Marrying for Money

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

of 3:1 on up to $3,000 over the long term,” she says, “but we plan to continue offering Marriage Development Accounts.”

Because homeownership is widely viewed as the foundation for building wealth-and accounts for some 32.3% of the average household’s net worth-there are several agencies across the country that focus on strengthening families and are also housing counseling agencies certified by the U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development. One such _program is the _National African American Relationships _Institute (www.aa relationshipsinstitute.com), co-founded by Patricia Dixon, an _associate professor of African American Studies at Georgia State University. “Our organization teaches potential home buyers about budget, credit, and other information necessary for _purchasing a home,” Dixon says. “This is typically the biggest investment for the average family and is the primary way in which families can begin to build wealth.”

Many faith-based groups are promoting strong marriages with _financial literacy classes and workshops for couples. Michelle Singletary, syndicated _national columnist for The Washington Post, conducts workshops in the religious community at places such as First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, and Christ is King Worship Center in Baltimore, among others. Some churches, such as New Birth South Metropolitan Church of Jonesboro, Georgia, have _marriage ministries that include working to _empower families financially.

Tannia Benef
ield and her husband, Terry Likens, recently _finished a 13-week “Financial Peace University” workshop offered by syndicated radio host Dave Ramsey. The couple joined many others at the Overlake Christian Church in Redmond, Washington, all in an effort to tackle their biggest problem-debt. “We started the debt snowball, paying off debt, got extra jobs to pay off more, and we’ve begun to buy big-ticket items with cash and pay less for them,” Benefield says. The Seattle couple paid off more than $5,000 of their $20,000 debt load in about two months. While they are trying to get current on their bills, they feel _victorious. “This has brought us closer together,” Benefield says. “We talk more about the finances, and my husband and I don’t keep any financial secrets anymore. I accept him for who he is and vice versa. We are in this together.”

The couple has had to make some adjustments and learn about each other along the way. Since moving to Seattle in June of last year, Benefield has been a stay-at-home mom to 10-year-old
Kenah, and 1 year-old Kenze. Before the move, she worked as a
mental health counselor, earning $33,000. “When I was working as a counselor, I had a salary that took care of the bills, and Terry’s salary was extra,” Benefield says. “I took care of all finances except for his car. Then we moved, and I wasn’t working or taking care of the finances. Terry didn’t tell me everything, and I didn’t investigate, ask questions, or press him until we fell into debt.”

While adjusting to supporting the household on his income as a computer support analyst for Sprint, some of the bills fell behind. “He so wanted me to stay at home and not work

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