Financial Safeguards For The Unemployed Spouse

by Sara

I’m a new empty nester and 2 mothers in my situation have been dumped by their husbands – and neither has worked in 15 years. Turns out their husbands blew through all their joint savings accounts so now both women are going back to work in low-level jobs. I think there still needs to be more awareness of long-term consequences of giving up your career as a mother – and actions you can take to stop free spending spouses if they seem out of control ( freeze bank accounts is one).

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320 thoughts on “Financial Safeguards For The Unemployed Spouse

  1. “GIving up your career as a mother” – THIS.

    When I started having kids, I thought a lot about what would happen if I quit and raised my kids and then went back to work. I quickly realized, I would be in a position of starting my career over and, if something happened where I needed to get back in unexpectedly, it would be difficult to do so at close to the pay I was making. The jobs that I have had require you to be current with information that is relatively hard to get outside of being employed, at least part time.

    I have some friends who are in a similar position to Sara’s – made the leap to stay home, but then after a death or serious long-term health issues of the spouse or divorce are in low level jobs and/or piecing several jobs together to make ends meet.

    In fairness, I do not think this is a gender issue and that men face the same difficulties if they are the one who stepped out of the workforce.

  2. This is something that I have thought a lot about. I left a high paying job to stay home with my kids. And if I don’t go back to work soon, I will likely never be able to work in a job like my old one again. Here is what I have done:

    1. I am the person who handles the day-to-day finances (I was this person when I worked). I would notice immediately if my husband started spending down our assets.

    2. I have some money of my own. If the proverbial shit ever hit the fan, it would be enough for me to take care of my kids for a while.

    3. I have family who wouldn’t let me or the kids starve.

    4. We have lots of life and disability insurance on my husband. I don’t worry about the financial aspect of him dying.

    This might be very naive, but I just can’t imagine my husband not taking care of our kids, even if he divorced me. Maybe he would fight me on the money (although I don’t think he would), but I have little worry that he wouldn’t take care of the kids. And as long as they are ok, I’ll be fine.

  3. but I just can’t imagine my husband not taking care of our kids,

    From what I’ve seen, the issue is more that they focus on the baby they just had with their new wife. The new wife is also putting a lot of pressure on her new husband to focus his resources on his new family.

  4. Rhett – I hear you. But, the same scenario played out with my MIL and FIL. Kids were not affected financially (at least in the short-term with things like college, etc). I think because of that, my husband wouldn’t do it.

  5. Are there ways to protect an account to prevent either joint holder from draining it in one go? This happened to one of my parents’ friends…the wife emptied the account (which may have included college savings, can’t remember), left her husband and high-school daughter, and headed to another state with her new love interest.

  6. Although I still work, I dream of starting my own practice and only working a little bit. I stay at the firm because of the diversification of clients – if I left I would only have 1 big client and I think that is not enough. Similarly, if I didn’t work I would be worried about getting our income stream from fewer sources. (I do hope that we make enough $$ not to worry about this after 10 more years or so!)

    I don’t worry about DH leaving me, but I also do #s 1-4 above (although my own retirement accounts are not as big as DH’s) like Cat.

  7. Cat, you never know. I’ve heard a lot of stories from women who were married to men who they never thought would do something like that, and then they get divorced and their exes pull all this crap.

  8. MidA – no, as far as I know. You can have your bank tell you (an alert) but that would be after it happened.

  9. I’m still working, but may take a break after another year to spend some time at home before my youngest goes to school. All of our accounts are joint and I handle the finances. I can’t imagine not being up on that aspect of your joint lives, especially if you had no income of your own. I do have a pension and some other retirement accounts in my own name so likely would not starve, even if I was close to retirement.

  10. I have friends (married) who maintain separate checking accounts. Their income gets deposited there, and then they divvy up the joint expenses and put them into a separate, joint, account. DH and I did this until we were married and moved to RI. Since then it’s been joint all the way. Maybe my friends are on to something…

    I always have this fear (really irrational) of DH leaving me one day. This is one of the reasons I kept working. That and we just can’t live on DH’s salary alone. I never fear DH dying (not financially anyway; and I wouldn’t want it either, my life would suck without him) because I have an income, and with life insurance, I wouldn’t have to worry about the big expenses – house, car, etc. And I would flip any retirement income I got as beneficiary into a college trust fund for DS (provided I could do that, if not, I’d figure something else out).

    DH does the bills… he could skim off the top without me knowing. Except for the online savings account – I get a notice whenever money is moved, so I would know pretty quick if something was fishy. Checking account – forget it. He could bleed us dry and I wouldn’t know until he was gone. And that’s probably bad. Since it’s joint, though, I could stop my direct deposit, possibly freeze the account, and stop all automatic withdrawals in my name. And open a new account in my name all in the same day. DH – if you’re reading… I really do love you… please don’t leave! :)

  11. Me too with the 1 – 4. I don’t think DH has the slightest idea how to get at our money. I also watched him go through his first divorce and he bent over backward (and then some) to be fair. So, I admit, I have some confidence that he wouldn’t try to screw me over.

    We just recently met with our estate-planning lawyer and are trying to figure out what to do about the possibility of me outliving DH and then going gaga and spending all the remaining money on some lothario. Or con artist. We’d both like any remaining money after both deaths to go to DSS. But losing one’s marbles is a real possibility. As far as we can tell, there’s no good way of protecting the money from my future addled self without putting really strong restrictions on the trust that would hold my share of the estate, and I don’t really want super-strong restrictions. So, how to tie myself to the mast without hamstringing my ability to take expensive cruises and eat well in my old age?

  12. I can’t imagine not being up on that aspect of your joint lives, especially if you had no income of your own.

    How much would you know if someone was trying to deceive you?

  13. Rhett – I guess I’m unsure how one would funnel the money out when I am looking at those accounts all of the time. If passwords were changed I would think that would be a red flag.

  14. MidA – saw on the other thread that your DD started daycare this week. Hope all goes smoothly for you!!

  15. I worry less about the emptying of the bank account and skipping town, because I monitor the joint account more than DH, but I know too many well educated women who are going back to work in grocery stores and food service because their husbands passed away, got ill, or got laid off a decade or so before retirement. Medical bills add up fast, and when the sole source of income can no longer work, it’s very difficult to dig out of that hole. Even with an impressive job history from 20+ years ago, they’re unable to find anything remotely close to the fields they were previously in.
    But yes, these are all reasons I plan to work as long as I’m able. Also why we keep independent bank accounts, credit cards, and the rest of the bills aren’t all in one name.

  16. Atlanta,

    An old co-worker’s husband secretly remortgaged their house in a desperate attempt to try and save his failing business.

  17. One of my relatives has taken charge of absolutely everything – their money, their scheduling since she stopped working. It does make things flow smoother since his career ramped way up. (Their expenses have increased as well). I think the taking charge of everything is one way of ensuring you can tell if something is amiss.

  18. I will say that the people two owners ago of our house had something happen where the husband lost his job, pretended to be a realtor, but was really going to the bar every day and drinking. I’m not sure of the details as to why the wife noticed no income, but I guess since that is commission based maybe he told her he hadn’t sold any houses. They worked it out I guess, they live not far away and are still together.

  19. As you know my dad just passed and there are things that I realize I never thought to tell someone. In my parents house and in mine, we aren’t keeping any secrets, but are eaching taking care of the chunck of “things” (be they financial, legal or kid related) on our plate. To a certain extent, keeping the other informed of the minutia related to some of those tasks seems pointless. On another level, it is a time managment issue of how much to share and how frequently. However, knowing – where did he keep the current checkbook he was working out of vs the blank checks becomes important when you need the information and can no longer ask. (Can you figure out what I can’t find?)

    This has also made me aware of how clutter can negatively impact this part of our lives. If you have a clear uncluttered (physical or electronic) system, it is much easier to find things in another persons system.

  20. DH makes a lot more than I do, and the balance will shift even more once we have kids. But we sit down together every quarter and update a detailed model of our personal finances- recording the balance on all of our accounts, credit cards, etc. We both consider ourselves 100% responsible for our finances, and neither of us is ignorant about any aspect of it. The finance meetings also have benefits for our marriage in general, as we’re forced to discuss our goals, whether we’re on track for them, changing priorities, etc. It would be extremely difficult for one of us to hide money, because the balance sheet and income statements wouldn’t add up without some major accounting hijinks. And we both know enough about spreadsheets that it would be very difficult to hide something like that!

  21. We sometimes also worry about my BIL. His wife made him walk away from their last house (which was only in his name) because she wanted a new house. They bought the new house in her name only and he quit work to stay home with the kids. So now he has bad credit and no income. He jokes that she can’t leave him until it rolls off of his credit card but sometimes we do worry about that.

  22. Rhett – was the house only in his name?

    It was joint. He forged her signature and the bank said, “Well give you the money but we’ll have to prosecute your husband.” She figured he was worth more to her without a felony conviction or in jail.

  23. Rhett – good grief! DH wouldn’t be able to do that without my knowing – he can’t find all the income statements, W-2s, K-1s, etc., without me. (We just went through a pre-approval for that house we didn’t get.)

    Like Rio, we have about monthly meetings where we check the budget. I (ahem) have access to mint.com and DH’s login for our bank, so I would be able to see if anything came up. I also monitor mint for weird transactions, so I ask him about those (usually new CRM or data for his website).

  24. This is the big thing that has kept me working even when I really didn’t want to – the fear of something catastrophic and expensive happening. I handle all the bank accounts and bill paying because my DH is too scatterbrained to do it – back when he paid his own credit card bill, he was chronically very late. I don’t worry too much about him pulling some big financial subterfuge simply because I think he is too scatterbrained with financial stuff to do it. However, I have huge worries about layoffs and major illnesses. I know firsthand how incredibly expensive a major illness can be, and if that illness also prevents one from working, things can get bad quickly. I have heard that major illness is the number one cause of bankruptcies. And we always should worry about layoffs. I have been laid off once, and my DH came very close once and sorta close another time. Because of where DH works, we had frontrow seats for the financial meltdown, which was really terrifying. So I have always kept on working…

  25. Rhett, I have a friend in a similar situation. Her husband raided her retirement assets in a futile attempt to cover his illegal activities. They are now divorced, he’s in prison, and she went through a long period of unemployment (she worked in a related field and lost all her clients once word got around about her husband). She’s now working as an administrative assistant and slowly getting back on her feet. She just turned 50. There are no kids involved, fortunately.

  26. DH handles most of the finances (like pretty much all of them except the preschool checks and the milk delivery). I get paid on a 1099 for about 25% of my income – so he does payroll, taxes, sep stuff for that. He could definitely be skimming a lot without me noticing right away. However, I look in from time to time, ask questions about where we are on certain things. He keeps a password list that I have access to. I need to dig into things once in awhile, so I get into random accounts all the time (including his email). I open mail (because I am sometime curious about loan balances and credit card charges). I am pretty much a passenger financially, but everything is a total open book that I don’t worry about it. (And, unlike the OT, I have retirement in my name and my own income).

