Regulation Z

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is making a new rule for mortgages, based on the ability to repay them (and not solely on the ability to make their monthly payments–a very different thing, as the financial crisis of 2008 illustrated). As Matthew Yglesias notes, it will now be harder for people to get home loans.

Good. And when I say “good,” I mean, “Thank God.” Sometimes things need to be harder to get, so that when you do ultimately get them, you are more appreciative, knowledgeable, and careful.

I’m not sure when I became such a hard-ass. On certain topics, anyway. Money, especially.

Wait, I know exactly when: it was after my husband asked me to start managing the household finances, and in the third year of my management I over-spent by $5,000. We weren’t in debt, it wasn’t racked up on a credit card. But I didn’t save it. We had agreed to set aside a certain amount of money, and I had not paid attention. To $5,000. Or about $14 a day.

My husband said, “We agreed to save. We agreed to.” He could have used the word “you” in those sentences. But he didn’t. I was beside myself, and harder on myself than was likely warranted. But I let us down. I broke the agreement.

It was the saddest I’ve ever felt in my marriage, because I felt I had broken my husband’s trust in me.

Let me be clear: I felt that, not him. What I’ve learned about my husband is that he sees money as nothing more than what it is: a tool to get you what you want, in the manner in which you want. For him, money reflects choices, not character. He will adjust his wants according to the money available. And given a choice between spend and save, he tends to choose “save.” (I think that’s because guns don’t make him feel safer. A six-month cash reserve makes him feel safer.)

It was I who had a less utilitarian view of money–who just wanted to get things sometimes, without thinking first: “Can I afford this? Do I need this? If not, why do I want this? Is it really worth it?” Four little questions–they can be answered in under a minute, if you’re honest with yourself and if you pay attention to your money.

My husband always knew–he trusted–that I had it in me to be honest and pay attention. I just had to make the effort.

So yeah, I’m glad that there will be more effort–more honesty, more attention–required in making home loans, in getting mortgages. Who knows, it might ultimately help lower the divorce rate.

What do you think?

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