What Matters in Matters of Love and Finance

“You need to keep your skills fresh,” said a commenter in a recent post about the finances of parenting, referring to the concept of a mother staying at home with the kids. “In case of death or divorce.

I didn't argue, but I shook my head and rolled my eyes. (I do this to avoid leaving snappy replies to people's comments. Work with me.) I've long felt that combining one's finances with a potential, or existing, partner should be approached with the same attitude as the partnership. What point is there in marrying (or otherwise vowing your eternal love) if you don't think it has much chance of lasting?

Naturally, death is a part of life and should be considered as a possibility. But considering divorce when deciding whether a mother should stay home with her young babies, or which partner's career should be primary, seems counterproductive. My motto is, if you're so concerned about divorce that you don't think you'll make it through babyhood, perhaps you shouldn't be having babies.

This is not to say that certain classes of people should submit entirely to their partners, letting them make decisions and more money and all the financial House Rules. What I'd propose instead is a more sensible, trusting and ultimately relationship-friendly approach to the financial decisions of partners. I'd propose being ruled more by hope than fear. (Is that a campaign slogan, or what?) Here's what I mean.

What to fear

Death. It's only sensible to fear that your partner might die. If you're a woman with a male partner, and you are about the same age, it's statistically probable you will outlive him.

Unemployment. No matter how educated, successful, good looking or tall both you and your partner are (yep: tall people are more employable!), that one or both of you might lose your otherwise secure job is always a possibility, unless, of course, you're the boss or have tenure. Even then, awful things have been known to happen.

Ill-health. There's a reason all these things are listed in most marriage vows. One or both of you could contract a chronic or otherwise expensive illness that costs a lot, or changes employability, or even causes a change in personality.

The family unit gets an addition. Kids are sometimes unexpected (even for those awesome at planning; a good friend who planned carefully with his wife to have only one child ended up with twins! Surprise!). Older parents take ill or lose money, partners or mental faculties and move in. Brothers-in-law ask to live in your basement. You can say “no” in all of these cases, but most people's conscience, or gut, or soul, or whatever you want to call it, takes over and insists.

The heart wants what the heart wants. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you're an investment banker. (What, who, me??) Let's say you marry your sweetheart, telling him you want nothing more than to become a CEO by the time you're 35. You are totally on track and then you take a different job and suddenly you're writing essays and telling said sweetheart you think maybe you're going to be a writer. Of books, the literary kind, the ones for which you can toil for years for a few thousand dollars. People, these artists are a real threat, they're among us. It could be your neighbor, your brother, your wife… (OK, yes, it IS me.)

How to manage your risk

I took a class in business school called “Insurance and Risk Management.” It sounds boring, but I loved thinking about everything in quantity of risk and the management of that risk. Life is inherently risky; the best we can do is manage that risk. We have a set of legitimate risks that will occur with any relationship, even the best and more flexible and most conventional ones. We can manage some of these risks.

Life insurance. If you are partnered with another adult and you have any financial dependence on that person, whether you are staying at home with the kids or the tropical fish, whether you are just making a little less than your spouse and you have some shared debts; if losing your partner would leave you unable to pay basic bills, you should have life insurance on that spouse. Many mothers choose to get life insurance when they first become pregnant and are considering the twin risks of new expenses and possible reduced income. (Remember, the risks of ill health are increased when you become pregnant; more friends than I can count spent months in and out of a hospital due to pregnancy complications or premature birth.) Military spouses are provided with extra opportunities to buy life insurance when their partner deploys. Life insurance — and here I'm referring specifically to term life insurance — is one of the best ways to manage risk.

Health insurance. I can't stress enough the importance of getting and keeping health insurance when you're young. While, indeed, most workplaces offer health insurance, the price of COBRA is terrible. Learn about all the health insurance options and always have one in place. Until the day our country decides that health care is a basic right, we'll be stuck battling for our financial health whenever illness strikes us.

Have a career plan B, C and D. I have to admit to feeling a bit smug; I've worked so many different sorts of jobs that I know I can always find work if the proverbial poop hits the fan, and my husband is in the same boat. I think you have to not just have a plan, but be willing to act on it, and even have a general concept of how you'd live if (say) you had to find a job as a waitress at the local pub. There are a lot of ways to keep your skills fresh if you've decided to stay home with children, older parents, or hyperactive puppies. Here are a few I've used or seen friends use (and for most of my friends, the stigma of mothers staying at home seems to be waning):

  • Freelance work/consulting. The last time I was at the buying club where I pick up my groceries, I saw two different mother friends finishing projects while their small children napped in their laps. Harmony was finishing some graphic design; she's both making money and keeping her portfolio alive while her kids are small. I periodically pick up project management and “serious” financial writing jobs. I have attorney friends who did occasional small work for their old firm or friends with new businesses to hone their skills.
  • Volunteer work. It's old advice, but there's no reason anyone can't keep skills fresh through volunteer work, from fundraising to grant writing to bookkeeping to sewing costumes. I even volunteered to help with catering service for a gardening nonprofit — they have a series of dinners in gardens to raise funds — and it made me remember how much I love working a catering job. We'll call that career plan D. You never know. And sometimes, as I've learned, a volunteer gig turns into an actual new career.
  • Start a business. It doesn't have to be an enormous business. (And remember not to over-invest if it's a career plan B or C or even further down the list.) When my sister lost her job as a private school teacher — I suspect she was let go for being a mother — she began an at-home day care. She started small, just a license, a class, and some reorganized spaces, and now she supports the whole family that way.
  • Keep your licenses fresh! If you're in, or have been in, a field which requires special licenses or continuing education, just do it. Pay your bar fees. Take the food handler's card exam every few years. If you have to go back to it, you won't have to find a way to budget the money to renew your certification. And you can also pinch hit for friends or do the aforementioned volunteer work while you're on break, or caught up in another career.

Recognize areas where you can and cannot sacrifice. When my heart wanted what it wanted — to stay home with the kids and write great and small works of non-fiction — we had to make some changes to our lifestyle. Fortunately for me, I'd already chosen to give up our car, an expense I couldn't have maintained with a writer's pay. I had to give up other things, like lots of eating out and traveling, for the time being. No more pricey ballet classes for my oldest. No more yoga. You may have to rent out a room, or cancel your gym membership, or just say “no” to cable. If you can have a basic discussion with your partner about things that you could live without, in the eventuality of a vow-testing life event, you'll be better prepared.

Be honest about your prejudices and standards and expectations. I think it was really hard for my husband when we switched roles, and he was the primary breadwinner. He'd been conned (I say that with a wink) into this marriage with the idea that I'd make an upper-middle-class salary and he'd support me in all he could. It was even harder for my ex-boyfriend when I got into a more prestigious business school than he had; he was used to his role as the better-credentialed partner. Our relationship began failing more drastically after that blow, although there were a lot of other factors. I've known several relationships to end after the babies were born and spouse #1 became more focused on the children, while spouse #2 showed that he or she wasn't really in the frame of mind to put other beings' needs before his or her own.

Never plan for divorce

If I could give some final advice, I would say, “Never plan for divorce.” Just like I would never write a business plan in which I included the possibilities for liquidating the assets or going through bankruptcy. It's self-defeating; having one leg always halfway out the door can make it far too easy to fall out when you go over a bump. If you've planned for the other legitimate risks of partnering, in the event of divorce, you'll be fine; and (if I can pull on my unlicensed relationship counselor hat for a bit) you'll probably avoid many of the divorce-engendering arguments. Remember how much we fight about money as spouses; and what we're really fighting about is security. Planning for the most likely risks of a relationship will increase your feelings of security and, I hope, reduce fear and its attendant vicious marital spats.

