What is Financial Intimacy?
Why Do You Need It?
Do you understand your net worth?
Are you financially protected in case your husband dies?
Do you understand what your spouse is doing financially?
Do you have a paper copy of your financial information?
Can you access your financial information online with the password?
Can you discuss money with your husband without arguing?
Going Into Marriage, It's All About Love
Coming Out of Marriage, It's All About Money
Marriage is a legal and financial partnership.
If you live in a community property state, you are a 50/50 partner in marriage.
You are entitled by law to the financial information.
Money and love can get in each other's way.
Financial intimacy means financial transparency.
Romance and illusion work against financial transparency.
When financial opposites merge, they often end up
kissing love goodbye.
Of course relationships are tough work, filled with endless compromises — and many couples feel the challenges smack in their billfolds.
According to a Money magazine poll, 84 percent of respondents reported that finances caused tension in their marriages, and 15 percent said they fought about money several times a month.
Sharyn Sooho, a Boston divorce attorney and co-founder of divorcenet.com, notes that one spouse earning significantly more than the other — or experiencing overwhelming success — is a leading cause of divorce.
If you think about it, that’s actually not too surprising. Wealth, and one’s association with it, alters the balance of power in any interaction; it follows that those who have grown up around money, or earn a lot of it, or have piles of it at their disposal, view the world differently from their less fortunate counterparts. While riches might not buy happiness, they do buy freedom, and the bottom line is that the person with more freedom has more options.
“Money is like an engine, it drives other things,” notes Helga Hayse, author of Don’t Worry About a Thing, Dear: Why Women Need Financial Intimacy. “People make assumptions about money, but in my experience, whoever has more of it has more leverage in the relationship.”
Lola Smith, 35, is living proof. The pharmaceutical representative from Arlington, Va., once dated a man with an exceedingly large trust fund; he wooed her with expensive dinners and lavish gifts and flew her around the country in his private plane. Although Smith grew up in an upper-middle-class household, she was not used to such extravagances.
“I always tried to pay my own way with him,” she says. “I didn’t want him to think I was with him just for his money. I also knew that if I let him pay for me all the time, he’d feel a certain amount of control over me. I didn’t want to feel like he owned me.”
Losing leverage in a relationship can be unsettling.
James Willis, a 37-year-old theater director, comes from a very well-to-do family. He has always been financially generous with his lovers, many of whom have abused his impulse. Once, when he had forgotten his wallet at dinner, a boyfriend said to him, pointblank, “Well, I expect you to reimburse me. You have way more money than I do.”
Willis was furious. “It wasn’t about the money — it was about the effort and the expectation,” he said. “Why did I have to pay all the time?” He felt taken advantage of. Did people become involved with him solely because of his deep pockets?
But he also felt guilty. Who was he kidding? A hundred bucks was no big deal to him, whereas he knew it was a significant sum of money to his boyfriend. He broke off the relationship and decided to not be so forthcoming about his finances in the future.
“I just figured it was best to make sure people were with me for me and not because I had money,” he explains.
As often as not, issues of wealth disparity can become complicated by traditional gender roles.
“It’s a cultural expectation that men are going to be the breadwinners,” says Ginny Graves, co-author of For Richer or Poorer: Keeping Your Marriage Happy When She’s Making More Money. But today, when 35 percent of married working women earn more than their husbands, that expectation plays out in complex ways.
Sometimes money issues can stop a relationship in its tracks. For five years Sheila Velazques, 30, lived with a man who was unemployed for most of their time together. Part of the problem, she admits, was that he didn’t actively seek work — and by default she ended up paying his way.
“It was a huge turnoff,” she says. “He had no ambition and didn’t show any signs of changing. What if I had wanted to stay home with our kids?”
Just as every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, every financially unequal partnership has its own special set of problems — and solutions. And just as it tends to be easier to date someone from a similar cultural, religious and educational background, it’s often easier to be with someone who has similar attitudes about money.
“Wealth-management people call it financial incompatibility, and it’s a very real issue,” Hayse says. “Money is the one remaining taboo in marriage. It used to be sex, but no more. Everyone goes into marriage expecting a good sex life. But they don’t talk about money.”
(Nearly two-thirds of married couples who responded to a 2006 USA Today poll said they had talked “a little bit or “not at all” about finances before committing to each other.)
So, is your relationship doomed if you come from different financial backgrounds? Or if you can’t discuss your feelings about money? As financial guru Suze Orman puts it, “Opposites may attract, but I wouldn’t put my money on a relationship between financial opposites.” Ultimately, a successful union is about more than the size of one’s wallet.
By ABBY ELLIN Tango Magazine
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What Readers Say
"As a former banker, I can tell you Helga's advice is sound. On a personal note, her way of educating you is encouraging and motivating. You will not be disappointed in this book."
"Helga Hayse weaves together her personal story with sage advice for women on taking an active role in their own financial future. Her recommendations are thoughtful, and include some good general tips on how to have a meaningful and productive conversation."
Scott Haltzman, M.D.
"I feel so much more in control of my destiny after reading this book."
– Sue Johnson