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Ask A Serious Girl


Something interesting has happened.  I’ve received more emails about my prenup post than I’ve ever gotten about anything I’ve ever written.  Ever.  I was nervous posting it.  I thought for sure if I got any email it would be hate mail berating me for planning my divorce before I was even married.  Whereas I see our prenup as a testament to the strength of our marriage, most people I meet only have to hear the word “prenup” before they start frothing at the mouth.

You, on the other hand, have completely surprised me.  All of a sudden I’m getting emails and phone calls and requests for more information about prenups.  And you really sound interested .  One person even asked a very good question.

This marks the seventy-ninth time I’ve tried to sit down and write another prenup post, but each time I’ve tried I write five or six pages before I realize that there is no way on earth I can say everything I want to say in one post.  So here’s what I’m thinking:  Since so many of you seem to be looking for more prenuptial information, and since I have a giant crush on prenups, I’m going to write weekly prenup posts.  At least until I’ve run out of things to tell you about them.  Which could be in two weeks or six, I have no idea, but I am really excited.

This week I’ll start with the person who asked the really good question.  I’ve received permission to post the question and my answer here, and since I’ve always secretly wanted to write an advice column, I’m going to pretend that’s what I’m doing.

Q: My fiancé and I just got engaged a few months ago.  We’ve lived together for a year and we’ve kept all of our accounts separate. We’ve never talked about money and I’m worried about what will happen when we get married.  I know she has credit cards but I don’t know how many or what the balances are and she doesn’t know about my debts.  I have no idea if she has any savings but I know I don’t have much.  I showed her your prenup post with the hopes that it would get us started talking about money but she immediately put it off as being “unromantic”.  How can I get her to talk about our financial goals without freaking her out?

A: If she feels like it’s unromantic, make it romantic!  I’m not kidding.  When Mike and I talk about our finances we open a bottle of wine, put of vase of flowers on the table, dim the lights and light candles.  It makes the conversation much lovelier.  Set aside a night just for the two of you.  Buy a nice bottle and a bouquet of flowers.  Don’t drink?  Make hot chocolate.  Turn off your cell phones.  Start the conversation by telling her how much you love her and how excited you are to spend the rest of your life with her.  Then start asking her questions. Ask her if she wants to buy a house and where she hopes to buy it.  How big would it be?  What kind of car does she want to be driving in five years?  When does she want to have kids?  Does she want children?  How many?  Will she want to be a stay-at-home-mom or will she want to work? Where does she see herself in ten years?  You need to get her talking about the kind of life she envisions for her future because it’s the life she’s envisioning for your future too.  Then start telling her about your goals.  Where do you see yourself in ten years?  What’s your timeline for children?  Do you want to buy a house?  She needs to know these things about you.  You both need to figure out where you have common lines and where your ideas are different.  You’re bound to have some different plans, that’s only natural, but where can you come together in happy compromise?

I realize that you specifically asked how to start a conversation about finances, but the plain truth is that your future depends on your finances.  The financial choices you make today affect the kind of life you have tomorrow.  When the two of you have decided what kind of life you want tomorrow, you can begin to talk about the financial decisions that need to be made today.

A very good lawyer once told me that most people spend more time planning their annual vacations than they do planning their lives.  If you don’t plan your life, someone else will plan it for you.  And you probably won’t like their plan.

UPDATE:  2/19/10
Sometimes I get all up on a high horse thinking that my way is the best way and I need to remember that isn’t the case.  This week I had to eat crow when I heard from a woman who just broke off her engagement because her fiancé wanted her to sign a prenup so awful four different lawyers told her she’d be making a terrible mistake if she signed it.  She pointed out that the prenup showed her exactly what her fiance thought of her and she was glad for it, but I suddenly worried that I’ve been really insensitive about the topic.  So now I’m rethinking the weekly prenup posts because, geez. I feel like a jerk.  Though I promise I will answer the emails from those of you who asked specific prenup questions.  (Your answers are coming!)

