Saturday, October 10, 2009

Women and Money: Don't Let Yourself Get Screwed

Lately I have been thinking a lot about women and money. More specifically, I've been mulling over how women get screwed over by a former loved one when it comes to money.

I first started thinking about it when I was writing my blog post about the movie Capitalism, because I mentioned in the post that around the time of the stock market crash that the majority of the women in my workplace had no idea of how their money was invested because their husbands handle most of the investment decisions. On my planet, this is a possible financial disaster waiting to happen on so many levels.

I thought about it even more when I just recently watched one of Joy Behar's shows. She had the comedian Kathy Griffin on the show and Kathy discussed having divorced her husband because she found out that her wonderful husband was stealing money from her.

Yesterday I was reminded yet again of the topic of women and money when I read online about Absent Minded Oracle's husband putting her into a financial hole. And yet another time when I read in a post about how Single Mom Survives lost her dream home that she had worked so hard to get when she went through the divorce with her husband.

My lovely breakfast this morning was yet another reminder of this particular issue.

I just had a lovely brunch with my mentor and she told me about the story of her divorce. She had been married to her wonderful and financially successful husband for over ten years. He was a brilliant man and made almost $300,000 over twenty years ago. He was a wonderful husband and father. She had everything that she ever wanted.

She was a college professor and one evening when she arrived at her house there were a ton of police officers and an ambulance carting her husband away to the hospital. The police informed her that her husband had suffered from a drug overdose and was being transported to the hospital for recovery.

She claims that in retrospect she never saw any inkling that suggested that he was a drug addict. What he always portrayed to her was nothing but a hard worker, a loving provider, and a doting husband and father.

Throughout the weeks, she found out that her husband first became addicted to cocaine and his addiction later morphed into heroin. He begged for her to give him another chance and he entered rehab. Being the doting Catholic wife that she was, she gave him another chance because she wanted to make it work for the sake of her one year old daughter. He admitted to her that he had been spending thousands and thousands of dollars on drugs over a period of a couple of years. She never noticed it because he was making tons of money and he took care of most of the finances.

They began to rebuild their life together and she started to be more assertive regarding the finances. She opened up a checking account in her name and began to monitor his finances so that she could keep tabs on whether it appeared that he might be using drugs again. Everything seemed to be going well, until one day when she went to the bank.

She went to the bank to make a deposit from her personal checking account and she was told that the $30, 000 that had been in her account was gone. Apparently her husband had somehow convinced the bank manager to give him a card with his name on it. How he was able to get a card, she will never know. She suspects that it may have had something to do with the fact that her husband had made business connections in the banking and finance industry.

My mentor packed up her child, left him for good and filed for divorce. It was then that she found out that for over five years he had been taking out loans from those fly by night loan companies, so that she would not notice that money was missing from his banking account. He had accumulated over $250, 000 in debt. She also discovered that all of the money that they had been diligently saving in their retirement account was gone.

During the divorce, he quit his job and disappeared for a couple of years.

She told me that she ended up paying over $100,000 in debt. In retrospect, she claims that she should have just filed for bankruptcy, but at the time she never considered the option. It took her over ten years to pay off his debt. Ten long years and now she's got little money in her retirement account.

"If only I would have asked to see the bank statements in the beginning. If only I would have checked my credit report on a frequent basis, I would have seen that there were loans being opened in our names. At the time I didn't even know where to look at the balance of our retirement account, and didn't find out that there was no money in the account until after I hired a lawyer during the divorce", she stated to me.

I've heard my share of these types of stories from friends, family members and co-workers who have gone through divorce. And I always ask myself, "How is it that these women had no inkling that their husbands were financially ruining them?"

But this doesn't only happen to women who are married to shady men who bleed them dry and then divorce them. Women can financially suffer by going through a typical divorce and later losing what they have worked so hard for because they have to share the assets or they can't afford to maintain their standard of living on one income. Women can be financially screwed if their husband dies. Or, women can be married for their entire lives and be screwed later in their retirement because their husband didn't invest any money. The list can go on and on.

Moral of the story: Protect yourself by always knowing about your finances, even if you are married to the best man out there because your wonderful husband might not be financially savvy himself. If you don't know the first thing about money, investing, etc, then I suggest you get your ass to work and start learning about it. It's a lot less intimidating than many women think.

Do not let yourself get screwed. By not knowing where your money is, you might be putting yourself in a bad situation.

Has something like this ever happened to you or a woman that you know?


Charlotte said...

I love, love, love this post, very educational. I learned from my parents' mistakes both have filed for bankruptcy more than once. My father keeps losing cash and property to exes and my didn't pay attention to her asshole husband as he got himself deep into tax fraud TWICE!!

My husband is an MD and I only have a high schooldegree but I know so many letters behind your name does not give you common sense or knowledge about money. My name is on everything, house, medical practice, sleep study practice, cars, accounts. And I squeeze every nickel until the buffalo shits. I will not be a financial burden to my kids.

Wicked Bitch, Latina Fatale said...

You are absolutely correct. Some of the smartest people that I know have the least amount of financial literacy and have made very bad decisions about money!