More about...Career, Planning

Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others

Subscribe to the GRS Insider (FREE) and we’ll give you a copy of the Money Boss Manifesto (also FREE)

Yes! Sign up and get your free gift
Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others
guest
166 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Lance @ Money Life and More
Lance @ Money Life and More
8 years ago

The only way I’m going to protect myself is a prenup. I don’t even really see it as planning for divorce as I see it as protecting my future earnings from someone who changes drastically over a long period of time. That said as soon as we get married I will be heavily helping my girlfriend pay off her massive student debt load. I’ve been saving to help her pay this off and once we get married I’ll be throwing thousands of dollars at it in an effort to pay it off as soon as possible. She already pays as… Read more »

Savvy Scot
Savvy Scot
8 years ago

Here in the UK we don’t use Prenups. They are very unusual!
I would personally never get one, my wife and I got married forever and if anything ever went wrong, I am willing to give her half.I think that a prenup presents you from truly committing!

University student
University student
8 years ago
Reply to  Savvy Scot

My parents got a prenup before they married with the deal that whoever did the leaving didn’t get the house they’d just bought. They’ve always told me that it actually helped them through a few fights, because “whoever gives up first, loses,” which triggered their stubborn streaks to keep working at the relationship and fix whatever problem started the fight.
Makes sense to me!

Laura
Laura
8 years ago

I love it! You have smart parents! 🙂

Elaine
Elaine
8 years ago

Correct me if I’m wrong but…

Prenups only protect the assets you have going into a marriage. Assets accumulated during the marriage (your future earnings) are not protected.

Also, in the event of children, expect that the prenup could be basically be voided as you now have dependents you and your spouse are both obligated to provide for.

Marla
Marla
8 years ago
Reply to  Elaine

I think you’re right, Elaine. I was doing the same head scratching.

Lina
Lina
8 years ago
Reply to  Elaine

The legislation varies between countries and probably states. In my country you can protect all your assets through a prenup. Even future earnings and assets. Even though you are obligated to provide for your children you would never be obligated to provide for your ex more than a short period.

Kathy
Kathy
8 years ago
Reply to  Elaine

It really depends on the country. Some prenups protect assets you already have and future assets.

Katie
Katie
8 years ago

Sounds like you agree that you need to keep your skills fresh, you just don’t like the fact that divorce is one of the reasons. Sorry, that just seems smug and in denial to me. The fact is, a good percentage of people will get divorced and the vast majority of them are people who never thought they would. You don’t need to plan for it, but when you actually have other little humans to support, recognizing the possibility is just common sense. Especially, since you point out, there’s about 800 other contingencies that could lead essentially to the same… Read more »

Meredith
Meredith
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

I agree, the first paragraph is so off-putting. You say the exact same things that people comment on when they advise SAHMs to try to keep their skills fresh because they might have to go back to work and they will need to be employable! Of course no one plans for divorce (well maybe some people do) but it happens anyway. What is the statistic on divorce again? It isn’t pretty. But the same exact list of ways to keep skills fresh and planning that you gave are the same advice for all parents staying home with the kids and… Read more »

KT
KT
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

100% agree with Katie. No one goes into a marriage thinking “this will never work”. Everyone thinks their marriage will last forever, but the truth is, half of all marriages end in divorce. Protecting yourself from that doesn’t mean you’re not committed, it means you’re prepared. You hope to God you don’t die at 30, but you still get life insurance so your spouse is protected, don’t you?

This article is just smug and holier-than-thou. A sad attempt to stir up controversy and comments.

Where the heck is JD?

Ellen K.
Ellen K.
8 years ago
Reply to  KT

Sarah, I think your writing shows promise, but you need to be much more attentive to word choice. In both of your recent articles, your argument was weakened by an offhand or flippant comment that irritated a significant number of readers. Last week it was the “gift” of public schools. Here you “rolled your eyes” about a reader’s comment (note: don’t make fun of individual readers) but then spend the rest of the article making a similar argument. A good editor — like J.D. in the old days — would have flagged these instances right away and asked you for… Read more »

Lincoln
Lincoln
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

Agreed. I don’t see the difference between having a plan B, C, and D for careers and at least “being prepared” for a divorce someday. I carry an umbrella in my backpack — it doesn’t make me less committed to good weather.

One of the reasons you keep your skills fresh is that you never know when you are going to need use them, whether you are in a marriage or outside of one. Whether you are the primary breadwinner or not, I also think you need to maintain your social network and your health.

sarah gilbert
sarah gilbert
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

I didn’t respond to any of the comments yesterday because — it was my birthday! — but more importantly I spent the day as stage mom for one of my kids. It was a lovely day. And then I came back to see that lots of people were very upset with me. Well, I apologize. I had no desire to sneer. I shook my head and rolled my eyes because I disagreed and this was a healthier way to respond than to immediately come on here and argue. Instead, I thought about it, and wrote a post. I stand by… Read more »

Mel
Mel
6 years ago
Reply to  Katie

Katie, not only do I agree with you, but I stumbled upon this through a link on the author’s other blog, Urban Mamas, some two years later—-in her piece revealing she’s getting a divorce. And interestingly, her marriage was always troubled (with pieces about it going back to at least 2008, I believe) and her personal finances always challenged. I always found it ironic that she wrote pieces on personal finance, considered herself an expert and had a degree in it, because many of her ideas went wildly against the basics of home economics management. In reality, this article was… Read more »

Holly
Holly
8 years ago

I could not agree more with Katie on all counts.

If you wish to make a career of writing you’d do well to dial back on the finger-wagging at your readers. (Commenters, that sound you hear now is Sarah Gilbert’s eyes rolling.)

CDB
CDB
8 years ago
Reply to  Holly

Yes totally agree here – I see a loss of civility and a rise in self-righteousness all over the place (on the airwaves, on the road, even on the shared biking/running trail for goodness’ sake!). Could we please try harder to not finger wag, eye-roll, chide, or otherwise demonstrate our superiority? I know it feels soooo satisfying to judge other people…but it really is obnoxious.

Kevin
Kevin
8 years ago
Reply to  CDB

I disagree. I think as a society, we don’t do enough judging. I think a lot of the problems we see in society today are a result of people simply holding their tongues and giving polite support when they should instead be shaming people for their choices. Think about it. You see an unmarried woman, living on welfare, announce she’s pregnant with her third child (in as many fathers). Do you tell her she’s making a huge mistake and her child is virtually statistically assured to be disadvantaged in life, or do you give her a polite smile and tell… Read more »

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Kevin, I disagree with you. When you set yourself up as judge, you’re assuming that your view is the Right One, that you know better than someone else how they should live their lives, and thus you are superior. You may think, “Oh, but my view IS right,” but it is coming from your particular upbringing and the outliers that shaped your life, as well as your character. It is not an absolute, and you simply cannot know all the outliers that brought that person who you are judging to that point.

Compassion is not a weakness.

Kevin
Kevin
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Laura, Good points, and I agree it’s a delicate topic. I think in many cases, science provides the answer. We know children born into poverty, and children born to single mothers (particularly with siblings from different fathers) are at a statistically elevated risk for social disorders, criminal activities, and their own financial distress. That’s not imposing our “opinion” – that’s simply applying science. Also, I don’t think that one needs to be perfect themselves in order to discourage negative behaviours. One can admit their own faults, while still condemning faults in others. Finally, I agree that compassion is not a… Read more »

Katie
Katie
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Kevin, you’re wrong. That’s not simply applying science because science gives you the correlation rather than the causation. You don’t know if children born to single mothers have worse outcomes because there’s something inherently awful about being born to a single mother, or if it’s because populations that tend to have a higher incidence of single mothers have worse outcomes across the board, or if it’s related to society’s treatment of single mothers, or any combination of all those things. Instead, you’ve come to a judgy and self-righteous opinion on the matter that gives you an excuse to lecture people… Read more »

Kevin
Kevin
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Katie, There are many issues where the connection is obvious and undeniable. Stop trying to muddy the waters with ambiguous statistical shuffling. All I’m saying is, when we observe someone engaging in behaviour that has clear negative effects on others, we should condemn them instead of condoning – or even celebrating – it. Example: A couple with a son get divorced. The mother gets custody. The dad moves away, never sees his son, and dodges his child support obligations. This has obvious negative consequences for the mother and son. The mother is impacted financially (by the father shirking his legal… Read more »

Elaine
Elaine
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Wow Kevin,
and I thought Social Darwinism was going out of style. Way to bring it back!

