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Financial Advice for Couples-Expert tips on techniques to solve, and avoid, money-related conflict
The biggest area of conflict couples face–ahead of religion, politics, and whose turn it is to do the dishes – is money. Two local experts share their tips for successfully navigating financial decision-making between you are yours. – Minnesota Monthly,
How to Stay Solvent in a Single Income Household
A few years ago, I unexpectedly found myself raising two kids on one income. In my case, the situation was the result of my partner's sudden death, so the change was utterly unexpected. DailyWorth, April 15, 2017
Financial Advice for Couples-Expert tips on techniques to solve, and avoid, money-related conflictT
The biggest area of conflict couples face–ahead of religion, politics, and whose turn it is to do the dishes – is money. Two local exerts share their tips for successfully navigating financial decision-making between you are yours. – Minnesota Monthly, April 2016
Recent interview with Amy Gage in MinnPost weekly updates The Middle Stages -- Women Reimagine Midlife
The Middle Stages: women reimagine midlife (An interview with Ruth Hayden by Amy Gage)Women and Money: Earn, Save and Spend (in that order)
St. Paul-based financial educatior Ruth Hayden has been giving women the same advice about money for 25 years.
"Women know the language. They know they have to make money. But they're still deferring too long on investing, and they're not earning enough."
On financial education; On saving as a necessary discipline; On learning to invest; On how to have money when you're old; On why women resent work; On the ambiguity inherent in making choices; On career vs. job; On discomfort with age; On women and power. – The Middle Stages MinnPost weekly roundup April 4, 2015
Help Me Take The Stress Out Of Gift Shopping
From how to shop smart to how to save more at your favorite stores, our pros share the tips that'll take the stress out of holiday gift shopping so that you can enjoy the most precious gift of all: time with the family. – Women's World Magazine, December 2014
For LOVE and MONEY
The woman to my left looks perplexed, and the entire room has erupted into mild pandemonium
Fifteen couples have gathered here for a five-week course called "Couples and Money," and the teacher has just given the homework.... – The first installment by Courtney Helgoe Experience Life: July/August 2013
For LOVE and MONEY (the Sequel)
It's Friday night. You and your sweetheart are finally relaxed on the couch in front of the fire. You snuggle in, gaze into your darling's eyes, and lean in close to whisper.
"Honey, we got an overdraft fee this afternoon." – The second installment by Courtney Helgoe Experience Life: September 2013
Till Debt Do Us Part
(Marrying into debt can test the marriages of young college graduates, especially if that debt is higher for one partner.)
The only thing newlyweds Joy and Zach Yerrick have in excess is love.
Married almost a year, they still grin when they talk about each other. And they still joke about how they scrimp — packing their lunches, using pay-by-the-minute phones and planning date nights around coupons.
“Even when we splurge, we save,” said Joy.
The two met as students at North Central University in Minneapolis. Zach, the son of schoolteachers, graduated last spring and works at a social service agency. During college, he accumulated $20,000 in loans. Joy is the daughter of a factory worker father and an immigrant mother who cleans hospitals. She balances two retail jobs while pursuing a communications degree. She expects to graduate with twice her husband’s debt.
But since their marriage, they no longer consider debt “his” or “hers.”
“We’ve taken on the debt as ours,” said Zach. “It was a blessing that my parents helped me pay for college. I can’t put a negative feeling on Joy because she wasn’t so lucky.”While many kinds of personal debt have been falling since 2007, student loan debt has been on the rise, IHS Global Insight said. The number of young people delaying marriage also is climbing. The median marrying age for men in 2011 was 28.7, 26.5 for women.
Zach, 24, and Joy, 22, bucked that trend. But they represent a new take on an old phenomenon: marrying into uneven debt.
“When it comes to school loans, often there’s one partner with a huge load and the other with little or none,” said Ruth Hayden, a St. Paul financial consultant and author. “Opposites do attract.”
Confident in the power of their bond, young couples may regard one partner’s debt as an obstacle to defeat together. But if that debt prevents them from achieving their goals, the romance can become depleted as years go by.
“Money is the No. 1 reason couples fight and the No. 1 reason they break up,” Hayden said. “Couples in their 20s and 30s think they’ll be fine, until they hit that brick wall and realize they can’t do what they want to do. They can’t get a mortgage or they can’t have a child. When choices are limited, resentment builds.”
Starting married life in a financial hole is the new normal.
According to a Pew Research Center survey released last fall, 40 percent of young households carry student loans, up from 26 percent in 2001.
Minnesota graduates carry more than their counterparts elsewhere. A 2011 survey by the Project on Student Debt ranked Minnesota as third in the nation in student debt, with two-thirds graduating with an average tally of $29,793 in loans.
That means that “millennials enter their family-building years carrying an unprecedented burden of debt,” said Kate Muhl, a consumer strategist with Iconoculture, a Minneapolis-based research firm.
Compounding that is the fact that so few couples talk about money matters before they wed.
During an engagement, couples often devote weeks to compatibility classes sponsored by their church or non-denominational wedding officiant. They would do well to address their compatibility when it comes to finances, said Louise Rogness, a family law attorney at Rogness and Field of Oakdale.
“A prenuptial agreement that spells out who accrued the debt and who it belongs to is a good idea, but couples resist pre-nups as being too negative to pursue,” she said. “People are afraid to bring it up and just hope they won’t ever face it.”
A school loan incurred before marriage belongs to the person who took it. But from a practical standpoint, paying one partner’s debt comes off the top of the couple’s income. That obligation can create tension among in-laws, who may have opposing philosophies about the higher-ed tab.
“Parents who worked their butts off to save [for college] think poorly of parents who did not,” Hayden said. “But parents who didn’t pay for college think parents who do are spoiling their kids.”
When they talk about their future, Joy and Zach Yerrick dream of traveling, owning a home, becoming parents, pursuing graduate degrees. But they wonder if they will attain any of it.
“You expect it to be tight when you’re starting out,” said Zach. “But honestly, I don’t see how it ever will be anything other than this. Debt is setting us up to live this way.”
“We have to go to college to get a good job, then we have to work our whole lives to pay for it,” said Joy. “My parents were stretched thin because they didn’t go to college. We’re stretched because we did. We’re seeing the cost of the dream.”
Ultimately, Ruth Hayden said, a couple’s ability to survive the stress of one-sided debt comes down to their commitment to their marriage.
“They have to be very clear. They have to say to each other, ‘This will not break us up. This will not,’ ” Hayden said. “They have to work hard and work together. Otherwise, this debt will be the wall they can’t scale.” – StarTribune.com Minneapolis, April 16, 2013 Kevyn Burger is a Minneapolis-based broadcaster, podcaster and freelance writer.
