Thursday Morning Quickie #18

[Note: The following text was taken verbatim from the M Men-Gleaner Manual, “Love, Marriage, and You” used in 1956-1957. Previous entries in this series can be found here.]

Lesson 11

Enough Money for Marriage

A FEW years ago a young man-we shall call him Dick-and an attractive girl-we shall call her Sally-ages twenty-three and twenty respectively, decided to marry. They had gone together off and on for about three years. They had gone “steady” for about a year and she had received a beautiful diamond ring announcing to the world their sincere love for each other. Dick had graduated from school with an excellent record and had definite plans’ for graduate schooling. Sally was trained as a stenographer and had also been graduated from college. Money and economic planning for the future were their major problems. Their assets totaled about $600. Many of their friends strongly advised them to wait until Dick had finished school before getting married; others encouraged them to go ahead and get married, “the sooner the better.” They talked a lot about their economic problems and after considerable deliberation planned their wedding. They were married in June and went back East to school.

Quickie Questions

1. Did this couple have enough money for marriage?
2. How much money should a couple have before getting married?


Thursday Morning Quickie #18


  1. 1. Of course they had enough money to get married. The court justice doesn’t charge that much.

    Now if this implies that they will have kids on day 285 of their marriage . . . . well, no, they probably don’t have enough money.

    2. Exactly $598.27, these guys cut it awfully close . . .

    Haven’t we seen this TMQ five times now? They did not shy away from pounding this idea into the M/Gers heads.

  2. I think their first problem is that they went “back” East instead of staying “out” West.

  3. I can’t say because I don’t know if Sally is working or how much money she is making. If there is at least some money coming in, I would say that you can do it if you plan. The one thing I will say is that you shouldn’t get married if you have NOTHING and no ready means of making money.

    I say this because I’ve seen a few of my friends do this. One of my best friends married a guy and they had absolutely NOTHING when they married and no steady income. He was working a temporary job but he had no college and no money for college, so he was doomed to be working minimum-skill physical labor jobs. And then he started having serious health problems and couldn’t work any more. And then they got pregnant.

    I just think you should have SOMETHING to start with and then have a reasonably concrete plan on how to sustain their families long-term. That same couple, on their wedding, day, when I asked how they were going to support themselves, they said all starry-eyed, “Oh, we’re going to open up a repertory theater. He’ll manage special affects and stage tech and I’ll direct the music and dancing!” With what training? With what expertise? With what money!? It takes tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars to open up and run one of those theaters, and in case you hadn’t noticed, they make very, VERY meager profits. They didn’t have a plan. They had a pipe dream.

    Final answer–You should have at least something in the bank and a secure and regular income. You should have a concrete plan. If you’re plan involves raising your young family in your parent’s basement (as was the case with my friend), it’s not a very good plan.

    All that said, I think people feel too much pressure to spend inordinate amounts of money on weddings. My husband and I didn’t have very much money when we got married, and we were hoping to have a very small, intimate affair with immediate family and close friends, but my family would have none of it. They invited all of the distant cousins, people I didn’t know from their ward, etc. We ended up having to have a big wedding, and most of it came out of our own pockets. By the time all of the expenses were paid, we were pretty deep in the hole. IT was a good thing that we both had jobs.

  4. Is having nothing easier when you’re not married than when you’re married? Seems like one spouse getting an education while being supported by the other is more efficient than two individuals both trying to work and go to school at the same time.

  5. It’s not a fortune, but by this inflation calculator, $600 in 1956 would have the purchasing power as $4,834.68 today (and as $3,955.97 in 2002, when I got married). But because I don’t remember the value of our (very few) assets back when we got married, I can’t say if $4,834.68 is enough. Those Eastern cities with graduate schools in them can be fairly expensive.

  6. (Oops: this inflation calculator)

  7. The more relevant question is why the rush to get married? Arguing over finances before marriage is a great way to sharpen those skills for when you are actually married since there will be plenty of that activity afterwards.