  27. I’m also thinking about a Meme’s friend the tax VP like scenario.

    So, you marry when you’re 27 and have two kids and quit to stay home. You’re 47 when they go off to college. 5 years later you’re 52 and your husband’s industry tanks. I think it would create a lot of tension as you drain your savings and you both begin to wonder if it was such a good idea for you to have spent the last 5 years (when you didn’t have kids at home) bopping around town vs. working. I’m not sure people but enough though into that 47 to 67 window of time.

  28. My husband would having trouble mortgaging our house without my help since he wouldn’t be able to get the documentation together. However, I also believe where there is a will, there is a way, so maybe there is a tiny chance of that happening. But that tiny chance + chance of all of the other bad stuff that could happen < me wanting to work right now given the problems caused to our family by having 2 parents in very demanding jobs. That's basically what it comes down to. I am just playing the odds.

  29. I had to call the IRS the other day about a W-2c I received and I think option #2 on the phone tree was – “If you need information about the innocent spouse rule.” So, I have to think these kinds of spousal financial shenanigans must be fairly common.

  30. having 2 parents in very demanding jobs

    You could take a less demanding job vs. no job at all.

  31. The one thing I have never been able to understand is private school for three/four kids, spouse at home and the one salary large enough but not that large to cover savings, vacations, kid activities, nice cars etc.
    I know we have talked about grandparents funding this, but I have a feeling the savings bucket is taking a hit.

  32. I could. But I feel like I could always get one of those, especially if I go back to school to get trained in something else (which is what I would do if something ever happened wrt my husband). I don’t see a low paying job really doing much in terms of hedging for us.

  33. Cat +1

    At this age, I’m more concerned about health vs. divorce/affair impacting my financial future. I worked long enough to save a decent amount that is still in my name. I think I would be ok for a while if DH asked for a divorce right now.

    I’m concerned about health because DH has minor issues, but he is fragile. That’s my medical term. He is aware of medical issues, so we are continuing to save as much as possible in case full time work in financial services for another ten years isn’t possible. Ideally, he would like to work for at least ten years at this comp level to achieve the security we want for retirement.

  34. I don’t see a low paying job really doing much in terms of hedging for us.

    20 years working in a low pressure job paying 100k would mean an extra $2.5 million in savings. That sounds like a lot of hedging to me.

  35. DW has continued to work for the same business as before kids. She was FT, then 80%, finally going to 60% 18 yrs ago when #2 was born. Fortunately for her she was/is in a senior enough leadership position that if she had to/wanted to ramp up and that weren’t possible where she is now she could move companies. I kinda think she’ll stay 60% even when we become empty nesters so she’ll be able to spend more time with and helping/caring for her folks (350mi away).

    I do the finances in the house. Recently I organized everything (financial assets/insurance) into one folder with the first page listing all the accounts, logins, passwords, current balances. She knows where it is, what’s in it, how much $$ we have where, etc. She also has separate investment $$, savings and checking accts (that info is included in the assets folder). We’ve also started talking more about how much we have, in the vein of “are we ever going to be able to retire?” (YES!!)

  36. My husband delegates all financial stuff to me, including having me sign for him. (Even his brother has me sign for him.) I could abscond with everything. Clearly, he trusts me.
    I know of several women who have found themselves in that position, one I’ve mentioned on here who in her mid-50’s and divorced for 10 years now is still working 3 cobbled together part-time jobs. Another ended up not getting custody of her four kids, but she had a drug problem (and was an idiot, but potentially not relevant here). A cousin of mine lost his wife at a very young age, becoming a widower with four kids six and under. He was working, but I think people underestimate the amount of life insurance they need on a SAHP. That can be a very expensive adjustment.

  37. Rhett – YES, that last 15-20 years before retirement is an issue for so many. I wonder what happens as that period of time gets shorter – people are marrying later and having kids later. We know a few dads having their second at age 47 vs the kids being out of the house then.

  38. We have a set of friends where the mom is a SAH and dad works. They have his medical school loans, a mortgage, and whatever other expenses of their life (they have a 2.5 year old). Mom worked from college graduation until she was 35ish (I forget how old she was when their daughter was born). Theoretically that’s 14 years of solid work with retirement (not sure if she maxed out). And I’m not sure if she would be able to return to work in her field after an 18 year absence. I’m always curious to ask about their savings and retirement. But that’s not a polite topic…

    I”m also curious about other families we know… I just want to know how we are doing compared to our peers…

  39. “but I think people underestimate the amount of life insurance they need on a SAHP.”

    how much do you think one should have?

  40. How many of you have financial power of attorney on your spouse and visa versa? Our estate planner had us do that along with the health care power of attorney as a standard matter of course when we did our wills. One of the first things I revoked when we separated was my ex’s access to the retirement accounts solely in my name at our brokerage firm. I also put a unique additional password on those accounts and my new brokerage account after speaking to a rep about the issue and my concerns. He had all the acct numbers and knew all of my pertinent info – ssn, mother’s maiden name, my date of birth and where, first pet’s name etc. The second thing I did was open a brand new checking acct for my paycheck to be deposited into and I have to this day made sure he does not have access to my account number – I never write him checks.

  41. Divorce where the wife didn’t see it coming has become very common in my circle. The husband is willing to provide for the kids, but only the kids–the wife is on her own, as far as he’s concerned. And these are wives who dedicated themselves to furthering their husbands careers–not just taking care of everything at home, but entertaining, helping make the right contacts and serving on the right boards, etc.
    One friend took a job at the grocery store that “everyone” shops at– so that “everyone” is reminded every week of what he did to her. Let’s hear it for creative revenge!

  42. ” I wonder what happens as that period of time gets shorter – people are marrying later and having kids later. We know a few dads having their second at age 47 vs the kids being out of the house then.”

    I’m always curious about this too… My aunt just turned 63 and her youngest just graduated college… she hasn’t retired yet and has 2 jobs going. I can’t decide how much is “I want to keep busy” vs “I really need the money because of X, Y, or Z”. I think the second job is her passion, while the first keeps the lights on more or less. Her husband is retired with a pension.

  43. $100k isn’t low paying. And yet, at the same time, if that is what I made, my take home would all go to the nanny.

  44. $100k is a low-paying job now?

    In totebag terms, yes. I’m thinking “high pressure” would be north of $350k.

  45. “In totebag terms, yes. I’m thinking “high pressure” would be north of $350k.”

    I might as well just quit now and live off food stamps ;)

  46. It shows how different things are…here median family income is $62K, with two adults that’s $31K each. Totebaggers are likely closer to $50-75K each. A low pay/low stress job is more in the $18K range.

    Also, our family is DH (67), DW (52), DK#1 (15), DK#2 (13). We won’t be empty nesters until DH is 72 and DW is 57. That looks a lot different that being empty nesters in the 48-52 year old range.

  47. low pressure job he said, but yes, in what world?

    Mine. And that’s two work at home days up to all work at home days.

  48. Daycare for 3 kids would be the same. It is $2000/mo/kid here.

    Until they are in school. It would be silly to base your life over the next 40 years on the 3 years when all three will be in daycare at the same time.

  49. Cat S., I followed the same strategy that you did, and it worked out for me, but reading the comments has made me see how lucky I am!

    DH and I switched back and forth with the finances, but he is handling them now. We have meetings every quarter with our financial guy, and I see the statements, so I would know if he was taking money out.

    This topic (and from many of your comments in previous posts) has made me think about my DD and what she should do when she marries and has kids. I think I would recommend that she keep her foot in the door/toes in the water, or whatever the analogy is. If she stays with her big 4 firm she will probably be doing quite well, and hopefully can either set up something part time or move to a less demanding firm. I also could see her doing something like going to work for a small firm made up of moms and dads who want to work part time until their kids are in school.

    Benefits Lawyer – Your friend’s idea is a great one – I think she is pretty brave.

  50. Get an Au Pair? I all seriousness, I think a lot of women (not directed at Cat at all) see work as paying for daycare, when I reality there are many compensations from working – continued opportunity being one of them. A woman who steps out of a 45k job for 5 years and then enters the workforce at 30k has lost more than the 225k she might have earned working. It is fine to make the trade off that work for you, but many people, not on this forum, seem to not fully understand what those trade offs are.

    Anecdotally, the three retiree financial situations I know the most about (parents of DH, BF, mine) all had the husband stop working in his fifties, due to circumstances beyond his control. Interestingly, one had a phd, one a BS, and one was blue collar. Two weathered the storm well due to good planning and lucky investing, one is supported by his child. These are all intact marriages, where the wife had some kind of employment.

  51. “low pressure job he said, but yes, in what world?

    Mine. And that’s two work at home days up to all work at home days.”

    Rhett – There’s a large amount of selection bias in your world.

  52. DH monitors the accounts, but I make the investment decisions. My parents made sure that I put a little money aside in an account with my name only, so I have something of my own. Everything else is jointly owned. I think this is good advice.

    I don’t think that DH and I will divorce (but who does ahead of time?), but we do have good, independent disability insurance in case he is disabled. This is a much more likely scenario.

  53. Back when we had kids in daycare, I always joked that paying for it was good training for the college years. And then I checked recently and discovered a year at our public university is actually a little cheaper than what we paid the last year of daycare !!!

  54. Rhett – There’s a large amount of selection bias in your world.

    Doesn’t your wife make good money working part time from home?

  55. “Doesn’t your wife make good money working part time from home?”

    yes, and other than on this blog, and with our parents, we keep our mouths shut about it, because it’s not common.

  56. Cat – get the situation. But once the kids reach school age a part time/work from home job becomes an option. If you think you want to do paid work of some sort, start preparing for it now. Each day goes by slowly, but time goes by fast.

  57. “I might as well just quit now and live off food stamps ;)”

    Winemama – +1

  58. it’s not common.

    Among the set of all people? Yes, that’s true. Among the set of people with the median level to tote bag aptitude? No.

  59. If you spouse’s income can support two households, the easiest thing for a stay-at-home spouse to do is just get a pre-nup or post-nup.

  60. “Among the set of people with the median level to tote bag aptitude? No.”

    I disagree. I think we pat ourselves on the back a little too much about our superior “aptitudes.” Yeah, we’re smart, but so are a lot of people who haven’t landed certain lucrative opportunities. Finding the ideal employment balance like this that allows you to do the kind of work from home that pays well, is reasonably flexible, matches your skills and work experiences, etc., is totally a matter of luck and things just progressing a certain way.