Financial infidelity is as damaging as other infidelities because it is a breaking of trust. This is not an uncommon problem. Couples say that one-half of them hide money from their partner and one-half lied about money. The American Bar Association says that 90% of quarrels are about money. American Express says that 9 out 0f 10 individuals in a marriage avoid talking about money. Financial infidelity is caused by the inability to keep trust and then not having a respectful and effective way to talk about it.
Ruth Hayden works with a three-part strategy to help couples move forward in their relationship rather than move out of their relationship.
Strategy #1: Make a commitment to each other that you will practice talking about money and that you each will absolutely do what you said you'd do. Period.
Strategy #2: Make a specific money plan. The plan will include spending, debt and savings.
Strategy #3: Keep to the plan. If the plan becomes too difficult, renegotiate the plan with you partner. Don't just break the plan. If you can keep to the plan, you will re-establish trust. And you will move past the financial infidelity. – CLAUDIA - A Magazine for Women. Brazil. (November 2012)
More and more families are being asked to provide financial help to their aging parents. Ruth Hayden gives advice on strategies in working together.
Family Profile - Money Sense Magazine. (December/January 2012)
FINANCIAL CLASSES: Ruth Hayden was Suze Orman when Suze Orman was still waitressing and in debt. And she's here in St. Paul, offering financial literacy classes, many aimed specifically at women, but also offering a couples-and-money class that frequently has a waiting list. Can't wait? She has four award-winning books to dive into. So if you've ever been tempted to call Suze late at night and ask her if you can afford that new fishing boat, know that you have a local, reliable, whip-smart, non sensationalized option, right here in town. – Minnesota Monthly Best of the Cities (November 2011)
Ruth Hayden has always been good with numbers. In 1982, the former teacher decided to start the accounting track as her second career, but plans changed when she offered to work with a friend and her husband on their finances. Word of her skills spread quickly, and Hayden started her own business as a financial educator.
"I really love numbers, and I enjoy getting people to communicate," she say. "It is the complexity of the person, and mixing that with the money, that makes this job so intriguing."
Hayden, who has published four books about finance, was at the forefront of discussing the relationship between emotions and money in the 1980s and '90s. "Money is not just about counting. That's only 20 percent of it," she says. "Eighty percent of it is what I call self-management."
Hayden performs individual consultations and teaches classes for couples, women, and self-employed women, focusing on the areas of earning, saving, and spending. She finds her work with women particularly rewarding. “My focus is on how to help women become financially secure and feel strong about money," she notes. "As an educator, my job is to make sure people make progress."
Plus, the work is rewarding. "I've been able to make a positive impact, and I get to do what I'm good at," Hayden says. "I don't think it gets any better than that." – Mpls/St.Paul Magazine (October 2011)
Five Rules That Can Change Your Life "The great thing about writing down your financial goals is that if you follow your budget then you know there should be money there to meet them." Ruth Hayden, a financial educator and author in St. Paul/Minneapolis, Minn., agrees that writing goals and aspirations down on paper has a profound effect. She has seen it work with her own clients. The key is including a Statement of Purpose that both partners buy into emotionally and intellectually. It works because we're more rational when we're planning for our future selves than we are when we're confronted by an immediate concern. Having a guide that you can refer to later is a bit like connecting your emotional self to your rational self for advice when real life hits you with a shocker.
– Money Sense Magazine. (December22, 2010)
The Joy of Spending Extreme savers, unable to buy and enjoy even the simple pleasures in life, set up several money pots (one a regret-free pot). So what's the key to getting such extreme savers to spend happily. They need to be reassured that they really do have enough money saved to last a lifetime. "People need to feel safe," says Ruth Hayden. She recommends a plan with several different types of savings, so extreme savers can let go of their fears. One strategy Hayden uses is to set up three "money pots" – one for savings, one for emergency cash six months to one year's worth) and a third pot for what Hayden calls "regret-free living." This is when we talk about their goals," says Hayden. "If they were close to death, what would they wish they had done?" – Money Sense Magazine. (Summer, 2010)
A recent nationwide survey found 70% of married couples disagree about finances --starting on the honeymoon. "When you're dating, your differences can be intriguing," says Ruth L. Hayden, author of For Richer, Not Poorer, The Money Book For Couples. "But when you're trying to decide what you each have to sacrifice to help make ends meet, those differences can spark anger, insecurity or resentment."
Resist the urge to take on additional debt during a recession.... "You need to get through this short period of time without creating any long-term negative consequences," says Hayden. As you hear reports of gloom and doom from financial forecasters, try to keep your perspective: Economic cycles go up and down. "Tell yourselves, 'This is not the way life's always going to be, '" says Hayden. "Things are bound to get better before too long." – Parents Magazine, "Recession-Proof Your Marriage." (September, 2008)
The courage to face your financial reality today-the courage to choose responsible action and face the truth of your situation today-is your first step toward safety and peace of mind tomorrow. Even though it's a scary undertaking and doesn't feel safer, it is, in fact, with a doubt always safer to know. You need to ask, "How much money is in my checking account, today? My savings account? My wallet? How much debt do I owe and to whom? How much money have I put away for retirement and where is it today? When you are willing to ask and answer these questions, you are on your way to creating financial safety for yourself and your future. – The Phoenix, Regret-Free Living: A Conversation with Ruth Hayden (August 2008)
How can a couple successfully blend two styles of investing?
UNDERSTAND GENDER BIASES. In general, experts say men tend to be more willing than women to tolerate volatility in financial matters. Men also are more likely to talk about money with their peers. "As a gender, men chase returns and have lower rates of return," says Hayden. Women are often less willing to risk money they've worked hard for. Neither approach is absolutely right. Conservative types may go broke safely, Hayden says, because they often put money "in places where there is no hope it will be able to keep up with inflation." But overly aggressive behavior can also lead to financial ruin. – Metlifeyourlife.com , He Says, She Says, by Caralee Adams
"... Randy Shuldt, a vice president with IHateFinancialPlanning.com , a new web site devoted to the more than 75 percent of Americans who hate financial planning, says the key to talking about money in a relationship is to start early. Schuldt, who's happily married and the father of two, says it's paramount to understand each partner's savings and spending habits. Because it's not easy to talk about money, web sites like IHateFinancialPlanning.com can serve as a source to initiate the conversation. I also highly recommend the new book by Ruth Hayden, For Richer, Not Poorer: The Money Book for Couples." – Brides and Grooms , News Gleaner, Philadelphia, PA.
