Women, Divorce and Money

I recently went to a Mommy Wars book club event where the subject turned to women, divorce and money. Many of the moms sitting around the host's living room admitted that they knew little of their family's finances -- busy with daily childcare and household management, these women had a "divide and conquer" strategy, with their husbands taking line management of the family's financial health. A few did not have a checking account or credit card in their own names. One at-home mom, married 21 years, said that watching her sister go through an ugly divorce changed her attitude. "I went to the bank and got my own account the next day," she explained ruefully. "You never know what's going to happen."

Watching former CNN anchor Paula Zahn's personal and professional life implode over the last few months is a strong warning for all women. In March, tabloids reported that she'd moved out of the Manhattan apartment she had shared with developer Richard Cohen, her husband of 20 years. In July, Zahn left CNN the day after the network announced it had hired NBC's Campbell Brown to take over Zahn's nightly show. People Magazine reported in this week's issue the ugly turn of Zahn's financial affairs:

On Aug. 24, Zahn, 51, filed a civil suit in New York supreme court. In it she contends that shortly before marrying Cohen in 1987, she handed her financial affairs over to him; she is now demanding that he provide a detailed account of how he invested portions of her estimated $25 million in earnings over the last two decades. Alleging that Cohen, 59, had spun 'a Byzantine web' of investments ... Zahn's attorneys say that she is now ready to assume responsibility for her own financial security.

A bitter pill indeed. Imagine achieving Zahn's spectacular financial success over a 25-year career span and then not knowing where your money is. Sadly, this is a true "feminine mistake." Financial independence is part of being an adult, whether you work or not, whether you are a man or a woman. Providing a secure financial base for children is also a component of being a good parent.

How do you handle your family's finances? Do you and your spouse share responsibilities for taxes, investments and allocations? Do you know how much money you have in the bank, how much you owe on your house, how you will provide for your kids' education and your own retirement? What made you ready -- or stops you from being ready -- "to assume responsibility for your financial security"?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  September 12, 2007; 7:30 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
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First.

We are pretty egalitarian.
Both had financial backgrounds in college.
I do the bill paying and taxes.
We have regular discussions over financial goals, how we are doing towards meeting them, and what we should do to correct any issues.
We both bring financial proposals to the other, but must reach a consensus to implement.

I composed a list for my spouse of what our financial assets / work benefits are, and how to get to them. We store the list in our home and bank safes.

Posted by: chemguy1157 | September 12, 2007 7:41 AM

Its easy...I handle the finances. I work in a more "business" environment anyway (my husband is a creative at an ad agency), so I'm better with numbers to start with. We are both aware of what we have, what's going where and what our goals are. One person in the relationship should never have all the power...even if day-to-day management is delegated to one person.

Posted by: jenna.moritz | September 12, 2007 7:42 AM

We both take care of finances -- I pay the bills, he does the taxes. We both have access to all our accounts and investments. I'll admit that he's more into keeping an eye on our investments than I am, but I do still know what's going on.

I don't have a separate bank account or credit card, but then, neither does DH. We decided it was more practical to pool our finances.

Posted by: newsahm | September 12, 2007 7:49 AM

I'm in charge of the finances in my family. My husband and I go over everything, but, as he puts it, I'm CFO.

I will say, it is so important for both parties to know what is going on. Even if you aren't good at handling the money, you should know where it is and what is happening to it. After seeing what my dad went through after my mom died, I want to make sure my husband knows where everything is, what we owe and what we have saved. It seems that the person who is least in tune with everything is the one left behind. Or, in the case of Paula Zahn, that person is the one who is, for lack of a better term, fleeced by their spouse.

Posted by: bdreesbach | September 12, 2007 7:50 AM

We only have a joint account, but that's mostly because we couldn't afford to siphon off either of our salaries to a different account and still get all the bills paid. We both look at the online banking frequently, and consult each other before large purchases. I control my 401(k) at my current job and my IRA from the last job, my husband has a retirement account from the state to look forward to, along with a tax-deferred annuity - he controls them himself.

Admittedly we're not saving like we should for our son's college education, (gotta pay off our own first!) but we feel he's better served by having a roof over his head in a safe neighborhood, and having parents who have cars that run (nothing fancy!) to pick him up from daycare. And people wonder why I'm thinking only child.

Posted by: RiverCityVA | September 12, 2007 7:54 AM

Good topic - I'm (figuratively) beating on DW all the time about this because she takes no interest whatsoever in long-term financial planning, investing, etc. She was raised in an upper-middle class environment where there was enough money to do what you wanted, as long as what you wanted was reasonable, and there was no emphasis on understanding the ins and outs of finance.

I grew up in a lower-middle class environment where it was important to know where every penny came from, where it went and how to make more pennies come in next month. So even though I'm an engineer, not a business person, I've always set financial plans/goals and managed the money.

I became acutely aware of these issues back in the '80s when my father died. My mother, who had been working as a teacher for almost 30 years at that point, had no accounts or credit history in her own name. And the way the system worked at that time, after he died the credit history died with him. I actually had to co-sign for her to get credit in her own name the first time - very humiliating for my mother.

So I've always insisted since we've been married that DW has accounts in her own name, credit cards in her own name, etc. One of the cars is in her name. That way no matter what happens she's protected to some degree.

There's also a file I try to keep updated labeled "What to do if [ArmyBrat] Dies" which has all the account information, insurance information, benefits, etc. I try to make DW read through it every few months so that there aren't any surprises.

We're trying to teach the kids similar concepts, and the 15 and 16 year olds seem to be getting it. Unfortunately, the 18-year old seems to following her mother's pattern of just not worrying how much money there is or where it's coming from. She spouts things like "how could you possibly invest my college funds in a mutual fund? The stock market could go down!!!"

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 12, 2007 7:58 AM

The biggest problem I had was dragging my spouse to an attorney's office to draw up wills (naming beneficiaries, guardians, executors, and trustees).

Posted by: chemguy1157 | September 12, 2007 8:03 AM

Before meeting my husband, I was notoriously bad with money and had lots of debt. To get our finances in order once we married, he took over the budget, bill paying, taxes, etc. and put everything in a joint account (no separate accounts). He still handles all the money (I do my own 401K and have accounts in my name), but I am very involved. We sit down and talk about the budget weekly (is this amount in the grocery category still good, should we increase the gas category to match rising prices, etc.).

Over time I'd like for him to turn over the budget to me so that I can learn how to do it, but I'm not worried about it now because we've been chipping away at our debt and because my credit score is good. Plus, I have a full time job and it's paying for my graduate degree, so I don't think I'll be in any financial danger if we divorce.

Posted by: Meesh | September 12, 2007 8:24 AM

What about financial planning for the wedding? Add at least $25,000 per daughter to your future financial responsibilities.

Posted by: ISquirtLikeOldFaithful | September 12, 2007 8:25 AM

My husband also had a life insurance policy (started by his parents) that we recently cashed in. For us (dual income, no plan for kids), it wasn't really worth the money we were siphoning into the policy. But for families with a SAHP and kids, life insurance on the breadwinner could be a really good idea.

Posted by: Meesh | September 12, 2007 8:26 AM

There are plenty of fish in the sea to feed Mrs. Mako and me!

(no retirement planning necessary!)

Posted by: nonamehere | September 12, 2007 8:33 AM

Financial differences were a factor in my divorce 2+ years ago; after a 20 year marriage. As a conservative person working in the financial field; I believed in money in the savings account for emergencies; college fund for the kids; no credit card debt. After looking at 2K in savings (after 20 years); $15K credit card debt; no college savings; and a big new truck with huge payment in the driveway.. I lost a lot of respect for my spouse in how he felt about the importance of family finances and financial security. Fast forward to him finding another financially savy woman who would continue to meet his materialistic needs and we are divorced.

I am THANKFUL for my conservative ways. As a single income; I have that emergency fund. I have that college savings. I have no credit card debt. The worse thing was I had to refinance the house back to a 30 year mortgage. But how sad.. we could have saved and paid CASH for that big truck and been more established towards retiring. As a couple! It just took some re-arranging of spending to get the accounts in order.

Do I wish I'd just swallowed my pride and not bent out of shape over the finances. Yes, I do. Anything to still have my family together. But was it really fair of my ex to not be more considerate of our finances?

If you get yourself into a financial bind with your spouse - get help and get it early!! Financial issues are more than actual money. It is about control and responsibility and consideration. Finances SHOULD be a joint venture. Too many families break down over financial issues - mine included. DO not let your family break down over money.

BUT since my marriage and family did break - I am thankful that I did stand my ground on financial principles - or otherwise, I'd be living extremely poorly right now. I am glad I knew where our finances stood. Be knowledgeable about the money in your family. Be Smart.

Posted by: cyntiastmancom | September 12, 2007 8:36 AM

We alternate financial roles every two years - because in our house it seems like whoever is the bill payer becomes the "no" person and we each like to take turns being the "yes" person. :-)

BTW lots of parents do not pay for weddings; my parents and I split the bill 50-50 (it was a small bill :)).