On A Sunday Morning

Sunday Morning

Sometimes I worry that I’m not working hard enough or fast enough and that the days of my life are slipping blindly past. I worry that we’ll never be ready to have children, that we’ll never have enough money to buy a house or live debt free. I worry that going back to school means we’ll be spending the rest of our lives paying off student loans and we won’t be able to send our children to college because there won’t be anything left over. I worry I’ll never be young enough or pretty enough even though that’s ridiculous because I’m not even old yet. I worry about how we’ll pay the electric bill this month and then I worry that we’ll never have enough money to not worry about how we’ll pay the electric bill. And I know that everyone has these worries. I know that we are young and just starting out. I know that no one’s ever ready for kids and there’s never enough money in the bank. But the worry is real and if we allow it to, it will eat us alive.

And then there is always a Sunday morning.  A morning when the sun pours in through the windows letting the leaves on the pathos glow in a fairy-green light. A morning when the dogs doze peacefully, curled closely with the cats, who, for the moment, are not meowling about their next meal. A morning when Mike is at school, he’s studying, he’s learning, he’s shaping a brick in clay and when it dries hard in the sun on a bright winter day, he will use it to build our dreams a little higher. A morning I have spent writing, writing, writing, my feet tucked under my body and my shoulders beginning to ache, but what a lovely ache; the ache of accomplishment.

The thing to remember is that everything, right now, in this moment, is perfect.

Look around you. Notice your surroundings. Take a deep breath. What do you hear? What do you see? Are you in a cubicle? Can you hear the hum of an air conditioner? Can you hear the comfort in it? Are you at home? Near a window? Is it night or day? Take a deep breath. What is the light like? Is anyone else nearby? How do you feel?

No matter what is going on in life, no matter what happens tomorrow, right now everything is perfect.  Maybe it’s not what you wanted to do today.  Maybe there’s somewhere else you’d rather be or someone else you’d rather see. But we are alive. We are here.

The sun is warming my back. The dogs are in a heap on the sofa. I woke up this morning alive and healthy. My loved ones are alive and healthy. And I thank God and the Universe and all the stars in the sky because whatever happened yesterday and whatever the future holds, we really are blessed.

Wet Hot Saturday Night

In honor of the New Year, Mike and I spent last Saturday night going over our financial records, making a budget, and figuring out how to climb out of the debts of despair. While you may not think a financial meeting is a good way to spend a Saturday night, for us it was much hotter than a night on the town. All right, neither of us really enjoys nights on the town, we’d both rather stay in and watch a Law & Order marathon, I’ll admit it. If we’re feeling really crazy we’ll pick up two different pints of Ben & Jerry’s and swap flavors back and forth until both cartons are empty.

Whenever people tell me about how much their social lives changed when they had kids, I feel a sense of relief because it’s one less thing to worry about. We love not having social lives.

Where was I? Right. The New Year. Climbing out of debt. Thanks to Saturday’s meeting, we now have a Pay Our Debt plan and are fairly confident that by December 31, 2010 we will be credit card debt free. We also have a budget that includes weekly allowances, bi-monthly dates and ice cream.

Is that not the most exciting thing you’ve heard in weeks? Are you jealous? It’s ok if you are, I’m not weirded out. Because here’s the thing: When we moved to New York City three years ago, we had just spent the last year and half busting our asses to pay off all of our pre-marriage credit card debt. You read that right. When we moved to the City, we were credit card debt free. (I specify “credit card debt” because we were still carrying my student loans, loans that I am scheduled to pay until I am one hundred-three years old, and since they are an expense my great-grandchildren will inherit, they don’t count.) To be once again saddled with debt feels like a giant step backwards. We want to be taking steps forward, not backward. It’s about progress, people.

We love our financial meetings. They give us hope. We’ve been having financial meetings since our engagement in July of 2005 and they have always been a way for us to connect and remind one another that we have the same goals in mind. Having the same goals reminds us that we’re part of a team and being a part of team makes the wild ride of life a lot more fun.

If I had to explain why it is that a Saturday night of financial planning with my husband is something I find irresistibly sexy, I’d say it’s because it gives me a sense of safety. That my husband and I are taking equal measures to take care of one another, to plan for the other’s future, to plan for our future family, makes me feel taken care of. It makes me feel like I’m married to someone who wants to see me happy and fulfilled, a man who cares about my best interests in addition to his own. And that is incredibly sexy. Also, I have a thing for data entry.