Marriage and Money: Getting on the Same Page

Lateshia Woodley and Alex Kelly must �balance their contrasting money styles to budget their finances and grow their assets

“I am addicted to three things: school, travel, and helping others,” says Woodley, who has written a book on the subject of overcoming the emotional implications of teen pregnancy. Woodley’s money habits were so poor that, until recently, her husband hid money in accounts about which she knew little or had no access to, because “he is afraid that I will give it all away,” she says.

Like many couples who have money-style differences—one’s a saver, one’s a spender—Woodley and Kelly may never fully resolve the issue. But they can talk about it, start to work toward compromise, and sit down to create rules both can live by. Money management experts say true respect for each other’s financial needs can only be achieved through direct and honest communication.

It is important for Woodley and Kelly to be of one accord, especially now that the family is facing the major challenge of negative cash flow. On a monthly basis, $2,377 more is going out than is coming in—once the family’s day-to-day living expenses are added, plus the mortgages on the three homes the couple owns and other debt obligations, including Woodley’s $15,856 in credit card balances.

More college expenses are right around the corner, too: 18-year-old Alex heads to college in the fall. Alexis, who is 12, will be college bound in four years since she is now a freshman in high school. After being homeschooled she was skipped two grades. Then there’s $500 a month in child support for a daughter Kelly has from another relationship. They also have legal custody of 5-year-old Araya until she’s 18 years old.

The couple has a lofty goal of giving each child a total of $40,000 (or $10,000 per year) toward his or her college education. In the meantime, Woodley is carrying $140,439 in student loans while the projected debt load for Kelly’s M.B.A. is an estimated $28,000. A plus is that more than 55% of Woodley’s loans are in deferment. But once the loan payment comes due, her monthly disbursement will increase from $272 to $400.

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