Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Left at the Altar? Sue For $150,000!

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

comic 48 - wedding vows

I think it was about eight or nine years ago—and it happened overnight, perhaps on a Tuesday—that marriage became all about money.

Consider the case of RoseMary Shell and Wayne Gibbs. You can read the article for the full story, but here’s a quick summary of what went down in short-attention-span format:

  1. Guy likes girl; girl likes guy. Guy and girl date.
  2. Relationship goes nowhere. Girl moves away for $81,000/year job.
  3. Guy proposes a year later. Girl accepts, leaves job and friends, moves back with guy.
  4. Guy wants to postpone wedding. Eventually guy and girl break up.
  5. Girl moves away, takes crappy $31,000/year job.
  6. Girl sues guy, wins $150,000 from him.

It really makes you wanna run out and get engaged now, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I wanted to highlight this story because it provides a lot of great examples of how money and marriage can interact.

  • The debt of one… The girl in the story brought a boat-load of debt with her going into the relationship, though she disputes just how much that debt was. When postponing the marriage, the guy indicated that undisclosed debt was one of the reasons. Lesson learned: Tell the poor schmuck you’re marrying if you have tens of thousands of dollars of debt.
  • Beware of leaving your life behind for love. Regardless of how debt-saddled the girl in the story was, she was doing something about it by making $81,000 a year at her previous job. All it took was a shiny five-figure engagement ring to make her give it all up. (Though you have to wonder why this woman went from making $81k to $31k a few years later.) Lesson learned: Keep your financial future secure before, during, and after any major relationship.
  • If you’re going to pay off someone else’s debt, know what you’re getting into. The guy in the story must be fairly wealthy if he can afford to pay off $30,000 of the girl’s debt and still have enough in the bank to give her an enormous engagement rock. (Or maybe he charged it all on credit cards.) Lesson learned: Marry her first, then give her lots of money.
  • I don’t believe in pre-nups, but… how about a pre-pre-nup? The couple in this story could have benefited from continuing to lead their lives separately until their wedding day. This way, girl would have had her $81,000 a year job to fall back on, and guy wouldn’t be out $150,000. Lesson learned: Have a plan for what happens if the engagement falls apart.
  • And about that $150,000 judgment… what the hell, jury? Engagements fall apart all of the time and you don’t see couples suing each other for six figures. (That doesn’t happen until the marriage falls apart!) In a way, I hope this ruling encourages couples to use their engagements more wisely to examine their relationships and finances; but in another way, what the hell??? Lesson learned: Stay out of Florida courtrooms. Heck, just stay out of Florida altogether.

Oh, and ladies, if you’re having problems getting your man to commit to the idea of marriage now, wait until he reads this article. If stories like this keep making headlines, I fully expect the divorce rate will plummet… because no one in their right mind would commit to getting married!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Marry For Love. And Money. And Some Other Stuff.

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

you: will you marry me? her: can i see an ekg first, please?

ACTIVATE CONTROVERSIAL POST MODE. BEEP. BZZT. VROOM. PLOINK.

I have the wonderful pleasure of being married to an extremely awesome woman. She’s sweet, smart, and fantastic in bed very forgiving. For all you single, dating people out there, perhaps there’s a special someone in your life you’d like to one day be joined to in marriage. If that’s the case, good for you.

But before you pop the question and become emotionally, legally, and financially bound to another person, make sure first and foremost that you want to marry this person out of love. Marriages without love are a sham. Without love, you might as well marry a piece of coal; it’ll still keep you warm at night.

Despite what the fairy tales and John Lennon may tell you, love by itself isn’t going to be enough for a successful marriage. Perhaps 500 years ago in simpler times it would have been. But today, in the year 20XX, where your breakfast pops out of a toaster instead of your farmhouse chicken, you need to look honestly at your potential spouse and make sure there’s more than just love in the air.

Love Is A Must, But Also Marry For…

Money. You heard me. Marry for money. To clarify, make sure the person you are marrying is in a similar financial boat to your own. If you’re both poor, unemployed, and homeless, then you’re all set! But if you’re a doctor bringing home six figures and you own your own home in six states, hopefully your spouse-to-be isn’t living paycheck to paycheck.

