Love and Money: Advice For Couples at Every Stage

here are things you notice when two people are deeply in love: The way each person can naturally finish the other's sentences, the inside jokes, the way their eyes light up when describing the day they met (almost always the wife directs that question to her husband, saying "I want you to tell it," as a sly test), their proposal or their wedding day. We noticed these characteristics when we asked metro Detroit couples at every stage in a marriage-from 20-something newlyweds to 70-something lifelong partnerships-to talk about what makes their relationship special and lasting.

It's not all champagne and chocolates, though. Many couples candidly discussed a relationship's challenges, ranging from health issues and parenting to keeping the spark alive. Though we all know every relationship has its ups and downs, one thing every couple must deal with is money. We asked Detroit financial whiz Gail Perry-Mason, author of Girl, Make Your Money Grow! to advise couples at every stage on what they can do to ensure their partnership rests on the strongest foundation possible.

20s: Ashley and Adam Hosey

Ashley, 27, and Adam, 29, first met as students at Oak Park High School. Years later, they crossed paths again during a night on the town in Canada. Modern romance ensued: They started chatting via Facebook, which led to courtship and eventual marriage in 2011. "It’s the most challenging yet rewarding thing I’ve ever done," says Adam. The two are proud parents of son Ace, 2.

"Newlyweds should put a 'GPS' on their finances," Perry-Mason says. "You can monitor your accounts and expenses with apps like Mint.com." Save 10-15 percent of income to create a savings cushion of six months of expenses, pay bills on time and keep excellent credit and savings toward goals like down payment on a home. Get the full match on 401(k) contributions and open a separate investment account with any added savings. Plan for insurance needs, particularly life, health and renter’s insurance. Make a plan to finish paying off student debt, and stick to it.

Click here to read more about Ashley and Adam.

30s: Calvin and Alicia Goodwin

The Goodwins, who met as college students singing in the U of M gospel chorale, credit prayer and laughter with keeping their four-year marriage healthy-but clearly, laughter is their forte. Alicia, 31, says she knew Calvin, 33, was the one when she noticed their breathing and heartbeats were in sync. "Well, I hope you’ll breathe with me, because if you don’t, you might die!" he quips. But leave it to Alicia to get the last laugh: She just found out she’s expecting, and it’s a surprise to everyone reading this.

"Couples in their 30s need to create their own personal 'board of directors.' This can include a financial advisor, lawyer, accountant and more," Perry-Mason says. Work toward savings goals not met in your 20s and open an IRA beyond your 401(k). "Be aggressive" in stock market investing since retirement is still distant. Have kids? Start tax-advantaged college savings/investment accounts beginning at birth. Evaluate insurance needs like long-term care and estate planning.

Click here to read more about Calvin and Alicia.

40s: Michele and Anthony Watts

"We’re in dream-chase mode right now," says Anthony, 45, who met Michele, 43, in 1999 and married five years later. The two juggle their careers-he, a lieutenant with the Detroit Fire Department; she, director of the sports management program at Madonna University-with running a photo-booth rental company, traveling as often as they can and their two children. But they find joy in relaxation, too. "I cherish the moments when we’re just sitting on the couch and watch Scandal or The Walking Dead," he says.

"This is the time for couples to become more aggressive about maximizing retirement savings while beginning to make their investment portfolios more conservative," Perry-Mason says. "This may mean making financial 'layoffs.'" If you have college-age kids, make sure not to let those expenses undo retirement savings. Use already built-up college savings and make sure your children are maximizing scholarships and financial aid while avoiding excessive loan burden.

Click here to read more about Michele and Anthony.

50s: Pam and Mecah Mathis

This year will be the 27th anniversary for this jet-setting couple, who have spent many recent years on an airplane. Their son was a football player at the University of Oregon, so they flew out to each one of his games every weekend. Now, say Pam, 50, and Mecah, 53, "this is our breakout year." After Pam battled some health challenges, the couple is recovered and back to traveling as much as they can. By the time this issue is out, they will have tried to come on down the aisle on The Price is Right and will have probably booked a ticket to another locale.

"At this stage, couples should be working closely with a financial advisor to assess their retirement planning and to check for gaps," Perry-Mason says. "This is the age range at which couples need to maximize their retirement planning to shore up all of their retirement needs. Eliminate as much debt as possible before ending your peak earning years."

Click here to read more of Pam and Mecah's story.

60s: LaWanna and Phillip Rolack

In 1978, LaWanna, 59, and Phillip, 62, were on the mend and met in a now-closed Detroit hospital. Love can be found in the strangest of places, but it wasn't until years later, LaWanna says, she realized "this is the person God chose for me." "You think you know each other, but you’re constantly learning each other," Phillip says. But if there’s one thing they know about each other, it's that small tokens are appreciated. "I'm not a flower girl, and he knows that," LaWanna says. "But if he walks in with my favorite bag of chips or candy, that means the world to me."

Click here to read more about LaWanna and Phillip.

70s: Bonnie and Martha Davison

Bonnie, 75, and Martha, 71, met at Morning View Missionary Baptist Church on Detroit's west side, where she sang in the choir and he taught Sunday school. At a chicken dinner fundraiser in 1966, Martha asked Bonnie to buy her a dinner, but he had already promised another girl at the church one of the dinners. "But," Bonnie recalls saying, "if you give me your phone number, I'll buy you a dinner, too." They married in 1967-"in the middle of the riots," Bonnie notes-and attribute their longevity to prayer and faith in God, something the couple leaned on when Martha was diagnosed with colon cancer last year. "I've already claimed my healing," Martha says.

