Recently, as a school project, my son had to write recipe for happiness. I chuckled as I read his ingredients, which included doughnuts, video games, and a comfy couch– oh to be young again and have such simple wants… Expectations have definitely gotten a lot more complicated after four decades of being on this Earth, but if I had to prioritize and write an honest answer to what makes me happy, I think I would say my recipe for happiness includes (i) time to enjoy my family and friends, (ii) time for myself, and (iii) working on interesting cases and projects, all while feeling financially secure. The last part is truly key, and one that I perhaps did not recognize for some time.
Most of us that grow up poor, never want to experience that again, and it is a deep-seeded fear that many will carry for a lifetime. And yet, for those of us that came of age in the 80’s and 90’s there was this amazing period of time where so many got rich fast– either in the tech boom, the housing boom, the Wall Street boom, you name it. There were plenty of jobs and during these golden years many of us took for granted that there would always be plenty of money. And then came the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and the recession where I saw many got laid off. One bubble kept bursting after another, and then we entered into the Great Recession, and for the first time ever I got to see first-hand along with all my fellow GenXers, the precariousness of our economic situation. Moving forward, I don’t think any of us will under-estimate the importance of financial security, for without it, it is very difficult to enjoy life and truly pursue happiness.
So how does this relate to love? Well, because in the beginning, couples rarely talk about money, and no one likes to really bring up the issue. People’s visions are clouded during the honeymoon phase, and often they’ll ignore major red flags. Once married, a lot of couples just want to jump to having a family, without thinking through the financial consequences of that decision. Yet there are major financial considerations to be made– how will the household expenses get paid? How much do you plan to set aside in savings? What is a realistic budget? Can you afford to live the lifestyle you envision together? You are not just living in the present, but building a future when you become partners. If you don’t share the same dreams and goals for the future, what are you doing together?
There are many reasons that couples divorce, but among the top 5 in my experience is their different attitudes towards money. I’m not saying you marry for money, and thanks to the women’s lib movement no professional woman needs to do that. What I am saying is that you shouldn’t ignore the money. Being with someone that jeapordizes your sense of safety and security is simply an unsustainable situation. So, as sad as it may be, I have to say that when you are putting together your own recipe for happiness, make sure you take off those rosy-colored lenses and do an honest assessment of the financial soundness of your merger. It’s much better to do it on the front-end, than to come to me for damage control in a divorce setting.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.