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Excerpt from Chapter 1

I loved my husband and suffered agonizing trauma and loss after he died suddenly in an accident. But without the financial preparation I completed — some on my own, some with my husband — my life would have been dramatically different. I would never have recovered financially from the burden of his death. I would never have forgiven him for risking my future safety to achieve his dreams. And I might have felt guilty forever for all the things I hadn’t shared with him.

Today, I would never allow someone to make financial decisions for me without discussing the consequences of those actions first. I would insist on understanding anything I sign - a contract, an income tax return, and a letter of intent — that would obligate me financially. But I wasn’t like that during my two marriages. The first ended in divorce; the second ended in death.

Like so many other women I know, my marriage had a public face and a private face. It endured because of protective fictions on my part that ate away at me slowly, but steadily. I realize now how those fictions enabled the relationship to function.

Don't Worry About a Thing Dear Book Cover

Buy the Book "Don't Worry About a Thing, Dear"

My personal story is a backdrop against which to frame a larger and more widespread problem that exists for millions of women in the United States: the lack of understanding and participation in marital finances. Our willingness to let our husband handle the finances in the marriage impacts our own financial safety and our ability to cope in the event of widowhood or divorce.

That’s just what I did. I assumed that my husband was smarter about money than I was and that he had my best interests at heart. In retrospect, it’s clear that he was doing what he wanted to do - build his business, hope it would be successful, and, in that way, serve both our interests. What he failed to do, and what I didn’t know I should do until my own realization about financial intimacy, was build in the protections for me if things didn’t go according to plan. As it so happened, nothing went according to plan.

I’m not unique. Like many of you, I confused money with love and didn’t understand that the institution of marriage removes your financial autonomy. Whatever else it may mean emotionally, a marriage license is first and foremost a contract of partnership recognized by the state as a legally binding agreement. Once you say, “I Do”, you are one-half of a legal and financial entity. From that point on, whatever your husband is doing, or intends to do financially, whether you know about it or not, you are, or will be, doing it, too. The same holds true for your husband. But if he is the one who is controlling your marital finances, you are the one at risk. You’re the one for whom I’m writing this book.

That’s why money - understanding it and being able to talk about it in a conscious, responsible and respectful way - is as important to your marriage as sex, romance and love. We lavish our attention on the latter three - and assume that money will just take care of itself. It doesn’t.The sad truth is that going into marriage, it’s all about love. Coming out of it, either through widowhood or divorce, it’s all about money.

In this book, I’m not going to give you detailed or complicated legal or financial advice. My goal is to alert you to your rights in marriage and how those rights are compromised by romantic fictions about marriage. I hope that after reading through the chapters, you will seek expert legal and financial advice for the actions you need to take to protect you if something happens to end your marriage.

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