Money & Mates: Q&A With Michael Eichler & Zack Rosen
This week Queercents interviews Michael Eichler and Zack Rosen, owners and editors of The New Gay, a Washington, DC-based queer publication. Michael lives in Washington, DC and works in urban planning. When he’s not designing new bus rapid transit lines, he enjoys nearly-vegan cooking, cycling, making music, and his rockin’ boyfriend.
Zack is a Chicago native currently living in Washington, DC. A recently downsized reporter, he enjoys running, cheap puns and defending ELO and Steely Dan to non-believers. He currently lives in Adams Morgan with his dream guy.
This week they share their insights with us about managing their business relationship and balancing that with their personal life. They’ve got some great tips for business partners who are thinking of getting into bed together (and vice versa).
1. How long have you guys been together?
Michael: Going on 18 months. I’ll be psyched when we can stop conveying the age of our relationship like one conveys the age of an infant.
Zack: It’ll be 18 months on January 1st. Our first kiss happened on July 1st, 2007, so it makes it really easy to count our anniversaries.
2. How did money first come up in your relationship?
Michael: Going out to eat, I think. We just started taking turns buying meals. Luckily we don’t eat out much, so it’s not a big worry.
Zack: I’m currently unemployed, but until two months ago I was a newspaper writer. That, as some might know, pays about as well as being unemployed. We were at a bar with friends about a year ago when I told Michael what I actually made. I’d indicated before that I was pretty under-compensated but I remember him being shocked at true meagerness of my income.
3. Checking and savings accounts: Joint or separate?
Michael: Currently separate but we’re in the process of opening a joint checking account.
Zack: Separate! As someone who gets freaked out by the idea of getting a dog or taking my boyfriend on family vacations, a joint checking account would be a big step toward permanent domesticity that would irrationally freak me out. That said, we did just open a joint account for health insurance purposes and I think it will make it easier for us to share in things like the grocery bills. (We also don’t have a dog yet. He likes Dachsunds and I like cats. The whole endeavor is star-crossed.)
4. What is your worst habit around finances?
Michael: I don’t have much in the way of savings, and occasionally I’ll charge something (airline tickets, for example) without realizing that I don’t have enough money to pay off the bill. Luckily I don’t do it often so it’s not a growing problem. Oh, and I ignore my old retirement accounts from former employers!
Zack: I’m bad at budgeting. This is the case in terms of money, free time or anything that I have in limited quantities. I generally just try to spend conservatively and hope that translates into spending less than I have. That generally works, but it is a system that could definitely be refined.
5. Do you rent or own and how do you divide the bills?
Michael: I bought my place years ago and Zack now is technically my tenant. He pays me about half of my combined mortgage and co-op fee. We split the groceries down the middle, and as I said, we take turns with restaurant bills and bar tabs.
Zack: Michael has owned our apartment for almost ten years; I moved in six months ago. He pays the mortgage and I write him a monthly check for half of it. We also picked up a temporary roommate (we live in a two bedroom) to help cut costs since I’ve been unemployed. I greatly miss walking around naked and peeing with the door open, but it’s well worth the rent reduction.
We split all our other bills 50/50. Groceries, utilities, etc. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of being supported in the first place, and with Michael being ten years older than me it’s important that I pull my weight and not play the role of houseboy.
6. How do you balance your relationship as business partners and your relationship as romantic partners?
Michael: It’s been pretty easy so far. I take care of all the business finances and legal stuff, and we both share a lot of the responsibilities of the site we help manage. The biggest challenge is getting to bed early enough: we have to tear ourselves away from our laptops, usually involving a game where we count to five and close them at the same time.
Zack: It’s tough. Our business predates us as a couple by exactly two weeks, so we’ve been coworkers just as long as we’ve been boyfriends. The most important part is to compartmentalize between when you’re working together and when you’re playing, and also to have a thick skin. If you keep the areas of your life separate you can be critical of each other in business and not have it spill over into the bedroom.
A general piece of advice for everyone, though, is to close your damn laptops once in a while. Michael and I often find ourselves sitting at the same table, over different computers, for hours on end. No matter how busy you are, no business is worth turning your live-in-lover into a pen pal.
7. What’s been your worst disagreement around finances?
Michael: I don’t know that we’ve had any disagreements about finances. I was always taught to keep finances and relationships as separate as possible, because you can easily lose a relationship due to money conflicts. We make up rules as we go along and don’t break them.
Zack: Things have a been a little tense since I lost my job. That hasn’t led to any specific disagreements, but the stress that comes from being unemployed can easily affect a domestic relationship. Generally, though, I think the two of us have been very lucky not to disagree over money very often. As the economy worsens, we’ll probably be too busy eating newspaper and selling pencils on the street corner to disagree about much of anything.
8. What is success?
Michael: Success is a journey, not a destination. As long as I keep moving upwards in the things I do, I’m successful.
Zack: My grandpa used to torture me with this question and I never had a satisfactory answer for him either. Approximately, though, I think success is happiness. When you’re happy and you’re comfortable, when you’re confident that you’ve met your own life goals in a way that allows you to eat and pay rent, you’re probably successful.
Speaking of my Grandpa, here’s a money related joke he once told me:
“A businessman gets hit by a car one day after work. Several of his coworkers see this happen and run to his side to tend to him while they are waiting for the ambulance to arrive. As the wipe a washcloth on his forehead and prop up his leg to prevent swelling, someone asks him “Are you comfortable?” To which the man replies “I make a decent living.”
I didn’t say you had to laugh at it. His matzoh jokes were always better anyway.
9. What would you do with your life if money were not a consideration?
Michael: I would open a queer cafe / vegetarian restaurant / bar / performance space / dance club that had a community thrift store as part of it. Something queer that’s totally different than most places: no loud dance music, no fancy furniture, no gender segregation. A true community resource.
Zack: Not to keep mentioning my unemployment, but two plus months of lethargic inactivity told me that lazing around the house all day and night is hardly a euphoric way to spend time. (To be precise, I’ve gained a gut like a pregnant lady and watched 3 seasons of 30 Rock in five days.) If money were not a consideration in my life I would commit myself even more whole heartedly to our business. It has been a dream of mine to operate an intelligent, interesting queer publication for years. If I wasn’t worried about steady paychecks I could do even more to make that a reality.
I would also buy jetpacks and a white tiger. Anyone who claims to be 100% altruistic is lying.
10. What are your plans for retirement?
Michael: Retirement? What’s that? I have a few retirement accounts lying around that really should be consolidated, but I don’t really pay much attention to them.
Zack: My plans for retirement involve a lot travel and writing. Is there anyway I could retire now? I’d rather travel and write while I’m young and spend my golden years worrying about employment. Is that short sighted of me?