Coffee heat rising

Why EVERYONE Needs to Learn How to Manage Money…

…Especially women.

Today I met a sweet and kindly lady in the course of a volunteer project I signed up for. While we were figuring out what we were supposed to be doing, we of course struck up a conversation, during which she came to tell me her life story.

At 60, she’s struggling financially: always “on the edge,” she says, despite holding down a full-time job and juggling three side enterprises. It was not always so.

She was widowed in her 40s. Her husband, retired Air Force, died unexpectedly at 54. He left her an annuity, some savings, and a paid-off house. They had been married for about two decades.

Being a relatively young woman, she soon took up with a new man, one who appeared to be acceptable. They were together for quite a few years.

During that time, this gent took over paying the bills and managing their finances. They owned a business together, and he ran it.

What he really was doing was quietly cleaning her out. We won’t mention the womanizing he was doing on the side, also quietly, because it’s not especially relevant.

Then one day the license plates were stolen off her car. She called the Department of Transportation to get them replaced and was told she couldn’t have new licenses because the car was uninsured. This was news to her. She became so confused in the bureaucratic maze that her S.O. offered to take over and get the job done for her. She gratefully agreed.

He told her he needed a power of attorney so he could represent her with ADOT. She agreed to give him one, signed and notarized.

He sallied forth and did battle with the bureaucracy, eventually returning with new license plates.

Time passed; she didn’t think much more about it.

Then the day came when their relationship started to dissolve. That’s when she discovered that he’d used the power of attorney to take out a second mortgage against her paid-off home, to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. Having convinced the credit union manager that she was sick, incapacitated, and needed money to pay medical and skilled nursing bills, he’d drained her bank accounts and taken pretty much everything she had, except for the small annuity and modest savings in a 401(k).

He’d spent it all on his chippies, leaving her in poverty.

And, as it developed, there wasn’t a damn thing she could do about it. Because she had given him a power of attorney, she had authorized him to do as he pleased. The police and the state attorney general told her no crime had been committed—or at least, not one that could be prosecuted. She did not pursue him in civil court because she believed he had no money, and she certainly couldn’t afford lawyers’ fees for a suit that would return nothing.

She’s still trying to pay off the loan against the house, which is now worth less than she paid for it. She came close to losing the house, because she didn’t know the loan existed until the payments were far in arrears.

She expects to work to the age of 70 to maximize her Social Security benefit. But she doesn’t have a nickel or a dime, and at the rate she’s going, she never will.

No one should ever let somebody else control their finances—even communal finances—without oversight. I think this is more common with women than with men, at least in my generation. But I know of men whose finances were similarly drained by designing women. Even in these more enlightened times, I’ll hear 20-something women students remark that they don’t understand money and don’t want to—it’s too, too boring.

Well, get bored, laydeez and even yents. A little tedium is a heckuva lot better than spending your old age in penury.

8 thoughts on “Why EVERYONE Needs to Learn How to Manage Money…”

  1. @ frugalscholar: Could be. My guess is she allowed these guys to manage the money because she didn’t know how or thought she didn’t couldn’t do it competently. That’s the way women in my generation were brought up: the man of the house earned the money and so it was his privilege to manage it.

    Over the years I’ve met so many women — some of them very bright, educated, and affluent — who hadn’t a CLUE what was going on with the community finances.

    It wasn’t that they were lazy or incapable of doing the job. It was a societal thing: women didn’t do that.

    In more recent years, I’ve heard very young adult women — in their early 20s — remark that they weren’t interested in budgeting or money management, because they found it painfully boring.

  2. The same thing happened to model Lauren Hutton. She let her boyfriend manage her money, and when he died she found out she was left with no money. Even though she was very embarrassed about the situation, she decided to talk about it as a cautionary tale to other women.

  3. I’m in my sixties and have never let any partner be in complete charge of our money. They don’t need to be philandering crooks, they could be loving but incompetent. I can’t imagine letting someone have that much control over your life. And to control your money is to totally control you.

    I also don’t understand the young who fight budgeting. If you don’t know what is in your budget, how do you know if you have money for (fill in the blank with whatever floats your boat.) I need to know if I can afford a shopping splurge or a major travel expense.

    Personally I rework my budget at least weekly.

  4. I need to retain and read this story in those weak moments when I wish I were in a relationship again. Scary stuff. My heart goes out to this lady. I hope that man gets his just desserts (with worms on top).

  5. This story is really sad and I feel for this poor woman. That man is despicable and obviously never really cared for her. Unfortunately, the reality is that it is every person’s responsibility to know where they are financially and I think she let her heart make a decision when she shouldn’t have. I for one have been following my parents’ example on this one. We sit down each month to get our budget and finances sorted out… it’s been a tough conversation from time to time, especially when one person can be a bit trigger-happy on ebay (that would be me!) but I think it’s necessary to be on top of what you have and what you owe.

  6. A sad and unfortunately common story. The moral: don’t turn your money, your health, your career or your general happiness over to someone else and think you can forget about it. We’re all responsible for our own lives.

Comments are closed.