  8. Eh, I say go for it. I brought two suitcases to our marriage 11 years ago. My wonderful wife brought the car, but otherwise we had next to nothing. My wife planned an extremely modest but beutiful wedding (her old roommate made our cake, for example). We had kids early and steadily over the past decade, did the East-coast-expensive-grad-school thing, and are dealing with the financial hit that all of this brought. So we’re not flush, our style is cramped in ways we would not prefer, and we have some $$$ tensions, but welcome to life. We have always worked our tails off to make ends meet and always had a good long-term plan, which sounds like the situation described in the OP. I can’t think of any year of our marriage that I wouldn’t relish reliving, so get to it, I say.

    I agree with the advice give in comment #3, “You should have at least something in the bank and a secure and regular income. You should have a concrete plan,” but am not sure what it has to do with being married – the same should apply for any resopnsible adult. Also, “something in the bank” is debatable, and “secure and regular income” can mean meager. The cost of being married and even having kids is only high if the cost of maintaining yourself is already high, IMO.

    If Sally is half the woman my wife is, the timing and $$$ will work out.

  9. You should have enough to support yourselves, and as AllieKay (#3) said, a reasonably concrete plan for the long term, bearing in mind that children might come sooner than you plan for. If you can’t or won’t support yourselves, there’s no point in getting married yet.

  10. There is a major problem in their future, as Sally’s career as a stenographer is due to evaporate in another decade or two with the advent of the personal computer.

    As for me and my house, when my wife and I married, she had one more year of college, I had two, a 1967 Mercury Comet, and about $200 to my name. I did have a summer job doing fiberglass repair at a boat shop, and when we returned to school in the fall, we found an apartment that only had 2 bullet holes in the windows in a not so bad part of town, for $85 a month. We managed to get through one year with us both in school, and then she started teaching school. This was in 1972, and somehow it worked out.

    I say go for it. This couple is in better shape than we were.

  11. At 20 and 23 they both have degrees? Wow. He must not have served a mission.

    Anyway, they have been together several years, they both have degrees, she has a skilled trade, and he has “definite” grad school plans, so I say go for it.

  12. I had $400 (more or less) and a year of university and three years of professional school ahead of me, and my wife had a B.A., a car, no job, but considerable skills. And we both knew how to work, and had marketable skills. Was that $400 enough? Yeah–even though our first child was born just before our first anniversary.

  13. Kevinf, you’re off a few decades–the IBM PC came on the market in 1981–that’s almost a quarter century. : )

    And, kew, I had a B.A. and had served a mission before I turned 23. So, it is possible.

  14. AllieKay


    The one thing I will say is that you shouldn’t get married if you have NOTHING and no ready means of making money.

    With the vast majority of the children of God born into this world in exactly this condition, it seems to me He doesn’t mind whether or not people have money.


    Those Eastern cities with graduate schools in them can be fairly expensive.

    But the rewards of having that Eastern city education is vastly more than the initial cost of going there.

  15. Based on inflation my wife and I were far worse off financially and three years behind this couple school wise when we got married. So this seems like a pretty easy call to me.

  16. Mark,

    Apple II? Anyway, college degree and she’s got stenographer skills? Her best bet is to move from the secretarial pool to executive assistant to office manager to vice president, and by then there will be no stenographers, and she’ll still be doing her own letters herself.

    I’m still saying go for it.

  17. Dan,
    It certainly is worth it. Nonetheless, it’s expensive.

  18. Sally’s stenography skills will provide an ever-more-inadequate income, but will be marketable until about 1990 — 1998 if she works in a law office. Even though every executive had a PC on his desk long before then, it was mostly for show. Some took pride in not knowing how to turn the things on, and every last one of them liked being able to call in a stenographer when there was a client in the office all for the show of saying, “Sally, take a letter.”

    So as long as we’re talking 1955 and not 2005, Sally and Dick have a reliable and transferable income-producing skill. Get married — have your kids — and make sure your daughters get a better education so they won’t be stuck doing secretarial work forever.

  19. What economic problems? Two college degrees and money in the bank? Sounds good to me.

  20. Just before my wife convinced me to ask her to marry me, she took me to hear George Durrant speak: “Get Ready, Get Married, Grow!” In that talk he said every couple should start out dirt poor.

    I favored waiting to get married until at least one of us was finished with school. In the end, she was right (setting the tone for the rest of our marriage), and we took turns working and going to school until we graduated. We worked and borrowed our way through grad school and survived.

    So, in answer to the two questions:

    1. Sure
    2. Enough to rent somewhere to live, put food on the table, and buy health insurance.

  21. “With the vast majority of the children of God born into this world in exactly this condition, it seems to me He doesn’t mind whether or not people have money.”

