How to Financially Protect Yourself in a Marriage

20 comments
July 15, 2011 ‐ By L. Nicole Williams

 

First off, I’d like to begin with a disclaimer: Feeling the need to protect your stuff is a sign of fear and distrust. If that’s the case, wealth management is not the real issue.

That said, there are two directions you can go when you don’t trust your husband to handle household finances: Take the lead on bookkeeping, budgeting and spending or start planning for the “just in case.” Finances are behind many divorces.

Marriage is a union of two worlds and spouses are intended to function within the household as a single entity—each with certain responsibilities. While one keeps the cars maintained, the other may oversee the finances. If your husband has proven himself to be fiscally irresponsible or he’s simply too unorganized, the responsibility should be yours. That is, if you are better equipped. Should he take issue with that, launch a campaign to protect. Here’s how:

1. Start a cash stash.
This is the first step in creating a cushion. Purchase a small fireproof safe and hide it in a cluttered closet. Based on your contributions to household bills, add a percentage of all of your income to the pot. What he doesn’t know about he can’t try to take in court.
2. Set up custodial savings accounts for your children.
Custodial savings accounts are managed by the parent who sets it up. Your name should be the only name on the account aside from the child. Since it is a simple savings account, you can make withdrawals without penalty. This way, you have a savings account to work out of that he cannot touch. Another cushion.
3. Set up an offshore account.
Seriously, do it. It may seem cinematic but it’s a way to protect your funds. It would be difficult to track them in the instance of divorce.
4. Draw up a post-nuptial agreement.
This could generate some bad feelings, but it’s a necessary evil when your (could be ex) husband is messing with your money. You don’t need a lawyer, just a document detailing the distribution and ownership of assets and expenses signed by both parties and a notary.

5. Build your assets 50/50.
Contribute to your individual wealth-building as you do to the household. Don’t abandon your husband just keep a potentially single life in mind. Dedicate 50 percent of your time investing in yourself.

 

1. Keep your businesses in your name.
Any business you start and any investments you make should be done in your name and your name only. You don’t want his financial situation to affect your ability to qualify for loans or venture capital in the future.
2. Put all major debts with the exception of your car in his name.
Selling a home these days rarely happens overnight. In the event of a messy divorce you don’t want to be stuck with a mortgage you may or may not be able to afford. As long as you have transportation, you can find somewhere to stay.

Sounds a little ruthless, I know. But these are things you have to think about you when there’s high probability for divorce.

LaShaun Williams is a culture and relationship columnist, blogger and social critic. Her work has been featured on popular urban websites and she has made appearances on several radio shows. Williams is also the voice behind Politically Unapologetic, where she unabashedly discusses pop culture, relationships and everything in between. Follow @itsmelashaun on Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook.

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  • RP

    “But marriage is about love, honey!” – Woman shaming potential husband into not getting a prenup.

  • scared111

    In others never marry an American woman.

  • Drew

    For those saying these thoughts to protect yourself are about fear and distrust, Seriously? NO man, or woman, deserves to take the others finances after a marriage doesn’t work. How Intelligent is it to base your financial means on an emotional situation? Any man or woman’s feelings can change years later and no one should have to pay the ultimate price to be destitute for life because of affairs of the heart.

  • http://candidaabrahamson.wordpress.com/ Candida Abrahamson

    There are a lot of helpful ideas on this article, but it sounds like the spouse suspects the worst has happen, and now is trying to aggressively deal with it. I did a fair amount of research and writing on this topic, starting with a series of posts on my blog beginning at http://candidaabrahamson.wordpress.com/2011/12/10/money-matters-in-couple-relationships-part-vii-avoid-financial-betrayal-getting-taken-to-the-cleaners-the-poorhouse-or-worse-to-jail/ and then in a more trimmed-down approach at http://www.squidoo.com/protecting-yourself-financially-in-marriage. The ideas in these might help spouses who aren’t yet ready for a post-nup agreement–or stashing cash off-shore.

  • Sofie

    This article is unbelievable! If we compare the marriages 40/50+ years ago to marriages today, its pretty obvious that women did not go into marriages with off-shore bank accounts, hidden money stashes, assets solely in their names and nuptual agreements. So fueling the greedy, money hungry, selfish, one man for himself idea- that is primarily responsible for the degradation of marriage in today's society …is some how going to help huh??!