If money is a sore spot in your marriage, you are probably inclined to keep discussions to a minimum. But you should commit to a quick once-a-week check-in - about 30 minutes - to go over routine things like paying bills or deciding immediate spending questions, says Ruth Hayden, author of "For Richer, Not Poorer: The Money Book for Couples." That way you can air concerns before resentments pile up. – Money Magazine One Family, Two Portfolios (Feb. 15, 2008)
You should also draft a document that lists what jobs each of you will be responsible for. Who is in charge of paying the bills? "Give yourself a title and write a job description," says Ruth Hayden, a family business counselor and author of "For Richer, Not Poorer: The Money Book for Couples." "It's one way to avoid stepping on each other's toes." – Money Magazine Business Partners in Love (January 30, 2008)
Get on the same page: Rory concedes that he'll need to make some changes."I'm just going to acquiesce," he says. But Ruth Hayden, a St. Paul financial educator who counsels couples, warns that this approach won't work in the long term because no one can alter his financial personality that easily.
Instead, Rory and Michele need to find a middle ground. For instance, Hayden says Michele might enjoy life more if she were a bit less cautious about money. And Michele admits that she admires Rory's generosity, such as his willingness to pay for nights out with friends who earn less than he does.
One solution: The pair should keep individual and household accounts. Rory can deposit several thousand dollars each month into a checking account earmarked for joint expenses. With what's left he can pay down his debt and spend as he desires. – Money Magazine Odd Couple: When Financial Opposites Attract (Nov. 29, 2007)
Fear of coming clean with your partner
You know it's bad. So bad you'd really rather keep it to yourself. Why, you figure, ruin your partner's day with news of your mounting debt or the fact that you've been living off your savings?
Because if you don't, the truth will out at the worst possible time -- like when you go to apply for a mortgage and realize that your credit score or lack of savings is killing your chances of getting that house your partner loves. "Then that creates a double problem. Knowing is safer," said Ruth Hayden, author of "For Richer, Not Poorer: The Money Book for Couples."
Chances are you're afraid that your partner will think less of you and want to leave you or, possibly worse, try to control every dollar you spend from now on.
But remember, Hayden said, "you're more than money - there are so many more facets to a relationship. Plus, everyone has some kind of a downside. And money baggage is easier to deal with than others."
Try this: Have the conversation no matter what. It may be uncomfortable but it will pay off down the line, Hayden said. Then make an agreement about what you both want to achieve (e.g., pay down debt, save more for retirement, buy a house) and agree on what you'll both do (and won't do) to reach that goal. Beyond that, allow each other autonomy money - money you can spend that the other person can't question. – Money Magazine Beat Back Five Financial Fears (May 29, 2007)
Solving Relationship Money Problems – interview Mar. 31, 2008 deals with the following questions:
.What seems to be the problem when couples and money collide?
.In your book For Richer, Not Poorer: The Money Book for Couples , you outline the four cornerstones of a "healthy money partnership." Please explain these.
.How does an individual's societal and familial background with money influence their current management of it?
.What do you do to help people get better at solving relationship money problems?
.Can you give us some examples of couples reducing the emotions surrounding money and learning to trust one another?
.What tools do you recommend for helping couples come to better solutions?
Click on the following link to read the entire article:
What is it going to take not only to keep each of you happy individually but to make for a happy relationship? Ruth Hayden, a St. Paul financial consultant who teaches courses for couples, is disappointed that only half of all married couples maintain separate checking accounts. She believes they all should. "The key is to think about the trade-offs," says Hayden. "What is it going to take not only to keep each of you happy individually but to make for a happy relationship?" – Money Magazine Spouses Gone Wild! Why Solo Play Is Okay (January 23, 2006)
"We often choose a mate because of differences, which are intriguing at first," Hayden said. "Those differences lose their appeal when two people with different spending and saving habits butt heads." – Love & Money , (February 12, 2004), Minneapolis Star Tribune
Raskin Resources 142: How To Make Your Money Life Work.
Interview on Positive Living, giving advice on day-to-day money management, on financial expectations of couplehood, and on applying tried-and-true principles with ease and effectiveness.
"The biggest mistake women make is not putting any money away for themselves. Women have college funds for their children before they start retirement funds for themselves" – Minnesota Women's Press "Do women handle money differently?" (December, 2004)
"It never has made sense to me to divorce because of money issues--because they only get worse with divorce. But we know money is high on the list for reasons marriages fail. So get some money training! Inevitably, you'll find yourself somewhere in the pages of For Richer, Not Poorer -and you'll find usable answers and solutions as well. First there's information on discovering things about yourselves and your relationship to money, then how to talk to each other about it, then how to work with each other about money--and coming from the position of being on the same side. Ruth Hayden makes dealing with money easier--and more fun--than you thought it could be. Don't deny yourself this valuable information!" – Marriage Magazine
"The real issue for most couples is fairness: 'If you get yours, will I get mine.' We somehow marry our opposites. When we are dating, we are stimulated by someone who is very different from us. But in a longer-term relationship, we are frightened by it." Hayden tries to teach partners to compromise without feeling that they are giving up their autonomy. – Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine
As a financial consultant, I know that when couples list money as the primary reason they are getting divorced, the problems are not about money itself. The unresolvable problems are about how, and if, each member of the couple will get what (s)he wants and needs. – Marriage Magazine
How to (gently) Toss Your Boomerang Kid. Jay MacDonald interviews Ruth at Bank Rate.com. "When financial educator Ruth Hayden counsels couples on how to cope with 'boomerang kids' who suddenly return to the nest, she speaks from experience." – http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/pf/20050909a1.asp
Gender Spender: Sex Sets Your Money DNA. Jay MacDonald interviews Ruth Hayden at Bank Rate.com. "When it comes to money, men and women view it, spend it and invest it very differently." – http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/sav/20000620.asp
For richer or poorer ... or according to the postnuptial agreement Jay MacDonald interviews Ruth at Bank Rate.com. A prenuptial agreement between Hollywood's rich and famous often makes headlines, but it has a less glamorous cousin, the postnup. And average Americans are increasingly turning to this post-wedding paperwork to salvage shaky marriages. – http://www.bankrate.com/yho/news/advice/20021021a.asp
Are You cheating on your spouse with money? Jay MacDonald interviews Ruth at Bank Rate.com. (January 2008) If you've ever hidden a purchase from your spouse or secreted away some household cash for a rainy day, you hereby have been deemed financially unfaithful and may now commence the walk of shame. – http://www.foxbusiness.com/story/til-death----money---/
Are You a tax procrastinator? Jay MacDonald interviews Ruth at Bank Rate.com. April 2008) On the pain scale, preparing income taxes falls somewhere between a visit to the doctor and a visit to the dentist. All are necessary in the long run, but oh so easy to put off until tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that. – http://finance.yahoo.com/taxes/article/104837/Are-You-a-Tax-Procrastinator
How to hassle the pal who owes you. Jay MacDonald interviews Ruth at Bank Rate.com Lend money to a friend and you might lose both, the old saying says. If you do it, make sure there are no misunderstandings. – http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/CollegeAndFamily/MoneyInYour20s/HowtoHassleThePalWhoOwesYou.aspx?page=all&vv=600
10 steps to a money-smart divorce. Jay MacDonald interviews Ruth at Bank Rate.com. No matter how intense your emotions, it's important to remember that ending a marriage is in fact a business deal. Here are moves to make sure you don't get taken. When your marriage breaks up, the last thing you feel like doing is crunching numbers. You're hurt, perhaps angry, and possibly overwhelmed with anxiety, fear and despair. You're focused on the past and present, not the future. – http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/CollegeAndFamily/SuddenlySingle/10stepsToAMoneySmartDivorce.aspx?page=all
Couples and Money - Commentary 4 - June 2009
As you were leaving for work on Friday, you said to your partner, “Did you pay the car insurance?” Or as you wrote out the check for groceries... you looked at the three pages in your checkbook register of checks -- none of which had been subtracted and you wondered if there was enough money in the account. Or as you looked at the quarterly savings account summary, you tried to figure out why the balance was so low.