Kevin
Kevin
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Seriously? We can’t even agree that “deadbeat dads” are bad?

There’s truly no hope for society. The apologists and moral relativists have won.

Katie
Katie
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Kevin, don’t be ridiculous. You’re shifting the goal posts and you either know it or you’re not competent enough to be posting on the Internet. You started out telling us we should tell women who are single and pregnant that they suck and should make better choices, and now you’re saying we should encourage deadbeat dads to pay up. These are ridiculously inapposite situations.

Feel free to continue telling single mothers they should have committed to abstinence instead, and I will continue to judge you for being a dishonest idiot.

Brooklyn Money
Brooklyn Money
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Anyone who goes into a marriage and doesn’t plan for the possibilty of dissolution of the marriage must not be coming in with any assets they want to protect. There is no way I would ever get married w/out a prenup. I have worked way too hard to protect what I have.

Ramblin' Ma'am
Ramblin' Ma'am
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Kevin, I’m a pretty judgy person myself, but even I don’t think it’s my business to tell a single mother of three that she’s ruining her children’s futures (regardless of what I think privately). Now, if you want to change welfare laws to encourage marriage, or something along those lines, I’d agree with you.

csdx
csdx
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

@ Kevin “We know children born into poverty, and children born to single mothers (particularly with siblings from different fathers) are at a statistically elevated risk for social disorders, criminal activities, and their own financial distress. ” So the solution then is, what, don’t let poor people have babies? First off, statistics are correlation not causation. Is this statistic showing a problem or shortcoming of them, or us? We could also say that historically black people are more likely to be criminals, therefore we should apply the same logic. But it’s not because of some ‘criminal gene’ but due to… Read more »

Ms. Kitty
Ms. Kitty
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Kevin, I want to what precisely you want that mother to do? She’s ALREADY pregnant. Unless you are going around trying to force women to abort a pregnancy they don’t want to because it violates your morality, in which case move to China. I hear it’s all the rage there. If you want to change the culture, you don’t do it by shaming the people who probably have the least ability to change anything. You start at the top. Lots of wealthy single women are choosing to be single mothers because they haven’t been able to find a partner they… Read more »

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

#118/Ms. Kitty – THIS. Like x 1000.

Tarun
Tarun
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

I am not able to understand why so many people here are against Kevin’s Views. He is making the right point that we should condone irresponsible behaviour, whether its from a single mother or an absentee dad who shirks his duties. By Condoning or in other words, expressing disapproval for these choices, societies develop the idea of what’s wrong and what’s right. And, this idea of right and wrong shapes a civilization. These things need to be taught to young ones so that they make right choices and do not end up miserable in their lives. Wake-up People, Kevin had… Read more »

Kevin
Kevin
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

” People with genetic disorders are likely to pass them on to their kids, should they too be admonished for having children too?”

Of course not. Genetic science has advanced to the state where we can now detect those genetic markers in the womb early enough where abortion is still an option.

But if tests show that a woman is carrying a 6-week old embryo with cerebral palsy, and she chooses to carry it to term, should society be on the hook financially to provide care for that individual for their entire life?

phoenix1920
phoenix1920
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Umm . . . we’re not setting up a great strawman, are we? First, I know no person like this (having a third child and just living off welfare) and second, if I did, I didn’t realize that so many people would be praising her for getting preg. Welfare reform laws from 10 years ago already addressed this situation. Or are you referring to Medicaid-type programs, which are not cut off after a certain number of years and make sure the baby she is carrying is born safely and healthy? Second, you’ve chosen a situation where you can’t just erase… Read more »

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Tarun – it seems to me that the problem is in condoning irresponsible behavior through being judgmental and shaming and not bothering to consider any extenuating circumstances. It’s condemning the poor for being poor without bothering to ask why, or assuming that the only reason why has to be personal failing or irresponsibility. It’s usually much more complex than that. If you’re going to condone irresponsible behavior, then man up and condone all of it. Scold people who use rewards credit cards who don’t care that it drives up costs for everyone, or who buy cheap goods who don’t care… Read more »

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

“But if tests show that a woman is carrying a 6-week old embryo with cerebral palsy, and she chooses to carry it to term, should society be on the hook financially to provide care for that individual for their entire life?”

This sounds rather like the rationale behind Hitler’s Aktion T4.

John
John
8 years ago
Reply to  Holly

@Laura: “Scold people who use rewards credit cards who don’t care that it drives up costs for everyone, or who buy cheap goods who don’t care that it was made by slave labor, or corporations who off-shore jobs to make a profit, or who bring down the economy and whine they need a bailout of more money because they’re too big to fail.” How can you compare any of the other examples to people using a rewards credit card? Credit cards don’t drive up costs–and you can always try to negotiate a cash price. In the case of buying a… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago

I don’t really care for all the pointless controversy that GRS has been trying to stir up recently. What happened to do what works for you? Divorce happens. Like Katie above said, you should plan for circumstances changing in any one of a number of unpredictable ways, and divorce is one of those ways. Nobody expects it to happen, but nobody expects to get in a car accident either and we still buy health insurance. (And occasionally divorce comes as a truly unexpected shock when one partner wants it and the other partner had no clue it was coming. Not… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

Sadly, I think GRS is moving away from the “do what works for you” philosophy. The “let’s attack the writer” and “let’s attack the readers” attitude is getting to be a bit much. I remember the days where J.D. would interject with a “STOP!” when things started to turn nasty. Now it seems like nastiness is tolerated if not encouraged. I think GRS is turning into a different kind of community than it used to be. Things were bound to change — and change is going to work for some people and not others. (I think I’m falling in the… Read more »

Kevin
Kevin
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

I see two possible reasons for this slow transformation.

First, with JD distancing himself from this blog, his philosophies also seem to be becoming diluted by ideologies of other writers, and the disinterest of a corporate master.

Secondly, with the final collapse of The Simple Dollar, a lot of its former commenters (who were notorious for their caustic commentary and criticism) have glommed onto Get Rich Slowly and are searching for a new outlet for their abuse.

Lincoln
Lincoln
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Maybe I should start a weblog called Angry About Finances, that can siphon off some of the negativity.

Angela
Angela
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

I just visited The Simple Dollar. Why do you say it has collapsed?

Marla
Marla
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Re: Collapse of the Simple Dollar…

Note the failing quality of posts.

Note the posts that are effectively ads from credit companies.

Note when Trent stopped taking part in comments (a long time ago).

Note the turn of comments to pointless abuse.

Note how the comments actually just stopped.

Note how Trent has just plain removed the ability to comment on the site.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago

Totally agree with Katie and the commenters above. I’m not married yet, but I’ve seen enough strange things happen that I want my future husband and me to be as financially prepared as possible for whatever life throws our way. My friends who are divorced didn’t think it would happen to them either.

It’s a shame Sarah started off this post on the wrong foot because there is a lot of good advice here for men and women. (Yes, I know a few stay at home dads!)

Kevin
Kevin
8 years ago

“When my sister lost her job as a private school teacher – I suspect she was let go for being a mother” Why would a school discriminate against a class of people who are responsible for creating their customers? That seems highly unlikely. It seems far more plausible to me that your sister was let go because she failed to fulfil the commitments of her employment, whether that be punctuality, preparation, dress, demeanor, or other aspects. Of course, it’s likely that the reason she was failing at those commitments was because her attention was being consumed by tending to her… Read more »

Jen
Jen
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

“it seems like a vicious one-sided mischaracterization”

LOL. Takes one to know one Kevin? At least the original talked of a generic employer, I like how you really went personal and suggested all the likely ways her sister “failed.”

