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4 Lessons I Learned After Marrying My Foreigner Wife

Discuss your past. Discuss your future.

My wife and I have been officially married for about eight months now. We got married in December 2015, hoping that it would help expedite her application to become a Permanent Resident (PR) in Singapore.

About a week into our official marriage, I learned that she had to physically be in Singapore to go ahead with our (her actually, but I feel like I’m equally affected) PR application.

I realized then that there were many little life lessons like this to be learnt after getting married.

I keep saying “officially married” because we just got married, in the traditional sense, about a month ago. And while I’m not going to win any olympic gold medal for that anytime soon, there has already been some financial lessons I’ve learnt this past month.

1. Discussing Your Past

I’m not talking about confessing to your relationship history or a troubled phase in your life here. This is about discussing your financial holdings – savings, investments and of course debt – to ensure that both of you know what you’re getting into.

Our honeymoon phase hasn’t ended, for now, but I already wish I knew more about her finances from the start. Back then, we felt more like individuals, keeping our financial matters to ourselves in order to feel like we have autonomy. We don’t tell each other how much money we have saved, how much investments we have, how much money we owe, or even the properties and companies that we have equity in.

As much as a hidden $100,000 debt would have made this article much more interesting, I am thankful that I do not have any of these “bad problems”.

The only problems I have are “good problems”, such as having to worry about how best to utilize her foreign currency (local currency for her, foreign currency to me). Had I known we’d be sitting on this, I would have gotten her to make some investments in stocks in her home country.

There might be other couples out there who may have to discuss personal financial problems that are much bigger than mine. Perhaps, a family debt that has yet to be paid creeping into the marriage. Or a previous investment that has turned bad. Talk about these things as early as possible in your relationship. It helps.

2. Singapore Is (Really) Expensive

In spite of being born and bred in Singapore, I never really appreciated how expensive it is to live in Singapore. All through my growing up years in Singapore (primary school, secondary school, NS, tertiary and even while working), I knew it was expensive, but I don’t think everyone, including myself, really understood what this truly means until we got married.

I’ve gone from spending virtually nothing, except for my own personal consumption (which has always been quite moderate) to spending on half of the overall household expenditure. It’s expensive to a point where I’m literally considering making a list of items we have to buy before we make a trip to the supermarket.

Previously, my long distance relationship didn’t require me to consistently spend a lot of money going to fancy restaurants or even dates. One month after marriage, however, I’ve spent nearly 10 times the amount I normally did. I guess it’s also partly because we want to make up for not doing so in the earlier years.

It’s also really expensive to just apply for a long-term visit pass or permanent residency or citizenship. All these world-class services that Singapore deliver needs to be paid for.

3. Understanding That One Of You Is Financially Reliant On The Other

Today, my wife is almost completely reliant on me financially. We’re still in this phase where we think love will power us through every obstacle life throws at us. But this still does not make it ok for me to bring this up.

I understand two things 1) that my wife gave up her comfortable life, family and friends, as well as her career that she loved, which also pays more than mine – in her home country, to be with me here in Singapore and 2) every dollar I earn working hard at my job (or got lucky finding on the street on my way to the office like yesterday morning) is our money now.

Which is why bringing up even the littlest suggestions like making a list of grocery shopping is something that we have to discuss and agree on together. Just because one of us is making all the money, temporarily, doesn’t mean that only one of us gets to decide the best way to spend it.

Which brings us to our next point…

4. Discussing Our Futures

I’m not talking about having a baby or a dream house.

I am talking about our plan to save, our plan to invest, and our career plans. These often get forgotten when we discuss our dreams. Some of my plans have come as surprises to her because we have never discussed it before.

This includes a plan to one day take up entrepreneurship (which I found out by the way, takes lots of guts to go into in Singapore when you have a comfortable career and just got married), or letting her know she needs to be utilizing her savings better in her home country, and even setting aside money, beyond savings, for some investments.

I’m more financially savvy than her, but this doesn’t mean that my way is the only way, or even the right way. After you get married, it wouldn’t matter if you made all the right financial decisions, or are super rich at the end of the day. If one of you isn’t happy with the journey, it probably won’t end well for the marriage.

Being one month into my happy marriage life, I’m not professing that I have attained all the wisdom of a perfect balance for these matters. I am learning. I suspect everyone else is as well.

Rather, just one month into living together, we’ve already had some discussion about matters that I can see being potential flash points for many other couples. So remember, discussing your financial aspirations is just as important as discussing your life aspirations. And I’m sure there will be many more life lessons to be learned in the future.

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