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Antoinette Haile thought her boyfriend, Eric Patrick, was just being sentimental on New Year’s Eve when he pulled out a photo album full of snapshots of the good times they’d shared during the past four years. But after dessert, the waiter at the elegant Dragonfly restaurant in Dallas came over with a gift-wrapped box for her as Patrick got down on one knee to propose. It’s a moment Haile will never forget.
Such is the stuff of great love stories. But all the romance in the world can be threatened by financial issues, which are a leading cause of divorce. When couples come together, they must undergo the unromantic process of figuring out how to divvy up bills, plan for retirement, identify priorities, and determine whether to combine assets, among other financial details. Going from “my money” to “our money” is no small matter. Haile and Patrick are determined to get on the same page from the outset.
Patrick, 26, is a pharmacist at Baylor University and makes $100,000 a year. Haile, 23, who has a biology degree from Western Kentucky University, is a former coordinator for a national dental clinic and currently has a contract position making $13 an hour. She is looking for a full-time job in the healthcare industry that she estimates will provide a salary of around $65,000.
Patrick has about $6,600 socked away in a 401(k), and he owes around $12,000 on a school-related debt and a little more than $37,000 on his 2012 Dodge Challenger. The two have combined savings of more than $14,000, with about $6,500 in credit card debt, and more than $250,000 in student loans. They used credit cards in college to pay for living expenses such as car payments and rent since loans and part-time work did not cover all their expenses. However, they recently paid off one credit card account and contribute $650 to payments of the other cards, paying $400, $150, and $100, even though their minimum required payments are only $150, $55, and $30 per month for each account.
Unlike many couples who plan extravagant nuptials, Haile and Patrick have a firm budget limit of $15,000 for their special day, about half of which will be handled by their parents. Haile’s father is springing for the honeymoon to a place yet to be decided.
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