Kevin
Kevin
8 years ago
Reply to  Jen

Jen, But it’s the only other alternative, isn’t it? Either her employer – a private school dedicated to educating children – is biased against their own customers, or her sister failed in her duties and was fired. It’s possible she was let go for financial reasons, but if that were the case, why would Sarah feel a need to portray the layoff as some sort of vendetta against motherhood? It seems to me that characterizing the dismissal as motivated by some brand of nefarious prejudice is an easier pill to swallow than admitting that a loved one was so ineffective… Read more »

Katie
Katie
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

That’s so cute that you think discrimination is logical and rational.

Christine
Christine
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Kevin,

Women get laid off for becoming mothers and getting married all the time. It is not unheard of. When companies need to choose who to lay off, they often rationalize that since a woman had a child or got married that she will no longer be as dedicated to her career. This is one of the prejudices that women face all the time. It is the same as a man being promoted over a woman based on gender. It is a fact of our culture that needs to change.

Kevin
Kevin
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

So, you think the possibility that a person who loves children so much that they opened a private school dedicated to educating them, but hates mothers, is more likely than the possibility that a person failed to perform their job adequately and was fired?

The former seems very unlikely, while the latter happens a thousand times every day.

Katie
Katie
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Kevin, the fact that you think that being in the education field and not thinking mothers should be working (consciously or subconsciously) is inconsistent is completely bizarre. Maybe this person thinks to themselves that they love children so much they want them to have a parent at home full time and are making that happen for them. I have no clue. For all I know, the sister did her job terribly and was beating children in the hallway with a broom. But neither do you and your insistence on trying to prove that it could never be discrimination because that’s… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

@Kevin – a friend of mine interviewed with a private school and they asked her how soon she would be taking time off to have children (she was in her 30s). So yes, a private school is capable of discriminating against women.

Katrina
Katrina
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

@Katie, I want to high five your comment at #44!

Andrea
Andrea
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

But what if the child was illegitimate and the private school frowned on that? That’s more of what I thought the poster was getting at…or at least that’s what I assumed.

Jaime B
Jaime B
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Kevin – why are you getting onto the author for her assumption that her sister was fired for being a mother, but then assert your own assumption that the founder of the school loves children so so much that they felt compelled to open a school? Both are assumptions and (IMO) both just as likely to be right or wrong. Some private schools make a lot of money and work with very powerful people in their community – a big paycheck, prestigious reputation and influence in your community is very motivating for many people. Loving kids may just be ancillary… Read more »

sarah gilbert
sarah gilbert
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

I’m absolutely sure my sister was let go because she was a mom. When she was pregnant with her first child, she went in to see the principal to discuss maternity leave and she was told she wasn’t expected to come back after her baby was born! (Yes, I know this is illegal, but my sister isn’t inclined to pursue legal action against her employer.) She did come back after the six weeks of sick time she had saved up — the school had no maternity leave benefits at all — and then she went and had another baby, and… Read more »

Kevin
Kevin
8 years ago

Re: Divorce As much as it pains me to say, I agree with Sarah. It’s self-defeating to plan for divorce. All of the commentors pointing out the high divorce rate are completely missing a key factor: risk. Sarah even alluded to this in this very blog post, by referencing her “Insurance and Risk Management” course. While it’s true that nobody gets married expecting to get divorced, that does NOT mean that every marriage has an equal chance of success or failure. We’ve all known couples who got married while we quietly bit our tongues and thought to ourself, “that’ll never… Read more »

Sheryl
Sheryl
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Thank you, I’m glad I’m not the only commenter thinking that planning for divorce is self defeating. It’s a little strange tone for a GRS piece and I can see where other people may have felt that there was some finger wagging, but the basic idea that if you plan for all the other terrible things life can throw at you you’ll already be prepared if that happens is relevant.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

I don’t think many people are planning for divorce specifically — they’re acknowledging it’s one of many reasons a stay-at-home spouse may have to return to work. There’s a difference between actively planning for divorce and accepting it’s within the realm of possibility. The comment that Sarah criticized wasn’t telling her to keep separate finances or start a “in case my spouse leaves me” emergency fund — it was saying to keep skills sharp “just in case.”

I agree the stats are skewed! Some people have multiple marriages while other couples grow old together. It’s really about individuals, not numbers.

CincyCat
CincyCat
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

What Elizabeth said.

I think the idea is to think critically about what you would do if something happened to disrupt the income of the household – be it death, illness, incapacitation, unemployment, divorce, etc.

Simply including divorce among the potential disruptions to a marriage does not increase the odds that it will happen.

Traditional vows also say “in sickness and in health,” but simply considering this as a possibility won’t somehow “cause” one partner to become ill.

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  CincyCat

Merely including it in a list of possible marriage-ending events doesn’t make it more likely, but dwelling on it could adversely affect the relationsip, IMO, and by “planning for DIVORCE” you’re dwelling on it. I can see how deliberately thinking, “Ok, if we divorce, I don’t want him to have any of my assets and I want to ensure that my children inherit my home,” might indicate a problem or two, in particular a lack of faith and an unwillingness to really share with your partner. If I were a SAHM, and people kept saying to me, “But what happens… Read more »

Krose
Krose
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Kevin, it’s kind of offensive that you lump “getting married under 30” in the same category as massive debt, children by multiple fathers, or remarriage with children… You can control massive debt, getting pregnant repeatedly, remarrying after having said children, but you can’t exactly control your age! Stats actually show that getting married under 20, and then under 25 are where big milestones are. In my experience, most people who wait until 50 to get married have lost a lot of the flexibility that is necessary for marriage. If you’ve only had to think about yourself as #1 for half… Read more »

Vivianne
Vivianne
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

I had credentials. I let them go about seven years ago when child #3 came along and we made the decision for me to stay home. One year ago, after 14 very happy years, and completely out of the blue, I got the bomb drop. “It’s not you, it’s me.” Turns out he wasn’t stressed about work, he was having a midlife crisis and looking for greener pastures. Learn from me. Cover your butt. Know where your money is going. Your partner may die, but your partner may go insane overnight in his late 40’s. Meanwhile, I’m going back into… Read more »

TB at BlueCollarWorkman
TB at BlueCollarWorkman
8 years ago

Couldn’t agree more with nearly all of this. My wife and I married when we were VERY young and neither of us had anything or even a job at that point. So combining finances, figuring out who the primary breadwinner would be, and handling risk was easy. We had nothing but eachother. In today’s day and age, I agree that you shouldn’t plan for divorce, except in one case, get a prenuptial agreement (unless you’re like my wife and me and you’ve both got squat to start with!). I think people should get that in place and then never think… Read more »

Sam
Sam
8 years ago

I’ve gotta hedge on this one. I agree that planning for divorce doesn’t make sense to me. I do not understand the keeping separate finances after marriage, nor do I understand having one spouse be financially comfortable while the other struggles. I have a dear friend who has a prenup, her and her husband split the finances based on who makes more, she does, so she pays more towards the mortgage and general expenses, she maxes out her 401k and saves, he doesn’t have the funds to do so. I ask what happens when you retire, are you going to… Read more »

Joe
Joe
8 years ago

I’m glad I read this one today. It pointed out to me, intentionally or otherwise, that I’ve neglected one big aspect of our finances. I am the primary source of income in my family, and handle all the investing, ‘budgeting’, bills (except for Kohls), etc. I got us into $68k of credit card debt and got us out of it. My wife was involved with all of that, however, she hasn’t really been involved to the detail level. What I mean is that if I died today, she wouldn’t know what bills we had, how they were set up (Auto-pay… Read more »

Sam
Sam
8 years ago
Reply to  Joe

Joe, I am the one that handles the personal finances for our family. I have a file with our yearly and monthly spending plan, so Mr. Sam would know what needs to get paid. I also have a file with all our accounts, account numbers, online passwords, etc. I keep all of this at my office, it is more secure there, and I pay my bills from my office. Mr. Sam knows where it is and he would contact my boss/my company in the event of my demise. Also, although I generally pay bills electronically, we receive paper bills for… Read more »

Joe
Joe
8 years ago
Reply to  Sam

That’s exactly what I need to do.. Except my office is at home and we do mostly electronic billing. We recently had to change our checking account due to Identity Theft of someone who was linked to our account (http://igotouttadebt.com/2012/09/20120803identity-theft-seniors/) and that gave me a chance to make sure we had all of the account written down, passwords, etc.

