Welcome to Couples + Money, where we break through the confines of polite conversation. Forget questions about your sex life. We're getting even more personal. Let's talk about what you and your partner are doing—and not doing—with your paychecks.
Every other Thursday, an anonymous couple will get candid with MarieClaire.com about how they split their finances. We’ll break down what each person pays for individually, what they split, and all the gritty details—from who picks up the bill in restaurants to who picks fights over bank statements.
This week, we're talking with Marie, 32, a freelance sales consultant and aspiring video producer in Prospect Heights, New York who earns $54,000 per year ($4,500 per month), and her partner Jean Rémi, 29, a freelance producer and filmmaker who earns $120,000 per year ($10,000 per month). They've been together two years.
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How It All Happened
Marie: It's a funny story. We met in a life-coaching program in August of 2016. We were just friends at first, but by October, he had started laying his French-ness on me.
Jean Rémi: The program itself was not great.
Marie: The only rule of this program? You can’t date anyone you meet in the program. While I maintain we weren’t actually dating, one of our teammates suspected the chemistry between us and “told” on us, and we were given an ultimatum. We decided to leave the program.
Jean Rémi: She was coming from San Francisco every month for this program. After two months, she was staying at my place when she was here.
Marie: Things moved really fast. What I've learned is that French guys don’t "date." You’re either together, or you’re just having sex. I tried to slow things down...but it was also the year my brother got married in Italy. So, from early on, it was like: He's either going to be invited to everything or nothing. And since I chose everything, he got really close with my family.
Jean Rémi: Then she got transferred to New York.
Marie: I decided to finally leave my job in tech (which paid $150,000). There were a series of decisions that led us to going to Bali for a month in July 2017 (an $8,000 trip), and when we came back in August we lived together.
Marie: It's just us.
When We Told Each Other Our Salaries
Marie: I told him pretty early on, especially since he was helping me make the decision to leave my last, well-paying job.
Jean Rémi: I'm pretty open about it, so I can't even recall when we talked about it for the first time. But I know that we quickly realized that we were different.
Marie: He has never really had a "normal" job. When we first met, he had his own events and marketing company. But he was spending a lot of money on me, so I just assumed that he was making a lot of money.
Jean Rémi: Even before we started living together, I met her parents and I met her brother. And I knew how they were with money. It's pretty clear. Even when you're not part of the family yet.
Marie: As we transitioned into attempting new careers, I started to understand that he basically spends what he makes and also never really knows what he is going to make. He is not very attached to money, and has a very laissez-faire relationship with it. I do not.
Why We Share a Credit Card
Marie: We don't have a joint bank account, but I added him as a second person on all my credit cards so that he can build up his credit score. But we only jointly use one card, our Chase Sapphire card. That way, we can work off the same statement, build his credit score, and earn points to share.
Jean Rémi: I have a family business, back in France. Because I live here, I don't have access to the money that goes into that account (about $3,500 a month, which I don't consider part of my income). My grandmother has access, back in France.
Marie: At the end of each month, I export the statement and we go through it to see what was mine, what was his, and what was ours.
How We Handle The Cost Of Living
Marie: I'm not really sure how we got to where we're at. Like I said, he doesn't really care about money, whereas I'm much more concerned about having a safety net. I like splitting things evenly because I feel like that’s what's fair, and I don’t really like the feeling of being taken care of.
Jean Rémi: I know that even without money, you can still live. I think she doesn't know that. But whatever.
How Often We Talk About Money
Marie: I think our first serious conversation about money was when it started to feel like we were running out of it. When I left my job, he made a grandiose effort to try to pay for everything. But since this is New York, the money ran out.
Jean Rémi: Her dad always educated her about how money is security. If she doesn't have $40,000 in her savings account, she's freaking out, you know?
Marie: I finally asked him how he was making money and paying for everything. It turned out he was pulling money from his savings in France. This led to lots of conversations about transparency about money, our relationship to money, how we spend it, that kind of thing. Which is what led to the shared credit card and to our using an app, HoneyDue, to stay up to date on our finances.
What We Keep Secret
Marie: I'm not sure "honest" is the right term. Like, I don’t think he always tells the whole truth...but not because he's keeping anything from me. Just because he doesn’t think it matters.
Jean Rémi: Mostly, we are pretty open. Mostly.
Marie: I don’t know his exact credit score, but I do know that he is in the high-red range because of a lack of credit.
Jean Rémi: We know each other's credit scores. Mostly. We know that mine is bad, and we know that hers is great. We knew that when we moved in together, actually, because we need that to get a lease. She knew that it isn't really my fault that my credit score is bad.
How We Learned To Budget
Marie: My dad is a financial advisor. And a frugal one, at that. I think I inherited some of his anxiety about money and being responsible with it.
Jean Rémi: Marie comes from a wealthy family from the Midwest. Marie was working in tech and making great money. So she was always in this situation where money is super important. I have a really different situation.
Marie: I’m not cheap, and I don’t stick to a strict budget, but I always think twice before buying big purchases.
Jean Rémi: I grew up with my grandparents, the parents of my mom. My mom was young, and she was studying. When I was a kid, my grandmother was the only one working—my grandfather was retired already, and he didn't have a big retirement. He was a lawyer, but he didn't really get paid a lot of money doing that. But my grandmother, she was a teacher. All the money was coming from her.
Our Biggest Fight About Money
Marie: Our biggest fight about money was when I realized he was paying for everything by just taking money out of his savings. But the bigger issue was communication—or lack thereof—than the actual money.
Jean Rémi: In New York, people want money because they don't have money. And she always says, "I don't understand how people live with, like, $500 a week or $1,200 a week or $800 a week." And I always say, "I do understand—they just have a different lifestyle than we have." You know, we pay, like, $3,000 for an apartment. I once said, "Look, people do roommates, and they live differently than you think." When I told her that, it was a big blowup. She obviously didn't like me saying that.
How We Pay For The Non-Essentials
Marie: We put most "fun" purchases on the card.
Jean Rémi: On vacation, it's mostly me paying for things, because I always have cash on me and she never does. I think it's a European thing, because we have a lot of cash all the time, and here no one has cash. So on vacation, it's mostly me, but otherwise it's pretty much a big mix.
What We're Banking On
Marie: I don’t feel like we are actively saving for anything specific. We talk about a wedding, but he's convinced that if we do it in France it won’t cost as much as something would here.
Jean Rémi: We're talking about getting married in France. Not having to change the money I'm making in France, just being able to use the Euros—that would mean big savings.
Marie: I don’t know if he actually gets how expensive kids are to raise in the States.
Jean Rémi: I'm having my green card renewed (I paid $4,600 in lawyer fees this year). But the way things have been going, I'm not sure I will get my green card renewed. So I'm not sure I'll be able to pay for an apartment in the U.S. anymore.
Marie: We are both in transitional periods in our careers. I think we're both in a place where the money we're making is going towards funding those projects, rather to other down-the-road life plans.
Interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity. Pseudonyms have been used. Reporting by Amanda Mitchell. Design and illustration by Morgan McMullen. Animation by Hayeon Kim.
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