One of the dumbest things I ever did was pay off a man’s credit card with a 401K loan. We were engaged, and we moved in together. I thought it made perfect sense because we were planning on getting married. In my mind, we were moving in together, so it just made sense to consolidate debt. We also bought a condo dependent on both salaries. Within 4 months, he was driving cross-country to go back to his Mommy, and I was stuck with a house note I couldn’t pay, two cars (one with a car note) and a $4000 loan on my 401K account. And, I thought I made out like a bandit. That guy was a nut. He called me midway and said he made a mistake. I said, “Keep driving.”
Money comes and goes. And, it comes and goes a lot in failed relationships. Just ask any single woman – and probably any single man – how much money they’ve wasted on relationships. Unless they have had their heads on straight their whole life, everybody has a story. I have a friend – an extremely intelligent woman – who ended up paying off a $40,000 debt for a man. I know a women who co-signed a loan on a vehicle for her husband, and he sold it for cocaine. She got to pay off the vehicle AND file for bankruptcy. And, she made out like a bandit, too. The good thing about having a debt to pay off after a loser has taken you for a ride is that you are no longer with him. The longer I would have stayed with that guy, the more the tab would have gone up. I let my second husband cash in one of my 401Ks to pay off his kid’s orthodontist bills and his divorce tab. We were married, so I thought it was my responsibility as a new wife to help out. I would have never left my debt for someone else to handle no matter how much of a jerk they were, but not everybody thinks the same way. That was a costly lesson to learn.
My brother Terry is a financial planner. He told me the number one rule in managing your finances is to get married and stay married. I’ve known lots of people in bad marriages that don’t divorce solely because of the finances. There are financial perks – lots of them – to being married and having two incomes to support one household. That being said, I just don’t think I could stick around in a bad relationship for the love of a dollar. I’d rather be poor than unhappy. So, I suffer the consequences. I woke up about money after my second marriage ended. Once I had gotten through the divorce process, it hit me that I didn’t know if I wanted to ever be married again. In earlier parts of my life, my financial plan was my husband or, when I was single, my husband-to-be. With two people, it would be easier to weather a financial storm. Besides, we’d have two retirement accounts. With it just being me as the sole provider, that ship has sailed across the ocean. And, I’ve done enough cruising on it to know that – no matter how good the deal seems – it can turn into a nightmare pretty quickly.
Being a single breadwinner is humbling. I don’t know how single mothers do it, especially ones dealing with deadbeat Dads. It’s scary as hell to know that if something happens, I’m the only oar in the water. When I first realized the enormity of it, I kept putting it aside and ignoring it. I was the ostrich with my head in the sand. A couple of years ago, I made an appointment with a financial planner at my brother’s insistence to look at disability insurance. I always thought I was covered because I had a company benefit. Besides, when I get married it wouldn’t be a problem. When I sat down with my planner, he showed me the numbers of how much money my company’s policy would pay if I got sick with cancer or injured with significant downtime. It scared the crap out of me. I couldn’t make it, plus I’d be sick. When he showed me the $250 a month price tag to get the coverage I REALLY needed, I almost cried. Then, he walked me through what we could cut out, how we could make it work for less premium. I still pay $120 a month for disability insurance. It’s a lot of money on a single income, but it sure makes me feel better. My biggest risk is not dying. If I die, all my stuff gets paid off because I don’t have much debt, and it’s done. But, if I live, I’m in a hell of a mess. I feel better about living now that I’m making those monthly transactions.
I always hear Seniors complain about being on a fixed income. Well, I’m on a fixed income. Raises don’t come like they used to. The big $20,000 bonuses I used to get in corporate America don’t exist in my world anymore. I don’t have a lot of budge room. And, I make good money for a woman in this day and age. I have always contributed to my 401Ks, so I’ve got money set aside, but it sure doesn’t seem like enough. I also have access to my first husband’s Social Security benefit since we were married over 10 years. I have a pension from Whirlpool. And, I plan to live to be 100. That’s a long time to live off what I have saved. When I refinanced my house last month, it was depressing to think of having this mortgage into my 80s. I’m already talking with several of my girlfriends about moving in together in one of those commune-type arrangements when we get older. There’s a lot of us single women out there who will need to be trying something different. I just have to think differently about what retirement looks like. When I get married is no longer an option for me.
It may sound selfish, but any future relationship I have will look different financially than they have in the past. I no longer trust the stability of the marital contract, so even marriage won’t make me feel any more secure. I believe in prenuptial agreements now. I would never get married without one. It’s too financially risky. And, I won’t ever take on a partner’s debt again unless I’m willing to pay it off on my own. When my second husband moved in with me, he was floored when I told him he had to pay rent. I didn’t trust anybody to share the finances again. I manage my money now. I have a budget. I create my budget based on what I want my life to be. If I charge something like that expensive trip to Costa Rica I took last year, I pay it off before I charge anything else. If I’m going to take care of myself around money, I’m not going to let a relationship undo all of that work. Love may be blind, but it’s not cheap. My time for recouping after a loss is becoming non-existent. Unfortunately, I’m not anticipating a large inheritance as my parents seem hell-bent on spending it themselves. And, marrying for money is not a good plan for me. Money is a whole lot colder than love. As long as I can keep my house warm and my heart full as a single woman, I don’t need to make a relationship into a business transaction. Honestly, it hasn’t proven to be a good financial investment anyway. And, if you’re a woman with one of these stories, don’t feel stupid. I know you do. I felt like an idiot. Just accept the consequences and make some new rules. It makes good financial sense.