Did the two of you make your last money decision when you were exhausted just before bed? Or as one of you was running out the door? Or with a child crying nearby? Or.....? Your full concentration was not on the the money decision because you weren’t prepared to make a decision.
What action step can you take to go from an ineffective communication model to one that works? Decide to have a business meeting where you as a couple can make money decisions. This meeting provides a place where you can make money decisions and complete money tasks. My clients make very different money decisions during a business meeting than they made before they started their meetings. When both members of a couple are focused and prepared to work at this meeting, they make more effective money decisions. Couples also say that there is less stress and conflict in their life because they are showing each other more respect by not trying to make money decisions as they come and go.
This business meeting action step will only work if you actually schedule this meeting with each other in your schedule. Schedule a meeting for one time each week for no more than one hour. Frequent, shorter meetings are more efficient for making money decisions than longer, frustrating financial marathons. In this meeting, you will go over money decisions that need to be made. You may pay bills and go over your budget. You may talk about your goals and future planning. You can use this meeting for making decisions about any part of your financial life. Remember, keeping your commitment to meet together -- week after week after week gives you, as a couple, communication time to practice effective, respectful decision making in your financial life.
Couples and Money - Commentary 3 - August 2008
Changing unproductive and sometimes hurtful couple communication is a three-step process. The last "Tip of the Month" covered the first two steps. Step 1 --commitment --and Step 2-- understanding. The third step is Action. The action step needs to start with a plan. Who are we? What do we want? Where are we going?
You learned in the second step that you are different from each other and have different ideas about spending and saving. And in Step 1, you made a commitment to understand these differences and to respect each other even when you do differ. As a couple, you will want to decide what your financial goals are. Financial goals are the trip-tiks of life. These trip-tiks create a common route to get to where you say you want to go.
Many of the couples I work with haven't decided-- together-- their common goals. One may have the perception that they are going to Boston and the other thinks they are going to San Francisco. One may think they, as a couple, are working to better their lifestyle--today--and the other thinks they are working to provide a good retirement-in the future. So one is out looking at houses and the other is talking with investment advisors. Sound familiar?
Not having financial goals -- not knowing where you're going-- is financially paralyzing. That's why when you looked in the mirror this morning and saw the gray hairs, you may have felt frustrated because you thought you'd be financially farther in your life than you are. If you want to get to where you choose to be in your financial life, you will want to get clear about where you're going and how you're going to get there. As a couple, take some time to sit down and write out -- Where do we want to be-- and how will we get there-- 1 year from now, -- then 5 years from now, and 20 years from now....... Work together. Adjust. Compromise. Be flexible. Remember, you have already made a commitment to work together. Decide and then write out the plan -- the map-- of how you will get there. Decide how you will make your financial goals really work.
Couples and Money - Commentary 2 - November 2007
As a financial consultant, I use a basic three-step process to help couples change their ineffective couple communication.
Step #1 is the simplest step in this process of change and for some of you, it will be the hardest. I call it the commitment step. Make a commitment with your partner that says, "We have decided we are going to work together and manage our money life differently." Or, "I am making a commitment with you to make our money life work even when we differ-- even when it gets hard." If you already have a commitment, this step seems simplistic. For those of you who don't have a commitment, this step may seem too difficult. Either way, if you want to change your ineffective couple communication model, the first step is commitment. Commitment says, "No matter what, we will."
Step # 2 in this three-step process is an understanding step. This is the step where you as a couple come to grips with your beliefs about money-your attitudes-your values-and how you are different from each other.
How would you answer the following questions?
1. How much should be spent on a new golf bag?
2. How much should be spent on a computer?
3. How much should we have in savings?
4. How much should be spent on a pair of jeans for our 15 year old?
Now that you each have answered these four questions, how do you think your partner has answered these questions? As a couple, take some time to sit down together and discuss your spending and saving differences. Don't evaluate. Simply make a mental list of your differences. Then talk together about the problems these differences have caused in your relationship. If you understand that you are different from each other and that you have a commitment to work together, you can respectfully find the middle ground that is needed to make effective money decisions. Respect for yourself and your partner is essential for making money decisions and changing your money life. Understanding is needed to build this respect between the two of you.
Couples and Money - Commentary 1 - May 2007
Many couples say that money is the number one reason for conflict in their relationship. No matter how much these couples want their relationship to work, they end up fussing and fighting over money decisions. These money decisions, they say, are the number one reason for ending a relationship—for calling it quits as a couple. If you are like most couples, you and your partner don't have effective, workable models for couples' communication about money. You probably don't know how to make money decisions with your partner and you certainly don't understand the money decisions your partner is making. I've found that the majority of couples use one of three ineffective money communication models.
In the first Model, one partner takes charge of specific money decisions and the other acquiesces to those decisions. In Model #1, the language sounds like, "Because I said so." Or "Because I earn the money so it's my decision." Or "You're not good with numbers, so I'll take over." Or the person who acquiesces may say, "Whatever. . . ." or "Do whatever you want," or "I don't have time, so you do it."
