In this weekly feature I answer your personal finance questions.
Dear Emma, WTF?!
My soon-to-be ex-husband and I are finalizing our post-marital finances. He’s pushing to continue to take advantages of all the monetary efficiencies that married couples enjoy: Continuing our family cell phone plan, finagling a way to maximize the childcare tax credit, lying about our addresses to get a better car insurance rate, etc. In theory, these moves make intellectual sense to me, but the reality is that all this orchestrating means that a) we will have to continue to interact regularly about money — one of the sorest spots in our marriage, and b) he is unreliable when it comes to taking care of things like paying bills, so all these processes will likely create more fighting and tension and c) all this accounting just means more of him — and I’m done with him!
The thought of continuing to deal with him like this stresses me out, but at the moment money is very tight — and that is also very stressful. I can’t figure out which is worse. What do you say?
Broke in Brookline
Like in all of life’s pickles, we know the answer, but sometimes we need some help trusting that voice of reason. Here is the answer in your letter: “all this accounting just means more of him — and I’m done with him!”
The thing about money is it isn’t about money. You can always make more money. But you can’t get back time, and you can’t undo the damage that stress wreaks on your psyche, body and life. You are divorcing because you want a life separate from this man. And while you will continue to be involved through the kids, you need to take steps to start your own life anew as much as possible. You will pay a financial price for your mental and emotional freedom. Consider it an investment.
The premium for having an independent cell phone plan? Maybe $50 per month.
The price for legitimately filing your taxes separately? In the thousands annually.
Ponying up for your own car insurance? An extra hundred or two monthly.
Sitting down at the end of the month to pay your bills, looking at your accounts and knowing that you have full control over those funds — and by default, your life? Priceless.
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