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Wealth Inequality and mid-life Relationships

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  • Wealth Inequality and mid-life Relationships

    I'm curious if any fellow WCI-followers have experience or words of wisdom in regards to wealth inequality and romantic relationships in mid-life.   Background: I'm an MD subspecialist in my mid-40's.  I divorced my MD wife of 12 years 7 years ago, which was financially painful since I live in a community property state and she made much less than I.  However, I am good at living well below my means and I make reasonably good financial decisions.  I now have $2m saved (excluding home equity), no debt (excepting mortgage), and manage my own money as my main hobby is investing.  I still work full time and save 50% of my net income every month.  I also have a pension through work.  No debt except for $550k left on the mortgage -- the market value of my home is ~ $1.3m.  Of note, I have an elementary school aged child (from prior marriage) with a 50/50 custody situation. My partner is early 50's, makes about $100k/yr, and struggled financially through most of life except the last few years.  She has just recently (in the last 5 years) started to save for retirement.  Her kids are grown and independent.  She lives with me and we share expenses in proportion to our incomes.  I have made an effort to be fair with her and actually free her up from having to pay for "stuff," since I can easily afford whatever we want/need and I'd rather her max out retirement accounts and feel empowered.   Problem: In essence, the problem is I don't want to get married anytime soon and she does.  My resistance is not based on lack of love/caring, but on the reality of being a high income earner in a community prop state and my intimate knowledge of how family courts work based on my divorce experience.  My partner wants us to have a financial plan together and is very keen on being married.  I'm not opposed to making a "together" plan, but at this point in my life I am opposed to entering into a legal arrangement (e.g. marriage) whereby I'd be liable if things fell apart.  A few things are clear to me regarding our situation: 1. She and I have different perspectives on marriage.  She views it as an emotional pact; I view it as a legal arrangement.  I think we are both right and neither of us is going to change the other's mind.  2. We are in very different places emotionally when it comes to money.  I've been fortunate, frugal, done well for myself, and I'm not apologetic about it.  I enjoy managing and growing my wealth as a hobby and am planning on soon going part-time at work on the way to early retirement in my mid-50's.  My wealth and ability to live below my means afford me the luxury of being relaxed about money/work.  My financial snowball is already rolling down the hill at a good clip.  She, however, feels a lot of pressure to maximize income and save for retirement as she needs to make up for a lot of lost time.  She is very anxious about her financial situation. 3. We have a power struggle over money. I have purposefully kept our financial lives as separate as possible (for both emotional and legal purposes).  I have tried to pay for as many of our expenses as possible to free her up to contribute to retirement.  She does pay for things, but her expenses are clearly much lower living with me than if we were not together.  Up to now, this has mostly worked well.  However, she is looking long term and wants to feel like we are "in it together."    Any suggestions on how to move forward?  Feel free to ask for more details I might have omitted.


  • #2

    Tough situation. I felt the same way after my divorce and totally understand where you're coming from. We didnt have the money imbalance since I was so terribly in debt and a resident. That definitely complicates things.


    How about a prenup type agreement? Would she be amenable to that, and would one address these concerns?

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    • #3

      Wow, I think you need a therapist (as a couple), not so much some geeky docs interested in numbers and such. Honestly speaking, and I obviously do not know you, if it were me, I would be fleeing that situation as fast as possible. That was thought that was running through my head as I was reading the OP. I am not much of a romantic, sorry.  


      Thank you for sharing. I know that a lot of people have similar circumstances, and it will be interesting to read the perspectives of others, especially those who have been through it.

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      • #4

        I would be honest with her and tell her that you have no plans of marrying her and let her decide what she wants to do.  I'm in a similar situation (luckily my fiance doesn't have a great desire to get married).  I know that if we were married we would likely be divorced by now due to differences in how we spend/save $.

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        • #5
          In my (extremely limited) experience of talking to others in this situation, you guys are not likely to be able to bridge this impasse and be long term happy without one of you changing your mind. The situation you describe sounds like both people have examined their feelings and arrived at their different conclusions. I hope you guys can be happy together, but it sounds more like to me you are looking for confirmation that it won’t work out.

          If I may be so bold as to continue wild ****************** guesses — it sounds like accumulation of wealth is more of a game /scoring thing for you than a necessity. Perhaps you could be a little flexible on bundling the finances if you choose to. Unfortunately the bigger hurdle (to me) is the marriage issue, and I read in your writing that you really don’t want to. The money is more of an easily justified reason to avoid marriage. Jmo, obviously don’t know you at all. No offense intended.

          Good luck! Hope

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          • #6

            Please don't take this the wrong way -- money isn't everything -- more a means to an end.


            Prenup is good for preexisting funds, but if going forward; you're in it together.  That includes finances.  That's part of the grand deal.   If you're not up to that level of commitment, then marriage and this difference in level of commitment --- the two of you are at an impasse.    Looks like you have some serious decisions to make on what/who is important to you on that priority list.


            A correctly laid out Living Trust is important regardless you decide in this scenario.

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            • #7
              Vagabond is right, this sounds like a bad situation. I don’t think people should get married if they have such different life goals and expectations. While every marriage has conflicts, marriage shouldn’t be hard. Speaking for myself, I have never had one argument with my wife about finances. We are completely on the same page. You two clearly are not, and that is almost certainly a recipe for significant conflict and argument.

              Marriage should be something you both want to do. It shouldn’t be something one person has to talk the other into. I don’t agree with a getting prenup. If you think you might need a prenup, don’t get married in the first place. As my 2 year old says when we tell him he can’t watch TV - “Don’t Make Sense!” Marriage isn’t something to do on a whim.

