When I sold life insurance, I fantasized about shaking the shoulders of women who responded to a financial question with, “Oh, I don’t know any of that stuff. My husband makes the money. I just spend it.”
Outwardly, I remained professional and found restrained ways to encourage them to wake up to the danger of their situation.
What I wanted to say was this. “Why on earth do you give your power away like that?”
Often, these were the same women who ridiculed their husbands for being cheap, selfish and disrespectful towards women.
Let’s pause for a teachable moment. Um. There may be a link here. This is probably what you signed up for.
If when you were dating, your partner was secretive, patronizing, and controlling when it came to money, you had two choices:
2. Put your entire financial life in his hands by quitting work, having multiple children with him and turning a blind eye toward all of your life-long dreams, talents, and career opportunities.
I continue to be amazed by the numbers of otherwise intelligent women who turn their brains off and go skipping happily – in an overpriced puffy wedding dress — toward door number two.
Even when a spouse is kind and trustworthy, once a woman hands over her financial life to him, inequity is the inevitable result.
In her book, The Feminine Mistake, Leslie Bennetts makes an air tight case for why women should remain in control of their financial lives, no matter what other choices they make. She points to women who use marriage and motherhood as an excuse to abdicate responsibility for their own financial well-being. It doesn’t mean that being a stay at home mom is not a positive option from some women. But intentional ignorance of your financial situation is not a smart choice for anyone.
Both partners can and should participate fully in the family finances. Also, you should remain connected to your chosen career field since stay at home parenting is a temporary position. Kids eventually grow up and have their own lives, you should too. For instance, maintain memberships in professional associations and fulfill continuing education requirements for professional certifications. Nurture professional contacts and relationships. In short, remain employable. Because at any minute you may need to jump with both feet back into the work force in the event of the death, disability or departure of a spouse.
Yes, there is life insurance and disability insurance – both of which I highly recommend. But there is no divorce insurance. And, in the case of divorce, how will you pay the bills – including attorney fees — while you do battle with the person who knows more about your assets (or lack of them) than you do?
If you ignore reality, not only are you deciding to be completely dependent for your current food, shelter, clothing etc., you are also sacrificing accumulation of assets for your retirement. Yes, your contribution of childcare and support of your spouse’s career may do wonders for the “family financial picture” of today, but Ms. Bennetts compares this to pouring millions of dollars worth of renovations into house that you don’t own. Your name is not on the deed. Or it maybe it is, if your spouse set it up that way, but do you know for sure?
Find out where you stand financially. Educate yourself. This should be a team effort between you and your spouse. You may be surprised how grateful he is to share the burden. It is the single best decision you can make because financial ignorance is far from bliss.
Image courtesy of Mixmaster