    Well, of course not, but we’re not talking about God. We’re also not talking about people who are just born. We’re talking about marriage pragmatics in the industrialized world. In this country, it’s not out of reach to earn financial stability, but you have to plan for it. If you’re going to support a family, you have to be financially stable.

    This issue hits home for me because my best friend didn’t plan, and now she’s stuck living in her in-law’s basement and trying to scrape together enough money to pay for her husband’s surgeries. She has medical issues that make it difficult for her to work (albeit less severe than her husband’s medical problems), but she has to because otherwise, her family doesn’t eat. She never wanted it to be like that, and she’s miserable. It breaks my heart. God may not care if you have money or not, but the cold, hard world does.

  22. I was one of those “nut cases” who insisted on having a degree and a job before we got married.

    That simple decision has made a world of difference. We see a lot of friends having financial troubles we never had to face.

    Probably helped that we got married on the cheap as well. It run under $1000, and that included the plane tickets. I didn’t have a bunch of assets, but I did have income, and the sense to live on the cheap.

  23. In that talk he said every couple should start out dirt poor.

    That sounds like a dangerous folk doctrine in the making.

  24. StillConfused says:

    My wedding cost me $80 – $50 for the license and an extra $30 for the clerk to put on a black robe and officiate. If you count the SconeCutter sandwiches afterward, we are closer to $90. But my husband and I are both well established “old” people so maybe that analogy doesn’t quite work.

    If you have parents who will continue to support you until you marry, then delaying makes sense. Otherwise, you are paying extra expenses by maintaining two households.

  25. 24, That was, interestingly, the logic my wife used: it couldn’t be more expensive to live together than to live separately.

    Brother Durrant’s counsel notwithstanding, my father’s counsel was also wise: we needed to be sure we could support ourselves once we were married. We may not have had to live lavishly, but living on love alone wasn’t enough. As it is, we both worked hard, and it worked for us.

    I have a niece, on the other hand, whose husband bought their wonderful home just before their wedding, so when they returned from their honeymoon in some exotic location (ours was in Boise…) they moved into a home larger than the one I have after thirty years of marriage. Good for them, too.

  26. Kevin Barney says:

    I did the dirt poor route, married after my sophomore year of college. But five years later I had a law degree and a great job in Chicago. We lived on next to nothing and survived on my wife’s working and student loans. (My first student loan paid the medical expenses for our first child.) But I finished school with only just under $20,000 in debt; if I tried to go that route today, even with in-state tuition at a public school like the University of Illinois, my debt load would be substantially more burdensome.

    For their time, I’d say they’re in great shape.

  27. It totally depend on personalities. I was only 19 when I got married and we had nothing, but we were ambitious and independent and willing to work any job. We both went to school for the next three years full time and worked part time, but were out of debt within two years of graduation. We waited for babies until we were out of school. So yeah, for us, money wasn’t an issue. But I know lots of people who have more stuff and better jobs than we did who should definitely put off getting married until they understand long-term finance. One reason that we didn’t really need to wait is that neither of us were relying on anyone but ourselves for money. If our parents were helping us out with tuition or housing, maybe it would have been harder. But since we were doing it ourselves, we didn’t have much of a problem doing it together.

  28. No kidding- seriously, how many of us have it so well worked out before we got married? Two degree and a small savings- they’re in good shape.

  29. I think there was a printing error in the manual. Didn’t 2) mean to ask how much debt they have? How else are you supposed to start out in style?

  30. Magnolia says:

    I continue to wonder what “back east” means. Denver?

    My daughter is often asked where she is from. When they hear Mississippi, the response is an eye roll followed by, “Oh, you’re from Back East.”

  31. Magnolia,

    I would have thought that Mississippi would have meant she was from Down South.

  32. Carl Sandberg said the east is where the trees reach all the way to the sky.

  33. Getting married that young? Heck no! Who cares about the money, let’s talk maturity leve. What’s the rush anyway. Non= no no no no no no. Live a little, have fun, grow and explore, then decide who is your soulmate. At that age, how can anyone really know– you haven’t even lived yet!

