Thursday, September 1, 2011

Learning to Take Care of Yourself Even If You’re Married

I have told you that I am a certified yoga instructor. My yoga practice has been a journey of discovery that has mirrored my journey of self-reliance. It is about reaching into your mind and body to find your highest potential physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.

Yoga teaches you to understand that the mind and body are joined in union with each other. You learn to take care of both your body your mind, and your spirit and so become responsible for yourself. There is a great strength that comes from being in control of the only things we can control, our thoughts and our actions.

That statement is true whether you are married, single, divorced or widowed. Being with a partner does not allow you to abdicate your responsibility to yourself and your future. I cannot tell you the number of times I have met with a recently widowed woman who assumed that her late husband had taken care of everything only to find out that his plans were not in the best financial order and now she was not as financially secure as she thought.

It happens because she thought her husband (who was kind and loving and generous) knew what he was doing and she didn’t have to bother with their finances. After all he was the man, right? Here’s a newsflash – not all men are financially savvy, but they won’t admit it to themselves and they won’t admit it to you. So, they “go along” with what they are told by friends or advisors, never asking their questions and since you don’t question their decisions, bad things can happen when something goes wrong or they die.

If you are a married woman, think of that marriage as a business partnership in your life. Whether you are working or you are able to stay at home with your children, be an ACTIVE PARTICIPANT in your financial life as a couple and a family.

As a couple you should:

• Clearly understand your total income
• Decide on goals together – not just retirement goals but vacations, schools, types of houses, etc.
• Set a realistic strategy to reach each of those goals
• Re-think that strategy as life happens around you
• If you have a financial advisor, go together and make sure he/she knows you are a team.
• Discuss what you want to happen if either one of you died prematurely. One of the questions that is often asked at a funeral is , “I wonder if he had any life insurance?” I have been asked several times over my years as a financial planner by the wife “Am I going to be okay?” The time to ask these questions of your spouse is now, not after they are gone.

You know, in this country money is still the last taboo, we would rather spill the beans to our friends about our sex lives, than speak about our money situation. I’m not sure if this is a holdover from the days when to speak about money was rude and unmannered or if we are just so embarrassed about how little we actually know about our money. The effect is the same, we put our heads in the sand and cling to our ignorance.

Don’t be the wife I was in my first marriage. Dumping all that responsibility for your happiness and well being on even the best of men is not fair. Think of life as a little red wagon that you should both be pulling forward.

The truth is that marriage is not forever, death happens and so does divorce. When the unthinkable has never been spoken about, our future becomes precarious.

If you haven’t been an active participant, start now. Come back to this site, pass it along to your friends and we can all help each other find our strength.

Note: I really want to hear from you, but because I am a financial planner and what we say and the things we write are highly regulated, I may not be able to fully reply to your comments or questions. I have to submit my responses through my compliance department, so I plan to respond to broad inquiries and comments rather than personal questions. Please email me at