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DEBT-PROOF YOUR MARRIAGE: How to Achieve Financial Harmony
Mary Hunt
Revell/Baker Book House Company
Personal Finance/Love and Marriage
ISBN: 080071847X


The great thing about reading a Mary Hunt book on finances is knowing that she writes from experience and not just from abstract theory. This woman had run up something like $100,000 in unsecured debt (credit cards and such) and worked her way out of that crushing load of debt, without a high-paying job or an inheritance or a windfall of any kind. She simply persevered.

Of course, that's only half of the story. The other half involves her husband who, of all things, was a banker during some of the time she was amassing a heavy debt load. Like many spouses, she kept thinking she could handle it --- she would figure something out, or some magic reversal would wipe out their debt. Really, it's a wonder they didn't duke it out once she decided to come clean with him.

The plan Hunt outlines in DEBT-PROOF YOUR MARRIAGE is legitimately workable, for all you skeptics who think hers is just another budgeting plan that will never work for you. She doesn't propose living in a tent and boiling roots to make tea, though she probably wouldn't try to stop you. While she gives lots of very specific, very detailed information on how to eliminate credit card debt quickly, how to pay off your mortgage early and how to create a spending plan that is based on freedom rather than restriction, she is careful to emphasize that couples must customize their financial plan to fit their lifestyle and temperaments.

Hunt writes in a friendly, nonjudgmental style. I doubt anyone could come away from this book feeling worse than they did when they started reading. Hunt is a master at encouraging people to do what they can do, a little at a time, rather than feeling they have to grovel over their shameful financial mismanagement. She uses humor, anecdotes and illustrations to underscore the serious point she's making: that financial disharmony can destroy a marriage, while financial harmony --- no matter what it takes to achieve it --- can strengthen and save a marriage.

Before she gets into practical matters, Hunt establishes a foundation for understanding the factors that result in money-related problems in a marriage by discussing emotional differences, myths about money, and marital problems that are exacerbated by financial conflict. She pretty much follows a conservative Christian blueprint for marriage, conflict resolution and the like.

About the only thing that leaves me cold are the sections on making deposits in a "Love Bank" --- the idea being that every little thing you do to show your love and respect for your spouse is deposited into an account that incrementally adds up to a significant balance. I don't know. Maybe some couples like to talk and think like that. I've just never met one, or one that openly discusses it. Anyway, this idea isn't original with Hunt; she attributes it to Willard Harley, so her only responsibility for it is in repeating it. Oh, and then there is the implied suggestion that engaged couples exchange credit reports. I'm not sure why I find that so, well, weird. It's not like I think it's too personal; maybe I just can't see a couple actually doing that.

You probably won't agree with all of Hunt's suggestions, and you probably won't get around to following all of her advice even if you want to. But there's enough here to make the book a wise investment. And if you'd like to contribute to the lofty goal of reducing the divorce rate, you might want to consider giving a copy to every engaged couple you know.

   --- Reviewed by Marcia Ford (misfit@marciaford.com)

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