Also make sure that your intended’s financial behavior is like your own. If Mr. Frugal marries Ms. Credit-Cards-Are-Free-Money, there’s going to be a disagreement sooner or later.

Health. A healthy person who takes care of his or her body will make for a happier spouse than one who catches the plague and dies on the honeymoon. While you shouldn’t let people’s physical limitations deter you from loving and marrying them, you might want to watch out for someone who will enlist you to run a double marathon with her when your idea of exercise is blinking more than once a minute.

Companionship. You’re happy with that person you’re going to marry, right? That’s good, but how strong is that “with” part? Will yours be the kind of marriage where the husband is in the garage all night while the wife is upstairs reading? Or do you have enough in common and a strong desire to spend time together that your spouse will not just be your legally wedded partner but also your best friend?

Stability. It’s sad but true that the divorce rate in the United States is quickly approaching 150%. Soon, not only will all marriages end in divorce, but so will most first dates! Okay, so the situation isn’t that dire yet, but more often than not, a marriage is doomed to failure from the start. The best way to make sure your marriage ends up in the statistical minority (i.e. those that work) is to think about where it’ll be on your fifth anniversary, your tenth, your twentieth, your fiftieth… and if you can’t even comprehend still being with your spouse for those longer periods, then you probably won’t be.

Him or Her. Most of all, marry not just for yourself but for the other person, too. Live your own life for your spouse, and let your spouse live his or her life for you. If you each put the other first, then you’ll have two forces acting in unison to make sure the marriage is a happy, life-long union.

It’s a simple recipe for marriage, though all it takes is one overlooked ingredient to rip apart an otherwise joyful couple. But if you can find someone who shares the same longing for love, desire for stability, and financial discipline as you, you’ll be well ahead of most on the path to eternal matrimony.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Nine Days to a Lawsuit-Free Life, Day Eight: Marry Your Wife, Not Her Lawyer

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

not the kind of jewelry you want on your wedding day

So you’ve found the perfect wife (or husband; ladies, forgive me for sticking with the masculine pronouns for simplicity’s sake), and you’ve asked her to marry you, and she said no a few times, but then she realized that nobody else in the world can put up with her as well as you can, and now you’re getting married. Or maybe you’ve already been married for a while. In either case, hopefully the only time that legal matters will come into your marriage will be when you go to the courthouse to pick up your marriage license. And while hoping is nice and all, there are a few things you can do before and after your wedding day to help ensure that your “I do”s don’t turn into “I’ll sue”s.

  • Be sure you know who you’re marrying. As a practical Catholic, I’m not going to recommend signing a prenuptial agreements since you should enter a marriage only if you’re entirely convinced that you’re going to spend the rest of your life happily married to your spouse. Before you put that engagement ring on your finger (or offer it to your beloved), be certain that you truly know and understand this person you’re about to marry. Sure you say you’re madly in love, you both enjoy all the same music, and you’re both members of the same Dungeons and Dragons club; but have you talked about important matters like finance, children, work, retirement, and all those other ominous factors that have torn apart millions of marriages in the past? Make sure you’re both on the same page before you start shelling out big bucks for the most important day of your life, or you could be shelling out even bigger bucks to your ex’s lawyers down the road.
  • Tell each other everything. When you enter into a marriage, you’re basically joining yourself to another person. And that’s how you should treat your spouse–as if she were your literal other half. She may not be there in person with you all of the time, but she deserves to know the things that go on in your life. If you’re having trouble at work or your finances aren’t looking too good, don’t keep it a secret. The more you tell your spouse, the easier it will be for her to support you during the more difficult parts of your life, and that will bring the two of you even closer together than you’ve ever been.
  • Seek professional counseling in times of trouble. If you’re always griping to your buddies at work that the missus is driving you crazy, or if you two are constantly squabbling over everything, then you could be in the midst of a bigger problem than you realize. The hardest part of saving a troubled marriage is realizing that it’s in trouble in the first place. Once you do that, turn to someone whose career is focused solely on helping married couples solve their relationship problems. And the sooner you identify a potential trouble spot in your marriage and act to correct it, the more likely you’ll be to avoid a one-way trip to divorce court.
  • Handle life’s adventures together. Whether you’re buying your first home, having a kid, or just balancing the checkbook, you should keep your spouse in the loop of all the major goings-on in your shared life. Even if she’s no good at math, and even if you don’t understand how something the size of a bowling ball can fit through… yeah…, it’s important that you work through life-changing events as a married couple. Doing things together–even those things you wouldn’t normally consider to be husband-wife activities–can only strengthen your relationship.
  • Consider the grave consequences of divorce. So you’ve done all of the above and your marriage is still spiraling out of control. Before you jump to the conclusion that divorce is inevitable, think about what it will mean to the rest of your life. For one of you, it could mean a life of alimony or child support payments that take a huge chunk out of your paycheck. Or it could be you who must raise the children as a single parent–a difficult task that can prove detrimental to the successful development of a child. In the end, the only people who truly win in a divorce are the lawyers who handle the proceedings. So be sure to consider the long-lasting effects of marriage and see if there’s anything more you can do to try to save it before you turn one united couple back into two separate people again.