Ineffective Model #2 couples fuss and feud and fight. Sometimes a couple begins with Model #1, but then they start to argue with each other about the money decisions. Some of the language of this couple communication model sounds like, "How could you spend that much money?" or "You have no discipline" or "Why don't you just earn more money?" Couples using this model are saying, "What's the matter with you? It's your fault."
When a couple uses ineffective Model #3, neither partner talks about money decisions to the other. Most often this couple is frustrated with the other two Models. Couples use this model as a way to "save the relationship." As long as the kids are clothed and food is purchased, this couple will continue using this model. The language of this model is silence. The ineffectiveness of this model becomes apparent when a consensus is needed or a problem develops. As a way to try to make a money decision, this couple usually slips to either Model #1— where one person takes charge—or Model #2—where they fight and feud. This is the first in a series of four commentaries that will give you a three step process that will help you change how you communicate as a couple so you can change your money life.
Establishing Emergency Savings - November 2006
Financial professionals tell their clients that they need to have an emergency savings account. This statement raises two questions that need to be answered.
The first question is, "What is meant by the term 'emergency'?" For some, an emergency is paying the semi-annual car insurance premium; for others it is a visit to the dentist's office; for others an emergency is the Visa bill from the family vacation; for others it is a car repair bill . I tell my clients that none of these is truly an emergency. All these expenses are predictable . In other words, you know they are going to happen- sometime. These predictable expenses need to be paid out of the regular budget from accumulated savings-for expenses that are simply a part of your life.
You will want to set up an accumulated savings account to pay for predictable expenses.
An emergency is something totally unexpected. If you have a car, you know that you will have to pay car insurance and car repair bills. So these expenses are not emergencies. If you have teeth, you know you'll be going to the dentist. And you know you take a family trip each year and charge much of it to Visa. None of these are emergencies. So, in order to answer the first question, you'll want to re-define the term "emergency."
Emergency means that it is outside any predictability. Emergency usually is part of some loss or catastrophe-an accident, an illness, a job loss. The purpose of an emergency fund is to hold your life intact-during and after a crisis.
Knowing that everyone needs emergency money for financial protection, how do you decide how much to keep in that account? You don't want too little money or you won't be protected. You don't want too much money sitting in a liquid account either. Liquid money doesn't earn the rate of return that longer term, less liquid money has the potential to earn. In other words, liquid money does not earn enough to keep up with inflation and taxes.
So what is your goal for emergency savings? Your goal starts with the amount you need to cover 3 months of expenses-three months of your budget. You will probably want to set a goal of higher than three months of expenses if you do not have disability insurance. It needs to be higher if you only have one income in your household. Or if you have two incomes that are earned at the same company. Or if you are self-employed. Or..anything else that makes your income vulnerable. One or more of these situations is reason enough to increase the goal of emergency savings from three months of expenses to six months.
Once you have established an emergency savings goal, decide how much you will save from each paycheck or each month. Make sure that money gets deposited. And leave it there. Don't let your emergency savings become a revolving door – money in – money out-to pay for life's expenses. Protect this savings account so you can truly feel safe.
Couples and Money: The Role of Values in Budgeting - January 2006
As long as there's enough money and life is going smoothly, most couples don't have one of the most important conversations of their partnership - a conversation on values. But there comes a time when major life changes force couples to find a fair way to decide which expenditures will be made and which will have to be dropped. It could be the increased expenses of a new baby. Or a job layoff. Or an illness. Or a major world event. Whatever has happened, you as a couple now have a wonderful opportunity to talk about your basic values.
People define the word "value" in many different ways. The definition that I work with is "a value defines your purpose." It is what you want to remember being and what you want to be remembered for doing. Identifying your values is a critical foundation step in financial management.
In order to determine your values, I recommend using an exercise in which you will mentally remove yourself from the daily busy-ness of your life. This is the way the exercise works.
Each of you, individually, in your mind – move ahead in time until you are at an age where your life will be very different than it is today - to an age that you consider to be old. Now from that age, mentally look back on your life as it is today. What will you want to make sure you don't forget to do – to be – to have – to experience?
These things you don't want to forget about are called values. Learning to love is a value, learning to partner is a value. So is parenting. Family financial security is a value. Education is a value. Spirituality is a value. So is giving.
So, what are your individual values? Write them down.
Now, you and your partner will talk about which of these values you share as a couple - as a family. Write these down.
The exercise continues for you as a couple, as you look at the register for your checkbook AND at this month's credit card statement. Now evaluate what the two of you spent money on. I tell my clients that I can name what their specific values REALLY are by how they actually spend their money. Look back at the value list you made in the time travel exercise. Are these the same values you see represented in your checkbook? Your credit card? If they are, congratulations. If they aren't, go back to your budget and rework the spending choices in your life. You'll both find it easier to make difficult budgeting decisions, with these values as a foundation.
So, when you do reach the age you called "old" you will not have regrets. You'll know that your life had real purpose – based on your values.
The Skills of Budgeting - June 2005
Most people think that the skills of budgeting are math skills. Math skills are not the primary skills of budgeting because if you can count to 10 and have a five-dollar calculator, you can add and subtract the numbers in your budget. As a financial consultant, I have found that there are two primary skills of budgeting. As with all skills, your skill level will build if you are willing to practice. The first skill of budgeting is the skill of estimating and predicting . The language of this skill is: "What if..?" "Then what..?"
To practice the skill of estimating and predicting in your spending life sounds like: " What if we pay twenty-thousand dollars for the new car? Then what will be the monthly car payment? Or "What if we spend five-hundred on this couch? Then how much will we have left for our vacation? Practicing the skill of estimating and predicting in your earning life sounds like: "What if I charge fifty-dollars an hour for my services? Then how much income will I earn?" Practicing this skill in your saving life sounds like: " What if I invest three-hundred dollars each month in that fund? Then how much money will I have at age 65? What if is the skill of estimating what you will do–your actions with your money. Then what is the skill of predicting the consequences of these actions in your financial life.
The second primary skill of budgeting is the skill of setting financial boundaries . A boundary is a limit. It is a place where you stop yourself. A budget is simply a system of financial boundaries that you agree to keep. This agreement is with yourself and, if you are in a relationship, with your partner. The budgeting skill of estimating and predicting is the first skill. Then based upon this information you decide to set a financial limit and you decide to stay within that limit.
Practicing the skill of setting financial boundaries sounds like, "We have saved three-thousand dollars. We have decided to spend no more than five-hundred on a couch so we will have twenty-five-hundred to spend on our vacation. And this is how we will keep to these limits." Practicing this skill means staying within the limit that you set and meeting your budget.