Posted by: shandra_lemarath | September 12, 2007 8:37 AM

ArmyBrat wrote:

>>Unfortunately, the 18-year old seems to following her mother's pattern of just not worrying how much money there is or where it's coming from. She spouts things like "how could you possibly invest my college funds in a mutual fund? The stock market could go down!!!"<<

But why _would_ you invest money that you presumably need in the short term in a volatile investment?

Posted by: p_slonaker | September 12, 2007 8:38 AM

In response to Meesh's 8:26 comment-- It also makes sense to have life insurance on a non-breadwinner in families with children. A SAH parent contributes work/services that would be expensive to replicate if one had to go out and pay for them.

Posted by: elske | September 12, 2007 8:39 AM

Many of the posters are right on in mentioning being widowed, not just divorced, as a possible future trigger to financial uncertainty. And I think it's one we should emphasize more - many people will never accept that they might end up divorced, but might acknowledge that sudden death (car accident, etc.) can happen to anyone, and being financially competent is part of being prepared for such an awful eventuality. Then, if they end up divorcing despite their expectations, they will also have something to stand on.

My partner and I have a joint account and two separate accounts, one for each of us. What's more stressful, for me, is that neither of us knows much if anything about investing or long-term growth. We were both raised to save, to avoid debt (though he has college loans to repay), but not with any knowledge of investing. And neither of us knows how to find good, unbiased instruction in it.

Posted by: Betsy_More | September 12, 2007 8:39 AM

"Sadly, this is a true "feminine mistake." "

No, this is an idiot's mistake. Nobody should be clueless about their finances.

In our house, I handle everything. Spouse knows where things are and I run each decision by spouse before acting. Spouse probably doesn't know what's up but spouse knows what I do before I do it (even if spouse doesn't really know what I'm doing - but if spouse cared, spouse would ask).

Posted by: r6345 | September 12, 2007 8:45 AM

"A few did not have a checking account or credit card in their own names."

Posted by Leslie Morgan Steiner '87 | September 12, 2007; 7:30 AM ET

I do not have a checking account in my own name. The week after I brought my bride to Maryland, I added her name to all my checking accounts. Otherwise, how could she pay contractors or endorse and deposit rent checks? In addition to this practical reason, there's another reason. Putting her name on all the accounts shows that I trust her.

As it happens, my wife does have a checking account in her own name, because she is the trustee of several trusts. Just as I trust her with the joint checking accounts, so the grantors (and the beneficiaries) trust her with their funds.

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | September 12, 2007 8:51 AM

p_slonaker wrote: "But why _would_ you invest money that you presumably need in the short term in a volatile investment?"

A very valid point, but in our case:
1 - the mutual fund was started at birth (long before the advent of 529's :-( )and thus the volatility was originally acceptable
2 - the mutual fund forms only one part of a college savings triad. The other two parts were the bank account, into which half of all monies received other than gifts were placed (that includes half of all allowances; half of all money she made from her jobs babysitting, and at the pizza place and the grocery store) and savings bonds that were taken out of parents' paychecks and also gifts from extended family members
3 - the particular mutual fund chosen was an index fund, so it wasn't particularly volatile over time (although certainly more so than the bank account and savings bonds).
4 - the allocation changed over time as college got closer.

And yes, I really wish that DD (and DW for that matter) understood this!

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 12, 2007 8:57 AM

I don't have a checking account in my own name. Why would I? I do have credit cards in my own name though. I mean I have to hide that nasty shoe habit somewhere!

My husband handles all the finacial stuff and I look after him. We discuss it, but when it comes down to actually doing the taxes, balancing the checkbook, etc. He does it.

Posted by: Irishgirl | September 12, 2007 8:58 AM

Lots of good "success" stories. Anybody out there care to share a cautionary tale?

Re: paying for weddings. DH and I have four sets of parents (everybody is divorced and remarried). We split our wedding five ways. We all kicked in five grand and had a great time together. You CAN be creative in paying for weddings these days.

Posted by: leslie4 | September 12, 2007 8:59 AM

paying for weddings can also be a nightmare! My husband's ex basically said "you pay for everything because I'm not paying a dime" for their son's wedding. We ended up paying for everything. Can't plan for that.

I do all the finances. My husband asks for 3 things: money in his pocket, ability to buy something without asking (like clothes, etc. He isn't a big consumer), and beer in the fridge.

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 12, 2007 9:03 AM

leslie

"Re: paying for weddings. DH and I have four sets of parents (everybody is divorced and remarried). We split our wedding five ways. We all kicked in five grand and had a great time together. You CAN be creative in paying for weddings these days."

Was that your 1st or 2nd wedding?

Posted by: hillary1 | September 12, 2007 9:03 AM

shandra_lemarath, my husband complains about that a lot. He hatews being the no person. I'd like to think that if I were running the budget that I'd become the no person, but I'm afraid that then we'd just have two yes people :)


Betsy_More, you're right that some people do not want to consider divorce but are willing to listen to reason in terms of death of a spouse. And my husband and I have the same problem of not knowing where to invest. I can't even build up the courage to pick more competitive funds for my 401K! In the future I think we'll consult a financial advisor (like when we actually have money lying around to invest).


Posted by: Meesh | September 12, 2007 9:05 AM

dotted, I saw your comment yesterday about the overcast skies in Chapel Hill. Did you guys get any rain?

We didn't see a drop in Apex even though the clouds looked promising. We're keeping our fingers crossed for today. And if there's still no rain, at least it will be cooler.

Posted by: Meesh | September 12, 2007 9:08 AM

taxes are easy. Each year it takes less time. I love turbotax. I do it and then I file electronically. It is just a normal itemized return. Receipts just go into a folder during the year. It couldn't be easier.

A friend of ours convinced his wife that doing taxes takes 2 months of his time so he should get out of doing other house jobs while he did taxes. One evening she asked me how long it took me. Needless to say, he fessed up quickly.

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 12, 2007 9:09 AM

Meesh, not a drop of rain. If anything the dust just blew around. It did look promising though.

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 12, 2007 9:10 AM

To Betsy_More, re "What's more stressful, for me, is that neither of us knows much if anything about investing or long-term growth. We were both raised to save, to avoid debt (though he has college loans to repay), but not with any knowledge of investing. And neither of us knows how to find good, unbiased instruction in it."

We use a financial planner. This is not only for rich people! He went over EVERYTHING will us, including getting all of our insurance sorted out so it was the appropriate coverage for the least cost. We looked at all of our savings and debt and made sure we were on the right track and helped rearrange things. The scariest part was that we were really worried, but he told us we were WAY better off than most of the late 20s early 30s folks he works with. If you don't have consumer debt and have 6 months living expenses in relatively easy to access savings, you're doing GREAT. Also, put as much into your IRA as your companies will match. Free money! Believe me, you'll be much better off than most of your peers. I can't help with the more sophisticated stuff.

We have separate accounts because it's much easier to keep track of what your spending than what you're both spending. I pay for all the insurance, the mortgage, daycare, and "my" investments. He pays all the bills, fun money, house improvements, and "his" investments. We both know where all the money is, but he's WAY more interested than I am. Truthfully, I only just now know where all the money is because I had to do a financial disclosure for my job. We need to keep a list somewhere.

Posted by: demandabanana | September 12, 2007 9:11 AM

I do most of the finances, but DH and I discuss fairly regularly. I tend to be more of a worrier, so we often contemplate switching the finance roles every once and awhile. Might save my sanity, and it would be helpful to not be the "no" person all the time, as someone else said. But somehow we never do it -- I think I'm too much of a control freak about money to share the reigns.

I saw two cautionary tales growing up -- so I can't imagine ever being completely in the dark about finances. My mom first was widowed -- when she wasn't working, had two young kids, didn't know the finances, and was left in fairly dire straights. Thank goodness for Social Security, which helped us survive!

Then my mom married (now divorcing, thank goodness) a financial and emotional parasite. He hid all his money, lived off of her, and is claiming no assets in the divorce. He's trying to take everything she has. Two things that saved her: 1) prenuptual agreement; and 2) not putting the house in his name.

You never know what can happen! Hopefully we're all smart enough not to marry someone who would be fiscally irresponsible, but it's not as straightforward as it sounds. And death can strike anyone at any time.

Posted by: sciencemom | September 12, 2007 9:16 AM

oops. that was me at 9:11.

Posted by: atb2 | September 12, 2007 9:16 AM

Opened a joint account when we moved in together (a year before the wedding) to pay all household-related bills. Agreed on what we each needed to contribute to the joint, balance went to our individual accounts. Used direct deposit and auto bill pay to limit the time either of us had to spend moving money--we could spent time on the overall budget and long term plan instead of writing checks and figuring out who owed what.

Once we got married, switched it so we agreed on how much we each got to keep in our private accounts (same amount for both, regardless of how much either is making relative to the other), balance goes into joint. This means we each have a few hundred dollars a month for "walking around money," dry cleaning, Amazon and itunes purchases, etc. and everything else is "ours." Neither of us asks how the other spends his/her private money, but it's not enough for either of us to run off to the islands or anything :)

I mostly manage the accounts, pay bills, and do the taxes but all decisions (should we up our 401(k) contributions, how much should we put in the college account, do we go with the high or low option health insurance next year) are discussed, as well as any non-routine purchases over about $100 from the joint account. He knows where the accounts are and roughly what's in them, but I'm more likely to know the exact checking balance at any given time, and when the next mortgage payment is due.

