Tag Archives: money

What You Can’t Do When You Marry

You can remind, you can nag, you can plea, but  no matter how much you may want to, if you’re married, you can’t plan for your future without your husband’s  cooperation.

You can’t write your husband’s will. You can’t take his medical exam for life insurance or long-term care insurance. You can’t be his health care proxy if he doesn’t assign you durable powers of attorney to make medical decisions for him. You can’t be comfortable about your marital finances if he doesn’t share financial information with you.

You need your husband’s cooperation to protect yourself against what you would face if he were disabled or died. If your husband doesn’t face the fact that he’s mortal like you and me, your hands are tied. If all he does is reassure you not to worry about a thing, that doesn’t do anything for you except lull you into a false sense of security.

You can’t make your husband protect your financial interests in case your marriage ends. If it ends in divorce, chances are you’ll be in a combative position with him.  If it ends in death, it’s too late to do anything constructive about your financial situation.

You expect him to want to protect you because he says he loves you. But let’s get real. A marriage is as much a legal and financial partnership with obligations on both sides. But people have different definitions of love, and we can rarely be sure we’re ascribing the same characteristics to your love and his love.

If he won’t cooperate with you to get you the financial protection you need, it’s safe to assume that his definition of love doesn’t match yours. For me, that would be a deal breaker.

Married Couples are Business Partners

You may not like thinking about your marriage this way, but if you live in a community property state, your husband, by definition, is also your business partner. The business you are building together is called marriage.

The community property states are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. In these states, whatever one of you is doing financially, whether your partner knows about it or not, you are doing it too. If you spend irresponsibly, your husband suffers. If he spends or invests irresponsibly, you suffer. There’s nothing complicated about it.

People don’t like to think about their marriage as having a business component. It’s called marital finances – MONEY –how much comes in, how much goes out, what it’s spent on and how much is saved. Money, this ‘thing’ we think will take care of itself if only we love each other enough, is a huge factor in breaking up marriages.

There’s no romance or illusion involved in running a business together. But there is transparency, another word for financial intimacy. It means all the finances are transparent for both partners. Financial information is shared, discussed and agreed upon. Neither partner commits the other before consulting with them.

Would you hide purchases from a business partner?  Would you commit to investments your partner didn’t know about? Would you spend needed capital on something you couldn’t resist and then try to justify it?

People don’t have a double standard when it comes to building a business together. A marriage is a business with a partner you love.  But love is never enough to make a business flourish. So  pay attention to the marital finances part of your marriage.  It’s just as important as the love you share.

Consult “Don’t Worry about a Thing, Dear” -Why Women Need Financial Intimacy for more information on marital finances in community property states. http//www.financialintimacy.com

Job first, then the Wedding

This post is verbatim from an Ask Amy column, written by Amy Dickinson, one of the smartest, most practical and ethical syndicated columnists. Thank you Amy!!

Dear Amy, Our son got engaged. He is 26 and after spending eight years in college, he did not get a degree. He and his fiancee live with her parents. Our son wants to be an actor. After many conversations, he has let us know that he is ‘on track’ with his profession and will not pursue full-time work. This couple does nothing but watch TV, post on Facebook and participate in local acting gigs.

My wife had a conversation with the mother of the bride-to-be about wedding plans. It did not go well. The couple wants to have an elaborate and expensive wedding. My wife told the mother we would not contribute money to indulge the couple in this type of venue or discuss wedding plans until they became more motivated and employed. This infuriated the mother of the bride-to-be. She called my wife manipulative and said she was using this tactic as leverage not to pay for half the wedding. My wife was trying to make a point that the focus needs to be on the motivation and employment of these adults. Are we wrong in our thinking?

A concerned dad

Dear Dad,

You should not be discussing this wedding with the fiancee’s parents, but with the couple. Whenever someone asks you to pay for something, this puts you in a position to make a choice about the proposed investment. If the fiancee’s mother says you are trying to manipulate through money, you can truthfully respond,”Damn straight, we are.”

Couples should finance their own weddings. If they want money from you, then they are going to have to be brave enough to lay out their case, and not send mommy to do their asking. Basically, you and your wife are doing what the fiancee’s parents won’t do – setting firm boundaries and making sound financial choices.

