I am worried that my spendthrift husband, who does not receive a pension, will condemn me to retirement due to poverty. what can i do? Answers money therapist Vicky Raynal

I am 47 years old and have been married for 18 years. My husband and I have very different approaches to money. I’m more conservative, while money literally burns a hole in my husband’s pocket. He has no pension (which he doesn’t believe in) or insurance of any kind, and spends money on holidays when we have utility bills to pay.

His casual attitude toward money made him good at work. He does not sweat the small things and reaps great rewards for him. And I love that side of him. I also love how he made me live life instead of putting things off until we retired. He will only go on adventures. I like it and don’t resent it.

However, his business has taken a turn for the worse, and I now crave some traditional cash securities like an annuity. I constantly worry about affordability in old age. I see my grandparents needing to spend thousands of pounds a month on care home fees and I wonder what will happen to me when I am no longer fit and able.

I don’t work so I depend on my husband. I have some savings and a small property that pays me a rental income of £800 a month, but I’m afraid my husband will have his eye on this and try to force me to sell it for the greater good of our family. That would be my pension gone. I expect major problems and conflicts in the future as our financial situation becomes more tense and our attitude towards cash reaches crisis level. please help.

Anonymous, via email

Vicki Raynal says it's important to focus on your sense of power when discussing financial issues

Vicki Raynal says it’s important to focus on your sense of power when discussing financial issues

Money therapist Vicky Raynal answers: I first want to commend you for doing something that not many people can do: recognizing the merit of the financial situation of the partner who is causing us problems. You say the advantage of his “casual attitude toward money” was that it served him well at work and that it helped you “live life” in a way that your more cautious spending style would have limited.

This is an important admission and will help you both greatly as you negotiate compromises as a couple.

But of course, every plus has a minus, and here you are faced with the fear that as the company suffers, you may have to compromise your long-term security in order to survive in the short term.

It is a very difficult place and there is no escape from making some difficult decisions. I think the most important thing to focus on is your sense of power in this matter.

First of all, there seems to be a power dynamic in the relationship that is based on the principle that the person who makes more money between the spouses has a greater say in their financial affairs. This is very common.

You are free to be ok with that but it doesn’t seem that way. In fact, you seem to feel that he has the power to make choices when it comes to business-related money, but also when it comes to assets that you consider “yours” (i.e. your property).

It’s important to be aware of these basic assumptions and perhaps even question them: Why can’t the money he earns plus what it brings to his total income and assets be considered “our money”?

This way, big decisions that affect your present and future can be made jointly. By suggesting that you look at it this way, I am inviting you to change the way you approach and talk about this topic. Instead of feeling like he’ll “choose” and “force you,” suggest instead: “Why don’t we discuss our future finances and the difficult choices we have to make because of a struggling business?”

You see, I find that women (and they tend to be women – but not always) often willingly delegate financial responsibilities to their partner. This is either because they feel their partner is ‘better’ with them, or because their partner earns more and is therefore ‘entitled’ to a greater say or simply because in their childhood this was the case (the father made the financial decisions). We tend to repeat the familiar dynamics of our childhood.

But when we don’t like the choices our partner makes or have to deal with the consequences, it’s worth asking, why do we continue to be complicit in this dynamic? Because giving up decision-making power may seem like an acceptable price to pay for not having to do the hard work of participating, being responsible, and being part of the research and decisions that come with financial responsibility. You can choose your current approach, or try to change it so you have more say.

Another action you can take is to be honest with your husband about how important it is to you to have a long-term plan. Talk to him about your fears and explain that if you lose the property it will make those fears worse. Realize how much you appreciate his entrepreneurial spirit and his ability to enjoy money and take the necessary risks involved in building a business.

However, you see the difficulties that lie ahead and want to feel that all options have been considered before selling the property becomes possible.

Then invite him to explore options. From your email it sounds like you think there may be other ways to address financial difficulties: Why don’t you sit down together to brainstorm how to solve the problem that affects both of you? Don’t be afraid to go into concrete suggestions: “I’ve figured out that if we cut this or that expense, we can save £X every month.” This may lead him to think about what he could consider cutting down on his personal or business expenses to avoid having to sell the rental property.

Finally, don’t be afraid to have that tough financial talk: If you discuss things in a respectful way, with curiosity and empathy, you can grow closer as a couple.

Don’t forget that he was feeling the inevitable stress that comes with being the main breadwinner in the family. Leave room for his worries and anxieties as well: How does he feel about the situation? Has he been in a precarious financial situation before? He has his family? If you’re “in this” together, you may find an approach that combines the best of your different approaches to money.

Do you have a question for Vicky Raynal?

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