Showing posts with label couples. Show all posts
Showing posts with label couples. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Black Holes in Relationships: What Spouses May Not Know About Money

You could fill a vault with the things men and women don’t know about their and the spouse’s money. That's the word from the folks at MassMutual. Here's a list of five great questions to ask.

"Who 'owns' the assets? Is anyone cheating on the budget? Will each spouse have to fight for what’s his or hers? And, are they putting their lives, homes, and assets at risk by not asking the right questions?

“Through death or divorce, many women will be alone at some point in their lives; they should be aware of their husband’s financial plan because someday they may have to live with it,” said Beth Wood, assistant vice president, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual).

“Conversely, for the growing number of households where the woman is the CFO, there’s no excuse for the man not to know what’s going on with the family finances,” said William Dougherty, assistant vice president, MassMutual.

Wood and Dougherty have developed five questions spouses and partners should ask each other.

1) Are there hidden pockets of money?
Identify all accounts including checking, savings, retirement, investments, on-line trading, IRAs, etc. If you’re left alone and don’t know about the money, it could go unclaimed and neither you nor your children would get the cash. With today’s technology and being able to receive statements on-line, there’s no paper statement that necessarily comes in the mail. A spouse may just get an email that says ‘Here’s your statement.’

“Communication between spouses can be good - trying to "hide" money really won't work in the end especially if you file a joint tax return - you don't want to hide money from your spouse and you certainly don't want to hide money from the IRS, so full disclosure and honest communication about financial goals is key,” said Dougherty.

2) Am I the owner of this account?
One spouse may have opened a checking, savings, or investment account; but if you're not named as owner or beneficiary, there could be issues and complications as to how that money gets distributed in the event of death or divorce. It's a good idea to know what accounts exist, where they exist, and whether you're an owner or beneficiary.

“This isn’t about one person snooping on the other; this is about working toward a healthy financial life and relationship. If there are secrets out there or things you don’t understand, that can never lead to any good,” said Wood.

3) Are you cheating?
Anyone in the relationship could run up huge credit card bills. Is someone living beyond the budget? Are you saving for college, mortgage payments, cars, and vacation – or is someone spending their money on “toys?”

“If you don’t share and stick to common financial goals, it can break the budget and the marriage. There may be an awful lot of spending for sports, electronics, spa treatments, and clothing outside the household budget,” said Wood.

4) Where’s my cut?

Have a budget, but don’t let it be your ball and chain. It’s important to do things for yourself. Peel off a portion of the household income for things important to you - but don’t call it an allowance.

“It’s important that each spouse feels they are a valuable, contributing member of the household – whether they bring home a paycheck or stay home to take care of the children and run the house; both are full time jobs,” said Wood.

5) Do your safety nets have holes?
No harm done if the milk expires, but it could be a huge problem if a spouse’s life insurance protection expires - and you don't know it. “There are critical differences between the many kinds of insurance people use to ensure the family can continue to pay its bills and survive if a spouse dies too early, lives too long, or becomes disabled along the way,” said Dougherty.

Mass Mutual offers more than two dozen free calculators for savings and financial planning.


Sharon is the author of the Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money -- a coming of age memoir about money -- and a contributing writer in Wise Bread's 10,0001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My Playlist: Frugal Love Songs for Valentine's Day

My favorite love songs all have a frugal theme and a bottom-line impact with this message: We don't have to spend a fortune on Valentine's Day or any other day to show appreciation, love and respect for the significant people in our lives.

Here's my playlist of love songs with a frugal theme:
Your Song by Elton John. I have loved this song since I was in Junior High School during the 1970s.

Key Lyrics:
"I know it's not much but it's the best I can do
My gift is my song and this one's for you

--Music by Elton John, Lyrics by Bernie Taupin

Bottom Line Impact: Forget the diamonds; just write me a song and mean it.