Posted by: athena2 | September 12, 2007 9:18 AM

We have separate and joint finances. We were both Economics majors and there is not way either one of us would turn our money over to the other totally. Expenses are split according to income proportions. Neither of us account to the other what we spend our personal money on.
Nor do we bail each other out.

I know that Michelle Singularity doesn't think much of that method, but it works for us and we don't bicker over money.

Money is VERY important and every woman (and man) needs to have some of his/her own.

It doesn't matter whether you work outside the home or not, if you are signing those tax returns you can be held responsible, so you need to know what's up.

I find it hard to believe that Paula Zahn would turn her money over to someone, that seems pretty stupid. If anybody is going to make bad investments decisions about my hard earned money I want it to be me!

Posted by: RedBird27 | September 12, 2007 9:18 AM

Every year we review our household budget. We generally get small raises or big ones if a promotion occurred and things go up. Like day care or property taxes. Then we look at how much net money is coming into the house. Usually that already accounts for our direct savings into retirement and college accounts. After all the normal monthly bills are paid for, we allot a certain amount of money into our joint "house" fund. That money is for house up keep-like paying for a plumber, upgrades or anything else that may happen. It also accounts for rainy day fund. Then we designate some "mad" money. We each get a separate but equal amount of money to spend any way we want. We don't have to justify it or even tell the other person about it. Because we are upper middle class folks, this is not a large amount of money each month. We also buy gifts for each other and our individual extended families from this fund. We each have our own credit cards and checking and savings accounts. We also have a joint savings and checking. If we get to a point where the house fund has a large surplus, then we pull money out and see how to "invest" it. Usually into CDs or mutual funds. We both have control over our own TSPs and pensions. We each have our own IRAs as well. DD has a 529 and another tax deferred savings account for her college fund. We have some bonds, CDs and mutual funds that are a little nest egg for our retirement. We discuss any investments into these and make decisions together. As far as our DD's wedding, well we have a small return of premium insurance policy on our house and we will give her that money for her wedding. Our main goals are: pay house off before DD finishes HS, save adequately for our retirement, and pay fully for DD to go to college. Besides that we will have a small nest egg for other things. I think it is very important for men and women to have their own accounts, credit cards, and know about their finances. Besides the mortgage, we don't have any other debt.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 12, 2007 9:19 AM

Dang, ArmyBrat, I could have written your post, if you just switched the roles. When my husband and I met, we had had very similar salaries and were both @ 3 yrs out of school. I had paid off my student and car loans, bought a condo, and was saving probably 20% of my salary; I tracked every penny in a ledger, used my leftover college furniture supplemented by Ikea, and only took free vacations (ie, my mom's condo in Rehoboth). My husband didn't have a budget; he bought all new furniture for his apartment, had just about every "guy" toy known to man (full scuba gear, electronic gizmos, you name it), and ate takeout every night; he had no savings beyond his 401(k), and @ $3K in credit card debt -- it had just never occurred to him to pay it off every month (my response to that: DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH THAT COSTS?!?!?!). So when he met me, he was like, oh, ummm, yeah, you know, that whole savings and budgeting thing is probably a good idea. And I thought, wow, you mean it's actually ok to spend money on something frivolous once in a while?

We definitely had a lot of compromising and learning from each other. Since he had never been poor, it just never occurred to him that he might not always have enough money; since I had never been upper-middle-class, it never occured to me that I ever would have enough. So he needed to understand why I'd get PO'd when he'd spend $100 on a pair of sunglasses; I had to learn that being able to treat himself or be generous with his friends made him feel successful.

We kept our old accounts, but pooled new $$, although we each get a little $$ each month of our own to spend or save as we choose. We each direct our own 401(k)s, but discuss any changes -- and everything's in Quicken if we want a status check. I am still the one who does the budgeting, because I just need to see that we're ok. He tends to do more bill paying, because he runs the computer and does most of it on-line (and we've automated as much as we can). And after 11 years of marriage, we finally got our first joint credit card! :-)

Posted by: laura33 | September 12, 2007 9:20 AM

we are both fairly financially knowledgable about what the other is doing. husband has 2 children by his first wife. we never see them. i have the money; inherited from hard working parents who saved & invested wisely. that is the other thing that you need to be aware of; protecting your children not just yourself.

Posted by: quark | September 12, 2007 9:20 AM

Do people feel obligated to pay for their children's wedding in full? Or just daughter's weddings? Just curious. DH and I paid for our own wedding. It wasn't anything fancy. About 90-100 people, who actually showed up, a luncheon reception, band, alcohol, limo, and a church service. I think that cost us only $16K six years ago in the DC area. Both sets of parents gave us gifts of money for the wedding but we paid for our own wedding. I don't feel obligated to pay for my daughter's wedding in full. We will give her what we have but that is it. I do plan to pay for her education in full.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 12, 2007 9:26 AM

I have to say, it never occured to me to save money for my childrens' weddings. There are a million things to save for/pay off before I'd put money towards that. Plus, I figure they won't be getting married until they are out of the house, and I'll have a lot more disposable income then (I'm from a family of five, and our grocery bill dropped by HALF when my brother went to college. Teenagers eat a LOT.)

Posted by: athena2 | September 12, 2007 9:28 AM

My father (the "breadwinning" attorney) passed away when I was in high school, and I saw what my mother went through when she didn't know anything about the family finances prior to his death. (As in, 2 mortgages on the house that we had to sell within months of his death, screwed up life insurance which she didn't get until years later thanks to a good attorney, lots of credit card debt in both of their names, etc., etc.) So no WAY am I not going to be involved in my family's finances. DH and I both work, make very similar salaries in the same industry. I know exactly what's in all of our accounts, retirement, daughter's college fund (which only has $3000 in it, but she's not quite 3). We have an accountant do our taxes. And I still have a separate checking account, etc. It works for us, though lately he's been bugging me to add him to my checking account even though we have a joint checking account too. I told him I didn't see any need for us to have two joint checking accounts!

Posted by: plawrimore1 | September 12, 2007 9:29 AM

Hillary -- 2nd wedding. Much more relaxed and "creative" than 1st which was traditional in that my father paid for it. Fairly modest (but pretty) wedding. Disastrous marriage. Happy I learned from it.

I think I was "creative" with second wedding because I couldn't bear to ask my dad to pony up for another one!

Posted by: leslie4 | September 12, 2007 9:29 AM

tmbgirly -- we're in the same boat with not saving for college education yet. My daughter is not even 2 years old, but I tend to be such a planner that I worry a bit about not saving for her.

We recently moved into a house in a safe neighborhood with good schools (moving from a house that would have required private schools). This meant an increased mortgage, and since we bought in recent years, this means a fairly large mortgage. With a second child planned -- and therefore two daycare payments -- I've simply come to accept that we probably will not save for college until we're out of daycare.

When I started this job a few years ago, I had to laugh at how friends who had no children in daycare talked about saving for retirement and/or college. When I no longer have a $1200 a month daycare payment, then I'll be free to save for college. But until then, I feel that my choices around moving to a good school district is going to have to count as an educational investment (which it is . . .)

Posted by: sciencemom | September 12, 2007 9:30 AM

re: weddings.

If we have the funds, I'll do what my parents and my husband's parents did: give a check for $10K (prbably $15K by then) as a pre-marriage marriage present that they can choose to spend on a wedding or down-payment or retirement or debt reduction or trip or... No obligations, no questions asked. Though we did have issues of obligation with my husband's parents, but that's a whole other story.

Posted by: atb2 | September 12, 2007 9:32 AM

Leslie asked for cautionary tales. I can only give two "mild" ones. The first is my mother, already described above - everything was joint with Dad; when he died the credit history died too and she had to build a history from scratch - which required help from her son in the form of co-signing some loans.

The other is a former boss. She was a Fed; GS-15. He was a full professor of Biochemistry at a very famous university. They had no kids. She did all the finances, he knew nothing and he liked it that way. He fit the stereotype of the "tenured professor of Biochem". He had his ATM card and one credit card; as long as he could get cash when he wanted and charge emergency expenses, life was good.

She took a new job that required signficant travel, so she told him that the finances were now his responsibility. Six months later she was trying to check into a hotel in California when her credit card was refused. Turns out every credit card was refused, except for one that she never used and kept just for emergencies. When she got home, she went into his home office to discover a mountain of mail - things like credit card bills, etc. He had never touched anything; the only reason the electricity and water hadn't been turned off was that she had started automatic payment of those bills years earlier.

His response? Well, he could still get money with his ATM card (there was LOTS of money in the bank account since none was ever being spent on bills), and he hadn't needed to use his credit card, so life was still good. There was no need to get around to that mail in his office - what was the problem again?

She just took back the finances and tried to figure out what was going to happen to him if she died first!

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 12, 2007 9:41 AM

Good god - if I left the finances up to my husband, our credit ratings would be a mess.

When I moved in with him after we got engaged, his bill-paying method was to shove all the bills in a drawer and pay them about every 5-6 weeks. How he kept a good credit rating with this, I haven't figured out.

