Disagreements over greenbacks will make any couple see red, but money issues can be especially tricky for two people involved in a cougar relationship. The female half has likely amassed greater wealth than her partner, and no woman wants to see herself as a “sugar mama.”
So how do you protect your self-esteem and your assets so you feel comfortable?
For the answers to these pressing questions I called in my new wealth management expert, Susan Hirshman. Susan is one of the new “
5-carat experts ”
now blogging for me on my relaunched Web site, therealcougarwoman.com. Susan is president of SHE Ltd., a consulting firm focused on enhancing the financial literacy of women globally, and the author of Does This Make My Assets Look Fat? A Woman’s Guide to Finding Financial Empowerment and Success. Here are her five essential tips for successfully partnering love and money.
1. Protect your assets in from divorce.
Unfortunately, even the best relationships aren’t guaranteed to last. If you enter into a marriage with significantly more assets than your spouse, you should really “
those assets aren’t included in a divorce settlement. You do this by executing a prenuptial agreement. It’s not the most romantic thing, but it is the smart thing. It is also smart to think in terms of “yours, mine and ours.” The question you have to ask yourself is, How much control am I willing to give up when it comes to my assets? Remember, once you put assets in a joint account either spouse can use them without asking the other’s permission.
2. Protect your assets in case of death.
Some of you may want all of your assets to go to your younger spouse, but others may have children from a previous marriage or other family members whom they’d like to include in an inheritance. There are a variety of ways to do this. So before you sign the marriage certificate, be sure to see an estate attorney to develop your plan and find solutions.
3. Identify your long-term goals.
When you are in a relationship where there is a significant age difference between you and your spouse, one of the challenges you face is how to prepare for your retirement. You should plan as if you will be the only one responsible for you. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but spending all your money now and expecting your spouse to pick up the slack when you are retired is very risky—can you guarantee that he will be there?
4. Assess your spending habits.
It is imperative that during your dating relationship you have the Honest Money Talk. One of the best ways to start the conversation is for each of you to answer the following questions. Do it separately, writing down your answers and then discussing them with each other:
—What does money mean to you?
—What are your childhood memories about money?
—What keeps you up at night?
—What would you say is your tolerance for risk?
—How would you rate your financial literacy?
Make sure as you answer these questions to think about the “why”—
it will give you great insight to the emotional issues you and your spouse have when it comes to money. You want to discover if you are emotionally compatible in this area. Often you are not, so it’s important to know upfront if these issues are reconcilable. Otherwise, it can be an area of high stress and constant argument.
5. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
The bottom line here is ignorance is not bliss. Discussion, rather than avoidance, is the key to both marital and financial fulfillment.
I hope all women reading this will take Susan’s advice. It’s very important that we are up to speed on how to take care of ourselves and protect our interests. That’s an essential facet of being a Real Cougar Woman.
Linda Franklin is the author of Don’t Ever Call Me Ma’am: The Real Cougar Woman Handbook and the founder of TheRealCougarWoman.com.