Your stance should be,”We are not against this marriage, but if the couple wants this fancy wedding, they should get jobs, save up, and contribute toward it. If they do, then we will reconsider our position.”

Amen and thank you again, Amy!

“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.

What Suze Orman Doesn’t Know

I admire Suze Orman. She’s one of the best writers about financial information. Her writing is clear and conversational; the information accurate and easy to understand. I recommend her books to the women who take my seminars. I’ve included her books as part of the suggested reading list in my book “Don’t Worry about a Thing, Dear “- Why Women Need Financial Intimacy.

However, Suze, by her own description, is a lesbian and has never been in a relationship with a man.  She’s never been held hostage by the cultural forces that millions of women experience in relationship to their husband. She’s never been legally bound to a man who raises his voice in anger, or stonewalls his wife, or refuses to share financial information with her or blocks her access to marital financial records. Suze is never in financial danger because someone else is making financial decisions without her knowledge.

Suze never raised children; her nurturing instincts as a mom weren’t tested by children whom luck or life dealt a raw deal and now they expect mom to bail them out. She is a free agent, unencumbered by the cultural and emotional baggage that millions of women experience as wives and mothers.

It’s easy for Suze to provide financial information and millions rely on her advice. What’s harder is for married women to act on her advice, especially in the nine community property states, where a woman’s financial well-being is legally and financially entwined with her husband. Few things will stop a woman from asking for financial information from a husband who refuses to share financial information and snarls, ‘Why do you want to know? Are you planning to divorce me?’

That’s when you need advice from women who have been there. Find out more at http://www.financialintimacy.com

Marrying for Money

Is there anything wrong with marrying for money? Few women I know will admit to it, but after meeting their mate, I can’t help wondering if they think anyone is fooled. For example, does anyone think that Anna Nicole Smith, a model for Guess and Playboy magazine married 89-year-old oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II for love?

At least the practice isn’t the dirty little secret it used to be. If you google ‘marrying for money’, dozens of pages of articles and websites encourage you to do just that. Daphne Merkin, writer and journalist, is honest about  her refusal to marry for money. She writes “If the man is rich enough, one overlooks everything. He can be bald, hairy, have a stomach that hangs like an apron and be really under-endowed.”

I have met many women who won’t admit that they married for money, but freely confess that they stay married because of the money. A woman in one of my seminars said “Am I happily married? That’s beside the point. I know what I’ve got – and at least he has money.”

Many of the other women agreed with her. One woman said  “Don’t you feel like you sold your soul just for the money?” Hey, souls are sold for lots of other things as well.

Is there a difference between going into marriage for the money and staying married for the money? Is it wrong to believe that money makes someone more interesting? If marriage buys you a lifestyle you want, are you selling your soul by opting for security and stability over romantic love and passion?

The statistics on love and passion aren’t that impressive. Presumably passion evaporates within the first two years of marriage. There’s no guarantee that love will last, but having money is a good diversion. How would you advise your daughter?

Check out the other blogs about love, marriage and money at http://www.financialintimacy.com

Financial Vulnerability in Marriage

It’s counterintuitive to think about divorce when you marry. Few women do. Without thinking of the consequences of letting our husband manage our money, we set ourselves up for financial vulnerability. We trust him to be making financial choices that will benefit us both.

Sometimes he does.  Sometimes he doesn’t.  Most of the time, he’s not thinking of his future without us.

Money is never about money. It’s about what we fear and what we want, what we learned from our family, and how comfortable we feel discussing a touchy subject with our mate. It’s about power and leverage – who has it, how is it used, who is affected by it. It’s about the working dynamics of a relationship. A marriage can’t function without  the ability to talk about money.

Unfortunately, if we’re not participating in the marital finances, we don’t find out how vulnerable we are until a crisis of widowhood or divorce changes our life.  Not being able to talk about money comfortably, either before or during marriage, makes women financially vulnerable and resentful.

Here are six questions to answer for yourself before you’re slammed with a crisis:

Am I participating in financial decisions with my husband?

Do I understand our marital finances?

