Tag Archives: marital finances

When Being Widowed is a Relief

In the seminars I used to give about financial intimacy in marriage, some women confessed to social taboos they had never even shared with their friends. For example, one woman said” the nicest thing my husband did for me was die and save me the trouble of divorcing him.” Or the caregiver wife who admitted ‘he’s taking too long to die”. I remember also the financially abused wives who paid for the seminar in cash because they were afraid to write a check or put the seminar cost on their credit cards.

The stories we tell ourselves about why we do the things we do keep us from having to face some uncomfortable truths about ourselves. I did it too.

Like so many women I’ve met, my marriage had a public face and a private face. It endured because of protective fictions on my part that ate away at me slowly but steadily. Those fictions enabled the relationship to function.

It wasn’t until after I was widowed that I could admit to myself how relieved I was to be free of the financial risks and pressures I felt during our marriage. These years of being on my own have allowed me to live without the distorting filter of my husband’s preferences and dreams.

I was lucky; I had prepared financially to be a widow. If I had not taken the steps I write about in my book, I would never have recovered financially or emotionally from the burden of his death. I would never have forgiven him for risking my future safety to achieve his dreams. Protective fictions would have kept me from admitting that widowhood has given me a chance to live my own life.


The Enemy of Intimacy in the Bedroom

Is discussing money a hot button subject at your house?

Is your husband involved in business deals you don’t understand?

Even worse, does he withhold financial information when you ask for it?

One of the women I interviewed for my book said, “He wants to have sex every night and I can’t know what our net worth is? And I’m supposed to pretend it doesn’t matter?”

If you’re resentful or angry about the lack of financial intimacy between you, you’re probably angry about a lot of other things … your sex life, for example.

Where do you think those negative emotions go at bedtime? That’s right – straight to bed with you. Those negative emotions wrap themselves around you and smother the chances of enjoyable sex. Your mate may not know what you’re thinking, but he’ll understand what your body language is telling him.

Financial secrets can be as deadly to a marriage as infidelity. Both result in a feeling of betrayal, a lack of trust , a blow to your self-esteem and a devaluing of wedding vows spoken with a commitment to a lifetime partnership.

The law considers you to be an equal legal and financial partner in your marriage. If you’re not being treated that way by your husband, whether you admit it or not, you’ll be seething with resentment as you suppress your feelings… especially at bedtime.

So talk to your husband about money. it’s your money too. Share your concerns, your fears, your desire to participate. Better yet, let me tell him what’s on your mind. Chapter 15 of my book is titled “For Husbands Only” and it’s really clear about what you’re thinking when you’re resentful about not being treated as an equal partner.

Go for it. Your husband can’t read your mind. If you want to be involved with the money, do it while you’re still together. If divorce or widowhood is a worry for you, the sooner you know about the money in your marriage, the safer you are.

Remember, silence is the enemy of intimacy, in the bedroom and out of it.

“Don’t You Trust Me?”

How many women hear this question from their fiancée before the wedding?  It happens more often than you think.

Who wants to spoil the euphoria of wedding plans and the excitement of honeymoon planning by discussing money? Many women won’t take a chance of bringing up a subject which, in the past, has made her future husband impatient, sometimes even angry?

“Why are you always thinking about money?” he had said. “Didn’t we agree we’d talk about that after the honeymoon?” This is not a good sign for how he will handle discussions of money after you’re married.

If you wait until after the honeymoon, it’s too late. Once you say “I Do”, you become one half of a legal and financial contractual unit called a marriage. You don’t like to think of your marriage that way, but in the eyes of the law, that’s what it is. Every financial decision your husband makes, with your knowledge, or without it, will affect you in the future.

How unfortunate that couples will seek premarital counseling for sex, religion, parenting or conflict  resolution, but few sign on for financial coaching and money issues.  Few women plan on being widowed or divorced. Too many cede control of finances to their husband, leaving them unprepared to cope on their own in case their marriage ends.

Don’t let this happen to you. Get involved in the finances before you marry. Don’t wait till after the honeymoon. It’s not about trusting your future husband. It’s about understanding your joint finances, asking questions because you deserve answers and participating as an equal partner.

Control Freak or Financial Abuser?

I’ve written about this before, but I keep meeting women who can’t tell the difference between a controlling husband and a financially abusive one. Many wives admit to fears they had while they were still engaged. They married anyway, thinking that their husband’s financially controlling behavior would change after the wedding.

Financial control can be a precursor to financially abusive behavior. A husband controls the purse strings, refusing to share financial information with his wife but expecting that she account for every choice and every penny spent.

Many wives suffer in silence, telling themselves that their husband’s controlling behavior is a personality quirk.They may still have access to joint finances, reasonable mobility and buying choices. They may be frustrated by their husband’s attitude and behavior, but they don’t live with a gnawing sense of fear.

Financial abuse is different. It is behavior designed to isolate a woman into a state of  financial dependence and fear. The most important thing to remember about financial abuse is that the abuser is not out of control. He can, at the drop of a hat, change his behavior to suit the social circumstances. He can be charming and persuasive, but his objective is to isolate his partner and make her dependence on him total.He is deliberately choosing to control his partner’s behavior by cutting off her access to money, mobility and choice.

Financial abuse can often lead to physical abuse as well. It happens within all age ranges, educational levels, ethnic backgrounds, and financial levels. The rich socialite who lives in the largest house in the best neighborhood is as likely to be a victim of financial abuse as the poorest wife in the toughest section of town.