    Cat will be fine, working or not. Demographically speaking, it’s unlikely that they will divorce. Even assuming they did, and assuming that her DH was a jerk through the process, there’s still alimony, right? He’s a high earner.

    This board is heavily biased toward thinking that anything other than continued dual income is irresponsible.

  61. Wine – I’m not an insurance person, but my estimate would be a minimum of what it would cost for 2-3 years, after paying appropriate wage, all taxes, plus a fudge factor for FT+ nanny/child care. Depends on your specifics. (FT+ probably means there before you leave for work in the morning and there for at least a while after you get home in the evening.) If your job entails travel / many evening events, then FT+ might mean 2people @ 40 hrs/wk.

    I pick 2-3 yrs of cost because that should be enough time to really figure out how to work things without having financial pressure to make a snap decision.

  62. Questions for Sara – did the husbands purposely wait until the kids were in college to leave their wives so they didn’t have to pay alimony? Are they helping their kids with college, or are they poorly off financially as well (not sure what they did with the savings)?

  63. “there’s still alimony, right”

    I’ve heard that alimony is becoming a thing of the past, as the expectation that women can work becomes more prevalent. Is this true?

  64. One friend took a job at the grocery store that “everyone” shops at– so that “everyone” is reminded every week of what he did to her.

    And what she did to herself.

  65. Sara: BTW, welcome! I hope you become a regular poster. How is the transition to being an empty nester going?

  66. In the commonwealth, I would probably get some alimony. And we would have to divide up our marital assets. Rhett – rest assured that I have commingled the crap out of everything :). Mr. Cat doesn’t get to have any assets of his own.

  67. “I’ve heard that alimony is becoming a thing of the past, as the expectation that women can work becomes more prevalent. Is this true?”

    Just guessing, I would think that it could become less common among the true middle class, when DH is earning $60k, the court could say to the DW “go earn $30k on your own.”

    But in a case where the DH is earning $600k, and that is what the DW is accustomed to, it will be there.

    Just a guess, though.

  68. I agree w/Milo that this board is heavily biased toward thinking that anything other than continued dual income is irresponsible.

  69. If alimony is dependent on the ex-spouse’s continued employment that could be an issue. My neighbor had a portion of her alimony in lump sum and the rest paid monthly for a certain number of years. Nothing after that. The lump sum allowed her to buy a house and the monthly alimony has her set for a few years but her getting a job hasn’t yet happened.

  70. Cat S, I’m doing the same. Our kids just couldn’t handle DH and me leaving for work at 6:30 am, and then day care and a sitter until I got home at 7 pm. They were miserable, and so was I.

    I’ve been home four years and will probably start part time in the fall, when the youngest is in preschool.

    I’m amazed at the number of SAHPs who don’t go back when all the kids are in school full time, because I have a hard time with feeling dependent on DH. To me it’s his money, and I shouldn’t be spending it on clothes for myself or a coffee I could have made at home.

  71. I do admit that I generally advise women that I meet in banking to try to keep working. I actually just told someone last week at a goodbye lunch to try to find another job. She is about 15 years younger than me. I make sure they understand that I didn’t go into “semi retirement” until I worked for over 25 years. I just know too many friends with husbands that got sick, ended up in prison, lost jobs or just left them.

    I have a former colleague (male) that I used to work with and his wife cheated on him. He tracked her with find my iPhone, and he caught her with a teacher from her school. He still had to pay a lot of alimony and child support because it was based on NY state law. The problem was that it was calculated on his pre 2008 total comp, and he didn’t receive ANY bonus in 2008- 2009. This was fairly common in certain financial products during the financial crisis. Many people were just grateful to have a job. I met his ex-wife so many times, and she was lovely. She is a school counselor, mom to a few kids – seemed like a really nice person. When it came to the financial support – she kept taking him back to court even though she knew that his comp had dropped almost 75%. She didn’t care- and she is the one that cheated while he was working the crazy investment banking hours. I share this because you just never know when the person you marry will act like someone you never imagined.

  72. Winemama – we did around $2M for each spouse (DH slightly more, I am slightly less). Our thought was, enough for paying for college for all kids and to pay off the house, plus a little left over.

  73. The name and spelling of the author of this post reminded me about our original host, Sara Munoz. I follow her on Twitter and I wonder if she knows that many of us are still together!

  74. Winemama – Our life insurance is a million for me, $250k for DW. It expires in my late-40’s.

    I selected it based more on our minimum expenses rather than income, and assuming the surviving spouse would continue working in some capacity.

  75. I think Moxie is planning/has planned her next move after being a SAHP for a number of years. As I said, I’d be interested to know what that is.

  76. Wine, I kept the value of life insurance I had while working: 10 times gross annual earnings. I also kept my own disability policy, tied to my former salary.

    The life insurance will be enough to pay off the mortgage and cover child care for the kids until they are teens, but there probably won’t be enough left over to use for college. If I’m ever disabled we are screwed, even with the insurance.

  77. Sky said “I’m amazed at the number of SAHPs who don’t go back when all the kids are in school full time”
    I found it much, much, much harder to be working fulltime once my kids were in school. Daycare schedules cater to fulltime employees; school schedules do not. There are myriad half days, weird vacations, and of course the school day ends at 3pm. You will need to find a decent afterschool program, or a sitter willing to work 3 to 6. Also, working fulltime means your kids never get to do afterschool activities.

  78. Milo,

    If you want to stay home before the kids start school, that’s fine. If you continue to stay home after they are all in school and especially after they are out of the house, that’s fine as well. However, you are making a consumption choice. You are choosing to consume leisure. So, if you end up single and broke at 52, I don’t have all that much sympathy for you.

  79. Sky, I had those feelings and it is part of the reason that I still like to earn my own money even if it is minimal compared to full time comp. I’ve started to care less about spending DH money because I can see that he has been able to take on more responsibilities since I ramped down to projects. He has the flexibility to travel to Asia and Europe now. That was very difficult when I was traveling to Europe once a month. He believes that he performs better at work because he can almost always say “yes” to most requests. When we both had crazy jobs, we had to take turns saying yes in the office.

  80. “So, if you end up single and broke at 52, I don’t have all that much sympathy for you.”

    You would only be broke if you had no joint assets prior to the divorce, which should not be the case in this group. I guess if you’re thinking about one spouse swindling all the money away, that’s different.

  81. I can see why SAH parents continue to stay at home after the kids are in school! Mooshi is correct about daycare being easier on a working parents schedule and as I drive to work, I see them all walking together/walking their dogs, or going to yoga class, It sounds awesome! Time to exercise, read, go to lunch with friends, etc. I would have on guilt about spending money on myself as long as we could afford it plus save.

    DH likes me working because I handle drop off/pick up of the kids, handle all meals for us and kids and generally organize our life. He gets all the work of a stay at home spouse plus my salary and better benefits.

  82. There must be a lot of selection bias in the people most Totebaggers know. As Milo pointed out, divorce after 10-15 years of marriage, especially among college-educated couples, is not statistically common. I know almost no one who is divorced, at work (any company, any state) or at church. One of the reasons I didn’t get my master’s immediately after undergrad is that I figured I might get it as a re-entering spouse. Even after a long time out of the workforce, people can get student loans to get through a master’s and get a new job.

    I’m surprised that more of you don’t plan to rely on family if the s&*t hits the fan. No one will be surprised that I’m opposite Rhett on this question, but when I think about the stressors in my life, I realize that I will never live through another decade in which we have 4 kids and two parents go through terminal cancer battles. We have had a lot of stuff going on. (And I don’t think either of us has kept up with our finances very well- there’s a file cabinet someone would have to sort through…) Mr WCE is close to Mooshi’s husband in terms of paperwork and bill paying, so I do all that.

    I’m also more comfortable with financial risk than many of you. I grew up working class and I know how to squeeze a penny. Either my Dad or my sister would let us move in with them if bad stuff happened. My kids and I would not have to live under a bridge. Not having much money is not a prospect that phases me. And I would just default on my medical bills in a crisis, like most other Americans.

    It’s interesting that so many of you think about your spouses leaving you, because I haven’t pondered that question about Mr WCE, and I’m not known for my optimism. To me, you get married and, barring a Meme-type situation, you stay together, hopefully liking each other and possibly tolerating each other for the sake of your children or perhaps a mix of both, depending on the day.

  83. Milo, you might have enough assets not to worry about it, but most people with three kids would need a larger policy on the SAHP.

    We have 4 years before baby goes to kindergarten and would need a nanny until then, and around here a nanny is $50k/year if you follow the law. That’s $200k. Plus when the youngest goes to school, he would still need after school care for another 6 years, which is $20k for the two younger kids each year, and summer camps, $10k, that would be another $180k.

    And that’s assuming you don’t outsource any of the housekeeping or meals….

  84. I guess if you’re thinking about one spouse swindling all the money away, that’s different.

    I’m thinking some combination of swindling, legal fees and the inability of both parties to adjust their lifestyle fast enough to adjust to the new reality.

  85. WCE – I agree with you, but I think some (cough, cough, Rhett, cough) think it rises to the level of being immoral if you don’t maximize your wealth.

  86. Rhett–the issue in my circle is that both parties expressly agreed that the wife would continue to stay home, to handle things that come up as well as furthering the one career. Then the working spouse, whose career has had the benefit of this for twenty years, decides to change the rules. So I do have a lot of sympathy.
    It’s not the route in life that DH and I chose, but it’s not like they agreed to some unspeakable deal.

  87. Benefits Lawyer – That arrangement is what DH and I had. He could work as late as he needed, and for some years he was out of town 3 days a week, every week. As someone else mentioned above, he could always say “yes” instead of “I’ll let you know.”

    I can’t imagine him doing what your friends’ husbands did, but I’m sure they did not either!

  88. Sky – We have assets, and I could also just cash flow a nanny (and it wouldn’t be $50k per year! I need someone to keep them safe and get a tuna casserole started; I don’t need Mary Poppins.)

    Realistically, I also have my Mom and MIL not too far away, and I imagine they would be significantly involved if their grandkids lost their mother.

  89. WCE – I get your point and agree with you. But I’ll look at it from my world view (just to give another point) –

    I know a lot of people who are divorced (some after 20 years of marriage). A few had dependent children. Most were not Totebag-level income, but some could be considered UMC (but, in reality, the entirety of my circle is not totebag income, and if they are, they are certainly hiding it well). So divorce is a common thought.

    Relying on family – not going to happen from my immediate family. I am an only. My mom lives me with me for financial reasons (hers, not mine). My dad can support only himself. DH has a very large safety net. I am my parents’ safety net. But I have a solid income and if need be DS, mom, and I would find an apartment/small house to rent. It would be tight, but we could do it.

    Money – I have a solid income. I’m also good at pinching pennies. We’d be fine.