Now just the periodic review is what we need.

Jessica
Jessica
8 years ago

This is all fantastic advice. My husband and I just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. Our third child is on her way, and I quit my job in state government last year to be a SAHM. I was the higher wage earner and I have a Masters in my field, with 8 years of experience in that field plus another 6 in a related field (and 4 before that in minimum wage jobs). While my primary job is SAHM, I also freelance. I started freelance and ghostwriting 3 1/2 years ago as we began to prepare for me to quit… Read more »

Dally
Dally
8 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

That’s where we’ve been for the past twenty-five years, a full partnership where we divvy up the duties and rely on each other to do what each does best and all benefit. My husband of 25 years just told me that he doesn’t want to retire with me. He sees our partnership as more of a child-rearing thing. We’ve got two in college and one in high school and, uh, heads up, all that retirement planning I did has to be rethought. Never in twenty five years did I pay attention to the possibility that we might both LIVE but… Read more »

Tracy (the other one)
Tracy (the other one)
8 years ago
Reply to  Dally

Ugh, how awful. You have my sympathy. Personally, I think when it comes to marriage, as with all other elements of life, you should hope for the best but plan for the worst. I don’t think everyone needs a prenup or anything, but I do think everyone needs to give real thought to several alternative outcomes that life can deliver while we all were making other plans. And that includes the possibilty of divorce. I have given thought to this regularly, and I am very very happy in my marriage. It’s no reflection on our relationship. It’s that reality can… Read more »

Dally
Dally
8 years ago

I think there is a definite value to keeping your eye on worst-case scenarios. Would I have invested as much in his career (and so little in mine) if I knew that I’d be 55 and supporting myself? Would I have acquiesced to the disciplinarian role (letting him play the “nice guy”) if I had considered that would translate to the kids only wanting to visit HIM when they’re grown? Would I have saved more if I realized retirement would be so much more expensive as a singleton AND I’d have half the money? (I implicitly figured I’d be widowed… Read more »

hardworking_single_mom
hardworking_single_mom
8 years ago
Reply to  Dally

HIGH 5, Dally!

Every time I see a comment about “does anybody wish when they are old/ on the death bed that (s)he has worked more?!” I think: “that depends if one has to eat dog food in the old age”.
For every person that regrets working too much there is another one, wishing not to have been so focused exclusively on family to the detriment of one’s earning power.

My condolences, Dally. $#!t happens. You’ll make it.

CincyCat
CincyCat
8 years ago

The only thing I would add to this article is that you MUST also get insurance (life, long term disability, short term disability) on the NON-working spouse who stays home with the children. I’ve heard so many people thinking only in terms of replacing *income* with insurance, but completely forget about what the non-working spouse is saving the family in terms of *expenses*. If the non-working spouse becomes ill, incapacitated or (God forbid) dies, then the working spouse will most likely have to hire someone to take care of the children, clean, run errands, provide at-home health care or even… Read more »

Babs
Babs
8 years ago
Reply to  CincyCat

I don’t think you can get disability insurance if you don’t have full time commercial employment. In fact I would be interested in an article about disability insurance because I don’t think it is available to very many people.
SSDI might be more available but I have heard it can take years to qualify.

CincyCat
CincyCat
8 years ago
Reply to  Babs

Babs,

I could be wrong, but I think some employers have “employee + family” insurance options…

(Maybe someone can chime in and clarify.)

schmei
schmei
8 years ago
Reply to  CincyCat

This is absolutely true. My husband is now a SAHD, and I insisted on getting life insurance for him before our son was born. The conversation we had about it was kind of funny, as I had to reassure him that he’s worth much more – financially and otherwise! – alive than if he croaked, but now that we have a kiddo we both have to think through how we’d manage if something happened to the other partner.

Mary T
Mary T
8 years ago
Reply to  CincyCat

And this isn’t only relgated to spouses either. If a person is in a long-term living relationship with ANYONE, it’s wise to consider life insurance. Say you and your sibling (or partner, or parent, etc.) have lived together for years. If one person in the living arrangement can’t afford the home and its expenses alone, then life insurance on the other is prudent. I recently had this discussion with my partner. Because I earn more than him I could afford the home and all of its expenses on my own, but for him he’d end up house-poor trying to keep… Read more »

KP
KP
8 years ago

Having been raised by a widow. Planning for life after marriage is essential.

One reason for prenups, is not just in the case of divorce. It also brings the issues up to be discussed prior to the marriage. When there a children from a previous partnership and outstanding obligations, very often these need to be worked out to define responsibilities prior to the wedding.

I agree planning for divorce is self defeating, I also find dependence on someone else scary.

Sam
Sam
8 years ago
Reply to  KP

Or a family business.

Ben
Ben
8 years ago

The wife and I have mixed feelings on this. On one hand, I agree that living with “one foot out the door” is not healthy for the relationship, and we hate to even joke about or consider the option. By contrast, what other financial “speedbump”–with a FIFTY PERCENT (or better) CHANCE of happening–do we simply ignore and refuse to plan for because of “bad juju”? I don’t like talking about my or my wife’s untimely/premature demise either, but we openly discuss term life insurance and terms like “death and dismemberment”–a topic with a much lower chance of probability. All of… Read more »

Alone
Alone
8 years ago

No one plans to get divorced. No one plans for their spouse to become an alcoholic. Or cheat on them.

You can put all the energy into making a major work that you want to and sometimes it just doesn’t work.

Keeping your skills fresh isn’t worthy of an “eye roll” – or you wouldn’t have devoted several paragraphs to it later.

I’d rather be prepared and not need those skills than be alone, desperate, and sorry.

Adam P
Adam P
8 years ago

How can you mention the merits of Risk Management and stick your head in the sand about the possibility of divorce in the future?

Is there much difference between planning for the death/illness of a spouse you rely on for income and planning for a divorce? Not a whole lot; in all cases it’s an emotional and financial bomb and it would be prudent to mitigate the risks.

This whole post rubbed me the wrong way. I miss JD today.

Kevin
Kevin
8 years ago
Reply to  Adam P

“Is there much difference between planning for the death/illness of a spouse you rely on for income and planning for a divorce?” Yes! Of course, there’s an enormous difference! For one, you can buy insurance against death or illness. There’s no such thing as “divorce insurance.” And buying insurance isn’t “planning” for death or illness, it’s simply protecting yourself against it and then forgetting about it. Some folks here seem to be equating buying life insurance with preparing for a divorce. You’re saying you should keep your skills fresh in case you divorce and need to go to work, as… Read more »

Adam P
Adam P
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

“There’s no such thing as “divorce insurance.”

Most would also consider a prenup as a form of “divorce insurance”, or at least an excersize in risk management.

KSR
KSR
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Strangely, I’ve heard of divorce insurance–when there’s a void in America, there’s always someone there to fill it for a price.
http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/06/divorce-insurance-yes-divorce-insurance/

Holly
Holly
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

It is precisely because there is no “divorce insurance” that one would argue divorce is potentially a bigger risk, particularly if the couple has children but cannot afford to support two households on its income.

Yes, there are things you can do to mitigate that risk (try to choose a spouse wisely, go to marriage counseling, tend the marriage as an ongoing effort) but one can only control oneself. If your spouse wants to end a marriage (either explicity, or implicitly via their behavior) then you can’t control that.

