we both realized we both got the best deal we could get."
Today, half of marriages end in divorce. So getting married is betting half your net worth that you can put up with the same person for the rest of your life. A buddy of mine recalls his first marriage as a "four-year hostage situation."
Marriage is about aligning many things, especially finances. It's the issue that couples most fight about, and it feeds the 50 percent divorce rate. Women now check men's FICO credit scores before dating them. Some out there are so over their skis financially and in debt that they are looking for someone to take over the payments.
Prenup or not, it behooves couples to sit down and have an honest talk about their finances. Each side should know the truth about the other's finances. It is not romantic, so many avoid the subject. But it is vitally important.
People today get married later. The average age is 31 for men and 29 for women. That either is good, if they saved, or bad, if they borrowed. Eighteen percent of married couples keep separate checking accounts. Many are using three accounts: one for each person's expenses and one for joint expenses. The "yours, mine and ours" approach probably works in many cases.
Coordinating temperaments on spending is difficult, especially when money comes from one account and one spouse outearns the other.
Student loans for "educations" of increasingly questionable worth now total over $1 trillion – more than credit card debt. Expensive educations are less likely to be followed by a commensurately paying job. The loan shark that is our federal government does not allow student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy. The reason many college kids identify with Obama is that they are deeply in debt and are more than four years into a hopeless endeavor where they have learned little.
Some couples hide expenses from each other. Others manage their spouse's reactions. Restaurant-owner friends of mine in Memphis had an old-school relationship where she spent, and he wrote checks. When expenses from Ann Taylor kept coming up, he complained, "What's this?" She immediately said that Ann Taylor was her gynecologist. He never said another word about it.
Yet with all its problems, folks still long for a marriage. A golfing buddy tells the story of a five-times-married, 75-year-old man. He had been single a few years, always ran hard, and most thought he was done with marriage. When my buddy found out the guy was once again engaged, he confronted the older gentleman and asked, "Dude, why the hell are you getting married again at 75?" He said, "I guess I just miss cheating."
So, get it right. It is a lot less trouble and expensive to stay married. And divorcing someone for another usually just buys you a new set of problems. The Los Angeles Clippers owner is finding this out the hard way. The 81-year-old Donald Sterling got double-crossed by his mistress, who is way less than half his age. When anyone tells you Viagra only costs $10 a pill, it's not always true.