    DH leaving me – highly unlikely. No one would put up with him like I do. And his Catholic upbringing would make divorce the last possible thing to happen. Plus, I just don’t see the warning signs in us that I do/did in all the other couples I know who have divorced. I have seen the warning signs in us and we worked through them… I was on the path to becoming a grad school divorcee statistic. But I still like to know that I have an Option B. Though my Option B would look more like Sandberg’s…

  90. Milo – another reason (to me) to have extra coverage in case something happens to your wife is to handle a situation where you might have to step off the treadmill for a little while. If you or your kids were injured in an accident (probably likely cause of Mrs. Milo’s early demise), or if any of you had psychological issues – I’m thinking of kids who need dad around a lot more for a year or two – the extra money would be very helpful.

  91. ssk – That’s a good thought, but I have extra money. And my parents have extra money. And my in-laws have extra money with an added decimal place. We really don’t need any insurance at this point.

  92. Yes, now that I know several people in their mid-30s who are battling cancer, keep in mind the possibility that you will burn through assets on child care and medical bills before you die.

    Unfortunately, there is also a big difference in the grandparents’ ability to provide care when they are 65 vs. 75.

  93. I know the divorce rate has gone down (back when I was in junior high, sometimes I felt like I was the only kid of an intact marriage in my peer group), but I still think it is pretty common. Up here in the Northeast, it is not so common – but the Northeast has always had the lowest divorce rate in the country. You could get lulled here into thinking divorce is not common. But when I look at my friends in other parts of the country, it seems like quite a few are divorced. Many of them had teenage kids by the time of the divorce. And just looking at my acquaintances and friends in my age group – my old high school, college, and grad friends – about half are either alone after a divorce or on their second (or even third) marriage. Or they are gay and never settled down

  94. This has been so fun! 100 ways your life can go to sh1t (prison! fraud! cancer!) and how to prepare! We are a super fun bunch.

  95. L — I love Existential Comics. That particular one is a good one.

    Rhode — your mother lives with you? I didn’t realize that. Did everybody else realize that?

  96. both parties expressly agreed that the wife would continue to stay home, to handle things that come up as well as furthering the one career.

    I suppose that’s the argument for a post-nup, as unromantic as the prospect seems. So you don’t end up fighting over whether there really was an express oral agreement that she’d stay home indefinitely to further his career, or whether the wife thought that was understood but the husband assumed she’d be going back to work after the kids were in school, or for that matter whether there was an express oral agreement that she’d stay home while the kids were little and then go back to work and she’s the one who wanted to change the rules.

    WCE — I think that most people commenting are just trying to be objective about the hypothetical posed by the topic, even while considering it very unlikely in their personal situations.

  97. LOL Cat!

    Milo- watch out. Next we will be telling you to buy a Jaguar AND an F-350. ;)

  98. @ Benefits Lawyer – I wonder if there were any signs, that the agreement was dead. I have been approached by mothers at my kids school saying that their spouses wanted them to do less volunteering and more income generating activities. This is when the kids are late elementary/middle school age. It seems like the benefit of having a SAHP, with everything running nicely has been forgotten

  99. Cat S — maybe for Friday Fun we’ll have “Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse: Can your retirement savings hold up to an ammo-and-canned-food based economy? How will you network when the LinkedIn servers are permanently down? And most importantly, how can you ensure your children succeed in calculus when the high school calc teacher’s only concern seems to be eating their tasty brains?”

  100. RMS – it’s very recent. Like last month recent. I saw the writing on the wall about a year ago (she was still in denial). But I don’t complain – she’s relatively healthy and watches DS while DH and I are at work. Trade-off for both of us.

    Cat S – this conversation is making me realize that DH and I should think about disability insurance. And more life insurance. And guardians. And POAs. And ways to handle digital assets. And how to choose a guardian. Seriously – who do/should I ask?

  101. And post-nup! I swear I just heard this term last week! And now it’s popping up all over the place!

  102. Louise,

    You said:

    The one thing I have never been able to understand is private school for three/four kids, spouse at home and the one salary large enough but not that large to cover savings, vacations, kid activities, nice cars etc.

    Then later:

    I have been approached by mothers at my kids school saying that their spouses wanted them to do less volunteering and more income generating activities.

    I can only assume the husband is looking at the need to start building up a nest egg, paying for college, paying off debt, etc.

  103. Rhode: Since you are an only child, do you have a close friend that you can ask to be guardian?

  104. “an ammo-and-canned-food based economy”

    Honolulu: You have obviously never lived in post-hurricane Houston with no gas or power for 12-14 days. : ) No zombies though…that I know of.

  105. Rhode, a good estate planning attorney, and your financial adviser if you have one. Your most affordable option for disability and additional life insurance is probably your employer, but there are independent and company agents who sell those policies too.

  106. CoC, we could probably do a post on choosing a guardian from the available but imperfect options.

  107. I knew several divorced people from my colleagues and work friends. I didn’t know any divorced friends in my town, by friends with older kids kept telling me to wait until MS. As usual, they were right – three mom friends separated this year so it does seem like there is a certain time when marriages might start to fail in the burbs around here. They told me the other big time is right after the kids leave for college, but that makes sense because I think people just wait until their kids are out of the house to finally end it.

  108. maybe for Friday Fun we’ll have “Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse:

    that does sound fun

  109. The guardianship post should include whom you might be guardian for and how. We may wind up as guardian (none is set) for my brother with SAHM wife and four-and-counting kids. I suggested he up his life insurance a few weeks ago- I think he has a minimal amount. My posts would be so much more interesting if I were a mom/stepmom to 10.

  110. Rhode – one thing we have done that is generally recommended is separate the guardian from the trustee who will manage the $ for the kids should we both pop off.

  111. Louise–of course, you never know what goes on behind closed doors.
    But in these cases, the primary benefit of the wife staying home once kids got older was the Hs career. These guys make way more than enough money, they don’t need the wives to work.

  112. Rhode, Cat’s point is a good one. If you want, email me and I can look for a local attorney for you (RI is proprietary so I wouldn’t be able to help you).

  113. “Milo- watch out. Next we will be telling you to buy a Jaguar AND an F-350. ;)”

    I’d buy the truck, never the “Jag-ooo-are.” We’re not fancy people.

    These discussions about life insurance never mention SS survivors benefits. How much could our kids expect to pull down from that?

  114. Cat, I’m not sure you should separate the guardian from the trustee. I think the last thing you want to do is foist your kid off on somebody and have him arrive without assets to support himself. I can imagine some situations where this might be appropriate, but I think generally if you trust someone enough to be responsible for your child, you’d trust that person not to squander/steal your kid’s money. Maybe that is wishful thinking on my part.

  115. Milo – actually I think it’s pretty substantial. IIRC when I calculated for a client it was just under 5K/month total family benefit

  116. PTM – it is for tax purposes. If the guardian is the same as the trustee they have an estate tax problem (assuming substantial assets). I also put guardian reimbursement provisions in my documents to deal with that situation.

  117. Milo,

    For me it would be:

    Disability Monthly benefit amount
    You $2,726.00

    Your spouse and children may also qualify for benefits.

    Survivors Monthly benefit amount
    Your child $2,051.00
    Your spouse caring for your child $2,051.00
    Your spouse at normal retirement age $2,734.00
    Family maximum $4,785.80

    http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/quickcalc/index.html

  118. One of my siblings + spouse are our guardians. Sibling is a doctor. They are terrible at managing money (sorry, Ada, you of course are not included in this gross generalization)! No way are they up to it! But sibling + spouse would be loving guardians. Trustee is a ruthless finance person!

  119. “Milo – actually I think it’s pretty substantial. IIRC when I calculated for a client it was just under 5K/month total family benefit”

    Wow. Is that from losing both parents? That’s in the ballpark of what we spend on our family now! I think Totebaggers just always like to say “you’ll need a lot more money than X,” whether it’s retirement or early passing.

    I feel like canceling our life insurance after this topic. I could use that extra $50 a month for camping.

  120. Milo,
    no that’s if 1 parent kicks. “surviving spouse” benefits + “surviving child” benefits up to total family max.
    Dependent on your (or in the example) Rhett’s income history.

  121. Milo – never thought about it. Based on today’s salary, if DH died, DS and I would be more than fine. House would be paid off, college would be well funded, and I’d be able to up my savings. The same could be said for DH is I were to croak.

  122. I love how this conversation veered towards life insurance. Great tips, everyone!

    My bf would love to be the stay at home parent, but for that I would need a career change. Could we get by on my income? Definitely. Could we keep the same standard of living/house/savings rate/retirement preparation? Nope. And that is unacceptable to me. We got free lunches in school, and I enjoy keeping extra savings on hand for peace of mind. Going to one income with my current income seems far too risky.

    Now, only if there were more jobs like Rhett’s type of job — where money and flexibilty just seem there for the taking! That would be fabulous. An MBA would be less useful there than a carefully considered target position and industry, which requires a certain type of knowledge.

    Rhett, you’ll be interested to hear that I actually rejected a job from Booz Allen after college because I couldn’t figure out what they did. I understood all the words in the job description, but the concept was all together foreign. What did they DO all day? Now, I kick myself — that would have been a job I loved.

  123. Fred,

    Am I reading it right that the kids SS benefits aren’t taxable if their income is below $25k? 50% taxable from 25 to 34k and 85 taxable above 34k?

  124. @Rhode – presumably your mother would continue to stay with your DH and DS should anything happen to you….in our case, we have siblings so they would have to step in and help our parents out should anything happen to us (hope they all pray for us).

  125. Sheesh, feels like this was meant for me huh? Louise – yes I am working on plans but mostly because of my horribly cliched mid life crisis. Right now I am working on doing something in the lucrative field of comedy. I have a partner in crime who is in a similar place and pursuing a similar, slightly foolhardy endeavor so we are pushing, helping and supporting each other.

    On topic – I have obviously thought about this stuff a lot and I think for me it comes down to how much of my life am I going to live based on the worst case scenario and how much of it am I going to live how I’d like to live it. Obviously this line is different for everyone and heavily influenced by money, circumstance and personal history. I come from a family with a successful marriage and a SAHM as does my husband. He and I both value what I do and deeply appreciate the quality of life that we are able to have with me at home. Is every hour of my day devoted to “working” for the family? Nope, but I am always the first responder on call for virtually everything. I like to think of it as being on retainer – there is a real value to that. I can and I do frequently drop everything to tend to whatever needs tending be it a sick kid or a car repair or a mother in law drop in. There is a small part of me that would enjoy “working” again, but I wouldn’t take a full time job just to make a little more money – we don’t need it and the cost in terms of upset to the family wouldn’t be worth it. If it were to do something I truly enjoyed or that brougt great value to the world, then I would be cool with forcing everyone to suck it up a bit. Anyway, too long and boring. In the end, we are well insured for death and disease and I don’t think we will get divorced (then again who does?) but I feel like we have taken reasonable precautions and the rest I will leave to destiny. Am anticipating the companion post 10 years hence where I’m working the Tuesday lunch shift at the Dollhouse off 1-95. My stage name – Pretty Bitter.

