I make more than my husband, but I don't feel financially secure in my marriage. Here's why...
I don't fear for my marriage, but you just never know what life might throw at you. Even if we never divorce, unexpected deaths and critical illnesses can leave a person completely helpless if they affect the bigger earner.
Tell me a little bit about you and your life
I come from South America, and emigrated to Europe more than 6 years ago to study. I ended up settling down in England. I'm 34 years old, I have an academic and software engineering background, and currently work in tech in London. I got married to a European guy 2 years ago and we live in a house that we own jointly.
What’s the backstory with your relationship/is your husband from a different financial background to you?
On the surface, our financial backgrounds seem fairly similar: we both grew up with holidays abroad, in a home owned by our parents, had no money difficulties, and in my case I had all my education, including university and masters degree, paid by my parents (education was free for my husband, but this was not the case in my home country, where uni is ridiculously expensive). The biggest difference is that his family also owns several properties as investments and has had them for many years, whereas in my family everything we had was just coming from my father's salary. He was saving for his pension but didn't own any other assets and did not have big separate savings.
How did you feel about having a prenup?
I was 100% okay with it, and fully supported it. The main reason to get it was because my husband owns a flat that he bought years before we met, with a deposit that was a gift from his family. I felt that this had nothing to do with me, and that if we were to divorce it was only fair that the property would stay in his family. That is basically the only clause, since we are joint owners of our home. We are aware that we are able to change the agreement in the future and are open to it: say, after 20 years of marriage maybe we will feel differently about me not having part in that property, or maybe in the future we will actually live there (currently it's being rented out, which pays the mortgage). Getting the prenup was actually a great process, if humbling. The solicitor who advised me was obviously very aware of the financial imbalance in the relationship, even with my salary being higher. She went through everything with me, line by line of the document, and explained to me in which ways I would be financially protected if we split later down the line, or if there are children involved in the future. While it was daunting to see our finances laid side by side, and my savings account felt very bare compared to his, the process gave me a lot of clarity on where we stand as a married couple and what would happen to my finances if we were going to divorce.
What do you feel most anxious about?
What I'm most anxious about is building up my savings. My husband has a financial safety net that I simply don't have. This is down to several reasons, starting with the obvious fact that his family has properties and savings and he gets monetary gifts from them, which go straight into his savings and investments. He also started working a few years before me and has a great pension scheme. If he ever needed to, he could always ask his parents for money.
What's your husband like with money?
He is selfless about using his savings for our joint expenses when we need to, and he put in a big deposit for the house we now own jointly. When I was still finishing my degree, and we were already living together, he covered all our expenses. I contributed what I could, but he never made me feel like I owed anything. Even though he is very generous, I'm anxious about not having my own safety net, separate from him. I now make 30% more than his salary, but the lack of savings is what worries me. I started building my savings from scratch when I started working 1.5 years ago, and for different reasons I have not yet managed to build up an emergency fund that I'm comfortable with. I also just started building up my pension in the last 18 months. I know that I can count on him to help me if I ever need it, but I feel that if worse came to worse, my savings are not where I would want them to be.
Why you feel vulnerable about the idea of being dependent?
I come from a family of women in a conservative country. Just within my family alone there are countless stories of women being completely financially dependent on their husbands, and having their lives turned upside down when the men have passed away or, in some cases, left them without warning. I grew up listening to their stories. My mother ingrained in me to never be financially dependent on a partner, even though she still was.I don't fear for my marriage, but you just never know what life might throw at you. Even if we never divorce, unexpected deaths and critical illnesses can leave a person completely helpless if they affect the bigger earner.
Is this what happened with your parents?
When my father passed away a few years ago, my mother had to find a job after having been a SAHM for over 30 years. She now has a comfortable life, and luckily my family owned our house, but my father was the sole earner and the situation could have been a lot worse, for example if she needed to pay rent. My husband always assures me that what's his is mine, in terms of savings, and we have the prenup and our joint house as warranties, but I don't feel like I'm prepared for one of the worst scenarios- If he were to leave me tomorrow and take all his money, I would not feel financially secure. Or, tables turned, if I decided to leave in a heartbeat, I wouldn't have the safety net I do now as a married woman. Of course, I have the benefit of being in a different situation than the women of my family before me, since I have a stable and high-paying job. My husband is also incredibly supportive. He knows how I feel about this, and building my own, personal, separate savings is currently one of our financial priorities as a couple, and we've budgeted for this.
Do you think you could afford single life?
If my husband walked out the door tomorrow with all our joint money, I could still stand on my feet, rent a place, etc., so I do feel that my anxiety is a bit extreme sometimes! But I still carry the stories of my mother, my grandmothers, and my aunts with me. It will take my children or even grandchildren until my branch of the family achieves the financial security that my husband has.
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