Ask Amy: Turn back the clock to fix finances

February 20, 2013

DEAR AMY: I recently got remarried. My two sons are in college, and I have a full-time teaching job, a house that is almost paid off and a substantial nest egg. My husband is moving in with me soon but has debts from his business.

Before we were married (we were friends), I gave him $16,000 to help keep his business afloat. I don’t expect repayment.

He still has $25,000 in credit card debt accrued from his business at about a 12 percent interest rate, which he will still need to pay while he is looking for work when he moves to my state. I could sell some of my investments to pay off his credit card, but I am not sure if I should do that.

I know that together financially it would make sense to pay off a high interest bill, but I hesitate to sell investments to give him more money. What do you think I should do? -- Newlywed

DEAR NEWLYWED: I think you should turn back the clock and have a series of important financial conversations and negotiations with your guy before you get married.

I’m going to get you started on your “postnup” conversation by suggesting questions: Who owns the home you two will share? Who is responsible for your sons’ college tuition? Who is responsible for your husband’s credit card debt? Are you willing to help finance a new business for him? If he gets a job, will you combine incomes? Who will handle household bills? Will you happily share your retirement savings?

A certified public accountant or financial planner can walk you through this without overwhelming you.

Also, read “It’s Not You, It’s the Dishes: How to Minimize Conflict and Maximize Happiness in Your Relationship,” by Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson (2012, Random House).

DEAR AMY: I think I found “the one.” He’s funny, ambitious and we communicate seamlessly. Unfortunately, he lives half a continent away (we met while traveling through South America).

We talk every day, and we’ve managed to meet up once a month for the last eight months. Every visit has been perfect.

I graduate from college this spring, and he’s asked me to move to be with him while he finishes medical school, but I’m not sure! I’m worried that I could find a better job somewhere else. I would hate myself for moving if we broke up in a month, and it was all for nothing.

It feels like I could never love anyone else this way, but I’m only 22, and we’ve never really been together while not traveling.

Should I follow him, or am I living in a fantasy? Should anyone my age follow a boyfriend? If I followed him, could I respect myself as a modern career-oriented woman? -- Kate

DEAR KATE: No experience in life is “all for nothing.” The period immediately after college is a rare time of life when you can make a relatively low-stakes choice to live wherever you want to live, and then move if you want to.

You may have misread the modern feminist concept, which is not to negate your personal life in favor of a career structure, but for you to be your own person. You should do what you want to do.

Can you find a job in your field in your friend’s town? If so, go for it. My only caution would be for you not to live with him. Modern relationships demand intentional behavior, and for you to truly be your own person, you should be self-supporting, independent and able to build a life outside of your wonderful romance.

DEAR AMY: The letter from “Parents With Problems” reminded me of how smart kids can be sometimes. This seventh-grader knew her parents needed professional help; she saw the lack of affection between them and she knew this wasn’t right.

I realized recently that my husband and I were just about the only “happily married” couple my kids knew. That’s pretty sad. -- Happy Parents, Happy Kids

DEAR HAPPY: No couple can present a seamlessly beautiful picture to the kids. But our children should see us working things through and working things out.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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