Must Be The Money!

Melinda always jokes about how long it took for me to pop the question. And while I agree that it took longer than most engagements, I don’t regret waiting. When I met Melinda, I was a broke college student living off of meal plans and prayers. My financial situation must have showed on my face because the first thing Melinda gave me was a book to read titled, “Generation Debt”. My first reaction was…


But, instead, I decided to take the book and give it a read. Well about that. I have to be honest, the reading part never happened. I was in college, I didn’t have time to leisurely read, yet looking back I can see how that experience was a defining moment for our relationship. See, Melinda has two college degrees. One in Business Administration and the other in Business Management with a concentration in Financial Services. I, on the other hand, purposely avoided anything finance and math-related. Algebra? Pass me by. Profit and Loss Statements? Pass me by. Give me American Literature, all day, every day.

But that was college…

As our relationship developed, I realized that we were getting very serious. I graduated from college and started building my career- one step at a time. Now I wish I could say that I immediately saw the value in financial literacy and made all of the best financial decisions, but I’d be lying and Melinda would call me out. I didn’t “get” the importance of financial literacy until we experienced hardships that rattled us to our core. As a provider, I knew that I did not want that kind of life for my family. I also knew that one of Melinda’s favorite songs was… Yep, you guessed it….


So I had to get it together.

Okay, I’m kidding about that part, lol.

But seriously, I knew that I wanted to marry her but I wasn’t willing to do it until I could offer her some kind of financial comfort. I wanted the experience of providing the wedding of her dreams without creating debt, I wanted to take her into a jewelry store, have her pick out her ring and pay cash for it. I mean it would be the least I could do for all of the sacrifices we made throughout our relationship, right? All of that has been accomplished and now we’re married. I’m here to tell you that…

Financial literacy and planning should never lose its importance in your marriage

If anything, your commitment to increasing financial literacy and security should get stronger. I know that one of the best gifts I can ever give my wife and (one day, very soon) our children (Noah and Ava- yep, we have the names decided already) is financial security. And in order for us to have that, we have to know how to manage our finances effectively. We have to develop the spending and saving habits that will make that possible. We have to set financial goals, meet about them, assess them, change and/or refine them and make sure they’re achieved within the agreed upon timeframe. Sacrifices will still be made, but it’s a choice that we make now. We choose to sacrifice or wait on some things now, because we want to luxury of retiring comfortably. We choose to live modestly so we can ensure that our children have money for college.

I have now replaced those American Literature books with finance-related books, because I understand the value of money and want to learn how to use it more effectively. Collectively, we are intentional about building wealth and exposing ourselves to any opportunities to build our financial acumen.

If you’re in a serious relationship that could lead to marriage, start having conversations about your financial goals and priorities now. Don’t wait until hardships surface. Don’t wait until you’re wealthy, don’t wait until you get the joint account, start educating yourself on how to manage your finances effectively. I can tell you that it’s not how much money you all have that counts, it’s about how you manage it. You will manage $5.00 the same as you would manage $500,000- it’s all about your mindset.

Believe it or not, the number one reason for divorce in the United States is financial strain. People get married and fail to develop strategies for how they will manage their money, what happens next? They walk away from the courthouse broke and broken-hearted. That’s not a good combination but it’s completely preventable.

Here’s what has worked for us

  1. Google Drive – We house all of our budgets, financial plans and goals in Google Drive. It’s user-friendly, robust yet simple and we can access it through an app on our phones or from our laptops no matter where we are in the world.
  2. Meeting Regularly to Discuss Our Finances – It’s one thing to set financial goals, but you cannot stop there. You have to make time to meet regularly to track and measure your progress. This also allows you to identify when certain goals are achieved so you can celebrate!
  3. Writing the Vision and Making it Plain – Most people start with a financial goal of just paying their bills on time, period. That’s a start. But what is your big vision for your finances? Do you want to build wealth? Leave assets behind for your children? Save money for your children’s college expenses? Retire early? In order to get this out of your head, you have to write down the big vision. I have certain financial goals, Melinda has certain financial goals. We write our visions down and then we talk about them. The end result is a collective vision that incorporates both of our goals.
  4. Setting our Agreements – When you get married, your money isn’t just your money anymore. You are a team. So it’s important to have certain rules regarding the family’s finances. Here are some of our agreements:
  • We agree that all family finance meetings must include a beverage of choice that may include but are not limited to the following: hot chocolate, wine, hot apple cider, coffee or tea.
  • We agree that we will try not to speak in definitives (I’m going to do this, we’re going to do that) and instead we will ask for each other’s input or make suggestions.
  • We agree that as far as the budget is concerned, if it isn’t a line item on the budget, it doesn’t need to take money out of our accounts.
  • We agree not to spend more than $20 without having paid all budgeted bills first.

We’re not financial experts

As we conclude this post, please understand that we’re learning every day. We’re not financial planners, we’re not economists, we’re just two people with a goal of living responsibly and building wealth for our family. What we’re suggesting may not work for your family. You may identify a better system- that’s cool. Please come back on this post and share it! We can learn from each other! Honestly, if you walk away from this post with a few takeaways and some chuckles, our objective has been fulfilled!





What’s this all about?

