Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Divorced - Financial Lessons Learned

A coworker recently pointed out this article to me in the New York Times about How to Choose The Right Husband. I am not exactly sure what they were implying - the ink on my divorce papers is barely dry. It is going to be a long, long time (if ever) before yours truly would get hitched again. It is a good article though, I liked what it had to say. Having been married, I wish I had read this article before the wedding day - there were several items mentioned in it I could relate to - that should have been warning signs. I would be interested in reading the follow up on How to Choose The Right Wife.

I have written about my opinions as a divorce' on combining finances before. I was lucky, since our finances were already separate, I didn't have to worry about splitting up bank accounts or inheriting his debt. That doesn't mean however, that divorce isn't expensive, because it is. You've got the usual things that seem obvious, (like the cost of the lawyer,) but there is a lot more to it than that. First off, one of you is going to have to move out. That means expenses are going to get tricky. In my case, I moved, so suddenly I was paying my own utilities, rent, etc. on my own. That added up in a hurry! Then there is the re buying of items you have split. For example, the ex got both the dining room table and the lawnmower, so I am going to end up having to buy myself those at some point. It is those kinds of things you don't expect that gets you - let alone the money spent on kleenex, wine and Haagen Daas ice cream.

Master Your Card had a great article called 12 Things to Ask BEFORE the Wedding. If I did have the chance to do it again, I'd follow her advice plus do the following:

1. Ask what he makes a year. Then tell him what I make.
This has to be one of the biggest taboo questions I know. Couples will discuss politics, religion, favorite soda flavors* but they won't ask this one question. Look, the way I see it is this - this is the person you are entrusting to be there when you are old and craggy and need help wiping your butt. You seriously can't talk about how much your boss pays you? That's a problem.

2. Sometime before the wedding, each of us make a financial balance sheet - then show them to each other. There is a great article on about how to do it - and why. Basically, their contention is to do it in case someone gets sick or dies - especially the person who is in charge of the bills. I completely agree with that, but I also think it is really important for both people to know the financial situation. Just for my own knowledge I sat down and made my balance sheet. As the article said, it took me about an hour. I'll write more about the results in another post, but the important thing is that it quickly and clearly defined all my accounts in one easy page. Before I walked down the aisle again, I would want to know what I was getting into. Which leads me to #3 -

3. I wouldn't take anything for granted. In my situation, I assumed that my husband was making a very good wage, based on the way he acted. He seemed properly frugal, but at the same time, didn't mind indulging in extravagances like travel and dining out. He was a mature man, a small business owner who was very successful, and so, perhaps ashamed of my own foibles, I didn't ask. I should have. It wasn't until later that I found out he over 30 times the debt that I did... in credit cards alone! That is not to mention any other types of debt. How could I be so stupid? I was in love.

So many people end up going through divorce. It is sad. Maybe a few of them could be diverted if more people just talked to one another up front.

* What? You don't think soda flavors are personal? Try getting a Diet Coke drinker to see the beauty in a ice cold Pepsi.

Photo by Professor Frenchie

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