Engaged: Lessons from parents

Marketplace Staff May 11, 2007

Engaged: Lessons from parents

Marketplace Staff May 11, 2007

TESS VIGELAND: Today, we turn the page for Chapter Two of our financial fairy tale. Our hero and heroine, Miachal Fox and Tiffany Lee-Youngren will tie the knot on Sept. 1. We’re following them as they walk toward the aisle to have and to hold through sickness, health . . . and revolving credit card debt.

We’re back in the kingdom of Encinitas, Calif., to find out how and where Tiffany and Mike developed their money sense. At their suggestion, we hit the sand.

TIFFANY LEE-YOUNGREN: We’re at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas. When I was a kid, my mom would take us to the beach all day long. We’d sit here, play in the sand, swim, maybe she’d drop, you know, 50 cents on a popsicle and we’d be completely ecstatic. We still come to the beach and take walks every once in awhile.

MICHAEL FOX: And it’s free.

VIGELAND: In fact, “free” was the operative word for both Tiffany and Mike growing up.

LEE-YOUNGREN: My mom was a single mother for a good portion of my childhood and didn’t really ever talk about money. I knew that we didn’t have a lot of money, but I never felt like I was poor – although I know that we did . . . we used to get the big block of government cheese for awhile, I remember that. But my mom was a very hard worker. She always had at least two jobs and provided us with what we needed. On the other hand, because she didn’t talk to me about money very often, that was something I just had to teach myself as I got older.

VIGELAND: How about you, Mike?

MICHAEL FOX:: Um, you know, I was never really taught anything. I learned by example.

VIGELAND: Whose example?

FOX: My father, Henry. He tends to pay with cash, uses credit cards very sparingly. He’s always taught me that if you don’t have the money, then you shouldn’t be spending it.

VIGELAND: Did your parents’ management of their money – or lack thereof – have any effect on how you decided to handle your finances as a couple?

LEE-YOUNGREN: I think we definitely communicate more about money than I communicated with my parents about money. I know that when we do have children, talking to them about money and showing them the ins and outs of savings and credit is going to be something that’s priority.

VIGELAND: How about you, Mike?

FOX: I can’t say that it’s a huge part of the way I manage my money. I actually think it’s from my business. I guess that’s pushed me to be more in charge of the finances in our relationship. The other day we sat down actually, and I said “OK, what are your expenses every month?” And I just got an excel, just listed all the expenses that we have for the month.

VIGELAND: What was that exercise like for you, Tiffany?

LEE-YOUNGREN: Well, I think I mentioned before that I’m an independent woman and I don’t like to rely on a man to handle my finances. But I think I’ve sort of changed my philosophy and realized that we’re not a team. To have someone else take control and work all of that out – especially someone who’s a little bit more numbers-oriented than I am – is a relief. So couples, I think, should be aware of what each other is spending, just so they know if they’re on the same page. I mean, that seems crucial to me.

VIGELAND: When you look down the line – and you have said that you want children, what discussions have you had about where you want to be financially before you start that process?

FOX: Dog comes first.

LEE-YOUNGREN: Hahaha. I think that nobody is ever ready to have kids. YOu can say I’m ready emotionally, but as far as financially, no one knows what to expect. And I know that Mike – correct me if I’m wrong, sweety – but he seems to think that we should have this huge amount set aside and . . .

FOX: Let’s just say that I disagree with her opinion.

VIGELAND: How much would you like to have set aside, Mike?

FOX: I haven’t got a number to tell you. I just . . . I think that you’re never really emotionally ready, because you’ve never dealt with something like that. But I’m really pushing for a labrador first. So I’m gonna maybe work out those finances first, how much a 120-pound dog takes up in food and then figure out a child, and, you know . . .

LEE-YOUNGREN: Slightly different. Can I add something about a question you asked earlier? I think growing up with little means to buy the things that little girls want . . . I remember, you know, wanting a pair of jeans and my mom telling me we couldn’t afford them. But I think living through that made me go through a period when I was in college where I bought things that I’d never been able to have before. Which, of course, racked up my credit. And eventually, I came to realize that even though I could have those things, they didn’t really bring me the happiness that I thought they would.

FOX: There’s a big line, I think, between need and want. Do I need a big-screen TV, or do I want a big-screen TV? And if it’s gonna mean Tiffany not being able to go to yoga classes, than that makes no sense to me.

LEE-YOUNGREN: Honey, I’m so proud of you!

VIGELAND: What a prince. And with that, we close chapter two of our financial fairy tale. Next time: Who’s footing the wedding bill? This is Marketplace Money from American Public Media.

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