Beth Corso remembers that moment like it was yesterday. She was in her early thirties, working at a chocolatier in New York City, and walked into work one day to find him sitting at a desk in the first office.
“Who is that handsome guy?” she asked her boss about the man who would one day become her husband. Her new beau took her to baseball games, loved her cooking and had fun exploring the city restaurant scene with her. Corso thought when they married a few years later that she had met her match, would have a beautiful family – and be secure for life.
What happened? Well, something she never bargained for.
Turned out, she says her husband was fleecing clients and friends – to the tune of 5 million bucks. The financial scheme landed this white collar criminal in prison and eventually he had to pay some money back through restitution. But Corso is still fighting for what he owes her, as she says he enjoys a lavish lifestyle filled with opulent homes and fancy cars.
“I’ve learned that women have to take control of their financial health. We have to learn to have money work for us like a lot of men do – instead of just worrying about when it could run out,” Corso warns, referring to many divorced women’s dependence on alimony and settlement funds. “Don’t get divorced until you are financially established – unless it is an emergency situation.”
I know, I know. We grew up thinking we’d find a great guy and probably have a great family some day and wouldn’t have to sweat this stuff too much.
But often, life just doesn’t turn out that way. Whether we like it or not, 40 to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. Why do people get married in the first place? Well, love, companionship – and yes, financial security.
For many women, we’re raised to think finding a man who’s also a good provider is important. And – though it’s changed considerably – there are still gender roles in most households. Sometimes it makes sense for one parent to stay home with the kids while the other is the breadwinner.
But no matter how blissful the arrangement seems, women should not count on a man to take care of them. They should find something they love and are passionate about – even if they don’t do it full-time – so they have their own purpose and income. Can you still have a man? Of course you can. That’s my point – you can have a man AND a plan. That’s the smartest way to go – and trust me I learned the hard way.
Sandra Fava, a prominent New Jersey divorce attorney, says many women still roll the dice and give their power to their partner. “I think it’s crazy,” Fava says. “I now see younger women – from good families, college educated – who need help with prenuptial agreements. They’re willing to sign anything because they’re marrying someone who’s doing really, really well. I also see women my age going through a divorce and they’ve never ever seen their tax return.”
Enough said. Here are just a few reasons that your man cannot be your plan:
- Divorce – Yes, it’s true that some women could foresee a divorce or even want it themselves. But I also know a ton who NEVER saw it coming – as in, they woke up one day and their husband told them he wanted to split. Or she discovered he was having an affair, which led to the end of the marriage. Whatever it is, trust me, nobody sets out expecting to get divorced. If that were true, no one would get married in the first place. Sadly, women are negatively affected by divorce while most men go on to increase their income. Multiple studies show that women experience declines in household income and standard of living after divorce – and are at increased risk of falling into poverty. If there are children involved, women often take on the majority of responsibility caring for them. Men, however, often go on to earn more money and increase their standard of living.
- He might not stick around forever. – I’m not really talking about divorce in this one, girlfriend. The average lifespan for men in the United States is 76 and for women it’s 81, so women consistently outlive men. The Social Security Administration’s website says it plain as day: “Widowhood remains an important risk factor for transition into poverty.”
- He could be bad with the books. – There’s a stereotype out there that men are better with money, better with numbers, better at handling the checkbook. But who says? You can have a guy who’s an ace at his job in finance, who’s a financial disaster at home. Giving all the power to your man in this area means you’re putting 100% trust in him to manage your finances properly. Why not do it together or split up the responsibilities? I’ll never forget what an old friend told me her mother instilled in her from a young age: “You handle the checkbook, honey. You control the money – no matter what.” Wow. Nobody ever told me that and I wish they had.
- He can keep you in the dark. – Why would he do this you ask? Well, it allows him to do whatever he wants with his money and you’re clueless if he decides to walk out. I can’t tell you how many women I have met who have to ask for an allowance from their husband as if they are a child. It’s degrading – and in many cases, these women are doing the hard work of keeping the home going and caring for their children together. It’s no surprise that financial abuse exists in almost every domestic abuse situation – because it’s all about power and control. The goal of the abuser is to bully, manipulate and threaten their victim financially in order to keep them in the relationship and dependent on them.
Remember Beth? Her ex hid everything he was doing – plus controlled the household budget – so she was totally unaware. She wishes she had known more about the finances and had her own money to depend on.
“Have your own plan,” Corso cautions women. “You never know what could happen. Take it from me.”