Monday, June 23, 2008

Money Tips for Black Women? A Financially Fit Divorce?

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

I just saw an article today on "How to Leave Your Husband". The article focuses on how women can have a financially fit divorce. I find it amazing that we have gotten to the point that these are the kinds of articles that appear on the front pages of major media outlets. This speaks well to the state of love in America.

The article also seems to imply that beyond the 50% of all Americans who end up in divorce, there are many others who would be divorced if only they could find a way to get it done efficiently. Since when did the bliss of love make us so unhappy?

When I wrote Financial Lovemaking 101, one of the objectives I had in this book was to teach couples how to be jointly responsible when it comes to money. The truth of the matter is that being financially smart and responsible also increases your ability to be financially independent. Therefore, one might conclude that if you end up as one of the millions of Americans who chooses divorce, you might be able to erase your mistake without destroying your bank account.

I once counseled a couple that was nearing retirement. The couple had modest resources, but the wife was quite determined. Over a period of 10 years, she worked overtime and saved her butt off to pay off the family's credit card debt. She also looked into retirement plans on her job, putting thousands into a 401k plan to prepare for the family's golden years. Her husband had other plans. Without his wife's knowledge, he maxed out all the credit cards to start a business. He then withdrew all of the family funds from the retirement plan. The business failed, and his wife was in tears. She wanted to leave her husband, but she was financially drained. What's worse is that staying with her spouse would not have made her any more financially secure.

The reality is that money and love are linked in ways that we never envisioned on that first date. A person's beauty, body shape, and quality of sex become secondary to how well they pay the mortgage and put food on the table. Then, when we find that the love is gone and we want to move on, money becomes the barrier between freedom and misery. Planning ahead financially can be the way to plan your escape route, if that is what you choose to do.

The irony of it all, however, is that being financially intelligent and responsible reduces one major source of conflict in your marriage. It also allows you to make a stronger contribution to the overall well-being of your family. Therefore, by being financially intelligent and independent, you are more likely to have a successful marriage. Kind of paradoxical, don't you think?

I don't judge those who get divorced, never get married or are trying to get divorced. I only say that whatever you do, make sure you do it right. Your love depends on it, and so does your LIFE.

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