Savings to Save and Savings to Spend - February 2005
"I want you to know, Ruth," a client told me, "I've got the savings part of budgeting down pat. $300 is automatically deposited in the bank from each of my paychecks. And, I have been doing this for almost a year."
I told my client I was impressed that he had made such a commitment and kept it. Then I asked him if he knew the current balance in that savings account. He said, "Well, that's the problem. I can't seem to keep money in that account. As of last week, I have only $15.00 in there."
Many people, like my client, are able to get money into a savings account. The problem usually is keeping the money in that account. In order to be truly successful saving money, there cannot be what I call the "revolving door" that most savings accounts have. In order to stop the revolving door-you must differentiate between savings to spend and savings to save.
Savings to spend is deciding to put a specific amount of money each month into a savings account to pay for the expenses that historically have taken "extra money" - car repair, the plumber's bill, car insurance, the annual life insurance payment, the vacation. This account is rather like the piggy bank you had as a child-you put money in each week from your allowance so you could have extra spending money at camp. This account is a revolving door. This account is for holding money to spend on the items you need to pay for to support your lifestyle.
Savings to save is deciding to put a specific amount of money each month into a savings account simply for the purpose of accumulating money. This account has no spending agenda-except for severe emergency. This account protects you from needing to cash in your investments in case of job loss or disability. You may want to think of this account as a room with no exit door. You deposit money into this account from your monthly budget, but except in severe emergency, there is no "exit door" to withdraw this money. Separating your savings into savings to spend and savings to save is the only sure way of accumulating real savings.
The Treadmill of Debt - December 2004
Many clients ask me, "Ruth, I make a decent enough income, why don't I have more money to spend? Where does it all go?" When someone asks me this question, the first place I look for an answer is at the amount of money being spent on debt reduction—or more accurately for most of my clients—how much money is being spent on interest to float the amount of money that is owed. Whether on credit cards, lines of credit or equity loans. Whether on Ready Reserve, loans taken out on 401K balances or loans on life insurance policies. Whether on car loans, house loans or school loans. No matter what kind of a loan—you may be in more debt than you have ever been.
Because of the increased use of debt as a way to help pay for a lifestyle that you may think you have to have, you, like many other people, may be having difficulty making the payments on your debt. More and more people are relying on minimum payments which have dropped from about 4-5% to 2-3% of the total amount owed. According to American Express, almost half of consumers pay the minimum. These minimum payments keep consumers on a debt treadmill.
There are two kinds of debt that consumers hold. One is asset debt and the other is expense debt. In order to understand the difference between these two kinds of debt, picture an old fashioned scale. Holding a mental picture of the scale, let's talk about asset or secured debt, first. On the one side of the scale, mentally place the value of the asset that you are purchasing. A house is an example of asset debt. On the other side of the scale, mentally place the amount of debt that you owe with the purchase of the asset—this is your mortgage. In asset debt, the value of the asset always exceeds the amount of the debt that you hold. This means that the price your house can be sold for is always greater—always weighs more—than the amount of your mortgage. So, if your circumstances change and you can't make the debt payments any longer, you can always sell the asset and totally get rid of the debt.
Expense or unsecured debt is quite different from asset debt. Again, holding the mental image of the scale, this time you are going to purchase, say, a suit for yourself. You decide to buy a $600 suit and charge the suit to your bank credit card. So, on the one side of the scale you place the value of the suit—$600. On the other side of the scale you place the amount of debt that you owe on the bank card, for the suit—$600. Now, let's say that the day the bill arrives in the mail for the suit, you look at the bill and say, I really can't afford a suit that costs $600. I'll need to sell the suit in order to get rid of the debt. It's not that simple with expense debt, because something has happened to the value of that suit. Right? If you decide to sell the suit now, you maybe could get $35 or $40 for the suit. Selling the suit will not get rid of the debt. In expense debt, the amount of debt always exceeds—weighs more—than what was purchased.
Expense debt is money that you owe for things that do not hold their financial value—clothes, trips, eating out, books, tickets, groceries, car gas. Expense debt is lifestyle debt. Expense debt fills the gap in your financial life between the cost of your lifestyle and the amount of money that you have to spend to pay for that lifestyle. Expense debt is paying for yesterday's lifestyle.
When my client wants to know where all his money is going, I look to see how much money is going to pay for yesterday's living. The money that is being spent for this debt can't be used for today's lifestyle. So part of today's lifestyle has to put on a credit card. This is what I mean by the treadmill of debt.
Be Your Own Financial Coach –July 2004
When your sink is leaking, you call a plumber. When your child has a fever, you call a doctor. When you need your will revised, you call an attorney. When you need help in the financial aspects of your life, you call specific financial professionals. When you need tax help, you call an accountant. For a disability policy, it's an insurance agent. When you need investment advice you call a financial advisor.
But who makes sure all your professionals are working together in a plan that meets your needs and life goals? You. You have the financial responsibility to oversee the completeness of the plan. And, who do you call to make sure the cash flow plan is working? Or as we call it in the business—the B word—budget. The budget is the base of the entire financial plan. If your budget isn't working, you won't have the money to pay your insurance policies, or your loan from the bank or your taxes that you owe. If the budget isn't holding each month, all the financial planning that you have done with your professionals is being quietly eroded. There are professionals to help you if you are truly in cash flow trouble. But for most, there is no professional help for the day-to-day management of your cash flow except yourself. Again, You. You are the person in charge of daily cash flow management.
Call yourself a financial Coach. You, like all coaches, have to make sure all team members and other coaches are playing and coaching together. As the financial coach, you need to make sure all your financial professionals are working together for your life goals. To that end, you'll have to schedule regular team meetings, rather than waiting to communicate when something goes wrong.
You have to be able to envision and plan the basic structure of the running of the team, itself. You have to be able to maintain order and control within that structure. As the financial coach, this structure is your budget. You will need to re-work parts of the budget that look good in theory, but don't work in reality.
Learning to be an effective coach will take two primary skills. First, you will have to learn how to disengage from your own emotions and be able to identify and strategize problems that arise. For example, a friend of yours who is one of your financial professionals, but isn't working within your personal goals and with the rest of the team, may need to be let go from your team—even if you feel disloyal. This is what a good coach would do.
Secondly, talk to yourself in a way that encourages progress rather than impedes it. Many of my clients have talked of coaches who used ridicule — humiliation or blame—as a way to motivate to a certain level of expectation. If you want to be effective as your own coach, you'll want to practice a different style of coaching—one that will work well for a lifetime—not just a few minutes. If your financial life isn't working and it seems overwhelming to figure it out, and you just want to give up or blame someone else. Stop! You are the coach. Say to yourself, "I need to figure this out. I've done harder. I can do it." Sounds simple, but it works. Try it, Coach, and see.
