My mother was devastated when I told her that Jack* and I were getting a divorce. She loved him. He is the father of her beloved grandchildren. She trusted him because I trusted him. Completely.
Here's some free advice: Don't ever trust your spouse with all your finances.
I'm not the only stay at home mom who has gotten screwed because her husband was wealthy and powerful and a control freak. Here are a few things you should do, to keep it from happening to you.
1. Have 'ready money.'
If you don't work, and all of your money is held in joint accounts, your husband can strip them bare without your knowledge or permission. Then he can file for divorce and you're having to ask your parents for a loan to give an attorney a retainer. (Ask me how I know...) Start siphoning off money. When you get groceries, get $20 cash back and tuck it away. Every time you pull out money from the ATM, pull out extra and add it to your stash. Your parents or in-laws give you a check for your birthday or Christmas? Save half of it. Don't tell anyone about it.
2. You need your own credit.
Get a checking account in your own name at a bank different than you already have. (Stash the ready money there.) Yes, the money in there is a joint asset, but it can't be withdrawn by anyone but you. It's safe. Go paperless- you don't need statements sent to the house, do you? Then, get a credit card in your own name. Use it, pay it off every month (see: checking account) and then you'll be a step ahead of the game should anything happen.
3. Make an inventory of all of your and your husband's financial accounts.
Does he have a 401K? Do you have a whole life insurance policy? Do you have a brokerage account? Make a copy. Keep it in a safe place- a friend, your mom's, a safety deposit box (remember the advice about using a different bank?) and update at least once a year.
4. Read your tax return before signing it.
Sounds like common sense, right? My ex-husband always picked a time when I was insanely busy to tell me I had to sign it and I'd flip through and sign next to the yellow arrow post it note. It was quite a revelation to learn that we had more money that I realized.
5. Ask for information
If your husband does all your finances (like mine did. Hey, he had a MBA with a concentration in finance, right?) ask him to go through it all with you. If he refuses, start pulling $40 out every time you go to the grocery store.
Bonus advice! Keep your resume up-to-date.
You never know when you'll need it.
All of this sounds reactionary and distrustful, and it is. You simply can't assume your spouse will always want to remain married or, if you divorce, he will look out for your best interests like he did (or you thought he did) during your marriage. That's kind of the point, right?
I was handed divorce papers in the middle of a marriage counseling session. When I went to buy groceries I discovered my ex-husband had stripped every penny out of our accounts. It was the beginning of a war that is unending and I think sometimes it will only end when I die.
I don't trust very easily anymore.
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