What do I need financially to feel secure?

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?

There are many more questions and answers in my book. The information can help make you financially intimate and feeling safe.


Brides Rethinking Extravagant Weddings

Many brides- to-be are beginning to function in the real world, trading extravagant credit card weddings for an event they can actually afford. These savvy brides are beginning to run their numbers , rearrange priorities and ask questions that really matter.

For example, wouldn’t $30,000 pay off the graduate school loans? Do I really need 200 wedding guests? If a wedding lunch costs half of a wedding dinner, do we really need moonlight? The iPod is paid for;  do we really need the DJ’s banter in between dance numbers? Perhaps most important, should my parents really be cutting into their retirement savings to pay for my wedding?

Finally, a glimmer of reason is emerging. Couples are moving up wedding dates for year-end tax breaks and substantial savings on health insurance premiums. Some are combining plans to marry with a year-end vacation.

And then there’s the ultimate voice of reason – the bride who realizes that the cost of her wedding day could be the down payment on a house. She is smart enough to say “The wedding is one day. The house is going to last a lot longer than that”.

Unfortunately, with two million weddings annually in the U.S. the $160 billion wedding industry isn’t tightening its belt just yet. Let’s give it a few more years of savvy brides.

The Anatomy of Happiness

I had a nasty head cold a few days ago, but feeling lucky and grateful that it wasn’t flu or anything more serious. As my symptoms locked me into a muted world of silence and drowsiness, I reflected on luck – what it is, who has it, who doesn’t seem to have it and how to get it.

Many books and internet sites describe luck. Some give you definitions and synonyms. Some give you tips on how to get lucky. Others help you feel better about not having luck. Some send you to psychics; others to astrologers, still others to sites that sell jewelry to protect you against the evil eye, an ancient superstition that many still believe to thwart your chances for luck.

I’m reminded of the story I heard about a workshop for millionaires seeking to increase their material success even further. The facilitator asked participants to share what they needed to feel even more successful.  Each  described what they didn’t have yet, but wanted to have in the future. One man, who meditates daily at dawn, said “When I wake up , get out of bed and feel the floor below me, I feel lucky and I figure I already have it made”.

Would more money, cars, homes and all the trappings of wealth make this man feel any happier or luckier? Not likely. What he relates to is his awareness of short moments, repeated often,  that he is alive, upright, feeling lucky and content to be blessed with another day of awareness and the opportunity to enjoy it.

On balance, a happy life seems to built on a series of breaths and moments. How we bridge the spaces between them is the difference between heaven and hell.

No Such Thing as Financial Romance

During a radio interview, the host asked me why I didn’t think it was a good idea to get engaged at Christmas. “Christmas is for exchanging gifts” I said. “An engagement ring is definitely not a gift. It’s a precursor to a contract, a marriage contract.” Not exactly the same category as perfume ,a cashmere sweater or Kate Spade handbag.

“Are you trying to take the romance out of marriage?” he asked combatively. I reassured him that I’m a big fan of romance in context, but the decision to marry should not be based on romance. Let’s face it – romance isn’t much use when it comes to dealing with the day-to-day realities of joining one’s life with another person.

Here’s how the dictionary defines romantic – dreamy, quixotic, impractical. Tending toward make believe, illusion. Characterized by or arising from idealistic or impractical attitudes and expectations.

Contrast that with words that mean intimacy – familiarity, closeness, understanding, confidence, relationship, transparency.

Intimacy gives us a better shot at not being disappointed with the person we marry. Our eyes are open wider going into marriage. We’re still going to learn a lot about this person  before we married, but at least we’ll be realistic about the fact that there will be surprises. The real person was always there. We just didn’t see it because it was obscured by romance.

So to that ‘romantic’ radio talk show host, I’m trying to strengthen marriage by encouraging financial intimacy, not financial romance. There’s no such thing – financial romance exists only in bridal magazines which devote very little space to the subject of money. Their focus is your wedding, not your marriage.

You probably noticed that a perfect wedding doesn’t foretell a happy marriage, especially if marriage begins with mountains of wedding debt you’re still paying off when the first baby arrives. Nothing romantic about that, is there?