Because I got moved twice by my company inside 6 months during my 20's, and one of my bills lost its way (due to an error on the company's part, not mine - they transcribed the address AND phone number I'd provided them incorrectly). So I got hit with a 30+ day bill late payment that I simply could not get removed, despite the company admitting their error.

For 7 years, I dealt with "bad" credit I didn't actually have, so I've been anal about paying bills ever since.

My husband is the one who knows nothing about our money. Not because the books are closed to him - he likes that he doesn't have to care about it.

Though what I find irritating - when we went to set up our accounts at our bank out here in WI, despite me asking and my husband concurring, they didn't make the primary account holder - by default, they made it my husband.

So any time we want a new service (safety deposit box, signing up for eBanking, etc), I have to get his signature at one of the branches. At least they're open late and on Saturdays and Sundays, but it's still a pain in the butt.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | September 12, 2007 9:46 AM

Huh? Joint credit card accounts produce a credit history for each person. In fact, this becomes problematic when one member of the couple goes and wrecks the credit cards -- the credit of both members of the couple are ruined.

When one member of the couple dies, the credit history for the other doesn't disappear. Someone's been deceiving you, ArmyBrat, or you're not telling the story clearly.

Posted by: rlalumiere | September 12, 2007 9:47 AM

For weddings, we are giving our daughters a lump sum wedding present with no strings attached. Anything saved extra is theirs, anything spent over is theirs, too. I remind thm that a wedding is one day, but a marriage is meant to last a lifetime.

Posted by: chemguy1157 | September 12, 2007 9:49 AM

Considering Zahn was cheating left and right on him, I say couldn't have deserved it more.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 12, 2007 9:56 AM

When we moved in together, my first husband, who was very savvy financially, handed over all of our finances to me, an english major and writer (this was before i got my mba). suspect it was his culture, working class irish italian. he literally handed me his paycheck every week. we had one bank account in both our names.

It was a nightmare. How do you balance a checkbook when both people are writing checks and are not diligent about keeping track? We constantly had bounced checks and lots of fights. Plus, being the only one managing the finances put too much pressure on me. And it ruined my credit - I ended up losing two credit cards because of our poor financial situation. I had to be the "bad guy" vetoing purchases. HATED IT.

Great thing about getting remarried is that you can fix things. DH and I now have one joint account and also separate checking and savings accounts. He does more investment management (which is his field) but I do a fair amount too. I did our taxes one year and it was a small disaster. Now he does them.

I am more conservative and he is more comfortable with risk. Together we make a pretty good team.

We NEVER fight about money.

I have two credit cards in my name and I try to make occasional large purchases (new car) solely in my name to protect my credit history. Because you never know -- another good lesson from marriage number one.

Posted by: leslie4 | September 12, 2007 9:57 AM

A mutual friend of my wife and I was in an established marriage (7+ years, child, etc) and both of them were well-paid computer programmers. Things were good.

Then he got laid off, and basically lost interest in doing anything. She had to work extra to make ends meet and was out of town all the time, so she turned over the day to day financial issues to him.

Bad move. His solution to handling the bills? Put them in a box and hide it in one of the unused rooms of their house. Every time she came home, he'd scoop up all the mail, unwashed dishes, etc, dump in a box, and hide it. This went on for MONTHS. She finally got tired of his lazy butt, kicked him out of the house and filed for divorce, at which time she found out just how bad in debt he had gotten them. There was literally a ROOM in their house filled with those boxes of old unpaid bills, IRS tax forms from three years prior (!!!), unwashed dishes, etc. She has no idea what he did with their savings or her paycheck; it just vanished into thin air apparently.

She found herself in six figure debt, and is only now slowly digging herself out from under it (thanks in part to the IRS going after her ex for the lion's share of the money they owe).

The moral to this story is know what the other spouse/partner is doing with the money!

Posted by: johnl | September 12, 2007 10:00 AM

My wife and I live paycheck to paycheck. When it comes to financial planning, she can stick her head in the sand, but as for me, lack of money causes me anxiety.

She will ttry to ease my tension by saying things like, "God has always provided so far..."

My typical reply is, "I suppose you think Jesus will begin paying the bills around here."

Then she tells me that if I keep saying things like that, I might end up in hell. She may be right. If I do squeak by the pearly gates, I'm definately going to need her help and prayers. LOL!

Posted by: ISquirtLikeOldFaithful | September 12, 2007 10:07 AM

Sciencemom -- Well, I guess you're "lucky" that after paying $1200/mo. for daycare, saving for college will seem easy by comparison. :-)

I'm in the same situation (with 2 kids, our daycare costs are almost the same as our mortgage). But one thing that reassured me was hearing from someone whose kids went to a private high school, who said paying for college wasn't the big belt-tightening they had expected. Since they had such a big monthly outlay on private schools, they didn't have a lot left to put away for college. But when the time came, they realized that the cost was pretty much the same as what they had already been paying -- so they basically just changed who they made the check out to. :-)

Posted by: laura33 | September 12, 2007 10:09 AM

For just one kid my daycare is already more than my mortgage. Maybe things are different in Richmond?

Posted by: RiverCityVA | September 12, 2007 10:18 AM

OFF TOPIC- To Fred


I hope you understand that millions of americans are thankful for the job your daughter does and would never consider a soldier part of a 'Nationally backed terrorist organization. " Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 12, 2007 10:23 AM

Thanks, Laura. That's certainly reassuring. Two daycare payments for us will be about the same as our mortgage as well. I wrote a budget up to 2011 (when my daughter goes to school) and had to be comfortable with a few tight years when the second day care payment comes along. A condition of moving to the new house with the bigger mortgage was that we would still be able to afford a second child.

When the first goes to school though, it will probably seem like we're swimming in "extra" income! Even with any after-school and activities expenses, it'll be hard to top that day care payment.

We're lucky -- I really can't imagine what folks with less income do. Some of our friends are just starting to think about having kids now, and they're just overwhelmed by the day care costs.

Posted by: sciencemom | September 12, 2007 10:25 AM

tmbgirly -- definitely sounds like the finances are different in Richmond (or at least for the two of us). And it also depends strongly on when you bought your house. We bought in 2003, when things were quite pricey, but were still able to capitablize on a big increase before moving to our new place (no bigger, just "better" location, given our current needs)

Our friends who bought between 2000 and 2004 are struggling with daycare costs, given their large mortgages. Those that bought earlier are much more comfortable. Those that didn't buy before 2004 have to choose between owning a home and having children.

And it's not like any of us bought large and/or remarkable houses! Most of us were doing substantial home improvement on our $400K houses. But that's the price of being close to (or in) DC . . .

Posted by: sciencemom | September 12, 2007 10:32 AM

"What about financial planning for the wedding? Add at least $25,000 per daughter to your future financial responsibilities."

Get your daughters to start reading Hax's columns now, so they won't want extravagant weddings when the time arrives. There's much to be said in favor of simple weddings -- or even eloping!

Posted by: mehitabel | September 12, 2007 10:37 AM

I'm right there with you DC, homeowner, daycare folks! I'm looking forward to public school! We'll have so much extra money, for retirement and college.

Posted by: atb2 | September 12, 2007 10:37 AM

I can tell you from experience, there is usually one person that is responsible for the finances and one who is oblivious, ignorant, blase or incapable of managing the finances. I have actually had widows coming into the bank and asking if there was any money in their names, then discovering a 80k cd. Another woman's husband died and she was left pretty hard up, six months later her son went into the shed to get the lawnmower and found can after can with app 200k in it! True story, but scary, get involved!

Posted by: pATRICK | September 12, 2007 10:40 AM

Get your daughters to start reading Hax's columns now..


UGG, not me ,she rubs me the wrong way for some reason. For some reason , it reads like the same person is asking every question. Weird

Posted by: pATRICK | September 12, 2007 10:41 AM

rlalumiere - this was in 1985. All those "joint" accounts were really his, with her name on them. I remember the situation all too well; I'm describing it accurately. It was painful.

I certainly hope that the financial systems have changed, but I insist that DW have accounts, credt, etc in just her name anyway.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 12, 2007 10:42 AM

I am not really sure because my daughter is only 3 3/4s now. But someone on this blog told me that after full time day care drops off, you don't have as much disposable income as you think you might. Mostly because life gets in the way. Like your car needs to be replaced and older kids cost more. Like their clothes and their activities cost more. I am not saying you won't have more disposable income. You should. It is not the difference between full time care-school aged care. Just so you can factor that into your savings plan.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 12, 2007 10:45 AM

The irresponsibility thing can happen to either gender. When we got married we had joint accounts. My wife handled the bill paying because I hated it (never balanced my checkbook pre-marriage) and she loved keeping track of our accounts to the penny. I told her "you can be in charge of finances as long as there is always money in the account when I go to the ATM". Fast forward 6 years, 2 kids and a house later. Wife gets the "nesting" bug. Spends all our savings and runs up $100,000 of credit card debt fixing up the house to reflect her taste. Lies to me about how much it cost and how much is in the account. Found out when we had a leak in the roof and went to get a mortgage to fund repairs and the lady from the mortgage company says "as long as you are borrowing to fix the roof, why don't you turn your credit card debts into home mortgage debt and you can deduct the interest?" My response: "WHAT credit card debt?!?!" Eight years later we are still paying it off. My bad for taking her word for it when I asked questions and not looking at the statements themselves. Now we have separate accounts and I pay all the bills. If I die the life insurance goes into trust so she can't blow it. EVERY spouse needs to review the financial and bill statements regularly.