The Greatest Risk of All —January 2004
When financial professionals define the different kinds of investment risks, they may talk about market risk, or inflation risk, or the loss to principle risk. They may also talk about purchasing power risk and liquidity risk. But most financial professionals don't mention the only risk that is truly deadly. It is the risk of doing nothing. Doing nothing literally is the primary reason that many people have inadequate money in retirement. It's the risk of not getting started-not having enough time to grow your money.
My clients who are assuming this risk say things to me like, "When I get the car paid off, Ruth, then I will be able to put it into my 401K plan." Or, "When we are done paying for little Johnny's daycare, we'll have a lot of money to put away for retirement." But then of course, after daycare there are still expenses for Johnny, and finally I hear, "When Johnny finishes college, then we'll really be able to get started on investment planning." Sound familiar? Other than child expenses, the most frequent reason I hear from clients for not getting started in saving for retirement is, "When we get the credit cards paid off-then we'll be able to get started."
When you don't get started, you "lose by default" the possibility of a healthy retirement. You, too, may have convinced yourself that children and debt are valid reasons for assuming the risk of losing by default.
One of the most important things I have learned in the 21 years I've been a financial consultant, is that men and women don't actually start investing money because something changes in their lives. A person doesn't start putting money away for the future because a credit card gets paid off. Because after the credit card gets paid off there is always something else that needs the money today-instead of putting the money away for the future. It's called the cost of life-there's always something that needs money-a house, a car, a child, a business-always something.
So, sit down with your budget-both your personal budget and your business budget. And decide where and how you will make changes in your lifestyle and adjust your budget so you can start putting away some money-even a little-now!
The only way to reduce the risk of "losing by default"-is to decide to get started today. If you wait-you are accepting the biggest financial risk you can-the risk of doing nothing-not getting started in time.
A New Model for the Retirement Years—September 2003
Ah-h-h-h! Retirement! The daily grind is over. Dealing with the office politics, the rush-hour traffic and the exhaustion is over. It's time to travel a bit. Get the workbench and the closets organized. Hit the golf course. Read that stack of books. See the grandkids. A-h-h-h-h! And then? Death.
This is the socially accepted retirement model, but, because of projected longevity, it does not work any longer. Some people are recognizing this, but instead of creating an entirely new model, they are simply reworking the old model. This reworking of the old model looks like this:
Ah-h-h-h! Retirement! The daily grind is over. Dealing with the office politics, the rush-hour traffic and the exhaustion is over. It's time to travel a bit. Get the workbench and the closets organized. Hit the golf course. Read that stack of books. See the grandkids. Ah-h-h-h! And then? Twenty-nine more years of the same.
Financial planners need to start a dialogue for the purpose of forming an entirely new model. This model needs to have the goal of keeping our clients and ourselves mentally, emotionally, physically and financially healthy for a possible 90 plus years of living. That is the challenge.
As an 18-year veteran of the profession, this is my contribution to the dialogue: I am convinced that planning for retirement really begins with getting rid of the word "retirement" altogether. It is much more productive and, actually, more accurate to think of retirement as simply a developmental stage, much like other stages we have all gone through.
Three Developmental Stages
Adolescence to college to a first career is a developmental stage. This stage represents the first third of your life. This first stage is about rebellion, acne, a first kiss, cramming for tests, moving away from home and job interviews. Feeling enormous hope for the future while dealing with the fear of the unknown are two of the conflicting emotions present in the first third of life. "Retirement" at this stage means possibly contributing to a 401(k) plan; otherwise, it is pretty much a nonissue.
The middle third of life is about settling in a first home, establishing a family and building a successful work life. It is also about aging parents, empty nests and glass ceilings. It is about bills and more bills that pay for your lifestyle but do not get you ahead. This stage is about excitement, accomplishment and frustration. It is about learning where you have control in your life and where you do not. Retirement is an important goal, but with the daily busyness of life, it seems very far away.
The final third of life is what we normally call "retirement." This is where we need a new model. Remember the goal for this new model? The goal is to keep ourselves mentally, emotionally, physically and financially healthy for a possible 90 plus years of life.
The New Model
This new model has a work life-a career- probably well into your 70s and early 80s. Your work life will change over time. You may retire from your first career at age 40 and move on to a second career that is more mentally stimulating but still pays your bills. At around age 60, you will probably change careers again. This career may be more of what you really enjoy, but it is still mentally challenging and still pays the bills. You might have yet another career change 10 or so years later that is less physically challenging but still earns some income and still makes you feel valued in the world. In other words, the last third of your life will be a series of "retirements," or career changes. As you get older, your career may not be as physically challenging. It may also not be as financially lucrative; however, you will not need to earn the same amount of money when you are age 75 as you did when you were age 40.
The old model does nothing to help you keep your brain alive, to keep you intrigued, to keep you interested in life, to make you feel needed and loved, to make you feel like you are making a contribution to society or to keep your finances healthy.
The financial or cash flow aspect of this new model is critical. For those of us who lived through the 1970s, today's inflation seems to be a nonissue. However, do not be fooled; it is an issue. Just think about a possible 30 to 40 years of living, without earning money, as even a low inflation eats away at the buying power of the money you have invested. Any of you remember the nickel ice cream cone and the three-cent stamp? That is inflation. Even low inflation over 30 to 40 years is significant. A career in "retirement" is essential for most people, not only because it will keep them mentally and emotionally healthy, but also because it will keep them financially healthy.
I describe this new model to my clients this way: The last third of life can be divided into three financial phases. Assume this last third of your life lasts 30 years. During the first 10 years, one wi1l still need to earn enough money to pay bills and to invest. In the next 10 years, one will be able to use at least part of the growth of that invested money plus some earned money to pay the bills. I tell my clients that when they get to the predicted last 10 or so years of their life, they need to give themselves permission to spend the money they have. They will need the money for their shelter and their health care.
If this model is going to work we professionals must be willing to encourage our clients to seek help from a career specialist in the first, second and, yes, even the third stages of life. This new model means that our focus, as professionals, cannot be as narrow as it has been in the past. We cannot simply focus on getting clients to put away money for retirement.
Why Budgets Don't Work: The Failure to Plan for Predictable Expenses (Part II)—July 2003
"I was doing just fine on my budget, and then the car insurance came due." OR "Everything was working well, but then the water pump went out on my car and it cost well over $300." OR "We haven't been on a real vacation for over 6 years, we just had to get away."