  34. Thomas Parkin says:

    On my list of things people should make sure are in place before getting married, being secure economically isn’t even in my top 5. Being able to talk about money, to get on the same page about money, is much higher than actually having it. Having it, after all, will prove to many people to be part of the vagaries of life, as best laid plans and all …

  35. Thomas Parkin says:

    I wonder how we think these questions change if the young Saints are living in the Cameroon instead of Ogden. ~

  36. Given the vintage of the lesson, ‘back east’ would have been Vernal……..

  37. Natalie B. says:

    The problem I see with having no assets is really the problem of having no life experience. My first few years out of college profoundly changed my outlook on life, including my perspective on finances and the amount of income I wanted. While I think that on the whole people can get by with well thought out plans, the inherent risk I see in marrying too young is that your perspective might not change together on make or break issues like money flow.

  38. When I was teaching Economics and doing a unit on personal budgeting and planning for the future, one of my students said that it was irresponsible for anyone to get married unless they were making a certain amount of money. She had no idea I was making significantly less than that as her teacher, with four children at the time.

    It really is far cheaper to live together than to live apart. This one’s a no-brainer to me.

    Oh, and “at that age how can anyone really know”? I did, quite a few years younger than 23.

  39. It’s irresponsible to get married if you don’t intend to take care of yourselves. As long as you’re willing to do what it takes to support yourselves and live on what you earn, go ahead and get married.

    Some people who get married young end up growing apart as they mature; their values might diverge. However, some people get married young and have strong marriages specifically because they “grew up” together; they didn’t have time before they were married to get set in their own individual ways.

    The bottom line is that people meet their partners when they meet them, and whether or not the marriage works out has little to do specifically with age or money. One component is a willingness to make sacrifices for the sake of the family. Another component is luck.

  40. Well, they have more than Mary and I had when we got married. ;-)

  41. #39, right on, Rebecca.

    I remember saying to my husband once, “The secret to a good marriage is communication.”

    He said, “That’s complete crap. The secret to a good marriage is the ability to be selfless.”

  42. I was broke when I got married 3 years ago and I’m still broke and in school. We have been able to work our way through school and have been lucky to not accumulate a lot of debt. I had an assistantship during my grad school and my husband will during his. I guess it has always worked for us because we can live cheaply and get by (oh and a little help from the government helps too).

  43. “The bottom line is that people meet their partners when they meet them, and whether or not the marriage works out has little to do specifically with age or money. One component is a willingness to make sacrifices for the sake of the family. Another component is luck.”

    Amen, Rebecca.

  44. Cynthia L. says:

    Wow. 43 comments and nobody has cited the second most epic thread in bloggernacle history?

  45. living in zion says:


    You are so right Thanks for reminding us of this most interesting link.

  46. I’m not sure that I agree that living together always costs less than living apart. Sure, if my wife were to throw me out today, it would cost more, because my wife and kids wouldn’t need any less of a household with me gone, and I’d have to go establish a bachelor household. But for many people, those who haven’t established significant single households, getting married means establishing their first household, and it is often more than the sum of its parts, or a subset of its parts, materially speaking.

  47. Cynthia L. says:

    Gst, that makes sense. Reminds me of people who marry later and already have nice pots and pans, knives, linens, etc, and don’t have to register for things like everyday tableware and a mop and a trash can, the way some young couples do.

  48. whether or not the marriage works out has little to do specifically with age or money.

    Well, thats a nice thought, and I agree to the extent that no one factor can dictate whether or not a marriage will be successful, however, I don’t think the statistics agree with the above statement.

    Marriage age for marriages that end in divorce

  49. Love all of the responses here.

    To answer the questions, while I personally don’t think the couple had enough money to get married; since I believe a couple plannign to get married should have a safe and steady flow of income (even if very modest) and a basic/small savings cushion to allow for an unexpected job transition (which in my opinion this couple lacked a bit).

    Maybe a bit of a bigger savings cushion, after all basic things are covered (housing, clothing and transportation); would be preferable in my opinion. This couple seems to have enough money to move to their new place an probably pay the first and last month’s rent and a deposit, if that. I think it would be wiser to have a better savings cushion than that, but then again, it would not be impossible to do things without it either.

    I think the couple seems to have a good and very plausible long term plan for their income, therefore, I think getting married is a very plausible option; it just would be a bit wiser to have a better savings cushion just in case something doesn’t go as planned (we’ve all been there).