Posted by: taxguru | September 12, 2007 10:45 AM

pATRICK, hilarious - sounds almost like my uncle. He was a CPA, highly ranked in a Fortune 500 company, but having been born in 1922 and thus remembering the Depression, he never fully trusted banks. Oh, he had stocks, bonds, etc. He and my aunt had no children; when he died my cousin and I had to go through the house and papers. Sheesh - we found over $20,000 in cash in an unlocked safe in the garage. There was $5,000 in his wallet, which was kept in the nightstand next to his hospital bed. There was money almost everywhere.

My aunt, who had been the sole support for her family after her father was incapacitated by a heart attack, was fully acquainted with the finances, but suffered the same biases as her husband. She had bank accounts in every bank in town (there were four of them), figuring they wouldn't all fail on the same day. My cousin and I had to go into their safe deposit box. She had had a $50 US Savings bond held out of her paycheck every single week she ever worked, and she had never cashed a single one. More than 40 years - there were more than 2,000 of those bonds!

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 12, 2007 10:48 AM

I make most of the money, but my husband pays the bills these days. He also does the taxes. He is very organized about it and keeps a spreadsheet of all incoming and outgoing money, so anytime, I can get on the computer and see how we are doing, and know exactly what bills we have, what we have paid, and what we have saved. We sit down together once a month and go over it, just to make sure that we are in agreement on how the money is being managed. I am grateful to him for doing the bills and keeping such good records. It makes me feel comfortable that I know how things are run and could take over at any time if I needed to. But frankly, I prefer that he does it. He is just more organized and thorough about it than I probably would be. Also, since I am the primary breadwinner, I think he likes doing it because it gives him an important role in the financial picture also, and kind of equalizes our respective financial roles. He doesn't have to beg for money or feel like he doesn't matter financially in the marriage, since he is the money manager. It works for us.

As for saving for weddings, I don't think I will do that specifically. I am saving for college. If the day comes when my children want to get married, I may help them if I can. Certainly I would like to. But I am not stressing about it now. It is not a priority, and if push comes to shove, they can always get married at the courthouse. If I have excess money, of course I will pitch in, but I don't see this as an obligation to my children.

Posted by: Emily | September 12, 2007 10:51 AM

Every year we do the budget together. I write the checks each month and DW balances the checkbook - next year we'll swap those tasks. Every 3 months I update a 'balance sheet' of all account balances: stocks, IRAs, mortgage, etc...

We have 6 months living expenses on hand and carry no debt other than the mortgage - those relieve a lot of stress, were difficult to achieve and built the discipline required for the 1st paragraph...

Posted by: HankC_57 | September 12, 2007 10:51 AM

My mom stopped working when my brother was born. She stayed at home while we grew up and once the youngest (me) went to college, she announced that she was retiring and not working in the home or out. When my parents divorced several years later, she expected not to have to work at all. Fortunately for her, they settled before a judge heard that, but she never had any idea what the finances were and my dad actually had to teach her how to balance a checkbook during the divorce -- that would have been funny :)

Posted by: MomTo2Kids | September 12, 2007 10:51 AM

You folks with the $1,200 daycare bills bring back memories. In 1994 we had three kids in daycare - the oldest was 4 and the youngest a toddler. DW and I were both Feds; we used the Agency-supported day care center. Our daycare bills were $335 per week - over 1,300 per month, in 1994!

That was when we went with the au pair. We figured out that the cost, amortized over the year, was just about half of the day care center. Plus we didn't have to worry as much about sick days, snow days, etc. Turned out that the nanny approach was nowhere near as expensive as we thought!

(The ultimate solution, since DW hated her job, too, was for her to become a SAHM after number 4 was born.)


And to echo what foamgnome posted - when your kids leave daycare, the costs don't go down as much as you might think. There are a lot more costs once school - even public school - starts. Sometimes it seems like the bills expand to consume the available money.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 12, 2007 10:55 AM

More than 40 years - there were more than 2,000 of those bonds!

I totally believe you, spent half the day one time figuring interest on 1000 bonds. It was a complete beating. People are very strange with money.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 12, 2007 10:58 AM

When I left out of college (25 yrs ago), I got into a bit of credit card debt ($1000) (even though I'd been working since I was 16). It scared the heck out of me, so I consolidated, paid it off, and cut up all but one of my credit cards, and began to pay myself first (IRAs, 401 ks). Fast forward 25 years, I'm financially stable, in a good marriage, 1 kid, partner with my husband on finances and decisions, and not in debt.

Message: start early, pay yourself first, and never, ever take your eye off the ball of financial security. It takes a bit of time (not much, once you learn the ropes and, most important, how to say "no" to the impulse buy), but the freedom that comes with knowing that you're not in debt is energizing.

Posted by: gottabeanon | September 12, 2007 11:01 AM

When I was married, my husband did most of the bill-paying and taxes etc - not because I wasn't interested or couldn't do it, more because he was the sort of person who didn't play well with others... if he did something he wanted it to be "all his" and one way or another would drive you away from it. Like he was the sort who couldn't share a crossword puzzle or really much of anything. Especially taxes, he made an incredible deal about them, as tax day drew near it would mean he was busy for half a day or more each weekend and got out of anything else. Sheesh. When I got out on my own after we split up I realized it was really much simpler than he made it out to be, I got it done in a few hours total each year. I think it is best to share responsibility for finances, but it just didn't work out that way. Still, he did an OK job, and I at least kept track of what was going on so I wasn't out of the loop.

And for the person who was doubting the credit history thing - that was the way things were before some time in the 70's, a married woman did not have credit in her own name easily then, I remember those times too. When I was first married and opened a joint account with my husband, they would not let my name be first and they basically considered it his account. True!

Posted by: catherine3 | September 12, 2007 11:02 AM

pATRICK,

I'm surprised you are not a Hax fan. She's the ultimate at forcing people to take responsibility for themselves, their emotions, their choices.

On topic: my husband was the guy that, before we met, functioned by taking cash out of the ATM. He couldn't be less interested in anything to do with our finances, won't set up his 401(k) at work (never gets around to it), avoids financial tracking devices like the plague. His disinterest makes life a little more interesting than it needs to be. Also, about twice a year I hand him an adult beverage and beg him to sit down so I can update him on what we have, don't have, where it is, and what I recommend we do. I don't make any big financial decisions without his educated buy-in, but only because that's how I think you should behave in a marriage with one of these head-in-the-sand personalities. If I die, he's agreed to get professional assistance in handling the proceeds from my life insurance.

Posted by: MN | September 12, 2007 11:02 AM

Emily:

"It is not a priority, and if push comes to shove, they can always get married at the courthouse."

Thank God or Allah or whomever. Someone out there thinks like me. A wedding is two people vowing to spend the rest of their lives together and expressing their love for each other. The fact that some people think those vows should cost hundreds of thousands of dollars disgust me. I watch that VH1 Show, My Big Fat Wedding (or whatever it is actually called) and I laugh at those people (as VH1 does too, sadly enough). We spent $3,000 on our wedding in 2000, which was still probably too much, but it was fun and we're still together.

Posted by: bababooey668 | September 12, 2007 11:02 AM

pATRICK,

"I'm surprised you are not a Hax fan. She's the ultimate at forcing people to take responsibility for themselves, their emotions, their choices."

I know, i give her credit for that. I can't put my finger on it, maybe i have been reading dear abbey and ann landers for too long

Posted by: pATRICK | September 12, 2007 11:06 AM

"On topic: my husband was the guy that, before we met, functioned by taking cash out of the ATM. He couldn't be less interested in anything to do with our finances, won't set up his 401(k) at work (never gets around to it), avoids financial tracking devices like the plague."

As some of you might be aware, there is a push lately to change the way that 401(k)s and 403(b)s work. Right now, the default is that you're not enrolled and you must fill out forms to participate. Some think that human nature means that people accept the status quo and don't bother to investigate their options, even if it would be in their best interests. So these people would like to make the default that you actually enroll in your 401(k) or similar plan and instead have to fill out forms NOT to participate. What do you think? Before you engage in a knee-jerk response, please GOOGLE the term Automoatic 401(k) and learn about the issues involved. This is a big deal for many families.

Posted by: bababooey668 | September 12, 2007 11:12 AM

I note with interest Chemguy1157 comments on wills, POA's, medical directive. My suggestion is, if the spouse is dragging his/her feet, go to an atty and have a draft document drawn up. Just bring it home and present it. The spouse will either reject it outright, want to modify it or be happy you did it. Having just these three legal documents will save anyone so much grief not to mention, money.

From a very good personal experience as executor of my dad's estate, I thank him everyday that he did this--even though he cannot hear me.