Many budgets fail because people don't plan for the expenses that occur predictably, but not routinely.
A routine expense is your mortgage—you know how much money it's going to cost and when to pay it. Your utilities are routine bills—and your car payment. Even though the dollar amount of some of these may have some small variance, you can usually plan a successful monthly budget. Even though for most of you, these routine bills are costing more money than ever before, these routine bills are not what cause budgets to fail. These routine bills can be planned and managed quite successfully.
Expenses that are not routine—but are predictable—are what cause budgets to fail. Predicable expenses are those that are going to occur—sometime. You know that because you know they always do. None of these expenses is an emergency. An emergency means it is UNpredictable. We are talking here about predictable expenses. Predicable expenses have to be included clearly in the budgeting process or your budget will not work.
So how do you go about budgeting for these expenses when they don't happen routinely? There are two steps.
In the first step, you will need to make a list of all expenses that occur over the course of a year. Make a list and calculate the amount of money you believe these expenses cost for the full year. All of the expenses. Some will be easy, like your car insurance. Car oil changes and tune-ups—Your dental checkups twice a year.—Your annual life insurance premium.—Your child's quarterly payment to the music teacher. All are relatively easy to calculate for this list.
You're not done yet with step one. You've just done the easy expenses. Now you will need to list the more difficult expenses. This list includes estimated car repair. Will you need a dental filling this year? If you own a home, you'll need to budget estimated repairs for the home AND home furnishings AND improvements. Are you planning a vacation? Do you celebrate any major holidays? How much do your clothes cost each year?
Keep making the list. These are the expenses that are part of your life—you know they are going to occur—they need to be in your budget if your budget is going to work. Once your list is as complete as you can make it—and includes the estimated amount of annual cost next to each item, go on to step 2.
In step 2, you will need to add up the annual cost of all the expenses on your list. The full total for the year. Divide this total by twelve. This amount of money needs to be set aside each month—saved—so that when one of these predictable expenses happen, you have the money to pay for it. This is no different than having the money each month set aside from your paycheck to pay for the routine mortgage bill. Only, now you are setting aside money for the non-routine, but predictable bills that come due sometime during the year.
This saving for predicable expenses is essential if you want a budget that really works.
Why Budgets Don't Work: The Failure to Stop the Money Sieve in the Checkbook—June 2003
One of the primary reasons that budgets don't work according to the budgeting plan that you so carefully calculated — is that money simply keeps disappearing from your checkbook. You know what I mean. If you've ever looked at the balance in your checkbook and said, "What happened to the money that was in there?" In your mind you remembered how much money was supposed to be there. And now it isn't. So, what happened?
Life happened. Day to day living costs — that drain the money out of the checkbook in dribs and drabs — happened. I call it the money sieve. The money sieve is a series of small expenses that add up to a large amount of money. You know what the sieve looks like: You write a check for $18.00 for car gas. You stop to pick up some milk and write a check for $6.50. You get your hair cut. You pick up the dry cleaning and laundry. You stop at the drugstore and pick up a couple of items. You pick up take-out for the family because there isn't time to cook. You stop at the cash machine, you think, twice. But as you look more carefully, you realized you withdrew money — five times. You pay for a haircut for your child.
The money sieve is the dailyness of your spending life.
This daily, on-going money sieve wrecks havoc with most budgets — it plays an on-going, insidious role in destroying a budget
Specifically, this money sieve causes two problems: First, these expenses create an on-going leaking out of the money that is in the checkbook. This money that is needed to pay the routine and predictable expenses. This money sieve uses the money that is needed to pay bills. So when it comes time to pay the bills, the money isn't there to pay them. It has leaked out to daily spending.
The second problem this money sieve causes, is stress. Both personal stress and couple stress. This stress usually shows itself in the form of blaming. "But where did all the money go?" you ask yourself or you ask your partner. And there is nothing to show for it. The gas and food have been used up. The cash you got at the cash machine is spent. Your child needs another haircut. There simply is nothing to show for this invisible, daily depletion of your money.
So what can be done?
You will want to find a way to make this money sieve a fixed expense in your budget. The way you do this is to first, make a list of all the daily expenditures. ALL of them. All of the little things that you and your family spend money on over the course of a day, a week, a month. Groceries, take-out, restaurants, hair care, car gas, house miscellaneous stuff, cat and dog food, small gifts for friends. You know the list. And set a monthly budget for that list, the entire list.
Secondly, remove these expenses from your bill paying checkbook. You can do this using one of two methods. Both work. Just pick the method that works better for you. Either take the budgeted amount of money out in cash and spend cash for those items. --OR-- you can deposit the budgeted amount of money into a new checking account to be used just for those daily expenditures. Either way will work if you follow one rule: When you are out of cash or your new checkbook is out of money, you can't go to the cash machine or write a check out of the bill paying checkbook. You are done spending until you are budgeted for more money. It will take planning. If you are willing to plan so you can stop the money sieve, your budget can work.
Six Financial Tips for Women Going Through Divorce—Feb. 2003
When I work with a woman who is in the process of divorce, I give her six pieces of advice to help her as she is negotiating the final divorce settlement:
Get an independent investment professional to evaluate all of the investments that are marital property. Many financially inexperienced women assume that if one investment is valued as $10 and another investment is also valued at $10, these two investments are equal. This is not always true. Even though the value may be the same, the quality and the liquidity may be very different.
Consider selling the house before the divorce is final. Women have told me they want to keep the home because it is familiar to them or because the children need the stability it offers. As hard as it is to admit, though, the bottom line is that often a woman cannot afford to stay in the family home after the divorce. Because she is living on less income, the utilities, maintenance, taxes and mortgage can overwhelm her budget.
Do not give up your rights to your husband’s retirement money, even if it’s part of the bargaining to keep the house. Eighty percent of women over the age of 65 are not receiving money from a pension plan. One reason is because women gave up their share of their husband’s retirement money.
Have your husband carry a life insurance policy on himself with you as the beneficiary. If your husband provides maintenance or child support, this insurance is essential to your financial security.
Tell the truth about yourself—without embarrassment. I have worked with many women who have misled their lawyer and rehabilitation counselor about the type of marketable skills they have. When a woman doesn’t tell the truth because she’s afraid of appearing incompetent, the settlement doesn’t include enough time or money for the adjustment and retraining she needs.
Get on a budget—right away. Many women tend to feel rich right after a divorce, because they have never handled that much money before. Many feel a sense of freedom and spend a great deal, not remembering, though, that this money is finite—limited. When it’s spent, it’s GONE.