  • Lesson Learned

    Before last year i would have not have understood this writer….my ex husband decided to leave me for another woman right before i was going to graduate from college. All of his promises went out of the window..our joint bank account he drained and cut off my cell phone(was in his name). Knowing him since childhood i would have never thought that he would TRY to leave me stranded as a matter of fact during the 10 yrs he bashed men openly for doing such hatefull immature things…especially since we have a child together. People do change sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worst in my case my ex thought it was ok to leave me for someone else and neglect what was “our” family. It is very sad to begin your day going to the bank and finding out that your balance is $0.00 and your child needs uniforms and school supplies, the car needs gas and bills need to be paid. As a young now single mom…i’ve learned my lesson and i know he will soon learn his because the next woman he is with may not be as trusting as i was especially if she reads this article.

  • Marlynn

    Amen!

  • pgrip

    i mean…this article is fraught with disaster. it starts off with a disclaimer, and then it turns into the 'rules' on how to make a cushiony escape when it goes bad. this article spells out Nothing that the title suggests.

    horrible writing, and while i do agree one should be smart about protecting their good name/credit, at the very least, get Someone to write to that, versus this mess i just read.

    i cannot get this time back. damnit.

  • Ruby

    It's a good article. Women have to protect their interests at all times. I'm married two decades, I have my savings, checking and joint saving account AND I have an F-U account. Sometimes I use my F-U account for things I need done in the house but its main purpose is if I need to put a downpayment on a new place to live. You operate in the world differently when you have a safety net. All the author is promoting is that women need a financial safety net. If you don't understand that then go to your nearest family shelter and speak with the nice looking ladies who are homeless because they fled abusive relationships and had no cash, credit or education to fall back on. It's call having your own and protecting it too! My husband and I don't argue over money. We put our 50 cents together and make it $1. I believe he respects me more because I have my own money. Now get yours! Thanks author.

  • Mello

    LaShaun,

    While I understand your intentions and believe you truly want to help a woman who may feel her marriage is unstable, I do not agree with your advice. Any marriage that has this much fear and distrust is not worth being in and will not be saved if there is deception and secrecy. I do agree that everyone needs to protect themselves financially in and out of marriage, however. When two people decide to get married is the time to discuss how the finances will be merged and managed. Whatever the two parties agree upon at that time should not be changed unless they come together and discuss it again and agree to the changes. Pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements are good because they protect both parties and should have both of their wishes taken into account. They should also be completely fair and cover any situation that may arise, including the instance of divorce. If either person does not wish to have these agreements then they should either get married without them or they should not get married, period.

  • Maria

    Im sorry but this writer sounds like a bitter woman who got screwed over in a divorce. Her story is not everyone else's. Thanks for the advice but no thanks.

  • Really?!

    If you can’t take the heat, stop writing these garbage *** articles that promote marriage failure. Deleting comments that aren’t in favor of the article won’t make it better.

  • http://www.facebook.com/APeachJ Ashley Jones

    As a person who has seen marriages start off on the wrong foot and end up on the wrong foot, her advice is sound. We don't think about the financial situation of our spouse's before me marry them and for some strange reason after the marriage we are surprised at how bad they credit is or how they mis-manage money! These things were there from the beginning but we oftentimes choose to ignore them while hoping that they will change. I am not amrried but I pan on being married and regardles of how much I come in to the marriage with, I will keep a seperate savings stash, keep my investments seperate, and ask for a pre-nup! Yes you go in to a marriage whole-heartedly but you should never be a fool either! Know the financial status of your partner and let them know where you stand!

    • Marlynn

      100% agree. Well said! I plan to marry as well, and gauranteed I will keep my money spread over multiple avenues. It's not anticipating a failed marriage, it's protecting your hard earned assests and allowing multiple plan A's and B's if the worst case scenario were to take place. Just like that saying" Don't put all your eggs in 1 basket" you should undoubtedly carry this over when it comes to your money!

  • Stanley

    I've just found another reason to never get married.

  • L-Boogie

    What happened to going into a marriage full-heartedly? I want to share with my husband when I get married. But if he demands for a prenup I will gladly sign it.

  • Lee

    It’s hard for me to express how messed up this blog post is. The title may as well be “How to Get Divorced”. Bad job, lady.

  • Naidy

    If this is the attitude that people go into marriages with, is it any wonder why over half (probably more) marriages end in divorce? Most people these days are too selfish and irresponsible to marry. Case in point: this article.

  • Mrs. Jonez

    This is a HOT mess! That’s what’s wrong with marriages today! People are preparing to fail. Shame on you for this article.

  • Ooh La La

    There are no words for how much I truly cannot stand this writer. Never anything but a bunch of mess with you, I swear.