The thing to remember about financial abuse is that it often precedes emotional, verbal and ultimately physical abuse. Here are some signs to watch out for:

Controlling the finances.

Withholding money or credit cards.

Giving you an allowance.

Making you account for every penny you spend.

Stealing from you or taking your money.

Using your assets for his personal benefit.

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, you can get help by contacting the following:

National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or go to http://www.nrcdv.org.

This website lists the numbers and locations of domestic violence hotlines for the 50 states.

From Wife to Widow in a Second

Could you become one of the women in the statistics listed below? Absolutely. I was.

Demographers estimate that 1.25 million women will be widowed annually by 2040.

The average age a woman is widowed is 56.

There are currently 11.3 million widows and 2.6 million widowers.

700,000 women are widowed every year.

80% of women live longer than their husband

The average widow outlives her husband by 14 years.

Nearly 50% of women over 65 and 32% over 55 are widows.

Source: http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/acs-13.pdf

I became a widow in a second when my husband died in an accident. That’s why I’m so passionate about wanting you to understand everything about your money before a crisis hits you.

Is your husband handling your marital finances? You need to get involved, participate, understand the whole financial picture. If you’re caught in the statistical profile, not knowing about your money will make life even harder for you. Here’s what you should do right now:

Explain to your husband that you’re worried about how you would cope on your own if something happened to him. (Show him the statistics I listed above.)

Tell your husband how much you appreciate everything he does for you and your life together. This is vitally important. You want his cooperation, not a confrontation. You don’t want him to feel you don’t trust him. It’s not about trust – you’re looking for information and participation.

Review your entire financial picture- everything you own, everything you owe. Know where your husband keeps the financial records, how to access them and what they mean! Be sure the information is up-to-date.

Make sure your husband has sufficient life insurance with you as the beneficiary. CONFIRM THAT THE PREMIUM PAYMENTS ARE PAID ON TIME! If even one payment is late, that will cancel the policy.

Draw up a will, a revocable trust with you as executor and trustee and the powers of attorney for health care and financial decisions. Get the help of a legal professional to make sure you’re doing it right. If you miss even one thing, that might invalidate all of them.

Don’t count on anyone else to take care of these things for you. No one has a higher stake in understanding your money than you do!


Sheryl Sandberg Has No Interest in Money

How much money does it take before you lose interest in money? Maybe Sheryl Sandberg is there. In a cover story in Time Magazine this week, she and her husband Dave Goldberg show the world how she manages to have it all.

Sandberg urges women to negotiate shared household duties with their spouses early and often. “We have areas of responsibility. I do travel. I do anything electronic, computers, cars,” says Goldberg. “I do photos and videos. We share the child care 50-50. Although it’s not like we keep score.” And he does the finances. Since Facebook went public, his wife has cashed out about $90 million worth of shares, according to a schedule that was set before the IPO, and she still has almost 18 million shares left. But she demurs when asked how much she’s worth, claiming that that’s Goldberg’s area. “He manages our money,” she says. “I have essentially no interest.” 


I have been encouraging women to understand their marital finances and participate with their husband in sharing all financial information. But I’ll give Sandberg a pass. There comes a point when you know there’s so much more where that came from that she’s not in danger of ever running out.


Three Dangerous Words at Tax Time

It’s one month from tax time. If you’re like most wives I know, you’ll let your husband consult with the accountant. You have too many other things to do, and besides, you’re not interested in all those forms.

Big mistake, because your signature is required to file the joint income tax return. Your signature means you read it, understood it and agreed with the information.

I used to be like that. My husband would say ‘Sign here, Honey’ and I’d sign. I trusted him. I thought he knew more about finances than I did. Turns out, the whole thing wasn’t rocket science. You just have to learn how to read the columns.

Your husband isn’t necessarily trying to hide things from you by taking the responsibility for it. Someone has to do it.

So ask him to explain what the numbers mean. If an accountant is doing your taxes, attend the meeting with your husband. Ask questions if you don’t understand something. Your accountant can explain things that your husband often doesn’t understand himself. Your husband might be relieved that you’re finally taking an interest in your marital finances.

“Sign here Honey” may be three little words which can hurt you if you are ever divorced or widowed.

Trust, Husbands and Financial Advisors

A woman called into a talk show where the topic was marital fidelity.Saying she was done with men, the caller ended her commentary by asking “If you can’t trust the person who takes a marriage vow with you, whom can you trust?”

I thought about her question as it applies to two professions dealing with money- financial advice and accounting. No financial advisor takes a vow before taking us on as a client. We can’t check a track record because the names of clients are confidential. We have no way of knowing how well the advisor does in an economic downturn.

Bottom line, we’re working on trust – giving our money to a firm or individual whose caveat is that past performance is no indication of future results and counsels us on the risks of investment. The certificates on the office wall testify to completion of a course of study, not a grade for performance.

The same holds true for the accounting profession. Most accountants are good at what they do. But they depend on accurate input from us to help us with our tax return. The accountant signs the return based on trust that we’ve provided all the information we’re required to provide. If we’re filing a joint tax return and most of the financial information is handled by our husband because we don’t “do taxes”, we have to trust he has provided accurate information.

Trust is involved in a transaction with someone when we do not have full knowledge about them, their intent, and the things they are offering us. However, when it comes to marriage, which requires no study, no training and nothing but a vow, trust is used interchangeably with love. Unfortunately, love is not a course of study and no one gets a diploma in the subject.