    My main concern is whether the lesson is trying to set a specific tone for this example. In other words, is one choice wrong while the other right? Are they supposed to “have faith” and go ahead and get married as soon as possible? Are they procrastrinating their “blessings” if they decide they want to save a little more? Is this couple showing to be “better saints” for having decided to get married than another couple that would have saved a little more?

    As the responses show, there really isn’t a clear cut answer whether one path is wrong or right. And I would prefer if the manual was very clear on that.

    All situations are so unique that I would hate if the manual is using this example to lead the audience towards making a certain decision one way or the other, or implying that couple conosidering a desicion different than what happened in the case should feel guilt or feel they are not being faithful or something along those lines.

    I think each couple should examine their particular situation (which would include MANY MORE factors than the example lists) and make the decision based on prayer and the knowledge and wisdom God has bestowed upon them.

    Great post!

  50. So, B.Russ, the stats show that there is a significant decrease in divorce when the wife is at least 20 years old – but that the difference is not significant at any age after that.

    Sounds right.

  51. B.Russ – 48 – Thanks for that link, I love that data, especially because my wife is half Asian half White. But since my wife’s mom is Asian I am going with the Asian numbers for my wife, which are looking pretty good for me on pages 6 and 7 (Table 4, Fig. 2).

  52. Ray, the first link wasn’t showing the data in a way I thought was as meaningful as the second (the first used as a sample set All Divorces and distributed them by marriage date dividing out percentages. The second link took All Marriages, and distributed them by marriage date, looking for percentage of success v. fail) So if you follow the second link to page 5, you find that marriages that start (at wife age) between 20-24 have a 71% chance of success, marriages that start after 25 have an 81% chance of success. I’d call 10% statistically significant (especially when the sample size is 60 million).

  53. Also, its the bottom chart on page 5, the top chart is about cohabitation.

  54. So the answer to the Quickie questions, based on the study here, is “No” they do not have enough money unless she is Asian and 25 or over.

  55. Ha, yup, apparently.

    Well, I need to go divorce my wife of Danish descent whom I married at age 22 . . . I’ll be back in a bit.

  56. BRuss 48 – do you think that this distribution is more a factor of what ages people typically marry at? If most people marry between the ages of 20-24, then it makes sense that the most divorces are occurring among couples who married at ages 20-24.

  57. 57, thats exactly why I scrapped the link in 48 and went with 49

  58. I think that an individual choosing whether or not to marry at a certain age would need to factor in that the potential dating pool decreases as you age. So, while waiting a few more years might increase the likelihood a marriage will succeed (by 10%), it also might decrease the likelihood of marriage happening at all. I would be interested in a statistic like this: % happily married out of those who desire to be married.

  59. Stephanie – 59 – If you’re a guy, the dating pool definitely increases. If you carry a blackberry, even more so. Don’t forget we’re all primates here at the end of the day. Just sayin’.

  60. 59 – I guess no one can live another’s life, so noone can say with authority. However, I think I would rather remain single – always wanting to marry, than marry someone who was wrong for me, and end up going through an ugly divorce and all the issues that can go along with it over the years.
    But yeah, those statistics definitely aren’t the end all be all of the marriage discussion, they just bring up a valid point that pressure to marry too young can have adverse consequences.

  61. AND, keep in mind, if EVERYONE waited a little longer, then the dating pool wouldn’t shrink as much as you got a little older. A slight paradigm shift in general Mormon thinking could help resolve both issues (shrinking dating pool by 25 years old; higher than optimal (0%) divorce rate).

  62. I would be interested in seeing the numbers broken down a little more – like 20-22 and 23-24. I suspect that 23-24 would be more like the 25+. I think a key factor here is living on your own and being financially responsibly for yourself before marriage (going to school while daddy pays for everything doesn’t count).

  63. A slight paradigm shift in general Mormon thinking could help resolve both issues (shrinking dating pool by 25 years old; higher than optimal (0%) divorce rate).

    I think it would depend. If the additional years are used for working and schooling and preparing for marriage, then yes, I think it would be advantageous. If adolescence is just extended, then I don’t think it would be that helpful. We tend to be trending toward the latter.

