What would you do if your spouse refused to address a major financial concern you had and it was threatening your relationship? Would you scream out, “Save our marriage!” or “I want a divorce!”? Besides the fact that might love your spouse, if you consider the average cost of divorce, you’ll probably go the first route instead and try to salvage the relationship.
This is not a rhetorical question – I really need your input on this one. The other day, I bumped into an old acquaintance, Anna. I hadn’t seen her in over 30 years.
We started talking and before long, she told me that she had major problems with her husband, Mike, about money. They were both professionals and had great income, but she was the “Imelda Marcos” of the family and he was the “Scrooge.” In reality, they weren’t facing bankruptcy and foreclosure, but Mike acted as though they were.
They both grew up in poor families but came away from that experience with very different attitudes. Anna was finally able to enjoy life – and she wasn’t going to let anything stop her from doing so. When she saw a pair of shoes she wanted, she bought them. If she wanted to take a friend to lunch, she did it. Budget? What’s that?
Mike, on the other hand, was deathly afraid of being broke. He was a miser. Anna sounded really unhappy. I heard the story and offered to help. I told her that I couldn’t promise any result but that she and her husband Mike could come in and talk for 30 minutes – no charge. I didn’t expect miracles…but I hoped I could help them see some common ground on which to build.
Anna seemed pretty excited about the prospect of actually working towards some solution but when she told Mike about my offer he emphatically said, “No.” He didn’t trust financial advisers.
Several years ago they met with a financial adviser who also provided a “free consultation” and ended up trying to sell them a $3 million whole life policy (a very expensive product they have no use for). Mike didn’t want a repeat performance.
I wasn’t going to sell them anything…but he didn’t know that. Anna asked me for advice, and I’m asking you because I drew a complete blank.
What should Anna do?
While you’re pondering that, let’s move over to…
The Pilgrim Pick of the Pack!
JD Roth wins hands-down with his post on the Paradox of Choice and Perfection. I was going to write something similar next week on this issue, and even though he’s stolen my thunder, he did a beautiful job of it. JD explores the cost of perfection and the beauty of sacrifice and compromise. Congratulations JD…well done!
Now for the other Pilgrim picks…
Green Panda explains how much life insurance you need and why insurance isn’t an investment.
What’s the real purpose of news? The Discomfort Zone has some very interesting comments on this.
The Simple Dollar discussed the importance of being (and finding) a mentor.
Zen Family Habits talks about making your home a natural learning environment.
I also participated in the Carnival of Personal Finance. Please head on over there to review all the great posts.
A great idea Financially Smart. Do any shows come to mind?
Hey Neal why not find a show that speak exactly to their situation and give them to watch reminding them that if there are any questions the offer still stands. Sometimes fear consume us and prevent us from achieving Anna husband needs to let go off that fear. Unless he do this he will continue to be the miser and cause unhappiness which is unnecessary.
First, I’m really happy for you (daughters are the best…I have 3 of them!)
Also, I’m thinking, hey, maybe this post is the help. I’ve written my thoughts and everyone else has chimed in too. This way, it’s even more objective…..whadya think?
Could that have an impact?
I think that’s a great idea. If nothing else, it will show them (or at least Anna) that your heart is in the right place. Good luck (to them and you!).
Well, I’ve been the “Imelda Marcos” of the couple before, and I have to say that our money issues were undoubtedly the result of a general unhappiness in our marriage.
True, we had different philosophies about money. But the frostiness between us made talking about these issues that much harder.
If you want to help these people, and you were willing to do so for 30 minutes for free earlier, maybe you could type up some advice and send it along. Say, “Here, look — here’s what I’m thinking you should do. Notice how I’m not trying to up-sell you or get you to buy anything [note: don’t try to up-sell them or get them to buy anything]. I just want to try to help you out — this isn’t a new problem, and your issues can be solved… etc.
Then, well… you’ve done what you can. I think there must be some way for Anna and Mike to work this out.
As for me, my ex and I split five years ago. I remarried a few years later, and now I have a gorgeous two-year-old daughter and a wife I’m crazy about. Our finances are doing well. So there you go.
I agree w/everyone this time.
Ret Sav…..I should have made myself available rather than infuse myself……DOOH!
Susan & Rgurien, I think you are on it….their problems are relational first and financial second.
Matt SF – Yep. A cup of coffee probably would have been a better suggestion. I really don’t care how they do it, I just really dislike seeing people suffer when they don’t have to.
Clearly, their problems are relational and not financial. They need a marital therapist, not a financial advisor.
Susan D. says
Obviously, there has to be a happy middle they could negotiate towards. If not, their problems are much bigger than financial issues. Communication is the key. Sounds like a budget should be in their future with an allowable expense amount for her and an equal line item for a Roth or savings contributions in his name only to satisfy him. Both views are reasonable although I tend to side with the husband. Sounds like she could embrace a little more mature attitude towards the whole situation.
Matt SF says
Hmm… tough scenario since you’re dealing they are the Yin and Yang of the consumer world. Opposites attract, but they clash frequently.
Since you’re a friend first and advisor second, I might try meeting them out for a coffee instead of meeting in an office. Most people generally prefer to meet in a neutral setting when they’re fearful of being upsold, as well as let their guard down when they’re talking to someone without a desk/table separating them. (Old behavioral psyc trick I learned back in college.)
You might also try showing up without any paperwork. People see a briefcase or a manila folder, and they think ‘oh great, here comes the sales pitch and paperwork’.
Most importantly, I think the big thing is to get both of them to compromise. Instead of saying either one of them is wrong in their spending ideology, get them both to admit they need to slowly modify their behaviors. She needs to stick to an agreed upon budget with a consistent discretionary income expenditure, and he needs to loosen up and enjoy life a little better.
Retirement Savior says
I have never been a personal financial advisor, so I might not be any help. Maybe just acknowledging to Anna for Mike’s benefit that no financial product will take away their financial worries, and that if they wanted a forum to discuss their issues with an impartial third party, you’d be available. And maybe telling her your own past problems with a shyster advisor, as they make everyone else look bad.
What a tough situation.