Lisa MintoAssistant Vice President - Personal Financial Planning
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Marva ChangVice President - Finance & Compliance
Wayne WalkerVice President - Operations
The Rich Wife’s Handbook
Many years ago, I recall a lovely lady in her late seventies coming to me to open an account a couple institutions ago. She was in great distress because her husband had passed away about 6 months earlier and she had never needed to do anything at all regarding finances. Her dearly departed husband had single handedly taken care of all the bills, all the accounts and never felt the need to burden her with any of this knowledge. However, now that he was gone, she was all alone and did not know the first place to start. This encounter had a profound effect on me, because I really felt her pain and as I mentioned before, she was a really lovely lady.
It got me thinking though of all the various arrangements I have seen- and when the man is the sole breadwinner and decision maker, there are three very credible threats to their wives. These are the three D’s as I call them: debt, divorce and death.
In the first instance, a husband may lead you to believe that all is well, but may be very strapped for cash, and you may not find out until he is informing you that you guys no longer own your house. This would be a very scary situation for anyone to be involved in.
In the second instance, you may have committed to be with him till death do you part, but unfortunately, he may have other ideas. The person that you thought would have your back has suddenly changed and has no intention of parting with any of his money and you are suddenly in a financial wilderness.
The third scenario is of course, death. Death is no respecter of anyone and comes most times completely unbidden. Unfortunately, there are some people who are happily waiting on people to die, but most times, it is very sad, and depending on the circumstances, it can actually be very complex, especially if the man has a business or was married before with other children etc.
So, what is the advice? There is an expression: ‘where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise’, of course I am advocating the opposite. Just like when a parent helps a child too much, they don’t learn independence, in a similar way, if a wife leaves everything to her husband, she won’t learn to manage for herself.
Ask questions. You should know the financial institutions that your family deals with, i.e. the major ones at least. You should know how much debt the family has outstanding. You should have a general idea of the net worth of your spouse. You should ask questions if your spouse is spending a lot of money but doesn’t appear to have the funds to match the purchases.
Are any of the assets in your name? At a minimum, there should be some assets in your name or joint names. You must have money of your own somewhere (every Jamaican mother has given this advice to their daughters).
If your husband is a business owner, the assets may be in the company name, but check who owns the shares of the company, and discuss (even though it’s morbid) what he would expect to happen in the event of his untimely death. In general, people are so afraid to discuss their death, but whether we discuss it or not, we are still going to die at some point. It is therefore, far more considerate of your loved ones, when the discussion takes place long before and clear instructions are left.
Lastly, take the time to read financial articles. Every night, I use Duolingo to learn Spanish, and in the same way, you can take time to read Investopedia and other articles to increase your financial knowledge. And definitely get your feet wet-invest money of your own, you just might become addicted to investing!
Yanique Leiba-Ebanks, CFA, FRM is the AVP, Pensions & Portfolio Investments at Sterling Asset Management. Sterling provides financial advice and instruments in U.S. dollars and other hard currencies to the corporate, individual and institutional investor. Visit our website at www.sterling.com.jm Feedback: If you wish to have Sterling address your investment questions in upcoming articles, email us at email@example.com.
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