The Newlywed Disease

Without a doubt, my wedding day was the best day of my life (Sam, if you’re reading this, your birth was the most special day. Also, will you please sleep through the night…like daddy does?) I’m not sure what Megan’s opinion is, or when we left the reception or how we got somewhere, but I would venture to say she had a blast as well.

With the mass at 2pm and the reception not until 7, we had one of those weddings where you ask people to spend the entire day celebrating you, bring gifts, and continually offer up the “Don’t go to bed mad at each other” cure-all. It’s magical.

Even more magical is leaving everyone for Cancun.

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Naturally, depression comes after magical. The festivities were over. We were back to the real world. I began to reflect on the past experience and the future life I was looking forward to.

I was moving into Megan’s house, so I started my post-honeymoon blues with really important questions:

“Which side of the sink do I use?”

“Can I use the bathroom in the front of the house?”

“Does she know I don’t know how to do laundry?”

And then…

“Are we really that poor?”

They live in a nice house on the water. They don’t have a mortgage and their house is quadruple the price of ours. They go on nice vacations. They have food at their house. And even more concerning, they aren’t Doctors.

Who is “they”? My parents.

I was comparing myself to my parents. How absurd is that?

No wonder I thought we were poor. I was psychologically ill. I was on the verge of a full-blown contagious disease.

The Newlywed Disease

The Newlywed Disease is the sudden onset of involuntary convulsions while holding a credit card shortly after becoming married. Side effects include cars, real estate, vacations, entertainment, TV’s, clothes, jewelry, riding lawnmowers, jet skis, etc. (I call this the Newlywed Disease, but everyone is subject to this at some point.)

Larry Burkett said it best: “We spend the first 5-7 years of our marriages trying to attain the same standard of living as our parents – except it took them 30 years to get there.”

Marriage brings all sorts of craziness to our life. Not only are we vowing to love and honor our spouse all the days of our life (pretty steep promise), we’re also trying to find a new identity – a family identity. So, we’re tempted to buy crap. That’s what we’re supposed to do, right?

We have to buy a fenced in house with a play set. We have to buy a safe car, of course. I mean c’mon, you’re not a reckless bachelor anymore!

Do you see a problem? We have just started working but have a laundry list of expensive items that other people have gotten after 30 years of working. And we need them now.

I was looking at other married couples (most notably my parents) and thought of us as if we were in similar stages of life. They have a nicer house. I guess I need a nicer house. They go on vacations every year. I guess I need to go on vacations. After all, we’re old married folks now.

A Question That Opened My Eyes

A question to the newlywed twentysomething’s out there: Are you living in a similar house as your parents? Driving similar cars? Taking similar vacations? Wearing similar clothes? Spending similar amounts of money?

If so, there are two (and only two) explanations:

1)  Your parents handled money poorly,

or

2)  You’re handling money poorly

I do not accept explanations of “I make more money than they did” or “I have more education than they did”. To me, these are not explanations but rather an excuse to indulge too soon.

I Have to Keep Reminding Myself…

Does a marathon runner sprint the first mile? Why not? Because running one mile is not the goal. The goal is to run one mile 23 times in a row.

Am I genius because I realized a marathoner doesn’t sprint the first mile? No, of course not. But this is not an issue of intelligence – it’s an issue of fitness; an issue of managing our emotions.

Many newlyweds are not emotionally and financially fit enough to withstand the sudden temptations in finding an identity as a married couple. I know I wasn’t.

We think we’re all on the same playing field as everyone else. Truthfully, we’re not playing the same sport, yet. We were piling up dirt with spoons. My parents had a backhoe called time.

Ignorance Is Not Bliss

The number one problem in personal finance is ignorance, not stupidity. What is ignorance? Simply not being aware of something.

The newlywed who thinks financing or leasing is the best way to purchase a car is not stupid, they are just ignorant. No one showed them the best, most trusted way to buy a car.

The newlywed who believes that renting is “throwing their money away” is not stupid, they are just ignorant. No one told them that eliminating debt and building an emergency fund comes before buying a house.