  126. Oh Rhode, saw your post on the impending surgery! It must be like the sword of Damocles – just focus on how good it will feel when you are done! xo

  127. MBT–Thanks! So far it’s going ok…we are working through a few small wrinkles, and trying to figure out how much of it is natural learning curve of being first time parents (and just missing her!) or if the center is not quite the right fit for us. Perhaps that should be a post or recurring feature: Is XX issue overly totebaggy/helicoptery or a legitimate concern/request?

  128. L is that true about the tax issue? I didn’t know that, and you’d know better than me.

    I would have thought that if you set up a trust for your kid and it is for the benefit of the care/feeding/education of the kid, the trustee would not have a tax consequence. If it’s the estate/trust that would, wouldn’t that be solved by ordinary estate planning?

    Again, I don’t know.

  129. I also thought it was to protect the kid’s money and to help them avoid living in a closet like Harry Potter

  130. “Also, working fulltime means your kids never get to do afterschool activities.”

    Tying back to the post from a few days ago, this is another thing I appreciate about my kids’ school. They offer a plethora of AS activities, from sports to music to dance to languages, as well as after school care, not to mention playground supervision from 7am. If young kids are enrolled in ASC as well as other activities, ASC will provide walkers to make sure the kids get to their acitivities.

    Young kids can be dropped off at 7 am and picked up at 5:30, after an afternoon of activities and homework.

  131. Rhode, I think your decisions in your situation are extremely wise. Everyone on this blog seems to make logical decisions based on their personal circumstances. But the book title that comes to mind today is Erma Bombeck’s “A Marriage Made in Heaven… or Too Tired for an Affair”.

  132. “an ammo-and-canned-food based economy”

    Hurricane season just started. It’s good to be prepared.

  133. This post is reminding me that I need to keep checking the ammo shelves at Walmart during the slow season…

  134. Moxie – Damocles is a good assessment. I go from being happy that this will be mostly behind us (with the exception of some follow-ups), but scared stiff about letting DS have the surgery. And I’ll miss his face. I remember ‘saac commenting about her friend whose child needed the surgery and saying the same thing. It’s stuck with me all these months. And now it’s real. I have all these pics of him smiling through tape and silicon and metal. It’s going to be weird to have pics of him without it. We went to sign the consent forms and speak with the surgeon yesterday, and I came back to work in a haze. But, leave it to the best friend. I called her to vent my fears, but missed her. She calls back saying she accidentally stole ice cream cones. I don’t know why, but that had me in tears from laughing. My son may be visiting his godmother in supermarket jail.

  135. “I might as well just quit now and live off food stamps ;)”

    Your family will be able to eat quite well, probably better than mine.

  136. Hi folks! Just dropping by because “jim bob: made a post at Corporette today that reminds me of this blogs.
    Cheers!

  137. “I have huge worries about layoffs and major illnesses.”

    Don’t forget catastrophic injury, especially with so many people texting while they drive.

  138. “I don’t see a low paying job really doing much in terms of hedging for us.”

    I think that depends on whether or not it includes health coverage for your family.

  139. Rhode – I’m looking forward to when we hear that all went well with the surgery.

  140. “Everyone on this blog seems to make logical decisions based on their personal circumstances”

    WCE you bring up an interesting point… we all think about ourselves. What about the people who don’t see the divorce coming? I”m not saying society should step up and help them (though we will in the form of public programs), but how do we teach the next generation to be savvy? And how do we get the message to people who won’t hear the message from their parents? And what is the message? Is it as simple as “think through your decisions through all worst case scenarios”?

    For the estate planners – at what income/asset level would you recommend a pre-nup or post-nup? Is it tied to finances or potential life choices (like SAHP)?

  141. Oh Rhode, so sorry. Wish we could do something more than just walk with you! Sounds like you have a great friend and someone your son can call if he is ever arrested. This is an important point of contact for any young person and believe it or not, that day WILL come.

    Hi Saac! xo

  142. “It’s interesting that so many of you think about your spouses leaving you, because I haven’t pondered that question about Mr WCE, and I’m not known for my optimism.”

    Well, you have mentioned that the two qualities you prioritized in your spouse are “stable and boring,” both of which bode well for avoiding divorce. And you and Mr. WCE are both engineers, and anecdatally I believe engineers have a lower divorce rate than the general population, as well as lower than the totebagger population.

  143. Rhode – All the planning discussed here is to ensure that we, and our kids, never drop from the ranks of the upper-middle class. That’s not really something to be extrapolated across all of society.

    “We all have our parts to play, Matthew, and we must all be allowed to play them.”

  144. “What about the people who don’t see the divorce coming?”

    I thought this was the basic point of the OP– what common-sense steps can one take to keep from being totally blindsided?

  145. Rhode–I missed the whole surgery discussion. Hope everything goes well.

  146. Rhode, I think everyone who wants to hear the message about personal financial security hears the message. No one on this blog ever implies that I’m a poor mother because I don’t homeschool my children and choose to work, for example. Last Sunday at church, I was talking to the woman who will be teaching precalculus for the local homeschool group. Her 5 kids are grown, they have a moderate income from their farm and she’s clearly a bright lady- I like her comments in Sunday School. She is dedicated to the homeschool program because, in her opinion, it teaches kids how to think. In contrast, I don’t care if my children can think or not, as long as they get jobs and move out of my house when they grow up.

  147. PTM – if the trustee is the guardian, and there is no ascertainable standard (health, education, maintenance and support) in the trust, the the trustee could make distributions to himself/herself as guardian to satisfy his/her legal support obligations. That power results in the trust property being included in the trustee’s estate for estate tax purposes under section 2041.

  148. I like the way a lot of you are able to succinctly crystallize thoughts, like Milo @ 3:23, moxie @ 2:45, Rhett @ 11:37, and ada @ 12:23.

  149. Does anyone remember Toronto SAHM from TOS? Today’s topic has reminded me of her. And then of Brown Dog and Gay Dad and Yoshi and some others…

  150. “Anecdotally, the three retiree financial situations I know the most about (parents of DH, BF, mine)”

    BF?? Ada, your life is apparently a lot more interested than I realized. Haven’t you mentioned a DH as well?

  151. “Is every hour of my day devoted to “working” for the family? Nope, but I am always the first responder on call for virtually everything. I like to think of it as being on retainer – there is a real value to that. I can and I do frequently drop everything to tend to whatever needs tending be it a sick kid or a car repair or a mother in law drop in.”

    Moxie, you described it perfectly! From now on I’ll describe myself as “being on retainer”.

  152. “I don’t care if my children can think or not, as long as they get jobs and move out of my house when they grow up.”

    LOL

  153. WCE – my Dad says “Not in jail and off the pole. My work here is done.” and washes his hands of us! Keeping the bar low runs in the family.

  154. Finn – can’t resist re the DH question for Ada: yeah, in the very same sentence as she talks about her BF (which of course really just means best friend, so clearly not as interesting as we’d like)

  155. It seems that for totebaggy couples, the joint checking account or whatever is not where the big money would be. It would be in 401k, college fund, rental properties, brokerage accounts etc. and would require more than a trip to the ATM. It would be tough for either DH or I to “drain” our assets without a bunch of transactions that would send out various email alerts and phone calls from our financial advisor saying “what the heck are you doing?”

  156. “I thought this was the basic point of the OP– what common-sense steps can one take to keep from being totally blindsided?”

    Finn – right. What are those common-sense steps? Last time I checked, common sense is not so common. We can all say “get a job” or “keep your foot in the door”, but is that really practical? And how do we translate that to people who have yet to make the decision to stay at home? Do working spouses give SAHPs an allowance?

    I guess I keep thinking of my friend, the SAHM. One day she magically decided she didn’t want to work anymore – seriously, one day she said “no I’m going to keep working” and the next “nope, I’m done”. I think part of the decision was her husband, who wanted a SAHM for his kid, and his job in a low COL area. But did she really think about the loss of her income and retirement assets?

    Milo, I get your point. But not everyone is lucky enough to be born into or remain in the UMC. I like to think that WCE has it right – people who are not afraid to become the dreaded MC will be fine, they’ll figure it out. But how pervasive is that attitude in the UMC?

  157. Thanks, L. I thought that was the case. I guess I presumed people would set up the Trusts for specific purposes to benefit the kids.

    Good grief. Junior’s godfather/guardian/trustee would kill me a second time if I had an adverse tax consequence on him!

  158. “Moxie – assuming that’s just a typo (pole = dole).”

    Oh, I thought he actually meant “not on the pole” as in not earning a living through exotic dancing. “Off the pole,” of course, is a slightly lower parenting standard, implying that she was on it previously.

  159. “one day she said “no I’m going to keep working” and the next “nope, I’m done”.”

    Sounds like someone I married. :)

  160. “Moxie – assuming that’s just a typo (pole = dole).”

    Right. The pole can be a lucrative and legal way to make a living, and one that fills a need of society.

  161. I have been thinking about Milo’s comment the other day about how he and his wife could stop saving for retirement if they so chose. DH and I are early, 40s, live in a high COLA, we make approx 140K and have 850K saved (much in taxable accounts). We will continue saving in 401(k) and ROTHS but I wonder if I can dip into my taxable accounts for a new kitchen.

  162. “I like to think that WCE has it right – people who are not afraid to become the dreaded MC will be fine, they’ll figure it out. But how pervasive is that attitude in the UMC?”

    That is one of my parental goals, and one reason I try to live much more simply and frugally than we could given our income and assets– I want my kids to be able to live simply on a low income. Knowing you can live comfortably with much less is a valuable asset.

    That’s also something that I hope gets reinforced in college, and in the years immediately after college.

  163. Fred, pole is indeed the intended word. He would rather I not be an exotic dancer. Luckily most patrons of Gentlemen’s clubs would rather I not be an exotic dancer too, so its a win/win.

  164. I want my kids to be able to live simply on a low income. Knowing you can live comfortably with much less is a valuable asset.

    Why? The goal isn’t to spend less, the goal is to make more.

  165. But Rhett – what if some unforeseen circumstance occurs and poof! the high income is gone? Yes, it’s unlikely, but possible. The only certainty in life is death.

  166. But Rhett – what if some unforeseen circumstance occurs and poof! the high income is gone?

    They you cross that bridge when you come to it. In the mean time make hay while the sun shines.

  167. Our goal isn’t for our kids to make more.

    In terms of dollars per unit of effort – why not?

  168. “What are those common-sense steps?”

    It would seem logical to me that the SAHS would assume responsibility for the household finances. This would make it very difficult for the working spouse to drain accounts without the SAHS’ knowledge.