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              • #8
                OP, I don’t have much to add, other than to say that I can understand your worries. I’m on the opposite spectrum, never married and in a serious relationship where there is also a money imbalance. I make about 300k and my gf, once she finishes her PhD, will be making about 75-100k as a professor. We are also in a community property state.

                What tips do experiended docs on here have for those in relationships with a big income discrepancy? Pre-nup? Anything else?

                Re: finances you may consider a prenup, but it seems like your divorce was a big financial hit for you and left such a bitter taste in your mouth that you don’t want to go through marriage again, and understandably so. Just be honest with her and see what happens. If she’s ok with that, she’ll stay and live with you without marriage. If she isn’t, then she’ll leave.

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                • #9

                  @FortunateSon, neither you nor your partner understand the true biological imperatives at work. Women are programmed to procure resources, status, superior seed  and commitment. Despite her superior wordsmith skills, she is on the biological hunt for resources.  Men are romantic and easily manipulated; women are stone cold practical.  "In it together", and "emotional pack" are euphemisms for "IRA" and "401k".  Do not disrespect her for this; she can think in no other way. At age 50, you are a high status, high income man with more options than a 50 year old woman.   I can not know the best answer for you but please don't be duped by emotional euphemisms.  


                  I state this view as a female MD, age 60.

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                  • #10

                    Thanks to all who have responded with such honest advice.  I agree with the comments re: marriage.  I have been open with my partner about my distaste for the institution of marriage.  Granted, there is some "baggage" there from my past.  Yet, I'd be a fool if I didn't learn from having gone through the divorce experience.


                     


                    I openly acknowledge the income/wealth gap between us and have no problem doing my part to close it.  I generally pay for vacations, don't ask her to pay any "rent" on the house we live in, etc.  I see it as helping her get ahead.  That said, I see a HUGE difference between that and making a legal commitment which would entitle her to a financial windfall for which I'd be liable in the event our relationship does dissolve.  A pre-nup would not help in a community property state (I've asked a few family lawyers -- they all say "Do NOT get married.")


                     


                    What if I propose that we sit down, open our books to each other and then make a financial plan based on how much we know we each spend, save, etc.?  My well educated guess is that the only rational outcome of such a discussion is that we agree to make sure she is optimizing her savings rate, which means me footing the bill more to keep our lifestyle status quo.  I'd be fine with that.  My concern is that this really isn't about the money.  It's really about an imbalance of power and her feeling vulnerable leading to wanting connection and security.  The irony is that if we break up over this, she'd end up much worse off financially since she'd have to pay rent somewhere, pay for her own vacations, etc. 


                     


                    I'm trying to find a middle ground where we can move forward together without being legally intertwined.  I just seems silly for an abundance of money to be a problem. 

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                    • #11

                      Get a good lawyer and prepare a good Pre-nuptial agreement, tight and FAIR.


                      Your post is the perfect example of someone who can't ever get married without one!..I think not having one is considered financial malpractice..


                      If she agrees to it, marry her!


                      If she doesn't, Id walk away without thinking back...but thats just me!


                      UNLESS.... she is the love of your life, the one unique person who was placed on earth for you, who understands all your needs, who's kind and sweet, who is head over heels in love with you, the one who loves to see you smile and promises to make you laugh and giggle...The one who supports you in life but keeps your feet on the ground..who lives to make you happy everyday...and Who will forever love you until the end of times!...


                      is she? 

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                      • #12

                        Just have to add:


                         


                        I just read the response from "jz" above.  jz, your response is 100% on the mark and also made me laugh out loud.


                         


                        I do get it.  I'm just trying to find a way around/through the morass without screwing myself.  I'm honestly not super bitter (OK, a little) about my divorce.  But I learned the hard way about how the legal system "equalizes" things in community property states.  It's just a reality that I think is smart to balance with the emotional/romantic view of marriage.

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                        • #13



                          @fortunateson, neither you nor your partner understand the true biological imperatives at work. Women are programmed to procure resources, status, superior seed  and commitment. Despite her superior wordsmith skills, she is on the biological hunt for resources.  Men are romantic and easily manipulated; women are stone cold practical.  “In it together”, and “emotional pack” are euphemisms for “IRA” and “401k”.  Do not disrespect her for this; she can think in no other way. At age 50, you are a high status, high income man with more options than a 50 year old woman.   I can not know the best answer for you but please don’t be duped by emotional euphemisms.  


                          I state this view as a female MD, age 60.


                          Click to expand...



                          Ha, you got right to it, good for you. I imagined as much as well.

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                          • #14

                            You could move to a non-community property state!  Marriage at an older age is just a contract since there will be no additional kids. If she is living in your house is it a common law state?  

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                            • #15
                              You def need a prenup if you get married

                              We aren’t married , some similar reasons. My fiancé is the one who has been divorced though, not me with a child from that marriage. I do make significantly more. He understands what can be lost in a divorce since he lost a lot.

                              We have similar financial arrangements as you but we have planned our future financially together. I make sure he maxes his retirement accounts and saves for his son. I would prefer to get married but lawyers have told me to delay until his child graduates college or else I’d be on the hook for that.

                              We do have a child together so my situation is a bit different. When we do get married I intend to have a Pre nup and we have discussed some basic terms.

                              Something about your post doesn’t quite sit well though - it sounds like something is holding you back or maybe the relationship isn’t what you really want or else you wouldn’t be having these questions?

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