  64. If adolescence is a time of finding out who you are, what you want out of life, what you believe philosophically, religiously, politically, economically, what your interests are, and who you can work well with; then there may be worse things than lengthening adolescence.

  65. Fwiw, the last data I saw said that the average marriage age for Mormons was about 21.5 for women and 23 for men.

  66. Eric S. says:

    Money is a proxy for survival basics (food, water, shelter). So another way of asking the questions above is, can these two survive, and have the basics of survival, if they marry? I don’t see why two people who are surviving on their own would be any less likely or unlikely to survive once they make commitments to each other.

    The question appeals to our (human) basic basic fear of not being able to survive, and the attendant pains that may precipitate the end of survival (hunger, physical pain, the uncertainty that follows death, thirst). Union among us (which leads to procreation) is nearly completely driven by an innate calculation we make regarding the probabilities of survival. (PS-If you want to have a really fun “date at home” night with your spouse and laugh with each other about why you/he/she chose the other, just watch the Discovery Channel series, the “Science of Sex”: here’s one of the many experiments that appear– (totally LDS approapriate, OK!!).

    My favorite experiment in the series is the one where the professor put the image of a guy on a piece of paper and asked the females to rank him 1 – 10; he turned out to be on average a 3. The professor then asked a separate set of females to rank the same image, only this time the professor created an executive profile that appeared next to the image, which included an annual salary of $350,000. The guy was then ranked, on average, an 8 or 9. Each gender knows what to look for to survive.

    Anyhow, the questions above raises the issue of where–as of the time the reader reads this–the level of sufficiency to survive lies in terms of money and how do we each evaluate that risk. Well, if you start out broke, and I mean broke, the survival situation can only become better from there, right?

    Another one of the experiments in the series evaluates guys who display indicia of wealth at a car show, and how women are attracted to them and curious. But then it is revealed that these guys are really in debt and do not have much potential of earning income. That is, they set unrealistic expectations for the female to the extent she is attracted by such indicia. Bad idea if you then get married and she maintains those expectations. Same can be said for a guy’s expectations.

    So I’m gonna say that if two individuals are individually broke, I don’t see how being broke together can decrease their likelihood or unlikelihood of survival.

  67. Statistics indicate that youthful marriages tend to fail, which isn’t surprising, as young people tend to be immature. Statistics don’t tell us why individual marriages fail, nor can they predict what will happen in any individual situation. It would be ridiculous for an individual to pass up the opportunity to marry well because their demographic group is statistically more likely to have a marriage end in divorce. I’m sure everyone recognizes that, but that’s all I’m saying when I say that age isn’t the real issue.

    Adolescence is a time of finding out who you are and what you want out of life, but it’s also a time of avoiding responsibility. I wouldn’t recommend extending that time. In my observation, women particularly tend to go through more profound emotional and psychological changes at age 30 than at age 25. Since their fertility also drops dramatically at 30, it doesn’t seem particularly advisable to put off getting married until after 30 just on principle. If that’s how it happens, that’s how it happens, but if you’re just waiting until you’re absolutely sure you’re done with all your soul-searching and self-finding, you could be waiting a very, very long time. And still be wrong! Marriage is always a risk.

  68. MHW, I definitely agree with what you’ve said, and I also wouldn’t put off getting married based on success rate statistics for my demographic – I didn’t – I got married at 22.

    At the same time, as a parent/adult knowing these statistics, I would probably raise my kids with the idea that around age 23 is when you should start seriously looking for a mate, not as a rule, but a good guideline. Obviously if they fall in love, have reasonable plans, and are ready to settle down with someone of decent moral character, I’d be an idiot to try to stand in the way. And raise my kids with the idea that dating before age 21 is for social growth, fun, and learning about the opposite gender. Thats me of course.

  69. At the time Gretch and I married all of two years ago, we had the 1955 equivalent of about $250. She was working at a local hardware store and going to a community college. I had just graduated from the University of Illinois (wave to Kevin Barney 20 years ago) and was working a part-time job as a custodian. Despite the fact that we are currently officially homeless and soon-to-be jobless until I find a teaching job somewhere (or, if that doesn’t work out, any job), we seem to be doing all right.

    So… yes, they had enough money to get married and a couple should have enough money to pay the rent and utilities and, if their parents are not conveniently nearby, possibly enough to be groceries.

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