  169. “In the mean time make hay while the sun shines.”

    Hay is made and stored for later use as feed, so I’d say you unkowingly used a good metaphor. The purpose is to set aside as much as possible while the going is good, and part of being able to do that is to be happy and satisfied living on less while you are making more. Happiness, as it relates to financial matters, is not so much based on the income as it is the delta between income and expenses.

  170. Because it isn’t done in units per effort. At that is a heck of a lot of pressure on the kids to expect them to out earn their parents. I want them to be largely self-supporting and nice people who visit me at Shady Pines. Any more than that is just gravy.

  171. Rhode, in Rhett’s world, you just pick up one of those easy $100k jobs and you’re good to go.

  172. “It would seem logical to me that the SAHS would assume responsibility for the household finances. This would make it very difficult for the working spouse to drain accounts without the SAHS’ knowledge.”

    That feels to me like just building on a foundation that is not trusting. I know where all the accounts are. I participate in the calls with our financial advisor but so I will know what the deal is in the event of an emergency, not to make sure I’m not being swindled by the man I’m sleeping next to.

  173. Jersey – according to the suggested benchmark of 3x income in retirement at age 40, it seems fine. Do you have any reason to think your spending in retirement will be higher than average?

  174. Rhode, in Rhett’s world, you just pick up one of those easy $100k jobs and you’re good to go.

    Says the guy who just got a new job with a 50% pay bump and the ability to come and go as he pleases (within reason).

  175. “Our goal isn’t for our kids to make more.”

    That’s not necessarily the case for us. I think DW and I are still like our parents in that we want our kids to do better than us.

    I also tell my kids that money is a good thing, because it provides the means to not just take care of yourselves, but with enough of it, you can effect changes that provide benefits to the broader society of which you’re a member.

  176. DD – right I forgot. I’m over here on food stamps making less than $100k. Got it.

  177. Cat, no, I’ve just never taken money OUT of Fidelity and am scared to start.

  178. Jersey – At 7%, in 20 years your $850k should turn into $3.3M. If you knocked it down to $775k now, then it would become $3M.

    So if you stopped saving for retirement entirely AND spend $75k on the kitchen, and you’re 42 and retire at 62 with $3M, and you follow MMM’s 4% safe withdrawal rate, your $3M could give you $120k annually, which is less than you’re spending now. Plus you’ll have Social Security. And if you really wanted to live it up, you could sell the NJ house and escape the taxes and we could be neighbors on the lake.

    But obviously you’ll be saving some more between now and then as gravy. So I’d say you can do the kitchen.

  179. “They you cross that bridge when you come to it. In the mean time make hay while the sun shines.”

    Having the ability to live comfortably with little money allows the bridge to be crossed.

    I agree about the hay. I’ll also point out that making hay is about saving something currently abundant for later consumption, with the potential for use at very sharp corners as well.

  180. Making money. From what I have seen, it is pretty random.

    All each of us have is our own experience. In my experience, $100k a year working 60 hours a week getting screamed at and $100k a year working 37.5 hours (if that) from home is something at least somewhat under ones control. I think it’s just an issue of mindset. It you approach life like it will be a banquet, it will be. If you approach life like it will be a grueling slog, it will be.

  181. Jersey – understood. If it were me, I would probably take our $40k, save up some to spend and cash flow a bit.

  182. “That feels to me like just building on a foundation that is not trusting.”

    No, the main reason for this is that it is one of the household responsibility the SAHS would be taking on to free the working spouse to work even harder, make more money, and advance his/her career further. Blindside protection is an ancillary benefit.

  183. Finn, if that’s the intent then I think it makes sense, if you are doing it to make sure you aren’t swindled then I think there is something wrong.

  184. “Do you have any reason to think your spending in retirement will be higher than average?”

    Or that your income will go down, or your spending will take a significant bump, before retirement?

    Were I in your shoes, I’d first make sure cash flow was such that both spouses were maxing out 401k and Roth IRA contributions, and that after those contributions, cash flow is and will remain positive in the foreseeable future. If all those boxes are checked, I’d feel comfortable proceeding with the kitchen, assuming we planned to stay many years in that house.

  185. Rhett – but at some point, you have to admit that making $ is partially out of your control, right? So if you reach that level, it is a strange message to send to your kids that in order to be a successful person in their parents’ eyes, they must make more money.

  186. Moxie, do you also not believe in pre-nups?

    I think it’s not just reasonable, but prudent, to not totally count on your spouse being completely trustworthy.

    Some other things I’d recommend:

    -Max out their retirement plan (401k, IRA contributions) as soon as they start working, Besides blindside protection, these will also provide retirement savings.

    -When they stop working, continue to max out their IRA contributions. Again, blindside protection is an ancillary benefit.

  187. I’m with Finn and Cat. Always be able to live with less than you have.

  188. Finn, not opposed to pre-nups at all, But if on a day to day basis you are not trusting this person to the point you think they might take all your money out from under your nose or if you are acting like they might do that – then maybe you shouldn’t have married them. WHO would marry someone that they think might swindle them?

  189. I mean it is like saying – you should check his phone every night because he might be cheating.

  190. “So, how to tie myself to the mast without hamstringing my ability to take expensive cruises and eat well in my old age?”

    Didn’t we previously discuss putting some money in an annuity? Could such an annuity be put in a trust, with a trustee other than you (perhaps in addition to you)?

  191. ” It you approach life like it will be a banquet, it will be.”

    Really, Rhett? It is my experience that life throws some unanticipated curves at you.

  192. Moxie, I think a little bit of paranoia is healthy. Checking his phone every night, absent any indication he might be cheating, goes beyond that.

  193. Moxie, could you see trying to determine what level of paranoia is healthy, vs. what is not, as a source of material for your new profession?

  194. Cat S,

    The goal isn’t to make more. The goal is to make more per unit of effort. I get the sense that a lot of totebaggers view success only in terms of effort. To me, the B you get despite never going to class or reading the book is vastly more impressive than a A you got by actually doing the work.

  195. Finn, I think this is one of the places where life experiences and general differences in nature comes into play.

    @PTM, approaching life like a banquet is why my pants are so tight. Maybe approach life like a salad bar would be better!

  196. No, but my Dad might be moving to Florida, at least in winters. Not sure a corporate lawyer would want to hang out with an exterminator… or maybe an exterminator wouldn’t want to hang out with a corporate lawyer.

  197. WCE, I think a lawyer would be terrified of an exterminator (cue rimshot). And I am outta here…

  198. It is my experience that life throws some unanticipated curves at you.

    All the more reason to enjoy the Hampton’s beach house and hanging out at CBGB with Houston when you have the chance.

  199. Right. So in the event that it takes my kids a lot of effort to earn that money, I think it would be valuable for them to learn to be happy on less. I think maybe where we don’t see eye to eye is that the effort necessary to make $ is different for everyone and not everyone has the ability to do it?

  200. “In the mean time make hay while the sun shines.”

    I am a big believer in this. You never know when you will be laid off, will have to reduce your schedule because of an illness, etc. This theory has kept us financially sound, through lay offs, etc.

  201. “All the more reason to enjoy the Hampton’s beach house and hanging out at CBGB with Houston when you have the chance.”

    Lol! Very true, and nobody can accuse me of not enjoying life, but given what life had in store for me, I might have been more prudent. Additional life insurance for my wife comes to mind, as does better or supplemental health insurance and achieving age 59-1/2 a little sooner.

  202. I think maybe where we don’t see eye to eye is that the effort necessary to make $ is different for everyone and not everyone has the ability to do it?

    For any given level of ability and effort their is a fairly wide range of incomes. Where you fall on that range is at least partially within your control.

  203. So today I was busy all day and missed the back and forth.

    I obviously think that a woman needs money of her own. I don’t care whether she earned it before kids, inherited it, has reliable well to do parents, or makes it currently. She should be able to figure out a way to get the bills paid for herself and her children (and her husband too, if the circumstances change because he becomes disabled or nuts or laid off for a long time), and after a while get decently paid work for herself.

    The idea that understanding fully how the money works in a family is the first or second step towards a divorce is nonsense.

  204. Saac’s back! Hope you’ll be around more soon.

    I’m with Rhode on wanting one of these easy, low-stress 100k a year jobs. Love ya Rhett but I think your head is in the clouds on this one. Most even this crowd of 1%ers (many in both IQ and income) don’t have an option like that. Maybe we could have if we’d planned for it at age 18, but most of us didn’t have that much foresight and found ourselves in professions structured much differently.

  205. Meme – I wasn’t saying that having a hand in the money was bad I was responding to Finn’s post that said managing the money was a good way to keep from being swindled. My point is if you are managing the money just to see that you aren’t swindled by your spouse then that’s not healthy. No one should be married to someone that they think would swindle them. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be on top of things but money ‘ain’t your biggest problem if you are actively seeking to make sure he doesn’t take all your cash.

  206. Maybe we could have if we’d planned for it at age 18, but most of us didn’t have that much foresight and found ourselves in professions structured much differently.

    That’s why I bring it up. Maybe taking all AP classes so you can get into the best college and choose the hardest major won’t yield the ideal balance of adult earnings per unit of effort.

  207. Another important point is your balance of paid work and unpaid work. Rhett doesn’t plan to be a caregiver for his parents and his wife is the primary caregiver for his kids when he travels. He has made excellent choices for his situation but many of us feel obligations to our parents. He, quite understandably, does not.

  208. No one should be married to someone that they think would swindle them.

    If you’re looking for a husband who can comfortably earn a totebag median income and is unlikely to ever cheat, leave you or swindle/mismanage your finances, the picking are going to be veeeery slim.

  209. If you’re looking for a husband who can comfortably earn a totebag median income and is unlikely to ever cheat, leave you or swindle/mismanage your finances, the picking are going to be veeeery slim.

    WTF? You are optimistic about the weirdest things, and pessimistic about the weirdest things.

  210. WTF? You are optimistic about the weirdest things, and pessimistic about the weirdest things.

    My thinking is colored by all the executives and sales douches I see at the hotel. The percentage of pigs is very high. I will also direct you to the study Houston linked to above. It matches my observations.

  211. +1 to RMS. I don’t know anyone with a low-stress 100k a year job, but my parents’ circle is full of financially responsible Totebaggy couples with SAHMs and happy marriages- very very few are divorced. Mostly Midwesterners, highly observant Christians or Jews, and work in “boring” professions- engineers, dentists, etc.

  212. Totally no time to catch up past the first few hours of comments today, so apologize if I am redundant.

    I didn’t stay home for two reasons. One is basic insecurity — the “don’t want to eat cat food” insecurity that I brought into the marriage, reinforced by the “wow it’s great to have two jobs when one is really insecure” brought on by the first tech crash. And two is that staying home would make me be responsible for all of the scheduling and kid stuff and cleaning and all that, and to me that’s the least enjoyable part of my life; I’d rather make money, use that to outsource what we can, and split the rest as best we can (even though the practicality is I do more, “more” is still less than “all”).