Mom of five
Mom of five
8 years ago

I also think if you’re planning for divorce you shouldn’t get married. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do financial planning. There was an article on here a while back by a woman who’d unexpectedly been divorced by her husband. And her finances were in a shambles. I maintained at the time that her finances were in a shambles before the divorce and it was her own cluelessness and her and her ex-husband’s combined irresponsibility more than anything else that put her in the bind she was in. That’s still how I see it. I handle our finances for our family.… Read more »

lmoot
lmoot
8 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

What about the ones that don’t plan for divorce, who get married…then divorce. The act of planning for (not “on”, there’s a difference) a divorce, is no more an indicator for divorce than a couple that skips into marriage without even considering the possibility. Nobody is saying you even should share this with your spouse. It’s a personal (keyword “personal”) consideration. To be honest I am more surprised when people stay together through life than if they divorce…and it’s nothing to do with the individual couples, but rather our culture and the ease with which you can leave a marriage… Read more »

lmoot
lmoot
8 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

To add to my post above…

For those that think if you even consider divorce means that you believe there is instability in the relationship, let’s imagine that’s true.

Let’s assume you have no such sinful thoughts whatsoever because you’ve met your lover for life, your BFF, your SOUL MATE.

Then let’s imagine it’s not you who’s doing the considering.

You might have the fortitude to deflect not-nice thoughts, but you can’t control others’ thoughts or feelings.

Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies
Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies
8 years ago

I understand a bit where the author is coming from – buut I also know that there are times when it makes sense to understand that things like divorce cannot always be predicted and sometimes it makes sense to make sure the actions you are taking will not be harmful in some future possible scenario. We recently re-evaluated our 401K strategy and figured out that we would take home ~$1.5K more per year if we maxed out my contribution to the federal limit at the expense of depositing into the Mr’s 401K account. Since the assets legally held in our… Read more »

Barb
Barb
8 years ago

I agree that the beginning of this message sounds like a teacher lecturing the class (something that doesnt work for many people, unless perhaps youre Bill Clinton). I would suggest Sarah work on that one. That said, I agree that one should not plan for divorce per se, and I woud have agreed with her internal reaction to the commenter. I a not willing to plan for divorce at the beginning of a marriage. I would suggest things such as credit it ones own name, and individual IRA and other financial responsible decision, that have nothing to do with divorce.… Read more »

Triathlon NSW
Triathlon NSW
8 years ago

Of course no one plans for divorce but it happens anyway. What is the statistic on divorce again? It is not pretty.

Kevin
Kevin
8 years ago
Reply to  Triathlon NSW

“What is the statistic on divorce again?”

Extremely misleading.

The reality is much more nuanced and varies widely based on a large number of factors.

Suzanne
Suzanne
8 years ago

Hmmm not my favorite post. Not planning for divorce is great in theory. But since divorce happens and, when it does, it really puts stay at home mothers in a terrible position – lower salaries, less retirement savings, lowered lifetime earnings – what should those women do? I guess the answer is not to be stay at home moms.

If that’s not what the writer is trying to convey, perhaps a nod to reality would be a nice addition to this article.

Poppy
Poppy
8 years ago

Lucky you. You’re in a perfect partnership.

Letting my spouse’s career take priority over mine–and letting the breadwinner control the pursestrings–has left me scrambling for years to get back on my feet post-divorce.

If divorce WAS a possibility in my mind, all those years, I never would have found myself in this situation.

Jennifer
Jennifer
8 years ago

Sara…something really concerns me..and maybe needlessly so. This is not the first time that I have gotten the impression that you not working full time or even half time is NOT your husband’s dream scenario….that whole organic tangerine article comes to mind. Furthermore, you have even given the impression, that it kind of bugs him…and even worse…you give the impression that you kind of engineered this without his full consent/knowledge….*wink wink* Now this just may be part of your playful banter……I really hope it is. But, I can tell you from personal experience…that THIS is a recipe for disaster, if… Read more »

Maria
Maria
8 years ago

Finances and couples are a very delicate matter, they both should set the basis for a healthy finances convivial life. I think something very important should be considered and there are three entities that should work in harmony: The finances of one member of the couple The finances of the other The finances of both toghether Some even advice as having three bank accounts for this and then each one should share according to his/her income. Something that doesn’t seem right to me it is to talk abour fear and sacrifice that much.. one thing is to live with frugality… Read more »

Megan
Megan
8 years ago

The best advice I ever got was this: Never let a man put you one step away from poverty. I took this to mean the following: SAHM? Get yourself some sort of side-job to a) contribute to the bottom line or at least have some pocket money, and b) keep working so you have a current resume. I have said this before, and I’ll say this again. It really scares me when I meet SAHMs who haven’t worked in years. While it’s never fun to think about, I wonder “What will these women do if their husbands drop dead tomorrow… Read more »

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Megan

“The best advice I ever got was this: Never let a man put you one step away from poverty.” Hear, hear!!! My mother’s advice was, “Always make sure you have one bank account that’s solely in your name.” Granted, this comes from the days when marital income was assumed to be solely generated by the man, so if he died or they divorced, she had no credit record in her name. I’ve been married 26 years, am happy with my DH and DH appears to be happy with me – and we have always had separate bank accounts, by mutual… Read more »

LeRainDrop
LeRainDrop
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

Thanks so much for the link, Laura! That was a fascinating read.

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  LeRainDrop

You’re welcome; it fascinated me too. It raised one point that had never crossed my mind before: that you only receive Social Security benefits if you earned income (I believe SS uses an average of what was earned in the 35 years prior to filing for benefits), or are widowed. If you’re in your 60’s, never worked an outside job for pay, and he files for divorce as happened to the author, Social Security pays you nothing. Unless a SAHM (or D) has put money aside in savings or is able to remarry, that is being seriously up the creek.

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  LeRainDrop

Actually, I believe if you were married for a minimum amount of time, e.g., 10 years, you can claim Social Security benefits on your former spouse’s earnings, even if you divorced.

Marsha
Marsha
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

That’s not true about social security. A divorced person is entitled to collect SS based on the ex-spouse’s record, as long as the marriage lasted at least 10 years. I believe it’s 50%, which isn’t much, especially if the spouse never earned much money.

My grandmother was able to collect SS when my grandfather divorced her after nearly 40 years of marriage. She had never worked outside the home.

Tracy (the other one)
Tracy (the other one)
8 years ago
Reply to  Marsha

Yes, that’s correct.

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Marsha

Thanks, Marsha, for the correction. Funny – I went back and reread the article and realized I’d projected the thoughts on SS. It’s good they have that contingency. Thanks for keeping me honest.

Ellen K.
Ellen K.
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

I’m a SAHM with twin preschoolers and a freelance business. I would also add that any person who is staying home to raise children should have her or his own IRA or Roth IRA for individual retirement savings. Even if you can only contribute the minimum each month, this should be a *nonnegotiable* part of the family budget. Consider it a (very paltry) salary or benefits package. You’ve more than earned it.

Recommended reading: Elizabeth Warren’s “The Two Income Trap”, “Ann Crittenden’s “The Price of Motherhood.”

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  Megan

…or they go to prison. For the financial fraud they finally turned to after gutting the family business and remortgaging the family house wasn’t enough cash to feed their addictions. This happened to a friend’s parents – her mom ended up back in the workforce after 30 years as a SAHM, with none of the marital assets (luckily the felon died with a life insurance policy intact that still benefited her, or she’d be destitute.) It’s rarer than cancer, but not unheard of – we had neighbors in a similar situation, forced to downsize to our neighborhood because daddy was… Read more »

Barb
Barb
8 years ago
Reply to  Megan

There are lots of ways to be a sah spouse (parent or not) and protect yourself. I was a stay at home spouse even after my children were gone. I did not work. I had a roth in my own name, everything we purchased was held jointly (with rights of survivorship). I also developed marketable skills through parenthood and volunteering. Being a SAH, even over the long term, does not rende ryou a second class citizen, nor does it make you helpless. Just sayin

ImJuniperNow
ImJuniperNow
8 years ago

After everyone has read this piece, they should watch the Julia Roberts’ movie “Sleeping with the Enemy”. Not to give away the plot, but: She thought she was marrying an angel – she married the devil. She was afraid of water – she learned to swim. She needed a landmark – She broke a light bulb. She needed to get away quickly – she had a bus ticket hidden in the house. She needed money to start a new life – she had a huge wad of cash (presumably funneled from the household account?) stashed away, too. She’d need a… Read more »

Kaytee
Kaytee
8 years ago

While the concept of getting life insurance is an admirable recommendation, if you have a pre-existing condition, you’ll get turned down. My husband has well managed Type 1 diabetes, but has been turned down several times for life insurance, despite assurances that he would be accepted. So when our daughter was born in February, I signed her up for life insurance as soon as I could so that she wouldn’t run into a similar situation, just in case.

