The Financial Confessions: “My Parents’ Divorce Taught Me About Money”
“My dad and grandfather sold their business in the middle of the recession. This was no big cash-out, million-dollar deal — they owned a tiny aerospace manufacturing firm that my grandfather started when he moved my dad’s family to the United States. The business wasn’t doing so well, as people cut back on leisure travel during the recession and the aerospace industry felt the financial ramifications. Although the sale of the business was a big load off my dad’s back, he needed to find another job quickly, as I went to an expensive private high school and was about to apply to college. It took him over two years.
My mom has always made as much money, sometimes more in a given year than my dad, so we weren’t completely in the red. But the financial pressures of cutting a two-income household with two kids by 50% had serious repercussions. We had to sell the house I grew up in, with big picture windows and a huge backyard with the perfect driveway for sledding and my bright pink room, and move in with family friends until my mom got our debt under control.
My parents weren’t irresponsible, and did pretty well for themselves — they had always known what we could afford and what we couldn’t, and we sacrificed vacations to send me to private school. But the timing of the recession with my dad’s unemployment was a shock to the system that required huge cutbacks.
Confronted with financial uncertainty and a big house with a big mortgage and big property tax payments, my parents came to opposing financial conclusions about what to cut. My mom hates debt. It makes her feel uncomfortable and unstable. My dad, on the other hand, is fine with debt — he’d rather take a risk, play it by ear, than compromise. I’m simplifying it, but this divergence came to illuminate a fundamental difference in values between them, and they eventually got a divorce.
My parents got divorced because of money. I’m sure there were emotional reasons at fault as well, but our financial situation was the main catalyst that exposed rifts between them.
As a result, my mom has stressed to me the importance of sharing the same financial values with whoever you marry. She says that before I get engaged, I need to sit my boyfriend down and have a frank conversation about how we each approach money. It’s so unromantic, she admits, but it’s so necessary. When the times get tough, you need to be on the same page. Financial struggle results in huge lifestyle changes, and diverging values can dig you in even deeper if you can’t reach a compromise. My life changed drastically because of that.
I now know my financial priorities. I prize stability. I won’t rely solely on my husband’s income. I’m willing to go into debt only to pay for a good education for my future children. When we buy a house, there must be ZERO chance we will be forced to move due to financial reasons.
And I will sit my fiancé down to what is sure to be an awkward, difficult conversation to make sure he has the same priorities as me, because if god forbid I ever get divorced one day, I refuse to let it be because of money.”