    W/r/t the note above about why husbands seem to change their mind years after striking a deal, I think we all learn to take things for granted. The first few years, he realizes that now he can say “yes,” and he sees how that helps his career. Does he still remember that 10 years down the road? Or is he more focused on all the extra hours he needs to put in at work now that he has said yes to everything for so long, and does the success get attributed to his hard work vs. her support? Etc. It’s the same way my kids went apeshit the first few times I made chocolate chip pancakes on Sunday morning, and then a year later I had to go on strike because they had become entitled twits and were complaining about things. It’s human nature, and it takes maturity and perspective and communication to continue to appreciate all of the good things that these choices have brought both sides.

    My “if it all goes to hell” plan has actually changed quite a bit over the past year. For a long time, I worried that my job would be difficult if we were sharing custody, just because of the travel and unpredictability. So I thought I could work harder and get a nanny, but then I also figured my kids would need *more* of my time and attention in the face of that kind of major change, not less. But about a year and a half ago I took on a nonbillable “side” job at work that now takes up maybe 1/3-1/2 of my total time. And I suddenly realized that if I needed to, I could drop the client work entirely; no one else wants this side job, so I’m sure they’d be happy to continue paying me enough just to do that to cover the ongoing bills (sort of my version of Rhett’s $100K low-stress job), and I have enough saved in my own 401(k) that even if DH absconded with everything else, I would still pass the “don’t need to eat cat food” test. So now that’s my plan — and if that leaves me short on retirement, then I just make it up by working longer after my kids go to college, because I wouldn’t have my partner in crime to travel the world with anyway.

    So, anyway, it made me feel a lot better to realize I have the freedom to make the kids #1 and still pay the bills if everything goes in the crapper.

  213. I don’t know anyone with a low-stress 100k a year job

    Like anyone is going to tell you they spend their days surfing the Internet.

  214. Everyone I know my age that makes that kind of money is working 60+ hour weeks. And even among my parents generation, the high earners are usually in healthcare or other sorts of jobs where you actually have to work most of the time at work. I’m not saying that the jobs you describe don’t exist, just that they’re pretty darn rare. Or maybe I just don’t know enough sales douches.

  215. “My thinking is colored by all the executives and sales douches I see at the hotel.”

    We’re stayin’ in a Holiday Inn full of cone heads, I guess they meet there once a year
    They consume mass quantities of fiberglass, and get drunk on cheap-ass beer
    Then they’re off to catch a stripper with their eyes glued to her G
    Yeah, but I don’t think that I would ever let ‘me cut on me.”

    -Jimmy Buffett

  216. I’ll agree with Rhett – on the sneaking spouses. There have been cases at DHs extended work group where traveling colleagues had affairs and both parties left their respective spouses and kids and started new families. I would say that it was very likely that those spouses were SAHPs or a spouse that has scaled back to manage the home.
    I think the likelihood of this happening is higher when people travel a lot vs. going to the office every day.

  217. L – My understanding was that guardians do not have a legal obligation of support of their wards in the same way that parents have a legal obligation of support of their children. Guardians can (and sometimes must) spend the ward’s property in support of the ward, but I don’t think guardians have any legal obligation to spend their own money in support of the ward. So assuming that a trust set up by the ward’s deceased parents is only for the benefit of the ward, then shouldn’t a guardian who is also the trustee be able to spend that money freely on behalf of the ward without having to worry about the general-power issue, even if there isn’t a HEMS standard?

    (Sorry for the lawyer-ish shop talk, everyone.)

    Someone upthread asked what the financial threshold is for a prenup or postnup. I think in many cases, it depends more on the personal situation than on a couple’s level of assets. For example, in second-marriage situations, I think a prenup is often important — even if you have modest assets, if you want to make sure those assets go to your kids after your death, and not to your new spouse (or his/her children), you need a prenup. Or if you receive an inheritance, and you want that money to stay on your side of the family, even if it’s a relatively modest amount, you would also need a prenup or postnup to ensure that result.

    DH and I have most of our accounts separate. We married relatively late in the game, and this structure just made sense for us. I am actually in the process of transferring my assets into a revocable trust with myself and a professional as co-trustees. Having just lived through my mother’s long struggle with Alzheimer’s, I have started to worry about saving my money from my future, demented self. I figure that with a trust, the co-trustee can keep an eye on things to make sure that I am taken care of, and that DH is taken care of, and that our kids are taken care of, and that the money is not wasted by any of us. I’m happy to pay the trustee fees for this peace of mind.

  218. Milo,

    While it is a coneheads reference – I think fiberglass is an attempt at Cockney rhyming slang – fiberglass = grass.

  219. “If you’re looking for a husband who can comfortably earn a totebag median income and is unlikely to ever cheat, leave you or swindle/mismanage your finances, the picking are going to be veeeery slim.”

    Major in engineering.

  220. Rhett and I have done a lot of business travel. I was also an academic early in my life, and in my later career did a lot of conferences. I also worked in public accounting. In all four of those situations, sexual fidelity to one’s spouse was not in great evidence. Divorce from the partner of one’s youth, or resignation/acceptance by the spouse, was not uncommon. All of these are middle to upper middle class educated situations.

  221. Major in engineering.

    The monogamous ones top out at $150k. The ones earning +$270k are the ones you need to worry about.

  222. Rhett, per your survey, what’s the totebag median income?

    A monogamous engineering couple can easily be in the $150k to $250 range.

  223. Finn,

    The totebag median is $270k. The question is about guys who make that with a SAH spouse.

  224. @Rio – colleagues in my work place in their 40s/50s have quite a few divorces between them. A few others never married. Quite a lot of one person households after the kids leave.

  225. Rio, it would be interesting to look at that chart corrected for median income and education level of each profession. It looked like income and educational level had a lot to do with the difference in divorce rates, with the higher paid higher education professions clustering at the low and and the lower paid lower education ones at the high end.

  226. I saw agricultural engineers at the bottom of the list. I have to admit that agricultural engineers were too boring and stable even for me. I have close colleagues married to optometrists and podiatrists.

  227. I agree with Rhett and Meme about infidelity. I attended a lot of conferences, worked long hours in a male dominated profession…and I saw a decent amount of infidelity. I finally opened my eyes as to what was really going on at some of these conferences, and it was happening with the young staff, AND the older MDs/partners. I was definitely naive in my early years because I never expected it from certain people because they appeared to have rock solid marriages, and they really seemed to love their spouse/kids. It turns out they also liked other women or men. I traveled with one female colleague and she lost her wedding band 2 times!!!!! in a year. She used to lie to her husband with the dumbest lies, but he didn’t know the truth. A lot of the spouses never suspected, or they just didn’t want to know the truth.

  228. I ended up with my ex because he was stable and boring, a smart elite college graduate in a good field (software in the 70s), and we were head over heels in teenaged love (we married a year after my graduation). He went off the deep end, sadly, after family tragedy. He considered himself a stand up guy and was expert at structuring a situation so that everyone else would commit the first wrong act. He never even looked at another woman, set his cruise control to the speed limit, and in his estimation only inadvertently was ever guilty of a sin of commission other than pride. But when he faced divorce, before the automatic formula was calculated for child support, he bought a new car on time, rented a very expensive apartment, refused to pay for college or the current private school (which was not required at the time in the commonwealth of mass). Child support in mass was automatically deducted from W-2 wages unless the recipient parent signed a waiver, so he was happy at the chance to leave regular employment (His parents funded the support for several years – all previous in-law slights were wiped away). You can’t plan for crazy, hurt and mean.

  229. I’m making just over $100K and don’t have a lot of stress right now. Partner makes more and is more stressed but likes the field of work a lot. I’m in such a sweet spot right now – flexibility, ability to work from gome, relatively interesting work, autonony, and respect for my abilities. I’m trying to enjoy it while it lasts but then part of me worries about whether I need to gun for the next promotion.

    Part of my lower stress is due to setting boundaries and then pretending like I’m busy when everyone else complains.

  230. “The question is about guys who make that with a SAH spouse.”

    I know a lot of engineers whose wives became SAHM once they left SV (e.g., for OR or CO, i.e., low COL areas) and they started families. Even on single incomes, they’re probably totebaggy for their areas.

    I can only think of one that is still alive and not still married, and that was because his wife went off the deep end.

  231. Lots of lawyers cheat. Bankers seem to be even worse. What I have found really surprising is that a shocking number of SAHMs cheat, too. I have come to the conclusion that there are just a lot of cheaters, period.

  232. Yeah, Cat. I can only think of a couple of lawyers that I know who are still married to their first wives. Far more have been married several times. I only married once, but I got married pretty late.

  233. This has been so fun! 100 ways your life can go to sh1t (prison! fraud! cancer!) and how to prepare! We are a super fun bunch.

    Lots of lawyers cheat. Bankers seem to be even worse. What I have found really surprising is that a shocking number of SAHMs cheat, too. I have come to the conclusion that there are just a lot of cheaters, period.

    Cat, dear, have a beer and watch a few Gilligan’s Island reruns. You’re paying too much attention to reality.

  234. Or for complete unreal silliness (and raunchiness), watch The Wedding Ringer. For some reason this dumb movie tickled my funny bone.

  235. RMS – I am beginning to understand why lots of the moms start drinking so early in the day. Damn is this depressing.

  236. Cat S, your youngest is how old? This won’t be your life forever.

  237. Says the guy who just got a new job with a 50% pay bump and the ability to come and go as he pleases (within reason).

    FIrst, I needed to get a master’s to get the job. And second, I’m still not making $100k.

  238. HM – the baby is still measured in months! I am just kidding, though (kind of). Normally I really enjoy this group. But today’s discussion has been a big downer.

  239. On the divorce rate, my observation is that it’s probably lower than it was in the 80s when it seemed like everyone’s parents were divorced, but it’s still pretty common. My wife and I were involved in an on-line community of expectant and new parents when our son was born. A few months ago, someone started reconnecting the group on facebook. I was surprised at how many people said they were divorced so I did a count and between a quarter and a third are divorced now, 13 years later. Most of these people aren’t totebag types, although the doctor couple who live in Westchester are among the divorced.

  240. Denver Dad, was there any sort of selection bias to your group? All 10 of the couples we were in small group with in church are still married (average duration so far is 17 years) and all the parents listed in my twins’ kindergarten directory have the same last name. That’s a little unusual, but probably 80% of parents listed have the same last name and half of the remainder just choose to have different last names. Of course, it’s possible that single parents disproportionately choose not to be listed.