Rebecca
Rebecca
8 years ago
Reply to  Kaytee

My husband’s parents bought him life insurance that accumulates money and can be cashed out, the name escapes me now, but it was the only kind they could buy for him (they bought it for him when he was 22 and had had type 1 diabetes 12 years by then). It’s not the best kind of life insurance to have, but it gives me peace of mind.

Kevin
Kevin
8 years ago
Reply to  Kaytee

Why would a newborn baby need life insurance? Who is dependent on her income?

Kaytee
Kaytee
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

No one is dependent on a newborn’s income, but getting it as a newborn means she can’t be turned down from getting life insurance if she develops a chronic illness later in life. Getting it then basically prevents her from being in the situation that my husband is in now.

Cory
Cory
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

In case the baby dies (not all that rare), you will need extra money to cover funeral expenses and probably some peace of mind to get you through an extremely difficult time.

My parents took out insurance on me and all my siblings when we were born in case the worst would happen.

Jeannine
Jeannine
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

Kevin,

I’ve found your comments all along to be well thought out and reasonable.

Cortney
Cortney
8 years ago

I’m not as bothered by this post as a lot of people seem to be, but for me, why you’re planning is less important than planning. Regardless of if you’re planning in case of death, in case of divorce, in case of a layoff, or whatever, you’re basically planning for one thing – what happens when your source of income (your spouse) goes away? The main difference between the above scenarios is the permanency of the loss of income. I don’t have kids yet, but this is one of the things that worries me most about ever becoming a SAHM.… Read more »

Bella
Bella
8 years ago

Sarah, I LOVED this article. Spot on advice. To be honest – I dind’t find it preachy. I have lots of friends who have been divorced – and the thing is – that if they had worked on any of the items mentioned here before getting married, or even in the early years, they probably would have recognized much earlier that the union was in danger. Yea, sometimes marriage is hard. It’s not enough that you love each other – sometimes there is real compromise, and sacrifice required. I wish more people would be honest about this part of being… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago

I’m confused — how did we on to the subject of planning for divorce BEFORE marriage when the original question was whether a stay-at-home mom should make an effort to keep her skills up to date? Presumably said stay-at-home mom is already married and has kids and is therefore not planning for divorce before marriage?

I think we might be making a mountain out of a molehill here.

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

I think it’s because while no one debates that SAHM’s/SAHD’s should maintain skills and have an income stream or potential for one, Sarah’s original post dismissed divorce as one of the reasons to do so and people are taking issue with that.

David C.
David C.
8 years ago

J.D. Come home!

PB
PB
8 years ago

I married someone who was chronically ill with juvenile diabetes. This has complicated our life together, but certain I am glad that we did it and that we have three children. That being said, the main reason that I went back to work after two years off with the first child is that death or disability was always a possibility and I had to be sure that I both kept my job skills up and had an income. The important thing to consider is whether you can live with the worst case scenario and adjust accordingly. For instance, we wanted… Read more »

Stephanie
Stephanie
8 years ago

I think there’s a difference between being financially prepared for a divorce, and not trusting your partner. There’s a difference between having your own back, and not fully committing to a marriage. I think you can take care of yourself as an individual, AND take care of your partnership and work toward a healthy marriage. It doesn’t have to be either/or, and just because you have a “what if” backup plan doesn’t mean you’re uncommitted or distrustful. Maybe it just means you’re over-prepared.

Jason Clayton | frugal habits
Jason Clayton | frugal habits
8 years ago

Couldn’t agree more with the last paragraph. When my wife and I got married, we went into the marriage with every thought, expectation, and faith that “divorce was not an option”. We are going on 11 years strong, but it takes a lot of forgiveness and hard work. I’m not saying there are not good reasons for divorce (there certainly are very good reasons), but every expectation about divorce should be that it is “not and option” and that marriage is for life. (That is if you want it to be for life)

Rob
Rob
8 years ago

I agree. My parents laid that out from the start of their marriage–that divorce simply is not an option–and my wife and I have followed suit. It is simply not an option. I think once you take it off the table you learn to work with what you have, as hard as it might be. And sometimes hard work pays off. There are huge benefits to marriage that we as a society (both collectively and individually) lose out on with the advent of easy divorce. A huge one is the financial benefit of staying married, which really should not be… Read more »

chacha1
chacha1
8 years ago

I really don’t see how “be prepared to support yourself” somehow equates to “expect your marriage to fail.”

SirBrenton
SirBrenton
8 years ago

Only five months into marriage but my wife and I are one week away from being %100 debt free. Thanks for issuing the huge financial challenges you do!

SweetCoffee
SweetCoffee
8 years ago

The comment I like the least on GRS, and everywhere lately, is “Really?!”, as it pretends to be a question when it’s really sarcasm. Can’t we be straight forward, judge as we will (although I hope for empathy), and say “You’re full of cra#!” without the sarcasm. I’ve been wanting to say this for a while now…

(I believe this comment is in the wrong location and can figure out how to fix that. Sorry.)

Jane
Jane
8 years ago

I’m glad Sarah wrote this as well. I know exactly what comment stream she is talking about, because I had a strong reaction to it too. While I didn’t roll my eyes, my heart sunk the moment I say a SAHM comment about how happy she was with her decision. I just knew someone would come along right after and disregard her choice. And I also knew it would get a ton of likes. In my opinion, the answer to Nicole’s question earlier today – “Whatever happened to “do what works for you?” – is right in front of us.… Read more »

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Jane, I think the difference is that you have at least given some thought as to what would happen if you found yourself suddenly single, and have a couple of side-hustles regardless of whether it would fully support you. My understanding is that that was the point of Sarah’s post: if you choose to stay at home, keep your hand in the game somehow just in case. I’m sure you’re not advocating that a SAHM/D abdicate the financial responsibility of at least knowing what’s going on in the household and of having a Plan B/C/D, just in case.

Karen
Karen
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

I was the one who wrote the original comment about keeping your skills up to date and nowhere in there did I bash the SAHM’s choice. All I said is that there’s a hidden cost that should be at least acknowledged. All investments have risks and to some that’s worth it. Not to me, but there was absolutely no judgment in it for other people’s lifestyles, since it’s not my problem if they end up in a bad situation. Side note: when something innocuous makes me feel very strongly, I take a look at what it’s triggering emotionally in me… Read more »

Jane
Jane
8 years ago
Reply to  Karen

Excoriate was perhaps a strong word – and now that I look at it, you weren’t directly addressing the stay at home mom but rather her brother in law. But let’s look at what you said, namely that “I can’t imagine leaving myself open to that much financial risk.” You don’t know for certain that she is leaving herself open to financial risk. That is conjecture. I think it’s right that your own fears are speaking there. And by speaking up and then having over 30 people like it, it is essentially sending the message that this woman or any… Read more »

Katie
Katie
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

She is opening herself up to risk. That doesn’t mean the situation will turn out poorly – that’s why it’s risk and not certainty. It also doesn’t mean she shouldn’t do it. Everything in life involves some risk, including any career choice someone makes. But it also doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk openly about the risk inherent in certain choices vs. others.