Just the Way You Are by Bill Joel. Okay, I am not a major Billy Joel fan, but these lyrics strike a chord with me. Here's why: Back in the day, I was the type of chick who would spend a fortune trying to be perfect for my dates. If they wanted me to stand on my head, I would sign up for gymnastics lessons.
In fact, I would be very, very wealthy now if I had saved all of the money I used to spend on hair, makeup, clothes and nails. I altered my appearance so much that I stopped recognizing myself in the mirror. But this Billy Joel song helped me to realize that I just needed to be accepted "as-is." (Or to accept myself as-is!) Thank You, Billy Joel!

Key Lyrics:

Don't go trying some new fashion
Don't change the color of your hair
You always have my unspoken passion
Although I might not seem to care

Bottom Line Impact: Cancel the extreme makeover appointments. Take back the new clothes and invest the money. Just be yourself and have fun.

There's Hope by India Arie. This song just makes me happy.

Key Lyrics:

It doesn’t cost a thing to smile
You don’t have to pay to laugh
You better thank God for that

Bottom Line Impact: India Arie says it all: "It ain’t about the size of your car..."
Reality Check: Of course, money matters A LOT in a relationship. It's a real downer when there's not enough to pay the rent, purchase health care insurance or save for a rainy day. But beyond the basics, many of us get carried away with stupid stuff like cars, diamonds and other status symbols. Once the bills are covered, life is too short to stress out about metal, crystals and cloth.

Other favorites from my playlist: Any song by Anita Baker, Tracy Chapman, Sade, The Four Tops and The Gap Band. I love Sarah by Fleetwood Mac (Stevie Nicks). I listen to music for free at

Sharon Harvey Rosenberg is the author of The Frugal Duchess of South Beach: How to Live Well and Save Money... Anywhere!, which will be published in June of 2008 by DPL Press.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Getting Fiscal on a First Date: Sweet Talking Money

How fiscal can you get on a first date? Apparently, there's a lot of bases to cover when it comes to money and hearts. That's the word from Bambi Holzer, author of the new book: "FINANCIAL BLISS: A Couple's Guide to Merging Money Styles and Building a Rich Life Together" (AMACOM, January '07).

Bambi argues that every couple needs to set up a "Financial First Date."

Here are some of her ground rules, with my own comments tossed in:

-- 1. Respect differences: Look for common ground while appreciating each other's differences.

Frugal Duchess comment: But watch out for major Grand Canyon-style differences. In college, I once dated someone with views about money, gender roles, finance & household chores that were miles apart from my views. Differences that were charming at first, became really annoying.

-- 2. Speak naturally: Like any first date, you want the conversation to flow naturally and spring from issues and ideas that matter strongly to you. Don't try to trump your partner by talking like Alan Greenspan.

- 3. Don't fall into the common-interest trap: Avoid the joyful "You like tomatoes? I like tomatoes, too!" response to superficial points of common interest that first daters fall into. A false sense of commonality can poison a relationship.

Frugal Duchess: That's a good point. I've been a girl parrot and that's not smart.

-- 4. Compromise, compromise, compromise: Just because one of you voiced an opinion or has strong feelings about something doesn't mean that the other must or will give in or tiptoe around an issue. Workable compromises are still necessary in order to make your partnership more solid and your financial life more effective.

Frugal Duchess: Compromise, but don't sell out your soul.

-- 5. There are no winners and losers: Winning an argument is not the objective here, there are no right answers, just workable compromises.

-- 6. Listen up: Show that you're listening and that what your partner is saying is important to you.

Frugal Duchess: From interviews to dates, I wish that I had listened more and talked less. And I've learned to listen to silence also.

I recommend studying these clues/issues:

1. How does your date tip?
2. When was the last time your date went shopping?
3. How do they feel about thrift stores?
4. How often does your date eat out?
5. Would they buy jewelry at Costco or a pawn shop?
6. Where do they buy books?
7. How much do they spend on holidays?
8. Do they like garage sales?
9. How much money do they donate to charity?
10. What's their favorite vacation spot?

