Marrying for Money

The path to greater wealth may start with making a commitment-of the romantic kind

doing some additional digging paid off. Last September, she and husband Gary, 39, moved into a $200,000, two-bedroom, one-bath condo in Washington, D.C., after participating in the Marriage Development Account program.

Their homeownership plans began a year earlier when they _relocated from North Carolina. Although Gary is now a merchandiser with Macy’s, he initially found it tough to find work. Still, the couple wanted to move ahead with their personal goals. In the end, the tough job market turned out to be a blessing of sorts: With just Capucine’s salary of about $50,000, the couple qualified for a Marriage Development Account with the nonprofit Capital Area Asset Building Corp. (CAAB). Limited to Washington, D.C., _residents, the accounts are part of a savings program for engaged and married couples to help eliminate debt and build wealth through long-term investments, such as purchasing a home. Couples commit to saving a set amount each month, which is matched at a rate of $3 for every $1 in personal savings. The Carringtons committed to saving $500 a month to reach their goal.

“We cut back on going to the movies, to dinner, clothes shopping, and traveling,” Capucine says. “It was stressful with [Gary] not working. We were pushed to the limit.” Gary adds: “It was a strain on our marriage at times because I couldn’t provide for her the way I wanted. I’m thankful the Lord saw us through.”

After four months, the Carringtons had a total of $3,000 saved, and they received $9,000 in matching funds. Shortly thereafter, they bought their condo. Another advantage, Capucine says, were the mandatory money-management classes. Couples must complete 10 hours of course work on topics including budgeting, credit management, financial goal setting, and training _related to homeownership.

In the end, the couple says that the experience has strengthened their relationship. “We know we can get through whatever situations come up,” Capucine says. When you sacrifice and reach your goal, you get revved up. I was always more of a saver, but [now] Gary is more open to saving. He appreciates this in me now, _instead of just thinking I’m frugal. We feel like we’re on our way.”

Like many couples, the Carringtons say they didn’t think about the financial implications of getting married. Tax write-offs were the last of their concerns. “We didn’t realize the _financial potential we had as a couple until we were married,” Gary says. “When you’re married, you have two ideas, two incomes, it’s two becoming one, and you get ahead.”

Help is out there
Marriage Development Accounts are supported in part by federal funds. The program began in 2006 under the direction of Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.). According to the senator’s office, about 100 couples have opened accounts, with about $400,000 in matching funds from the government; additional support comes from private institutions. Though federal funding for the program was trimmed in 2007, Colleen Dailey, executive director of CAAB, says private sources have made up the difference. “We may not be able to maintain the generous match rate

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