Of all of the humiliations I suffered when going through a divorce, realizing that I had no idea what the state of my finances were was high on the list. On the day that I filed, I sat before my lawyer who asked me several questions that I had absolutely no clue how to answer:
“How much do you owe on your house?”
“How much do you usually get on your tax return?”
“How much outstanding debt do you have?”
“How much money do you have in retirement?”
Not only did I not know any of these answers, but I also didn’t know (a) the passwords to any of our joint bank accounts, (b) whether or not we had paid off our cars and (c) whether or not my name was on the mortgage.
As you can probably imagine, it is quite difficult to establish control of your finances when you actually have no idea what your finances are! There were times over the 13 years of our marriage when it occurred to me that I might want to know a little more about our income or expenditures, but I always came up with reasons that I didn’t really need to worry about it.
“He’s better at that stuff than I am.”
“I was never any good at math anyway.”
“I’ll just take care of the kids and let him take care of the money.”
While, yes, of course division of labor in a relationship is a good thing, money is not an area that should be left solely to one partner. If the events of the past few months and years have taught all of us anything, it’s that we really can’t know what the future will hold. Even the most steady of marriages can still fall apart, and even if not, no one is immune to illness or other reasons that whoever is in charge of the finances one day may not be able to manage them. For those reasons, it is prudent that we as women are actively contributing to the management of our finances. Here are some things that you will want to know to about your money.
Your name should be on all the “big” stuff.
Think: mortgage, cars, boats, rental homes, etc. Otherwise it will be hard for you to claim any sort of ownership of them. I discovered my name was actually not on my mortgage or deed. Obviously that was a hindrance when the house was awarded to me and I wanted to sell it.
You should know the passwords to all of your accounts.
Additionally, you should know how many bank accounts you actually have and how much is in them.
You should know what retirement accounts you have and how much is in them.
If you will eventually want to access the retirement account, it is a good idea for you to know how to access the account, and how much is in it in case you need it someday sooner than you expected.
You should know what debts you owe and how much they are.
There may come a day when you are solely responsible for these debts. It’s better to be aware now of what you owe rather than being blindsided unexpectedly later.
If this all seems overwhelming to you, I understand! Rest assured that I didn’t know the answers to a single one of these questions. But in the last few years, I bought and sold a house on my own, paid off my car, and refinanced my mortgage (did you know interest rates are around 2.5% right now? Also do you know what an interest rate is? I didn’t until a few years ago).
Moms, there is literally nothing you can’t do. Take responsibility and figure out your finances!