Earlier I also featured a post about questions to ask before getting married.


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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Money Amnesty Day & 9 Tips for Dealing with a Big Spender

What do you do if your spouse is the money leak in your house? MSN's Liz Pulliam Weston deals with that topic in this article.

Here's a quick summary of her tips with a few of my own comments.:
1) Don't be negative
2) Fix your attitude
3) Guard your tongue: Carefully use hot button terms like budget, overspending and out-of-control.
4) Set goals together
5) Get a joint financial education: Get on the same page
6) Crunch numbers together
7) Have fun accounts
8. Create a magic number
9) Don't give up and get help if needed.

My own comments:

Numbers #5, #7 and #8 work best in my home.

# 7 Separate-but-Equal Account I think everyone should have their own allowance or pocket change for personal expenses. Fun accounts for an extra coffee, magazine or even to buy a present for the other spouse.

#8 Big-ticket-Ask First Number: Everyone has a different threshold for joint approvals of major purchases. Some couples require two agreements for any purchase over $50 or $100. We don't have a fixed number, but any major purchase usually involves consultation. Almost always.

#5 Share books and articles on finance.
We both read the Tightwad Gazette (newsletter and books) together. It was a great bonding exercise and provided a low-pressure way to chat about finance.

Meanwhile, in the book The Financially Intelligent Parent by Eileen and Jon Gallo, the authors recommended a "Money Amnesty Day," in which a husband and wife, mutually confess their financial errors, overspending or whatever.

The goal: to avoid secret and unspoken battles over money.

"Set aside time for you and your spouse to sit down and reveal any money secrets that you may have been keeping from each other. Agree in advance that you will forgive whatever is revealed so long as the behavior stops." --The Financially Intelligent Parent



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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Stuff You Wished You Asked Before Getting Married

1. What are you not prepared to give up for marriage? 2. What happens if one spouse gets a job in another city? 3. How are we going to split up housework? 4. Do my friends and close associates annoy you?

Those are a few of the questions many people wish they had asked before getting married, according to this article in the New York Times. The questions touch on financial, personal and family issues.

Here's a sample:

1) Have we discussed whether or not to have children, and if the answer is yes, who is going to be the primary care giver?

2) Do we have a clear idea of each other’s financial obligations and goals, and do our ideas about spending and saving mesh?

3) Have we discussed our expectations for how the household will be maintained, and are we in agreement on who will manage the chores?

4) Have we fully disclosed our health histories, both physical and mental?

5) Is my partner affectionate to the degree that I expect? --Source: NYT

It's an excellent list and a good read. To that list I would add:

1. Do you believe in lying to children about the Tooth Fairy? Do you believe in paying market rates for lost teeth?

2. What's your idea of a vacation?

3. Do you like camping? What do you consider camping?

example: My husband likes the idea of a sleeping bag in the woods.
My version of camping is a cheap motel in Orlando.
Compromise: We've gone camping in rented, rustic cabins.

4. How do you save money? Do you save money?

5. What's your idea of frugal living? What's your idea of luxury?

6. How often do you go shopping? Do you like sales?

7. What's your approach to technology? Do you have to have the latest gadget?

8. What's more important: personal/creative satisfaction or job security and health benefits? Define financial security.

9.What's your opinion on changing baby's diapers? What kind of division of labor? How often are you willing to change messy diapers?

10. Do you need to live in a clean house? How do you feel about a clean house that is disorganized? Are you willing to pay for a cleaning service?

11. Do you need to live in a house? Do you like apartment/condo living? Are you willing to clean up a lawn?

12. Do you have a talent for grocery shopping? Do you like shopping in bulk? Define bulk shopping.

13. How often do you eat out? What do you consider food?

14. Do you like pets? Define pets: fish? hamster? little dog? large lab? pony?

15. Were you spoiled as a child? Do you plan to spoil your children? Define your idea of a spoiled brat?

In August, I wrote a post featuring tips for saving a mixed marriage: a saver & a spender.



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