My wife and I may still be new to this marriage thing, but we closely adhere to the above principles, building our marriage on a foundation of love, trust, and respect. But since we are pretty young, I’d love to hear from folks more experienced in the area of matrimony. So please comment here if you have suggestions for building a better marriage, and hopefully we can work to bring down the soaring divorce rate in this country.

This series concludes next time with a look at some of the ways you can e-protect your e-self from e-lawsuits. You guessed it–we’ll be taking a close look at the laws of the internet and how to keep them from hurting you in a society increasingly dependent on technology and computing.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Giving A Great Wedding Gift From the Couple’s Perspective

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

i hope it has a receipt

Tegan and I will have been married nine months tomorrow, so while the day of our wedding is still fresh in our head, I thought it’d be nice to share our thoughts on how to give a really terrific wedding gift from the perspective of a couple who received some outstanding gifts… and some less-than-stellar ones, too.

First and foremost, do whatever it takes to get ahold of the couple’s gift registries as soon as possible. You can ask the couple directly, but it’s a little more proper to find out from someone else. The sooner you get their registries, the more of a selection there will be left from which to choose. Don’t wait until the last minute or you may be forced to buy something expensive, something you don’t want to give, or something from outside the registries.

Once you know where the couples are registered, try to view their registries on the stores’ websites. Most chain stores with registries provide this option, and it’s a great way to save you from making trips to several stores.

Next, whether you got the registries online or from the store, use those registries to find the gift you would like to give. Order the gift online or in store and either have it shipped to the bride’s residence or hang on to it until the wedding day.

Sounds simple enough, right? And it is! If you follow these steps exactly, you’ll make the bride and groom very happy and grateful for your wonderful gift.

But what if you waited too long and the registry withered down to a few items you don’t want to give the couple? Or what if they didn’t have a registry in the first place? From our own experiences and tastes, as well as those of other couples we’ve talked to, here are your best options for buying gifts not on the couple’s registries. They’re listed in order of preference starting with the highest.

  1. Cash. The only gift guaranteed to be appreciated just as well as any gift on the couple’s registry.
  2. Gift cards. If you decide to give a gift card, try to buy it for a place from which you know the couple will soon be making purchases. Home improvement stores work nice if the couple just bought a house, while grocery stores and big chains like Target work well for any couple. Also be sure that for whatever store you give a gift card that the couple has a location near them.
  3. Wedding/honeymoon fund. Helping out financially with the wedding is probably best left for closer relatives, but you could offer to help purchase flowers or another small component of the wedding. Another alternative would be to get together with others and chip in to provide the couple with a honeymoon, especially if the wedding will leave the couple low on funds and unable to honeymoon on their own budget.
  4. Something you know for certain the couple needs. While most couples will load their registries full of the things they need, there’s a chance they could use some other items as well that weren’t available as a registry item. Talk to friends and family of the couple to see if there’s something they know the couple could really use. Just be sure you’re not duplicating a registry item!
  5. Anything with a receipt. Failing all of the above, try to make sure that whatever you give the couple has a receipt. This way, you know that you’re either giving something the couple can use or something the couple can exchange for cash or something they can use.

Most importantly, don’t break your own bank when shopping for a wedding gift. Especially if you can stick to their registry, the couple will appreciate even a small gift. And if you’re encountering particularly rough financial times, don’t feel terrible if you must show up to the wedding without a gift. A good couple will understand your situation and be happy that you were able to attend their wedding.