As to the issue of the non-interested spouse (not saying that Frieda, the Luddite might be one) the best you can do is to arrange the financial affairs and prepare a check list of all accounts, ins policies, 401K's etc. for use in even of sudden death.

Posted by: Fred | September 12, 2007 11:15 AM

Off topic to pATRICK

Thanks, I know. I just did not appreciate being labeled that on my part as well as my son, daughter, 5 brothers, late mother, late father, late grandfather and more than a few uncles.

Posted by: Fred | September 12, 2007 11:17 AM

There must be something with hoarding cash and the elderly. We were cleaning out my grandmother's house after she died and found socks stuffed with 20 dollar bills way in the back of the drawer - lots and lots of cash. We can only hope that nothing else was thrown away that contained cash.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 12, 2007 11:18 AM

BTW, Hax rocks!

Posted by: Fred | September 12, 2007 11:19 AM

CNN's take on Work/Life Balance:

http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2007/work.life.balance/

Posted by: hillary1 | September 12, 2007 11:20 AM

Fred, people like that are just plain nuts. Like that guy who labeled all the victims in 9/11 as "little eichmans".

Posted by: pATRICK | September 12, 2007 11:24 AM

So these people would like to make the default that you actually enroll in your 401(k) or similar plan and instead have to fill out forms NOT to participate. What do you think? Before you engage in a knee-jerk response, please GOOGLE the term Automoatic 401(k) and learn about the issues involved. This is a big deal for many families.

Posted by: bababooey668 | September 12, 2007 11:12

After reading a bit on Google, I like it. If people cannot afford to do it at this time, they can opt out, or they can chose not to work for companies that have automatic 401(k) enrollment. I am very concerned about people who save absolutely no money and then are shocked when they cannot retire. People are not "entitled" to retire. Its not a guarantee. You have to plan to retire

Posted by: MomTo2Kids | September 12, 2007 11:27 AM

KLB -- I suspect it's less to do with being elderly, and more to do with the fact that the elderly are the ones who lived through the crash of '29 and the Depression that followed. I suspect that once you've seen multiple banks fail, followed by 10+ years of no work and bread lines, you lose a little faith in the concept that the banks or government will keep your money "safe."

[kind of reminds me of that comment, I think on this board about a year ago, from the woman who grew up with lots of Jewish relatives who had emigrated from Eastern Europe in the early 20th C., and so until @ her mid-20s, she just thought that all old people spoke like that -- like if you hit 70 or 80, you suddenly started replacing your "w"s with "v"s. Absolutely cracked me up.]

Posted by: laura33 | September 12, 2007 11:28 AM

Laura,

I agree with your comments on the depression generation. It does move down the family tree also. My wife's grandfather lost his S & L during the depression and wife has a solid mistrust of banks to this day.

Posted by: Fred | September 12, 2007 11:32 AM

Question for those of you who are more planful (a bit off-topic);

DH and I have not started a will. The reason we're avoiding it: who to make guardian of our children.

His parents, who know our daughter best, would be perfect, but are older. My mother isn't an option. Only one of his siblings would be approrpiate-- but she's getting close to having all children out of the house. Not sure it would be fair to her (we have young children). My siblings are younger, with younger children, but there are other concerns there.

I am not sure how to weigh this. Seems important to use a family member as the guardian. But how much should parental values weigh into the decision -- while any of our siblings would love our daughter (and any other child), I have concerns about gender roles in one group, concerns about parenting in the other. I can't decide how "trivial" these issues are . . . after all, you can't expect the guardian to raise your child as you would . . .

Thoughts -- did anyone else struggle with this decision?

Posted by: sciencemom | September 12, 2007 11:32 AM

sciencemom

Yes, we struggled with the decision on guardianship. We thought about all of my brother and my wife's brother. To break the impasse, we finally asked Frieda's brother and he and his wife agreed. That was then. Now that 3 of our 4 children are adults, we asked our older daughter and she accepted the potential responsibility.

So ask his parents to find out their reaction and remember that you can change this responsibility later on.

Posted by: Fred | September 12, 2007 11:41 AM

sciencemom - one other thing to consider location. I know it sounds trivial but especially with older children the nearness of friends, the ability to stay in the same school or sports team, etc can help with the grieving process.

Second do your best now and get a will written, this also is important for a surviving spouse where there is no question of guardianship. You can always change it as the children age and people's lives evolve.

Finally - I know you have younger children, but for older children, sound them out. They may feel more comfortable with one set of relatives, they may have an issue with a cousin you might not be aware of, etc. Of course you get the final say, but it may tip the decision one way or another

Posted by: mom_of_1 | September 12, 2007 11:42 AM

sciencemom, yes we absolutely struggled with that. We thought that the grandparents were just too old (and boy did that ruffle some feathers!) We went through the siblings on both sides. As mom_of_1 pointed out, location is a big issue - my brother is in North Carolina; my sister is in Louisiana; DW's brothers are in California and Georgia, respectively. Only DW's sister and her husband are in Maryland, and now that he's retired from the Navy we're pretty confident they'll stay here. So we had a long talk with them, and right now they're it.

Given that our oldest is almost 8 years older than our youngest, the will is written such that, if DW and I both die after any of them are independent, they can opt to take responsibility for their younger siblings. That is, if oldest DD is 23 and out of college, then she can say that she'll take responsibility for her then-16 year old sister. If not, it's back to DW's sister. (We actually debated as to whether that would put too much pressure on oldest DD to take responsibility whether she really wanted it or not, but wound up wording it that way.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 12, 2007 11:55 AM

Sciencemom - maybe joint guardianship with your husband's parents AND the sibling? Suggest talking to both and explaining it so that they can figure out what's more comfortable for them, or ask the sibling. Assuming you and your husband were both to die, I think the sibling would be less concerned with how "unfair" it is to care for your children and more concerned with the tragedy of the whole event and trying to do best by your kids, whatever the effort required.

As for weddings, I can't believe people spent so much! Leslie, your parents and your husband's parents contribute 5 grand each to your wedding? After you had both been working adults for years? I don't get it! We spent probably less than 5 grand total, and we paid for it ourselves completely by saving up and paying as we went with wedding expenses. It involved maybe 50-60 people and was wonderful. My parents and my in-laws donated a lot of time for me, but I would never ask them to donate money for *my* wedding. Guess it must be nice to have rich relatives!

In my family I handle all the finances down to minute details. My husband knows where we have money invested and we will occasionally discuss making changes, though he's not as good with knowing *how* it needs to be invested. We finally set up a joint checking account (it was best for both of us just for ease of paying for things) and have agreed savings goals that we both are working for. For the most part, I am the saver and he the spender, but he is pretty good about checking with me to see if we have the funds and being patient if we do not. He also does not resent when there is less money available as it has to be moved into savings. I contribute to my 401k and closely manage its fund balance, he has his own 401k that I occasionally offer advice on but is pretty much up to him and the advisors at the 401k management company who he might contact for advice. He keeps almost as close an eye as me on our checking account so he is fully in the loop there, just doesn't necessarily remember when bills need to be paid or what recurring payments we have or what upcoming expenses. I think this works well for us as both are in the loop and have agreed upon goals we share but I am more comfortable with the details and he is happier leaving them up to me.

Posted by: _Miles | September 12, 2007 11:57 AM

Thanks Fred, ArmyBrat, Mom of 1:

Location is a good point -- only my husband's parents are nearby. So maybe asking them for the short term is the right way to go.

I guess another consideration is who my daughter is most comfortable with. Other than her grandparents, she doesn't really know my husband's family because they are so spread out. My family is closer (though still a few hours away) and we see them more frequently. She knows everyone on that side of the family. She doesn't even recognize her aunts/uncles/cousins on the other side at this point -- some met her once, others not at all. So that should probably count for something, even if we think some of them might be better parents.

Posted by: sciencemom | September 12, 2007 12:02 PM

When we were struggling with guardianship, our attorney reminded us that in 40 years of family practice, he only saw 2 or 3 couples where this had to be enforced because both parents died. This removed the pressure to get it perfect, and we changed it over the years as family circumstances changed.

One thing we did add was to distibute the balance of the trust when the youngest was 25 years of age. Prevented them from potentially wasting the estate monies on cars, parties, vacations, leaving nothing for the rest of their lives.

Posted by: chemguy1157 | September 12, 2007 12:08 PM

Did anyone catch Leslie's appearance on the Today Show re Oprah's fundraiser for Obama?

Posted by: hillary1 | September 12, 2007 12:12 PM

Hillary, Did anyone want to?

Posted by: anonthistime | September 12, 2007 12:40 PM

This is why financial planning before a wedding has become a requirement. Prenups are fast becoming the "in" thing for couples.

Seeing as money is the driving force of everything these days, it's something that needs to be protected.

If people can't get their marriage back on track (for whatever reason), they can at least protect themselves from a nasty battle that is sure to happen during a divorce.

Posted by: minzesm1 | September 12, 2007 12:54 PM

Since everyone is pretty much agreeable today, it is time for a song!

Posted by: Songster | September 12, 2007 12:56 PM

to the tune of Sting, "If ever I lose my faith"


You could say I lost my faith in breast and feeding
You could say I lost my belief in the equal pay
You could say I lost my sense of the invisible ceiling
You could say all of this and worse but

If I ever lose my faith in you
I would have to still go on to find what's true.

