ASK AMY

The Washington Post Sunday - - Style -

Dear Amy:

My hus­band and I have been mar­ried for 23 years. “Steve” is a won­der­ful man, but he has a blind spot. He seems to think that the only rea­son to have a ca­reer is for the money, and the more money the bet­ter.

Our son is a tal­ented jazz mu­si­cian, but my hus­band has re­fused to let him take mu­sic cour­ses in col­lege, let alone ma­jor in mu­sic, be­cause he says “Alex” can’t pos­si­bly make any money as a mu­si­cian. It’s got­ten to the point where he won’t even at­tend Alex’s band’s con­certs. My son is a fi­nance ma­jor and is on an­tide­pres­sants.

Last year I was feel­ing burned out in my own job, so I started look­ing into a ca­reer change. Steve said there was no sense spend­ing money to up­grade my skills when I was mak­ing per­fectly good money where I was, even though he knew I was un­happy.

In the last three years, this man has bought a boat, a mo­tor­cy­cle and an ex­pen­sive set of golf clubs be­cause he says life is too short not to buy what you want. Well, I say life is too short not to be what you want.

What do you think?

A in In­di­ana

My view is that life is too short to spend it ac­quir­ing stuff when you could spend it ac­quir­ing ex­pe­ri­ences.

Sure, we all love toys, and we all need to think of our own sol­vency when plan­ning a ca­reer, but to deny your son the op­por­tu­nity to pur­sue his true pas­sion in fa­vor of a de­gree in fi­nance is to deny who your son is at his very core. You are right to con­nect this de­nial with your son’s de­pres­sion.

Your hus­band is cre­at­ing a wedge be­tween him­self and his son that he may never be able to re­pair. A par­ent’s job is to guide a child, not to dic­tate from on high what course his life should take. Your son should know that the ca­reer he fol­lows is his own re­spon­si­bil­ity. Ev­i­dently, your hus­band doesn’t trust his son to make good choices. That will im­pede his abil­ity to do so.

I don’t quite un­der­stand how your hus­band can dic­tate your ca­reer choices. He has made his view clear. You should thank him for shar­ing his opin­ion, then do what you need to do to be sol­vent and happy. Dear Amy:

In re­sponse to your in­quiry about how mar­ried cou­ples han­dle split­ting fi­nances, I thought I’d of­fer my ex­pe­ri­ence.

As a child, it al­ways hurt to hear my par­ents fight­ing over money. When I got mar­ried, my hus­band and I could sum­ma­rize our fi­nan­cial plan in one phrase: We never want to fight about money.

Some women grow up in­de­pen­dent, and then as soon as they meet “Mr. Right” all that in­de­pen­dence goes right out the win­dow. Some jus­tify their de­pen­dence on a hus­band’s earn­ings by main­tain­ing that they are moth­ers who have value.

De­pen­dent women also of­ten fail to ac­knowl­edge the re­al­i­ties of di­vorce, wid­ow­hood or empty-nest syn­drome.

My hus­band and I have sim­i­lar jobs and in­comes (which, ad­mit­tedly, makes our ar­range­ment eas­ier). We split ex­penses down the mid­dle. We keep sep­a­rate check­ing ac­counts and re­tire­ment ac­counts, and we usu­ally don’t dis­cuss them.

We also de­posit a pre­de­ter­mined amount quar­terly into two joint ac­counts: sav­ings (for a home) and for ex­penses for our daugh­ter.

This ar­range­ment ini­tially took some work­ing out, but the ben­e­fits are tremen­dous.

We rarely, if ever, ar­gue over money, and we’re set­ting a good ex­am­ple for our daugh­ter.

Liv­ing the Dream

I agree that work­ing cou­ples should main­tain sep­a­rate and joint ac­counts, based on their needs and tem­per­a­ments (whether they’re nat­u­ral “spenders” or “savers”). Speak­ing as a work­ing wo­man and then stay-at-home mother who had no in­di­vid­ual fi­nan­cial as­sets prior to di­vorce, I learned this les­son the hard way. Write to Amy Dick­in­son at askamy@tri­bune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tri­bune, TT500, 435 N. Michi­gan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2007 by the Chicago Tri­bune Dis­trib­uted by Tri­bune Me­dia Ser­vices Inc.

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