When it comes to marital problems, how a couple spends their money is often at the top of the list.
Combine that with a husband-and-wife-run business and you've got the latest case on CNBC's new show "Money Court," where O'Shares ETFs chairman Kevin O'Leary hears regular people's trickiest money problems and rules on how they should settle them.
The series' second episode airs Wednesday, August 18, and features married couple Derek and Jocelyn Porter, who are 50/50 business partners running Philadelphia-based children's entertainment business D&J Costumes.
Jocelyn wants to get a new $60,000 car to replace an aging Mercedes-Benz, while Derek argues that she should get a car that costs a third of that due to the blow their business took during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The couple are fighting over Jocelyn's desire to upgrade her 5-year-old Mercedes e350 to a $60,000 model. The vehicle has been having problems with the transmission, which she says will be costly to fix. Jocelyn owns the vehicle, making a monthly payment of $480 with $8,000 remaining on the car loan. The Kelly Blue Book resale value of the car is $6,000.
Jocelyn is insistent on the German brand because she said it "adds a touch of class and quality" to her business, which involves her shuttling costumed characters around the city to birthday parties and other events. "There's no reason why I should not get anything comparable to what I'm driving," she says.
But Derek, who himself drives a minivan, doesn't see it that way. While D&J Costumes normally brings in $150,000 in revenue each year, that number shrunk to $10,000 in 2020 as the pandemic put a halt to in-person gatherings and parties. Because of this, he wants her to buy a car in the $20,000 range, like a Dodge Caravan.
"All I'm saying is don't get another $60,000 vehicle. You may need that money for someplace else," he says. "Last year the coronavirus was very devastating and I'm lucky just to be in business."
His wife, however, argues that she paid all her bills in 2020 and that her car payments didn't cause any stress on their finances.
"It doesn't make sense for anybody to work hard every day and not drive around in what they desire if they can afford it," she says. "If you prioritize, if you save, if you plan, you can get anything you want in this life."
To O'Leary, the couple's dilemma is just another variation of a timeless fight between married couples.
"Every marriage has a debate like this, whether it's a car or something else," he says. "In my marriage, it's my watches. I come home with another watch and my wife goes nuts."
He calls the disappearance of their revenue "brutal," and says that it's important that "America can see the effect that Covid had on businesses like yours."
But O'Leary says he understand's Jocelyn's desire to enjoy the car that she spends hours in every day, and comes up with a compromise for the couple.
Instead of buying a new Mercedes, Jocelyn will go to the Mercedes dealership and negotiate a three-year lease at her same monthly rate of $480. This lease is to include 15,000 miles per year, as well as a drivetrain warranty, which would require the dealership to cover repair costs for any future issues with her car's transmission.
"So when the engine light comes on again, you don't care," he says. "That's their problem."