Click here to read more of Bonnie and Martha's story.

here are things you notice when two people are deeply in love: The way each person can naturally finish the other's sentences, the inside jokes, the way their eyes light up when describing the day they met (almost always the wife directs that question to her husband, saying "I want you to tell it," as a sly test), their proposal or their wedding day. We noticed these characteristics when we asked metro Detroit couples at every stage in a marriage-from 20-something newlyweds to 70-something lifelong partnerships-to talk about what makes their relationship special and lasting.

It's not all champagne and chocolates, though. Many couples candidly discussed a relationship's challenges, ranging from health issues and parenting to keeping the spark alive. Though we all know every relationship has its ups and downs, one thing every couple must deal with is money. We asked Detroit financial whiz Gail Perry-Mason, author of Girl, Make Your Money Grow! to advise couples at every stage on what they can do to ensure their partnership rests on the strongest foundation possible.

20s: Ashley and Adam Hosey

Ashley, 27, and Adam, 29, first met as students at Oak Park High School. Years later, they crossed paths again during a night on the town in Canada. Modern romance ensued: They started chatting via Facebook, which led to courtship and eventual marriage in 2011. "It’s the most challenging yet rewarding thing I’ve ever done," says Adam. The two are proud parents of son Ace, 2.

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"Newlyweds should put a 'GPS' on their finances," Perry-Mason says. "You can monitor your accounts and expenses with apps like Mint.com." Save 10-15 percent of income to create a savings cushion of six months of expenses, pay bills on time and keep excellent credit and savings toward goals like down payment on a home. Get the full match on 401(k) contributions and open a separate investment account with any added savings. Plan for insurance needs, particularly life, health and renter’s insurance. Make a plan to finish paying off student debt, and stick to it.

Click here to read more about Ashley and Adam.

30s: Calvin and Alicia Goodwin

The Goodwins, who met as college students singing in the U of M gospel chorale, credit prayer and laughter with keeping their four-year marriage healthy-but clearly, laughter is their forte. Alicia, 31, says she knew Calvin, 33, was the one when she noticed their breathing and heartbeats were in sync. "Well, I hope you’ll breathe with me, because if you don’t, you might die!" he quips. But leave it to Alicia to get the last laugh: She just found out she’s expecting, and it’s a surprise to everyone reading this.

"Couples in their 30s need to create their own personal 'board of directors.' This can include a financial advisor, lawyer, accountant and more," Perry-Mason says. Work toward savings goals not met in your 20s and open an IRA beyond your 401(k). "Be aggressive" in stock market investing since retirement is still distant. Have kids? Start tax-advantaged college savings/investment accounts beginning at birth. Evaluate insurance needs like long-term care and estate planning.

Click here to read more about Calvin and Alicia.

40s: Michele and Anthony Watts

"We’re in dream-chase mode right now," says Anthony, 45, who met Michele, 43, in 1999 and married five years later. The two juggle their careers-he, a lieutenant with the Detroit Fire Department; she, director of the sports management program at Madonna University-with running a photo-booth rental company, traveling as often as they can and their two children. But they find joy in relaxation, too. "I cherish the moments when we’re just sitting on the couch and watch Scandal or The Walking Dead," he says.

"This is the time for couples to become more aggressive about maximizing retirement savings while beginning to make their investment portfolios more conservative," Perry-Mason says. "This may mean making financial 'layoffs.'" If you have college-age kids, make sure not to let those expenses undo retirement savings. Use already built-up college savings and make sure your children are maximizing scholarships and financial aid while avoiding excessive loan burden.

Click here to read more about Michele and Anthony.

50s: Pam and Mecah Mathis

This year will be the 27th anniversary for this jet-setting couple, who have spent many recent years on an airplane. Their son was a football player at the University of Oregon, so they flew out to each one of his games every weekend. Now, say Pam, 50, and Mecah, 53, "this is our breakout year." After Pam battled some health challenges, the couple is recovered and back to traveling as much as they can. By the time this issue is out, they will have tried to come on down the aisle on The Price is Right and will have probably booked a ticket to another locale.

"At this stage, couples should be working closely with a financial advisor to assess their retirement planning and to check for gaps," Perry-Mason says. "This is the age range at which couples need to maximize their retirement planning to shore up all of their retirement needs. Eliminate as much debt as possible before ending your peak earning years."

Click here to read more of Pam and Mecah's story.

60s: LaWanna and Phillip Rolack

In 1978, LaWanna, 59, and Phillip, 62, were on the mend and met in a now-closed Detroit hospital. Love can be found in the strangest of places, but it wasn't until years later, LaWanna says, she realized "this is the person God chose for me." "You think you know each other, but you’re constantly learning each other," Phillip says. But if there’s one thing they know about each other, it's that small tokens are appreciated. "I'm not a flower girl, and he knows that," LaWanna says. "But if he walks in with my favorite bag of chips or candy, that means the world to me."

Click here to read more about LaWanna and Phillip.

70s: Bonnie and Martha Davison

Bonnie, 75, and Martha, 71, met at Morning View Missionary Baptist Church on Detroit's west side, where she sang in the choir and he taught Sunday school. At a chicken dinner fundraiser in 1966, Martha asked Bonnie to buy her a dinner, but he had already promised another girl at the church one of the dinners. "But," Bonnie recalls saying, "if you give me your phone number, I'll buy you a dinner, too." They married in 1967-"in the middle of the riots," Bonnie notes-and attribute their longevity to prayer and faith in God, something the couple leaned on when Martha was diagnosed with colon cancer last year. "I've already claimed my healing," Martha says.

Click here to read more of Bonnie and Martha's story.

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