Beth
Beth
8 years ago

Never buy life insurance or it will make you die! lol

Meika
Meika
8 years ago

I liked this article and really appreciated the discussion in the comments once we got the snarky bit out of the way. The problem I have with the “but you might get divorced” line is that it’s presented as something completely out-of-control and random – like one’s house being destroyed by a tornado, or getting cancer. And although it’s certainly not entirely within my control (I don’t know that I could stop him walking out the door), it’s not quite as random as it’s often presented to be, either. With that said, this is an important topic that I need… Read more »

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Meika

I wouldn’t say getting a divorce is random, and in the early stages leading up to a breakup, it’s still within one’s control. (One can’t change one’s partner directly, but it is possible to modify one’s own behavior which will have an effect on the partner, such as improving communication.) But it is fairly common. Per http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/cats/births_deaths_marriages_divorces/marriages_and_divorces.html , the overall average for marriages to end in divorce in the U.S. is approximately 50%. That’s far more likely than a tornado trashing your home or even developing cancer. Seems to me that if most GRS readers are told, “you stand a… Read more »

MamaMia
MamaMia
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

Whenever I see the 50% divorce rate applied generically to all marriages, I think of Stephen Jay Gould’s article, “The Median Isn’t the Message”(see http://www.cancerguide.org/median_not_msg.html). In it he makes a cogent argument against pessimism based on statistical generalities, writing of his diagnosis of cancer, “Variation is the hard reality, not a set of imperfect measures for a central tendency. Means and medians are the abstractions.” Rather than let the 8-month median survival rate of his form of rare cancer defeat him or allow it to determine his immediate future plans, Gould embraced its statistical variations and lived for the hope… Read more »

spiralingsnails
spiralingsnails
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

Actually I’ve read in more than one reputable source that the 50% “failure-rate” statistic is a little misleading. If half as many divorces take place as new marriages, that doesn’t necessarily translate into 50% of married people having a divorce since some people have serial divorces. For a hypothetical example let’s say that six sisters get married: Agnes was divorced four times before swearing off men; Bella got divorced once and then married her one true love; but Cathy, Della, Edith, and Fern all stayed married for life. Half of those MARRIAGES ended in divorce – but only a third… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago

Yeah, but I bet none of those folks got married expecting to get divorced. Evaluating your *own* likelihood of divorce seems like it’s pretty much impossible – I’ve predicted a lot of other people’s breakups but only about half of my own, in my dating life.

Katie
Katie
8 years ago

Yes, but even if only 10% of people will get divorced over the course of their lifetimes (spoiler alert: your chances are higher), those are still higher odds than most of the disasters we prepare ourselves against.

partgypsy
partgypsy
8 years ago

Yeah, they should take Elizabeth Taylor out of the stats, she is skewing the results.

Sketchee
Sketchee
8 years ago

Hope for the best but plan for the worst. You should plan for your safety and financial stability in the case of a divorce. It may not be your choice.

Hope it doesn’t happen and have faith in that, but your financial plan needs to be sound that anything that would happen should be planned for. The plan for death or divorce might be very similar

Megan
Megan
8 years ago

Once upon a time, this site used to be a great resource for people who wanted to plan for various life-altering scenarios, “just in case.” Can someone please explain to me why having a back-up plan in case of a divorce is worthy of an eyeroll?

Eric
Eric
8 years ago
Reply to  Megan

Very good question Megan. I don’t believe the if you go into the marriage planning for a divorce you have a better chance for divorce. Its similar to saying if you plan for unemployment by having an emergency fund you are more likely to be unemployed.

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Eric

Eric, I like your analogy very much. If I may extend it, having financial backup in case of divorce would allow one the breathing room to make good choices about where and how to live, hiring a good lawyer, and ease stress, just like an emergency fund allows someone enough breathing room to take their time to find the right job. This makes me think of a friend who initiated a divorce without being well-prepared financially (stupid, I know). She wound up in an abusive relationship because the man used his money to control her. He paid her bills, took… Read more »

sasha
sasha
8 years ago

I think perhaps the idea within this article could have been stated a bit more clearly. Making sure that you (the individual) are taken care of within your marriage/partnership does not mean that you are making sure you are taken care of in case of a divorce, even if that might be a intended benefit if (worst case scenario) you get divorced. My husband and I have been married for going on 12 years now. I have been a stay at home parent for over a decade. We are not planning a divorce, and have not discussed what we would… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  sasha

Great point. My husband is leaving his job at the end of the year and we’ve been bulking up his retirement savings more than mine for just such contingency plans. I have plan to ever divorce him, but I want him to be protected in case I get early onset dementia or something else horrible happens. If I only planned for my death there would be no reason to do that as he’d get my assets anyway.

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  sasha

It was in the comments on a post here that I learned I could continue to contribute to my Roth when I wasn’t working, if we got married.

Michelle
Michelle
8 years ago
Reply to  sasha

I think I like the way that you phrase and word the situation. Just because you’re married doesn’t mean that individual needs go away. (For example, building up a retirement savings.)

Also, thanks for the reminder that SAHMs can still contribute to Roth IRAs if they’re married. That is technically possible, though a lot of people don’t seem to realize it.

Jayne
Jayne
8 years ago

Every adult should have a plan for financial and emotional sulf-sufficiency unless they are mentally or physically impaired from doing so. I am an attorney who does a fair bit of divorce work and let me just say, rarely do people come in saying that they had planned on it. Yesterday I met with a 70 year old woman who has been married for 40 years and her husband has now decided he just needs to see what else is out there. They have little to no assets and still have large amounts of debt. Now this was bad planning… Read more »

Mercedes
Mercedes
8 years ago

This post was very off putting to me,too. It said plan for contingencies however if you see divorce as one possible contingency, then shame on you. Really? The post also listed want just about every other writer lists as ways to plan for potential financial difficulties and / or change. I have to say that I am starting to no longer like this blog. The authors are too focused on lack and how to ” get by”. Tere has been nothing on planning well for change or future months or years. I just found “financial samarai” based on a recent… Read more »

celyg
celyg
8 years ago

As a single person, I was focused on my own career, assets, financial future. I built an emergency fund, I networked, I thought about my Plan B and C for “what if.” When I got married, I didn’t cease being an individual. My husband and I now spend lots of time thinking about our goals. We each have 401ks and we have joint savings. We talk about our careers and strategize things together. However, I still own property from before the marriage, and that remains in my name. When and if we have kids, we’ll trade off time at home… Read more »

hardworking_single_mom
hardworking_single_mom
8 years ago

I was married in my twenties, he was in his thirties. No debt, both of us had college degrees (and not in basket weaving). Gave it my all. No plans for contingencies, left all my relatives overseas. Now I have to raise our child alone, without any support network OR his child support (he’s perpetually unemployed). I feel very lucky now that my then-husband had me enroll our baby in the child care center when she was only 9 months old and kicked me to go find a job. Do I regret not spending more time with my daughter when… Read more »

Carla
Carla
8 years ago

Like others have noted, no one plans for a divorce. I sure didn’t plan for mine when I got married at 20, and I ended up with the crap end of the stick when I had to leave him.* Financially I was toast. Looking back I wish I would have planned, but you live and learn. Now at 33 with a chronic illness, you betcha I will plan for the worse if I were to get remarried. Men talk a good game, “I will care of you, etc, etc.” but if crap really hits the fan for me health wise… Read more »

Lauren
Lauren
8 years ago

Pissing everyone off with your first paragraph isn’t a good way to convey the information you may mention below because by then nobody wants to read it anyway. “Divorce or death” actually encapsulates perfectly the attitude one should have — lumping those two together as calamitous events that may befall you without your consent or input. Being blind to even the possibility that someday your partner might turn out to be not as fully invested in the relationship as you are and then just leave you stranded is asking for trouble. I guess some people prefer the ignorance-is-bliss approach, but… Read more »

John
John
8 years ago

I’m not sure if preparing ones finances for possible divorce is good advice. I mean, obviously it’s important to be prepared financially but I think it would be counterproductive to think about preparing for a possible divorce while going through your finances. Not sure that came across as I wanted.

shares