I enjoy reading personal finance bloggers’ posts when I have time. Being able to peak into and get a glimpse of what goes on in their lives is a privilege. It gives me insights into how I am approaching my own life, the ways in which I could improve it, why I am doing things in the same or different manner, etc. Learning from others is something I practise actively, which I have mentioned before on this blog.
This time round. It’s from Early Retirement SG’s post on Do you live as one entity? It’s about how he manages his relationship with his wife when it comes to ideals, values and relationship style. Fascinating stuff because I have taken an entirely different approach with my wife. It didn’t start out like that though and I guess you could attribute it to both of us evolving over time.
Next month (Oct 2017) will mark our first decade together. We have been living together for most of these 10 years in rental apartments in Melbourne, Sydney and eventually our own apartment in Singapore. The biggest benefit of cohabiting for a long time overseas and back in Singapore is how it shaped our relationship as a couple. And understanding our ideals, values and even personality can change over time as we transition between various phases of our lives is essential in keeping us together.
Phase 1 – Undergraduate unmarried couple
In fact, I can already identify 3 distinct time periods of our relationship so far and how different we were in each one. As an undergraduate couple, we were savers because we were students that weren’t earning much money despite doing some part-time work. And we didn’t want to take advantage of our parents’ financial support. We were so young and carefree then. Our biggest problems were learning how to live with each other for the first time, academic performance, internship and job application. So insignificant compared to what we are facing now.
Phase 2 – Entry-level graduate professional unmarried couple
It was only after we started work at entry-level graduate roles and had to start paying for all of our expenses that we began to develop our financial personalities. We weren’t frugal but we budgeted decently every month between expenses, savings and investments. We were responsible for bringing in our own salary income to manage our 50% share of all combined expenses and still have enough for savings and investments.
There was no such thing as paying a portion of the combined expenses according to how much you earn. It was a strict 50% – 50% split because it was a matter of principle. We didn’t think it was fair to make one support the other when we were both just starting out. Of course, this meant that we could do whatever we wanted with our own money after having budget leftovers at the end of each month.
During this time, it became apparent that my wife was more of a spender as her earning capability increased quickly. And I was more of a saver as my earnings weren’t as high. But we respected the budget allocation and our individual financial jurisdiction. We were held responsible for our own actions if we overspent and blew the budget. After all, the system was in place to ensure we have a future together but it took a while to make things work.
Phase 3 – Somewhat experienced professional married couple
The next big change happened when we returned to Singapore and got married. My wife became even more of a spender as her salary income went up because she continued from where she left off and her career took a step forward. Even I became more of a spender despite my career plateauing and I restarted in a related field. I didn’t like our lifestyle inflation at first but I grew to enjoy it. A higher purchasing power within the confines of a long-running personal financial system and infrastructure made sense. Besides, we have no plans to retire early and stop working. There’s just so many types of jobs and firms to try working at.
Phase 4 – Kids?
I haven’t even gone into how different we have become as individuals and as a couple in terms of our interests, attitudes, behaviours, beliefs, etc. The important thing is that we find our way and still want to stay with each other. I expect us to keep evolving with the next potential massive change coming up is if we decide to have kids. I don’t want us to force ourselves to become each other’s expectations of what we want in a partner. I want us to be ourselves and still be happy to be with each other. Isn’t that a better way to manage the inevitable changes in our lives more positively?