Monthly Archives: November 2012

Money Is Not About Money

I once attended a workshop about money. One of the exercises our group of 50 had to do was chew a brand new $100 bill. Most of us gagged.

The purpose of the exercise was to demonstrate that money – the thing itself – is neutral. Pieces of paper, diamonds, chunks of gold to which we assign a cultural worth have no direct value in nourishing us, keeping us warm, or sheltering us.  In this exercise, money even turned out to be disgusting.

I returned from that workshop with a deeper understanding that money is a vehicle of exchange for a wide variety of other things. It’s a mirror against which we see ourselves compared to others. It’s a metaphor we use to assign value to a person or thing. It helps shape our identity, expanding or restricting our access to our hopes,  dreams and ambitions.

Perhaps most important, money is leverage – the ability to shape our life based on “want to” choices rather than “have to” ones. It’s this leverage aspect of money that is often a trap in marriage.

The reality is, whoever controls the money controls the lever and calls the shots. That’s why it’s so important for you to participate and understand the money in your marriage. If you’re not involved, if you don’t understand your marital finances, if you’re too busy, or not interested, you’re at the wrong end of the lever.

Consider this another a wake-up call.

Warren Buffett Does it Again

I’ve always admired Warren Buffett, not because of his wealth, but because of his common sense, decency, lack of pretension and sense of fairness. In an piece for the NYTimes, he writes that he believes he and other rich people should be taxed at a higher rate.

He also never believed that giving money to his children equates with giving them love. He wanted them to carve out their own path and believed that “setting them up with unlimited wealth is harmful and an anti-social act.”

His decision to donate nearly $37 billion to the Gates Foundation may have shocked the world, but it came as no surprise to his three children, whom he had consulted first.

“The truth is it would be insane to leave us that much money,” said Susan Buffett. “It just would be.”

Buffett gave $1 billion to his children’s three charitable foundations: the Susan A. Buffett Foundation, which focuses on early education for children of low-income families; the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, which has helped 42 countries; and the Novo Foundation, Peter Buffett’s organization for democracy. They each draw a salary from their work.

The Buffett kids grew up in a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house in Omaha Nebraska. They attended local elementary and high schools . Their friends were neighborhood kids who actually played without needing play dates or being chauffered from house to house. The Buffett kids grew up without pretension; money wasn’t the way they measured their parents’ love.

Each Buffett sibling received a letter from their father in which he wrote: “I consider myself lucky to have three children who want to spend much of their time and energy working on projects that will benefit others. I am proud of what you are doing and your mother would be proud as well. Love, Dad.”

I like this man, in spite of his wealth.

The Business Side of Marriage

If you have a business partner, you expect to share information about your business. However, most of us don’t think of our marriage as a business although it has an eerily similar structure minus, of course, the love, romance and illusion of living happily ever after.

Consider that a business has income, expenses, assets, liabilities, taxes and net worth.So does a marriage. That’s why marriages need financial intimacy.We don’t start a business or go into marriage expecting that it might fail. But both fail at alarmingly high rates, albeit for different reasons.

It’s counter intuitive to think about widowhood or divorce when you’re getting married. Few women do. But I’ve written over the years that letting one partner manage all the money sets the other partner up for financial vulnerability. Too often, the partner with her head in the sand is the woman.

Being in love often makes rational thinking difficult. We women who love and trust our partners make certain romantic assumptions. For example, we assume our mate is making financial choices that will benefit us both. Sometimes he is; sometimes he isn’t. Sometimes he assumes we don’t want to be involved. Other times, he doesn’t want us to be involved.

Here’s the bottom line: In the nine community property states ,husband and wife share responsibility for financial decisions.

Do I understand what my partner is doing financially?

Do we regularly discuss our finances together?

How would I manage if I were widowed or divorced?

Do I sign documents without understanding them?

Do I know the location of all our financial records?

Download the ebook for $2.99 to get all the information about the business side of marriage.

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Financial Abuse is a Woman’s Problem

Many people Google the phrase ‘financial abuse’ and find their way to my website. I can’t tell how many of the searches are by women, but I’ll bet most of them are.


They search for information because they are trapped in relationships in which they fear their mate, or don’t know their legal rights. Perhaps they fear for their children and don’t know where to get help. They also know that their mate is capable of escalated abuse.


Many wives suffer in silence, thinking that such controlling behavior is a personality quirk. It’s not a quirk; it’s a sign and you should pay attention to it.  It’s not protective; it’s not loving. It’s a desire to control the relationship.


That’s why it’s important for women to understand that financial control can be a precursor to physical and emotional abuse. Women find out too late that the husband or boyfriend who won’t talk about money is saying “I’m in charge here and I refuse to discuss it”.

If you’re married and in a community property state, you are legally entitled to know what’s happening financially in your marriage.

Where do you draw the line?

You may know someone whom you suspect is financially abused. On the other hand, you may not know that your sister or neighbor, acquaintance or friend is a financial hostage because she won’t tell you. She’s afraid to rock the boat, fearful for her children, knowing that her hands are tied financially.

You may know her husband, and never suspect a thing. He’s not out of control or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. He can be charming, an upstanding member of the community, the life of the party. He can also be a control freak with the intent to isolate his wife into a state of total financial dependence.

Signs of Financial Abuse

Controlling the finances.

Withholding money or credit cards.

Giving you an allowance.

Making you account for every penny you spend.

Stealing from you or using your money without asking.

Exploiting your assets for personal gain

Withholding basic necessities (food, clothes, medications, shelter).

Preventing you from working or choosing your own career.

Sabotaging your job (making you miss work or calling constantly, etc.)

If something about your relationship with your husband or partner scares you and you need to talk, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or go to Http://

If you know someone who needs this information, please pass it on. It could be a life saver.