The newlywed who believes they need to start building their credit is not stupid, they are just ignorant. No one showed them that it’s possible to live without a credit score.

The newlywed who doesn’t want to pay for life insurance is not stupid, they are just ignorant. No one told them how devastating that could be to their surviving partner.

The Cure

  • Make a plan on paper – Get on the same page financially by literally putting everything on the same page. What do you want to accomplish this year? Next year? What do you want to do? What does your partner want to do?
  • Create a monthly budget that will do two things:
    1. Align your actions with your plan.
    2. Not be 100% accurate.
  • Try again; Create another monthly budget that will do two things:
    1. Align your actions with your plan.
    2. Not be 100% accurate.
  • Try again; Create another monthly budget that will do two things:
    1. Align your actions with your plan.
    2. Not be 100% accurate.

Rinse and repeat.

I understand this is not as fun as building your credit but I share this guidance as it was one of the best gifts Megan and I have ever received. I hope I can pay it forward by making it useful to someone else.

“The opposite of life is not death, its indifference.” – Elie Wiesel

Question: What was the most difficult financial transition during your first year of marriage? Did you fall prey to the Newlywed Disease?

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15 Comments

  1. Very well written, Luke, and something many young people need reminders of! My husband and I didn’t get married until a couple years past college, and we both had completed our master’s by then. Even as / especially as teachers, we had learned how to live frugally and came into our marriage with no debt. We bought a house as newlyweds, but bought a house we could afford on one salary – hoping and planning for the day when we had children, so I could stay home then.
    Kristen @ Joyfully Thriving recently posted…Introducing the New Weekly NewsletterMy Profile

  2. This is great advice for newlyweds or any new grad! I agree that many in our generation expect to live at their parents’ current lifestyle as soon as they get their own place. Obviously it took our parents a long time to get there, and they also didn’t have the same kind of school debt many people graduate with now. We decided to “live like we were in college” till we paid off our college loans. We didn’t do everything perfectly from a financial standpoint, but we did avoid credit card debt & car loans, and paid off our student debt around the same time we bought a house. And we found that, though we did need space to expand our family, we didn’t need a fancy lifestyle since we’d been happy with a simpler one all along.
    Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor recently posted…A Dream DisclosedMy Profile

    • That’s great! Very hard to live like your in college when you get that first paycheck. I’m sure you’re glad that you did!

      Here is something I don’t think many people grasp: If someone’s first job paid them $100K (very good), it would take them roughly 18 months to accumulate $100K…if they didnt spend 1 penny during that 18 months. So in reality it takes them several years to accumulate one year’s worth of salary.

  3. Holly

    Very well put!!!! it’s so easy to get caught up in the mainstream train of thought that we “need” all the same things as our parents or our peers.

  4. Although I have never been married, I can definitely relate to the experience of feeling like I want to have my parents’ lifestyle. It really helps me to remember that may parents didn’t even have their lifestyle until very recently. When I was growing up, we lived frugally and simply. It helps me to look to the future and know that one day I will be able to have that life, I just have to work hard to get there.
    Ali @ Anything You Want recently posted…Reader Question: Where Can I Put My Money That Is Safe But Will Still Earn Interest?  My Profile

  5. I think merging money mindsets has been the hardest thing for me and my husband. Our backgrounds were about as opposite as could be, and my husband really had a craving for the finer things in life, and that’s all I ever knew. With our over six figure combined income in our first year of marriage, we went a little crazy.

    We are still a work in progress, and it is especially evident in our big spending areas like home renovation that we have a lot of work to do. Thankfully, we’ve at least gotten a little wiser, and accepted that we can’t live a six figure life right now and save for the future simultaneously.

  6. If the Newlywed Disease last 10 years than we fall prey to it. 🙂 We fell into the behavior that we had to follow the path like everyone else, buy a house (30 year mortgage) new car, etc after being married and it continued for many years before we changed our behavior. The key is to have your own plan from the beginning.
    Brian @DebtDiscipline recently posted…Summer Money Saving TipsMy Profile

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