YOUR MONEY-Marriage and money: bridging the interracial divide

Tue Nov 27, 2012 11:13am EST
 
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By Chris Taylor

NEW YORK Nov 27 (Reuters) - Walk into any American conversation, and there are two volatile issues that could make it explode at any moment: Race, and money.

Combine the two, and spontaneous combustion is guaranteed.

Which is why no one ever talks about it. But given the rapidly rising number of interracial marriages in this country, perhaps it is time to discuss how coming from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds can sometimes lead to disparate attitudes toward money and security.

After all, one in 10 American marriages is now interracial, an all-time high. That is up 28 percent since 2000, according to Census figures, and translates to 5.4 million couples nationwide. That number looks primed to spike even higher, given that 18 percent of unmarried, opposite-sex couples identify as interracial.

So how do our unique backgrounds shape our understanding of money? On the subject, there is perhaps no better person to talk to than Carmen Wong Ulrich. The personal finance expert was famously satirized on the television comedy series "30 Rock" as Carmen Chao, a TV personality of indeterminate ethnicity who skipped effortlessly between multiple languages.

In real life, Ulrich is the author of books including "Generation Debt" and "The Real Cost of Living." She had her own personal finance show on CNBC, and was raised by a Latina mom and a Chinese stepfather. She also married a white guy from Michigan - they have since split.

While many old stereotypes are wrongheaded, cultural backgrounds do tend to shape our attitudes toward money and security - and it would serve most marriages well to understand where our partners are coming from, Ulrich said.   Continued...