I read a story in a magazine column recently where a woman was asking for advice. She caught her husband of 11 years cheating and was having trouble deciding whether or not to stay in the marriage. From the little bit that the woman shared, I could sense the turmoil and conflict she was experiencing. It’s easy to say “I’d leave him” when you have nothing vested in the marriage. I can’t say with certainty what I would do, but I looked at the story from a personal finance perspective and thought I’d share my personal thoughts and suggestions on some things that I would think about during this crisis.
If she leaves, will her current income allow for her to maintain the lifestyle that she desires?
I am going to assume that the writer of the letter is not the primary earner in the marriage. Financially speaking, this puts her in a situation where she may struggle to pay ordinary living expenses at least for a period of time. Alimony is something that would help her at least maintain the lifestyle that she had grown accustomed to during the marriage. This scenario is faced by women all over the world and sometimes causes us to remain in a relationship that is unhealthy and even toxic. It is possible to start over and build the lifestyle you desire. Sometimes downsizing as part of a transition leads to the ultimate upsize.
Should she have set up a separate bank account?
I have worked with several married couples and this is a personal decision that should be made even before the wedding takes place. Joint accounts allow for full transparency on the activity in said joint account. I have seen situations where a couple has a joint account, but are not jointly reconciling the account and they end up with over drafts because there is no communication around what is taking place in the account. I have seen situations where a couple maintains individual accounts and they feel like they are roommates sharing expenses instead of a married couple. I personally like a combination of both where a couple maintains multiple joint accounts for different uses. One account would have a pre-designated percentage of each person's pay go directly into it to cover household expenses, vacations, gifts to family members to name a few. The next joint account would have a pre-designated percentage of the husband’s paycheck go into it and would be used by hubby. The next joint account would have a pre-designated percentage of the wife’s paycheck go into it and would be used by wifey. The accounts being joint allows for transparency and access if need be.
Plan for the unexpected.
Let us know what you think and if we can be of any assistance to you or someone you know, contact us.