Having compatible money styles or financial values is just as important to a marriage as other values because rules on community property and taxes mean there’s only so much you can do to insulate or even isolate yourself from your spouse’s financial decisions.
My current guest, Candi was married for thirty-five years. Her and her husband always had vastly different approaches to handling money. She was always the more responsible one and that paid off after divorce. Here’s Candi:
My most significant accomplishment is being able to support myself financially and stay financially afloat. I think that’s really the biggest fear. It’s, “What happens if my car dies? I can’t afford a car payment right now, what am I going to do?” All the fears were really financial.
I’ve worked in the same job for 14 years and yes, I have advanced in that organization. In the last three or four years, there have been upgrades to my position that increased how much I was making and that’s made it a bit easier. I’ll stay with this job until I retire from it.
My son, when he took a job in Virginia, he and his wife own this condo and at the same exact time I started looking for an apartment to move into, he got the job offer in Virginia and he said, “Mom, why don’t you just live at our place?” So, it just worked out beautifully. The exact same time I was ready to move out, they moved out of this place and I moved in.
So there’s a security there. I know I’m not going to lose my home, because my son owns it. But even if I was renting an apartment, it would be the same. It’s fine.
My ex’s and my approach to money are very different. It’s been twenty years since we’ve had a joint bank account. I couldn’t even have a bank account with him, because he would write out checks and not tell me and I would bounce checks not knowing that he’d spent money. After so many years of that, when I went to work, that’s when I opened up my own checking account and removed my name from our joint account. We’ve not had a joint checking account since then, because of that.
I tried for twenty years before that and it just didn’t work. No matter how many fights, how many tears of begging and pleading with him, “This is how we need to do it.” He wouldn’t listen. He gets himself into trouble with his business, with all the people that he deals with for the same reasons—for money.
The first time I left him, my daughter and son-in-law went through the Dave Ramsey Financial University program. That is wonderful. It teaches you the importance of budgeting and how to pay off debt and how to handle your finances.
I would recommend that program to anybody that’s in a relationship and having money issues. It’s almost like counseling. It’s almost like marriage counseling, but it’s financial counseling. If you can go through the program and then be on the same page about how to handle your money, that’s wonderful. If that doesn’t work, I’d say forget it. Leave before it’s too late. How long should you wait for somebody to wake up and become responsible? How many years are you willing to give up for that? That’s the writing on the wall.
If you’re not used to handling the household finances then taking a course like Candi suggests is smart and don’t wait until your divorce is final to get started. The FDIC offers a free online program called Money Smart. There’s also the free online Financial Integrity program. If you prefer in-person classes check your local adult education resources or community college. Banks and credit unions also offer programs.
During the legal divorce process you will probably have had to or will have to pull together all the minute details of your finances. That creates a really good foundation for moving forward. It may mean learning how to budget and following a budget, it may mean making changes to your lifestyle and it probably means learning to manage with less money. And prioritizing your financial goals really helps.
The big thing to remember here, is just because you haven’t done this before or may not have done it very well, doesn’t mean you can’t be successful now.
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