Some would say I was a lost woman in a lost world
You could say I lost my faith in woman's liberation
You could say I'd lost my belief in our politicians
They all seemed like they were gaming my future to me but

If I ever write my blog for you
There's no telling what we both may find is true

I could be lost inside their lies without a trace
But every time I close my eyes I see your promise

I never saw no miracle of life
That couldn't go from a blessing to a curse
I never saw no compromised solution
That didn't always end up as something worse but
Let me say this first

If I ever lose my faith in truth
There'd be nothing left for me to do

Posted by: Songster | September 12, 2007 1:00 PM

I agree that waiting until you don't have daycare expenses to save for college isn't the best way to go. For one thing even after full-time daycare is history you're still paying for summer camps, which get more expensive the older the kids get.

Better to start saving something early on, and then bump the amount up.

Posted by: RedBird27 | September 12, 2007 1:05 PM

Anyone think it is really weird that Southwest airlines has tried to kick another woman off the plane for a dressing "sexy"? I am flabbergasted, buy a ticket and some flying waitress gets to decide if she likes what you are wearing?

Posted by: anon123 | September 12, 2007 1:23 PM

RedBird27 --

I am not sure you understand what we are saying. It's not that any of us WANT to wait to put money away for college until after day care payments. But -- given limited income and large day care payments -- we have prioritized living in a neighborhood with decent schools over that FOR NOW. It would be silly to subject my child to bad schools for 12 years just to ensure that we have college money for her. If there was extra money, we'd be saving for college, too. I've even talked with my financial planner about it, and he agreed it was the right -- if not ideal -- thing to do for us at this time.

I am sure it won't be as much as a windfall post day care as I'd like to think. But it's hard to imagine another expense for our child that will cost $300 a week every week of the year. In my community, day camp costs about $80-150 a week (more expensive in a few instances). That's still substantially cheaper than day care and only lasts for 3 months of the year. . .

Posted by: sciencemom | September 12, 2007 1:35 PM

minzesm1: "This is why financial planning before a wedding has become a requirement. Prenups are fast becoming the "in" thing for couples."

When DW and I went through pre-cana counseling (Engaged Encounter, etc.) more than 20 years ago, finances were a major topic. You had to address them in front of your counselor, because even back then finances were a major source of marital strife. Of course, you can say what you think wants to be heard to get through it, but it does make you stop and think. And we knew that at least two other couples at our Engaged Encounter weekend had some real issues once they started talking about money. One was a pair of 18-year olds, who had just assumed that love was all they needed; talking about money shook them. The other couple was a woman who was a high-earning doctor and was marrying a physical therapist who made much less. From what everyone else could glean from the arguments, apparently he had thought that it would be 'all money is ours to share equally' and she had thought it would be 'we each contribute to the joint account, but then what's left over belongs to whoever earned it.' I don't know if either couple ever did work it out and marry, but that was the whole point of that weekend.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 12, 2007 1:38 PM

Songster - you are really good. cracked me up.

Advance planning for financial possibilities when you are dating (ie, pre-marriage) is incredibly smart. I could never, ever do it however. It never occurred to me to be that practical.

I know one very smart woman who each month began putting aside daycare costs so she would get used to living on her post-daycare salary -- before she even got pregnant. I love this kind of stuff. Because I never think of it on my own. She is VERY financially secure today.

I also really love pre-nups and post-nups (that's a contract you negotiate after you are married that splits assets in case of divorce). But again, they work best in an ideal world. Not all of us are quite so together.

Posted by: leslie4 | September 12, 2007 1:40 PM

ArmyBrat

"When DW and I went through pre-cana counseling (Engaged Encounter, etc.) more than 20 years ago, finances were a major topic. "

Is the divorce rate lower for couples who go through pre-marriage counselling?

Do you know anything that isn't ancient history

Posted by: hillary1 | September 12, 2007 1:44 PM

Anon123 - I am with you on the whole Southwest thing. Did you see what the woman was wearing? You see far more revealing outfits walking down any city street in this country.

It's not a far stretch to making women wear burkas. Southwest is nuts!

Posted by: leslie4 | September 12, 2007 1:50 PM

hillary,

Do you know how to make a comment that is not condescending? Army Brat brings a historical prospective that is germane today.

I have no stats on divorce for counseled individuals vs. non-counseled. But my gut feeling is that some couples who do go through counseling choose not to get married. This would obviously not show up in the stats. I do have some anecdotal knowledge of this.

Or is it preferable to enter marriage without examining that institution except for the hot sex portion?

Posted by: nonamehere | September 12, 2007 1:55 PM

People pay for their kids' weddings? You can't be serious. I thought that was a throwback to the time when dads "gave" their kids away. That's insane! I'd much rather have a free college education or the down payment on a house than a free wedding. A wedding is one day; an education could last the rest of one's life. I find it hard to believe that people still do this for their adult children. Isn't that 40 grand better spent on a vacation or a home?

Posted by: Monagatuna | September 12, 2007 1:55 PM

Armybrat, you missed the point all together. To avoid all that stuff, you sign a prenup. That is the going trend right now. A prenup is financial planning at it purest.

Posted by: minzesm1 | September 12, 2007 2:06 PM

(I'm being defended by a shark. :-)

Hillary,

Per the Wall Street Journal http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110010300 "there's limited research on the success of marriage preparation as divorce prevention"

But I'd agree with Mako - I think if it causes people who aren't ready to marry to reconsider, or it causes people to discuss things that will be important in their marriage that they haven't discussed yet, then it's a benefit.

As far as knowing things that aren't ancient history, well, the folks who give me my paycheck seem to think I know a lot that's current. For an engineer, it's kind of crucial. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 12, 2007 2:11 PM

mAKO

"Do you know how to make a comment that is not condescending? Army Brat brings a historical prospective that is germane today."

Do you know how to kiss my black a$s?

ArmyBrat is DULL and his "perspective" is extremely limited.

Posted by: hillary1 | September 12, 2007 2:16 PM

"Or is it preferable to enter marriage without examining that institution except for the hot sex portion?"

Hear hear, Mako -- let's hear it for the hot sex portion. :-)

Leslie, I'm laughing at the "It never occurred to me to be that practical" comment, because for me, it was all about emotion, not practicality (ie, irrational fear of recurring poverty). I could never have felt safe and understood and loved with a guy who didn't "get" that there's always this little voice inside my head saying "don't you even think of spending that money, or you'll end up eating catfood in your old age." Believe me, my husband and I were relatively far apart in habits when we met -- but the fact that he was willing to meet me halfway, just because he knew it was important to ME, told me how much he cared.

Posted by: laura33 | September 12, 2007 2:18 PM

A prenup is financial planning at it purest.

Posted by: minzesm1 | September 12, 2007 02:06 PM

and turns marriage into just another business deal. Well, honey, what yours is yours, what mine is mine and when we divorce, we will divide Buffy and Jody in the exact percentage of our original income (adjusted for inflation of course)

Ok, a bit sarcastic but my point remains that marriage should be examined and prepared for just as one would prepare for a career. We all have attended college for the knowledge that (outside) instructors give us, we should seek the same (outside) instruction for such an agreemement of the hearts.

Posted by: nonamehere | September 12, 2007 2:21 PM

Do you know how to kiss my black a$s?

Nope, but I do know how to take a bite out of it!

Posted by: nonamehere | September 12, 2007 2:23 PM

Do you know how to kiss my black a$s?


Having read your nearly 100 percent snarky posts, I am sure it is a big target.......

Posted by: anon123 | September 12, 2007 2:26 PM

hmmmmmmmm

Things have gone from sharky to snarky here!

Posted by: nonamehere | September 12, 2007 2:31 PM


"ArmyBrat is DULL and his "perspective" is extremely limited."

Hillary,

Thank you. Considering the source I consider that a compliment.

Your postings to this blog seem to consist of an endless stream of poor insults and television/pop culture references that indicate the serious lack of a life. So I consider it a compliment that you turned away from the TV long enough to direct one of your poor insults toward me.

(FWIW, I haven't even bothered to add Hillary to my "delete file". It's fairly easy to write a script that turns this blog into a series of messages, identifies the author, and deletes the ones you don't want to see. It's not worth adding Hillary yet.)


Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 12, 2007 2:36 PM

DH and I wound up with a joint checking account because shortly after we got together he lost his check book... And did nothing about it for about three months, until I rescued him.

Today is our 20th anniversary, and I've tried countless times to hand over some of the financial responsibilities to him. It always starts out well, then, sometimes in a few months, or sometimes in a couple of years, he runs into something unexpected, can't figure out what to do, and panics. Finally it comes down to me having to rescue the situation, again.

We went bankrupt about ten years ago - nothing like waddling into court seven months pregnant. I took over the finances permanently after that. DH's credit history is still pretty bad, although mine's been successfully rebuilt, so the house/mortgage is in my name only.

I work for a major financial services company, and use every available service and employee discount to make this all easier.

I've tried to talk about what happens to the family if I'm run over by a Muni bus on the way home, and DH won't have the discussion. Somebody mentioned sitting down their spouse with an adult beverage every few months. I'm stealing that idea right now. Thank you!