  241. WCE, as far as I can figure, the only selection bias is people (mostly women) who sought out an online parenting group when they were pregnant or had an infant. They are from all over the U.S. plus quite a few from Canada and three or four from around the world. They are mostly middle class, with a few on the high and low ends. They are almost all white, but aside from that, it’s a very broad range of people.

    I haven’t gone through our school directory, but several of our kids’ friends’ parents are divorced. I’d say it’s less than 25% but more than 10%. The selection bias is parents who choose to send their kids to a charter school.

  242. I’ve been traveling all day, sorry to miss this discussion. I never considered not working until I was unemployed for 6 months. I could see how it would make life with a school-age kid easier. But after what’s happened since, I sure am glad I kept going. I’ve had to take pay cuts on each step into my new career, going from 80k to 60k (which is still better than being on reduced pay and stressing about billing at the engineering firm). At the same time, my H’s income went from 80k to 120k, sometimes plus bonus. I’m so glad I maxed out on retirement savings when I was younger. During my career tumult, my H was dealing with his mother being terminally ill, and he became a big spender. He clammed up and got mad whenever I tried to talk about budgeting, so I held all the stress of trying to pay all the bills and keep our account balanced. Now I’m just so mad that he squandered away so much money, but at least we have our own separate retirement accounts that leave me a safety net. Now I’ve just got to get alimony because of the wide difference between our incomes. And then sell the house for less than what we paid for it. And then put my half down on a new place with the rest to be financed by my parents. So I’m also thankful that my parents have been good with money and still love me!

  243. I count a total of 20 marriages in DH’s and my extended families starting with grandparents and working down, with only 1 divorce (there were screaming red flags in that marriage visible to almost anyone). 15 of those marriages are over 20 years old (most over 30) and all seem very happy, though of course you never know for certain as an outsider. So to me, divorce feels like a relatively small risk, one that I can’t rule out, but not a risk I’m going to build my whole life around hedging.

  244. Rhett, I am very close already. And I realize that there are regional variations as well. I’m sure if I was in the northeast I’d be well over it as an entry-level NP. Regional differences are a big part of the reason the salaries/housing prices/taxes/etc. that people throw out on here sound ridiculously high to me.

    For example, we have a 40 year old house, 2,700 sqft counting the finished basement, four bedrooms, three baths on a 9,000 sqft lot in a “nice” neighborhood where totebaggers would feel very comfortable. We recently got our appraisal for $385k, and that’s pretty fair. Our property taxes are $2,000. From what pepole post here, I’m guessing that in many areas in the northeast, it would sell for double the price, if not more, with property taxes around $10k. The $100k cushy jobs that you are talking about probably pay $60k here.

  245. Virtually all of our couple/family friends in Houston have gotten divorced or transferred away, so now we each have our individual friends. It’s weird. I have a couple of college friends who have gotten divorced, but upward of 90% are still married. In my extended family, like Rio I count over 40 marriages off the top of my head with no divorces. Balancing the scale, though, my BIL has gone through 5 marriages/6 wives (married one of them twice).

  246. I’m late to the party today. I agree with Cat that it’s a depressing topic, but I fall on the side of caution. DH & I have discussed that if I were to drop out of the work force it would benefit all of us in some ways, but I bear all of the risk of that. (And our kids, should I ever need to be the supporting spouse.) I’m not ok with that.

    As to Moxie’s comment, I think it’s all how you spin it. If you think your partner is a snake and you have to watch the accounts to keep money flowing out, then yes, that’d be bad. Like the old comment about how if you think it’s time to put up a nanny cam, it’s already time to fire the nanny. But the reality is that no one gets married thinking the marriage will end in divorce or that their partner will do horrible things. Just about every person I have known who has divorced has gone through some period of shock at how “out of character” their partner behaves due to hurt, etc. If you watch, you are less likely find all the accounts cleaned out without having had a clue. I’m a fan of trust, but verify.

    I’m interested that lawyers are so far down on that list with an 11% divorce rate. Then again, DH and I have both said that it would almost be mutually assured destruction if we ever separated… I don’t know the #s, but there are plenty of kids at school with divorced parents these days. There seems to be a big bump of them that occur as all the babies get to school age. It’s so depressing.

  247. My kids school is quite tote baggy and from the directory you can infer if some parents are divorced or adopted a kid on their own (no mention of father ever) because two separate addresses/one single parent address is listed. Since, it is a religious private, that sample means most people are still married. I had to explain to my kids what divorce/remarriage/separate households meant exactly. Two of my cousins are divorced/separated – a first. Previously, they would have toughed it out, now not so much. Neighborhood (consisting of SAHMs) is very much all still married couples of varying ages. (CAT S – in my sample lots of marriages are still going strong !). It is at work that I see the highest number of divorced/single people.

  248. I can’t think of any divorces in either of our families. Just one black sheep who has found her way back home, kid in tow, and now married to a decent guy.

    There are none among my close high school or college friends, but I always had small groups of friends, and there’s still time. Our wardroom hasn’t fared as well–at least two JOs and one of the engineers have since divorced. I think the eng is remarried. Both the captain and the XO were (and remain) married to women who had been divorced from guys who were total jerks and one possibly abusive, one cheating. So they got a much better deal the second time around.

  249. I find it interesting that everyone seems so focused on how not to get screwed financially as opposed to wasting a couple of decades of your life with the wrong person – talk about something you can’t get back! Sure lots of marriages fall apart unexpectedly (life is a lot harder than I think most of us imagined when we were younger) but a lot of them were clearly destined for failure from the beginning. Maybe some of these marriages would be stronger if people put all the energy they are spending hedging their bets into making their marriage strong? Maybe not? Everything valuable in this life comes with some risk. I believe we’ve only got one shot so I damn well better get in there and live it. I’m gonna trust the man who has never done anything in the 22 years we have known each other to make me think he’s untrustworthy. I’m going to make new friends and share new experiences. I’m gonna put myself out there. I’m going to travel and zipline and run in the woods with my dogs. I have too many friends and family members who are literally dying to spend the next 30 years that the actuarial tables tell me I have just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Call me a foolish optimist if you will.

  250. “but a lot of them were clearly destined for failure from the beginning”
    @ Moxie – I really don’t know about this. Sometimes, things happen – some couples get through it all intact, some don’t.

  251. I was thinking about the Vilebrequin bathing suit finance douche wedding we were at few weeks ago. What if I was the father of the bride? What if one of the girls came to me in 5 years and said, “With Toby traveling so much and needing to work late all the time, I’ve decided to stay home.” Now, I know based on what I see every day exactly what he’s going to be up to. I’m certain of it. But, is it really so great when everyone knows the truth? Maybe most people are happier living in their own world where they elect to believe what they want to believe.

  252. “Now, I know based on what I see every day exactly what he’s going to be up to.”

    How can you say this? Don’t you travel a lot?

  253. Don’t you travel a lot?

    Notice I said the “Vilebrequin bathing suit finance douche.” I’m not saying all business travelers cheat, I’m saying all Vilebrequin bathing suit wearing fiance douches who travel cheat.

  254. My husband’s bathing suit is from Target. Does that mean I’m safe?

  255. Random question: What is Newport, RI like over Thanksgiving? I am guessing it would be much more fun to visit in late Spring? (Summer would be ideal, but likely not a possibility for our timing.)

  256. A Wellesley matron with a hefty 401k or inheritance of her own, and/or grandparents who funded college for the kids, and/or a sturdy disposition (no wringing of hands or working at WF after bad fortune to shame her spouse), is not making a particularly risky bet if she stays home, and the life of her family will likely be smoother. If she stays home and lives very high on the hog, or is miserable and only does it because of social pressure, or overmanages her children’s lives, not necessarily smoother.

    It is still not particularly acceptable for a woman who does not “need the money” to say, both of us like to work at xyz, that is a priority and part of our human identity, we have made choices about location, nature of work and length/flexibility of workday that we believe will not ruin our children’s lives, endanger our marriage, consign our elderly parents to rot. That applies to 90% of the preretirement couples on this blog. So we say, well, you never know, it is prudent to have two careers in this economy, yada yada yada.

  257. My husband’s bathing suit is from Target. Does that mean I’m safe?</I.

    Safer, yes.

  258. As we speak, I am pedaling furiously on the exercise bike. Must keep my value up. Either for Mr. Cat or possibly Mr. Cat 2.0.

  259. $100k low-stress job…
    I’m probably as there as one can be, though my comp is actually higher than that. Sometimes there are fire drills, some periods of the year or specific projects can require a sustained high level of effort. But there are lots of days, and certainly hours even in the busier times, when I can do pretty much what I want.
    Could I ramp it up to be highly productive 90% of my work hours? Sure. Honestly don’t know if there is much additional comp to be had if I did (without switching employers).

  260. Hello from the elliptical, Cat S, where I am doing the same :)

    Maybe the thought of Mr. 2.0 is what keeps so many women in my neighborhood at soul cycle….

  261. “My husband’s bathing suit is from Target. Does that mean I’m safe?”

    same here

  262. “If you’re looking for a husband who can comfortably earn a totebag median income and is unlikely to ever cheat, leave you or swindle/mismanage your finances, the picking are going to be veeeery slim.”

    wow Rhett, what an optimist

  263. MidA
    Thanksgiving here in RI is chilly, maybe even cold (snow possible). Newport really is a great summer destination but spring would be nice as well. A coastal town is always more fun in nicer weather.

  264. Regarding women’s bathing suits–I get mine at LL Bean, Lands End, and Zappos (which has a great selection of board shorts). Kids get theirs at Gap/Old Navy. DH gets his at Target.

  265. NoB – If the kids are young, I always include language in my documents expressly authorizing the trustee to pay $$ to the guardian for reimbursements, so to be safe I always put in HEMS if the trustee and guardian are the same person. Usually the guardian would be the surviving spouse, but I haven’t checked the support rules for a legal guardian vs a parent.

  266. I’ve switched to my tighter Target bathing suit this summer. I’ve been running more days than not, so it’s a reward for now.

  267. DH has only one bathing suit – it is 10 yrs old from J Crew. My bathing suits are Athleta and Old Navy (the latter because if I am going to get tired of them anyway, why not buy the cheaper version?).

  268. I got my board shorts at Costco. DD’s swimsuit and DS’ board shorts are also from there.

  269. This is Sara from the OP. One husband was an alcoholic and tapped the account behind her back; the other husband was a high risk investor – his strategy worked in the beginning of his career but he made larger and larger bets to become whole and ended up virtually bankrupting them.

    I’ve always worked – dialing back at stressful times (college admissions) – but always had my hand in the game.

    Regarding being an empty nester – it takes a while getting used to being just a couple again. A year in, we are now adjusted and can eat out, travel and socialize on our schedule! Pretty liberating! Both kids are thriving in college. For all high school parents – it gets better.

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