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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Question 11

Dear Dr. T.,

   My older brother is getting married to a girl that just wants his money and he can't see it. The reason I know she wants his money is because I overheard her talking to someone on the phone and saying that she convinced him not to require her to sign a prenuptial agreement and that she now will get a divorce with him after a month or two into the marriage and take all his money. I have told him this and he hasn't believed me one bit. How can I convince him to break this off or tell him to get a prenup?
John Doe

Dear John Doe,

I think you have already done what you could. It sounds like your brother is determine to marry and that any further efforts on your part will only alienate him from you. All you can do now is to let him know that you love him and hope he will be happy. And, should the worst happen, be prepared to support him emotionally without reminding him that you told him so.

The situation you describe, if it turns out to be as you believe it will, would I think (though I am not a matrimonial lawyer) constitute fraud. If you are really worried, hold on to this email as evidence that your brother's fiancé expressed the intentions you describe before she married him. It might be useful if your brother is sued for divorce.

Divorce laws can vary from state to state. I don't know how the law works in your state, but I believe that in New York, when people get divorced, the money that is earned or acquired through investments after the marriage usually gets shared more or less equally. But each person usually gets to keep whatever money or property he had before the marriage as well as any personal gifts(such as inheritance) he received after the marriage provided that the money does not get comingled by opening joint bank accounts, buying property that is in both spouses names or things like that. So, if the law in your state law is anything like New York law, your brother's fiancé may have unrealistic expectations as to what she can get out of him.

Question 10

Dear Dr. T.

   I am a college student. I have a problem with spending money, not with spending too much but with often being unwilling to spend. There are a lot of nice things that I want and that I can afford, but I can never bring myself to spend large amounts of money at one time, in fear that I might need that money in the near future. Is this common, and if not how could I go about being more willing to buy the things I want?

Dear R.

   A reluctance to spend for fear that money may be needed in the future is not unusual. Usually the impulse to save money for the future is at least partly based on realistic concern. But it can be blown out of proportion and unreasonably restrict one's  ability to use some money for  present day needs or for enjoyment of life. It is a question of balance.

You should have some idea of what expenses you will face in the future and try to plan for meeting these. It is also a good idea to build a "rainy day fund" and put away at least several months worth of savings to help carry you through those hard times when you won't have an income available or face some unexpected emergency. But, allowing for at least some pleasure in your life, if you are financially able to afford it, is also very important to your emotional wellbeing. If you haven't already done so I suggest reading pages 147-150 of my book: A Little Bit Of Hedonism Is A Good Thing, Using Money To Increase Pleasure, and Diversify Your Pleasure Portfolio.  [Note: This student is taking a class in The Ethics of Making Money for which my book, Money And The Pursuit Of Happiness, is required reading.)

I have no formula for how much you should save or spend. Since you have trouble allowing  yourself to spend, I recommend that you give yourself a pleasure spending allowance (you decide how much) to be used for at least some of those nice things that you want and will enjoy, while still making sure that you are planning for your future and not going into debt. If you want something that seems a bit extravagant, save part of your allowance until you can pay for it.
Dr. T.

Question 9

Dear Dr. T.,

   I am a college student taking a class in which your book, Money And The Pursuit Of Happiness, is assigned.  By reading this book, I have learned that  love and meaningful work are what creates life satisfaction. I honestly believe this to be true. However, I have grown up in a home with 2 high-earning incomes and little to no concern over finances. I have always been provided for, and my parents have always paid for everything for me. We go on vacations, go out to eat daily, and I am given money whenever I need it. I am concerned that when I get older that money will be a bigger issue than I think it will be. I am going to be a teacher, which has high satisfaction for me as I love to help others and I hope to make a difference. Yet, I am worried that my income will not be able to satisfy the lifestyle that I have become accustomed to. Will my love for my work really trump my desire for other pleasures, or will I be stuck regretting that I do not have the money to do luxurious things and have no worries over finances?

Dear Worried in Ohio,

   Your question is really about a choice between two kinds of values: the inherent value of doing good meaningful work which you believe you will love, and the value of being able to enjoy a life that includes the pleasure of luxury and lack of worry over finance. To have the first you may have to give up much  the second, although this need not be a completely black and white choice. Many people do have some occasional worries over finance yet still are able to focus on what they find rewarding in life most of the time. If  you become a teacher you may, from time to time worry about money. But dealing with difficulties is part of becoming an autonomous adult. You may also struggle with  some occasional regret for having given up the luxurious lifestyle you remember, or find  yourself envying others who have more money. But, even if you can't see it, those same people may have problems worse than any you have and be less happy than you.

If you haven't yet read Exercise #12 in my book (pages 268 -272), do take the time to not only read it but to do the work it suggests. It will take time and effort, but should help you address the worry you express in your question.

One more suggestion. It sounds like your parents are very generous but, because of that, you  have not had to learn what it is like to have to live with financial limitations. It would do you good if you could have this experience. Could you speak with your parents and ask if they would be willing to help you by not giving whatever you want but, instead, giving you a reasonable allowance: one that you are expected to live within? That would force you to make some hard choices as to how you spend money, rather than getting everything you want whenever you ask for it. It might help you to prepare for a life of teaching if that is what you choose to do. It would also help you to understand what other people's lives are like, which is important for anyone who wants to work in a helping profession.

Ask Dr. T.