We are adding a section to our blog where we share our traveling experiences with you! One of the goals we established for our family this year was to travel more. By adding this section to our blog, it will allow us to invite you on the journey as we achieve that goal!

So where are the Lillys headed next?

It’s a surprise for Melinda’s birthday so you’ll have to wait and see until next week. But what I can say is that we’re going to two different places and it’s not Puerto Rico again. She’s in for a big surprise and we’re taking you with us!

Marriage Lessons From The North Carolina Couple That Holds The Guinness World Record For The Longest Marriage


Herbert and Zelmyra Fisher hold The Guinness World Record for the longest marriage. The North Carolina couple were married for 86 years!

Our goal is to beat that record and luckily the Fishers left us with a few gems on how to build a successful, long-lasting marriage! We’ve shared a few below:


Question: What made you realize that you could spend the rest of your lives together? Were you scared at all?

Answer: “With each day that passed, our relationship was more solid and secure. Divorce was NEVER an option, or even a thought.”


Question: What was the best piece of marriage advice you ever received?

Answer: “Respect, support, and communicate with each other. Be faithful, honest, and true. Love each other with ALL of your heart.”


Question: You got married very young – how did you both manage to grow as individuals yet not grow apart as a couple?

Answer: “Everyone who plants a seed and harvests the crop celebrates together. We are individuals, but accomplish more together.”


Question: At the end of bad relationship day, what is the most important thing to remind yourselves?

Answer: “Remember marriage is not a contest, never keep a score. God has put the two of you together on the same team to win.”


Read more about the Fishers at-…/

What We’ve Learned About Love and Marriage


Ciara on Love 

I think the biggest lesson I have learned about love is that it truly conquers all. It is resilient. And I know that sounds very cliché, but it’s incredibly true. When two people come together and truly commit to loving each other, love takes the form of glue and bonds their hearts together.

I’ve also learned that true love is like a mirror that projects the other person’s soul. It is there that you are shown who that person is- their strengths, their weaknesses, their fears, their insecurities. And for some reason, you feel safe with being exposed. You feel liberated. You feel understood. You feel esteemed.

When I met Melinda, I wasn’t living authentically. I had a nicely decorated box that I was comfortable inside and Melinda was the wrecking ball sent to demolish it. And I was afraid because I had buried my true identity and didn’t know who I was without that box. It was through this experience that I learned that true love can be the catalyst for your rebirth. That you can meet someone who God has equipped with eyes that can see through all the facades and find you- your true self; be it hidden, battered or scared and provide it with a place of refuge.

Love liberates.

I know and love myself because of the love that I share with Melinda. And as we have evolved over the years, I’ve learned that love is a teacher. And if you’re willing to be its student, it will teach you how to love like God. It will teach you how to care for something as precious as the human heart and it will check you.


Love will check you, boo! It will correct you when you’re letting pride get in the way; and it will mold you over time into the person you’re destined to become.

Love is gentle. And it can soften the hardest of hearts. Love is patient. It never gives up on you even when you try to push it aside. Love is like home. It’s safe. It’s familiar. You can come in, drop your bags and rest.


Melinda on Marriage

Ciara and I had been fast asleep for quite a few hours when I heard the loud crash in our master bathroom. I sprang up and hopped completely over Ciara’s still sleeping figure on the other side of the bed. I completely cleared her body and the edge of the bed, sticking a perfect 10 point landing with both feet on the floor. That’s when I woke up. I was ducking to get under the bed when Ciara sat up and asked me what was wrong. I told her that I had heard a loud crash in between breaths and she looked around to see what happened. Our shower caddy had fallen from its suction cup hook.

I was doubled over, trying to catch my breath when she took my arm and guided me to the bed. She only said four words to me all night and until the next morning. “Come here” as she lifted the covers and wrapped me in her arms and then, “It’s okay”, repeatedly until I caught my breath. My heartbeat had slowed from the pace of a HBCU drumline to that of 7-year-old learning to skip rope when I realized what had happened. I was amazed at how quickly and accurately I had moved in my sleep. I realized that I hadn’t woken up until my feet hit the floor and that everything up until that point had been driven by my mind or subconscious or the angels. I also realized that each time my silent chuckles shook my shoulders, Ciara would hold me tighter and drowsily mumble, “It’s okay.”

In the span of a few minutes I felt absolutely terrified, oddly fascinated (at the speed and accuracy of my response) and later, completely safe.

So far, marriage has been a lot like what happened that night. The wedding happens SO quick. Afterward, I was really terrified because I didn’t really know who “Melinda Lilly” was or how to be a wife or if any of that was supposed to be any different than the previous 6 years of our dating relationship. I’ve been completely fascinated with how quickly people seem to respect our relationship now versus before. Most of all, I feel safe. If anything goes down, I know exactly where to go. I don’t even think about it anymore, it’s automatic. I never have any doubt in my mind that Ciara will always protect me, even in her sleep.

And the thing about our marriage is that, there isn’t a part of our lives that isn’t touched by our union. So, sometimes she’s protecting me from bumps in the night or spiders or airplane turbulence (more on that in a later blog) but sometimes she’s protecting me from self-doubt or stress or anxiety or embarrassment. Sometimes I’m protecting her. Either way, it is when we are most vulnerable that we reach out and make each other feel 100% safe.