Posted by: sue | September 12, 2007 2:37 PM

How ironic is it that the Google ad at the bottom of the page.....

Married Date Link
Married But Looking Personals. Meet Sexy Married People.
www.MarriedDateLink.com/

Posted by: chemguy1157 | September 12, 2007 2:39 PM

ARMYBRAT, I read somewhere that you can judge a person by their enemies, so congrats on having good character. ;)

Posted by: pATRICK | September 12, 2007 2:43 PM

Somebody mentioned sitting down their spouse with an adult beverage every few months. I'm stealing that idea right now. Thank you!

Just have a lawyer present and a breatholizer so you can prove he is not drunk and immediatly legalize whatever he agrees to! (just kidding!)

Posted by: nonamehere | September 12, 2007 2:44 PM

Just back from my meetings and it is a bit quiet here today.

So far Mako, Songster (now that he/she/it has self-identifed) and pATRICK are in contention for FQOTD.

A special shout out to Miles for her contribution today.

Posted by: Fred | September 12, 2007 3:31 PM

I also really love pre-nups and post-nups (that's a contract you negotiate after you are married that splits assets in case of divorce). But again, they work best in an ideal world.

Posted by: leslie | September 12, 2007 01:40 PM

Your ideal world is significantly more bleak than mine. In my ideal world, divorce does not occur and all marriages are happy and forever.

Posted by: MN | September 12, 2007 3:48 PM

"Your ideal world is significantly more bleak than mine. In my ideal world, divorce does not occur and all marriages are happy and forever."

Exactly. The fact that divorce has become so easy an option is really sad. But, people do make bad choices everyday. Not everyone should be married, and not everyone should have kids. Sadly I see examples of this more and more.

Posted by: jrs1978smith | September 12, 2007 3:52 PM

You know some parents want to pay for their children's wedding. My dad always said the day I was born he knew what he needed to be saving for. I got a college education, a new car and a wedding fully paid for, because my parents wanted to. All of you who are insulting that seem to be more jealous than practical.

Posted by: sthrngrl1 | September 12, 2007 4:18 PM

You know some parents want to pay for their children's wedding. My dad always said the day I was born he knew what he needed to be saving for. I got a college education, a new car and a wedding fully paid for, because my parents wanted to. All of you who are insulting that seem to be more jealous than practical.

Posted by: sthrngrl1 | September 12, 2007 04:18 PM

Note to practical self: avoid at all costs turning daughter into terminally immature, unappreciative brat who will make readers on a blog hurl.

Posted by: MN | September 12, 2007 4:29 PM

MN, my wife and I went to BMW dealership to look at a car one time. Next to us looking at a 50k convertible were a dad,wife and 19-20 year old daughter. The daughter said that was not the right color and that she wanted a car with more stuff on it. (I admit i was eavesdropping). Her dad said well they have plenty of options and she rolled her eyes. I silently laughed and SWORE I would never be that dad. Life's lessons come from the strangest of places.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 12, 2007 4:36 PM

from Sue:

Today is our 20th anniversary, and I've tried countless times to hand over some of the financial responsibilities to him. It always starts out well, then, sometimes in a few months, or sometimes in a couple of years, he runs into something unexpected, can't figure out what to do, and panics. Finally it comes down to me having to rescue the situation, again.

We went bankrupt about ten years ago - nothing like waddling into court seven months pregnant. I took over the finances permanently after that. DH's credit history is still pretty bad, although mine's been successfully rebuilt, so the house/mortgage is in my name only.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

This is why you are still married and I am not. You dealt with his behavior and took "the fall" - I stood my ground and finally said I've had enough. What was the better way? I should have kept my family together and worked harder to resolve our financial issues. I got a big attitude about it. Finances and marriage can be tough stuff when one doesn't see eye to eye.

Posted by: cyntiastmancom | September 12, 2007 4:58 PM

I'm at that point where we thought we'd have more disposable income now that daycare expenses are gone. But instead, those expenses have been taken over by higher medical expenses (up $400 a month in the past few years including both premiums and average montly copays), higher fuel, gas and electric expenses (I just looked at my gas & electric bill for the past six months--it's gone up about $20 every month and is now roughly triple what it averaged two or three years ago), higher property taxes and higher grocery expenses (not just because the kids are eating more, but that's certainly part of it). Then we've added some expenses we didn't have before--kids activities add up to about $50 a month; we replaced our 19 year old car and now have a car payment for the first time in a LONG time.

So I'd have to agree with those who think that even once the daycare expenses go away, other expenses come in to fill the void. I have no idea how we'd manage if we were still dealing with daycare expenses. Of course, one reason we don't have daycare expenses anymore was because we couldn't manage it financially so my husband switched to working during the third shift.

I worry about money all the time. We've finally gotten to the point where we can meet our monthly expenses with little concern, but our long term financial outlook is bleak. We're saving too little for retirement and we know it, but we don't have enough wiggle room in the budget to allow for more savings. College savings? Forget it. I'm still paying off my own student loans.

The one area I'm proud of is my husband's and my even division of financial responsiblity. I pay the bills and do the taxes, largely because DH thinks due dates are for the little people, but he could take over in a pinch and I show him regularly where everything is set up. We bring in roughly the same amount of money from our jobs. We each have retirement accounts, checking accounts, credit cards (with no balances) and life insurance in our own names.

Posted by: sarahfran | September 12, 2007 5:00 PM

"ARMYBRAT, I read somewhere that you can judge a person by their enemies, so congrats on having good character. ;)"

My God, pATRICK, you actually read something?!?!? By the way, I'm still waiting for you to be a man and actually debate some of the (many, many) people who disagree with you on this blog. Are you willing to take up the challenge?

Posted by: bababooey668 | September 12, 2007 5:04 PM

"MN, my wife and I went to BMW dealership to look at a car one time. Next to us looking at a 50k convertible were a dad,wife and 19-20 year old daughter. The daughter said that was not the right color and that she wanted a car with more stuff on it. (I admit i was eavesdropping). Her dad said well they have plenty of options and she rolled her eyes. I silently laughed and SWORE I would never be that dad. Life's lessons come from the strangest of places."

Were you envious of the success of these people pATRICK??? I'm pretty sure that none of the people in your trailer park would be able to afford a real car. But you're a conservative aren't you?? If only the Democrats would leave you alone, you too could climb the ladder of success and buy something other than a 1976 Plymouth Reliant.

Posted by: bababooey668 | September 12, 2007 5:08 PM

Don't worry about responding pATRICK. I know that you have begun your nightly ritual of over-drinking. Please turn to your friends on this blog (I'm assuming you don't have any in real life, correct me if I'm wrong). We are all here to help you. The fact that you joke about your drinking problem only makes it that much more clear that you need help. I might disagree with your political opinions, pATRICK, but I am here to help you with you addiction.

Posted by: bababooey668 | September 12, 2007 5:11 PM

It which posted here yesterday that it used to be bababooey666 needs to seek help for its own addiction before casting aspersion at others:
http://www.sexualforums.com/talk/showthread.php?t=11251&page=2

Posted by: mehitabel | September 12, 2007 5:30 PM

Now is the time that y'all have waited for! It is (trumpet flourish) time for
Fred's Quote of the Day!
(The Creepy Van cannot hold seawater Division)

Goes to Mako!

"Or is it preferable to enter marriage without examining that institution except for the hot sex portion?"

Who knew that sharks have such a big brain to make a comment that is funny on the surface but very probing when you think about it a bit?

Runner up goes to Songster for his/hers/its many songs. Are not you glad that you finally identified your self as other than "anon" to win this coveted prize?

I just do not know how much seawater the Creepy Van (tm) will hold, if any--it does have a few rust holes. But the Hula Girl will be safe as she is used to being surrounded by water.

Posted by: Fred | September 12, 2007 6:15 PM

Bravo, Fred. That line really jumped out to me as well. And as I said before, loved the ditty. 'Nite!

Posted by: leslie4 | September 12, 2007 10:14 PM

Thank you Fred for this honor! I have my acceptance speech here somewhere.

Hi to Leslie, I think I feel a song comning on!

Posted by: Songster | September 13, 2007 8:46 AM

This is why you are still married and I am not. You dealt with his behavior and took "the fall" - I stood my ground and finally said I've had enough. What was the better way? I should have kept my family together and worked harder to resolve our financial issues. I got a big attitude about it. Finances and marriage can be tough stuff when one doesn't see eye to eye.

Posted by: cyntiastmancom | September 12, 2007 04:58 PM

I don't know if you'll be back here to see this note, but I'm taking a chance.

Don't be hard on yourself for making a tough choice. My choice was different than yours because DH and I have pretty similar views on finances, and the problems were when he tried, but failed, to execute his financial responsibilities. Neither of us is thrilled that I'm the manager of all things monetary, or that his name isn't on the title to the house. We both came to a mutal understanding that this was what had to be done to make it work right.

From what you've said, your EX wasn't in the same place as you which means the two of you couldn't/wouldn't come to your own agreement about making your finances work, and that's *NOT* your fault.

Posted by: sue | September 13, 2007 2:20 PM

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