I’m An Engaged Woman and Think We Should Have a Prenup.

I just got engaged after dating for 8 months and am ecstatic. It felt like a dream come true for both of us when we met and started dating. I am a regular reader and know that you advocate dating for 2 years before thinking of marriage, but we are both ready. Our compatibility is a 9, chemistry is a 9, and our relationship hovers between 9/10. We will probably set our wedding date for 6-8 months later, so that means we will get married at the 14-16 month mark.

One thing that has me a bit stymied is how to broach the prenup talk. Personally, I make a very modest living and am happy with a modest lifestyle. However, my family is very well-off and will gift me a home, jewelry, and a new car when I get married. As for him, he is a very hard, responsible worker earning a good wage and has saved enough money to buy a home for us. How to broach the subject of setting up a prenup so that in case of divorce, both of our assets are protected? It feels so defeatist to enter marriage with talks of prenup, but I understand it has to be done.

In addition, he has asked that I resign from my job and focus on raising our children since he will take care of everything. While I would love to put all my energies into making a wonderful, loving home, I think it is a big mistake to become completely financially dependent on him, however good his intentions are. I think the best course of action is to for us to set up a prenup where we can each have our own counsel review the prenup, set the terms where he is responsible for the home and car he purchases, I am responsible for the home and car under my name. In addition, we should maintain separate 401K/retirement funds, and whatever other personal funds, but contribute to a joint family bank account.

If I cannot work for a number of years while pregnant or raising young children, what is an equitable way to handle finances? If he is temporarily unemployed while looking for a new job or going back to school, what is an equitable way to handle finances in this case? We are in love and clearly have the best intentions of supporting each other emotionally and financially, but I do believe it’s best to set up a sound and fair financial system now without emotions clouding the process. Please help, thank you. ~Liz

Liz,

Congratulations on your engagement. Congratulations on being ecstatic.

That’s about all the nice stuff you’re gonna get from me, because someone has to burst your bubble quick.

Listen, I appreciate that you think you’re the exception to the rule that the healthiest marriages result from 2-3 years of organic, uninterrupted courtship. I know you’re aware that the weakest marriages begin with two people who “just know” that they’re “meant to be” because they’re “soulmates” and are completely “ready” because they’re “different” than other couples. I know you read this recent blog post about getting the order of things right and determined that it didn’t really apply to you.

I don’t think you’re stupid. Or even naïve. You’re “in love.” And, unfortunately, when you’re “in love,” it’s literally the worst time to make any major decisions. Your brain is so flooded with dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, oxytocin, estrogen, testosterone and other pheromones that you can’t think straight. All you can think about his how perfect things are..

I feel you. Just know that just about every divorced couple on the planet once felt like you.

That’s about all the nice stuff you’re gonna get from me, because someone has to burst your bubble quick.

You didn’t mention how old you are, Liz. My question is simply this:

What’s the rush?

Unless you are 40-years-old and want to get pregnant yesterday, there is NO compelling reason to get married after 14 months. None. If your relationship is that strong, whatever you feel today will only get BETTER in one year, two years, three years, and so on.

You believe that, right?

Oh, wait, you don’t? You are secretly worried that things are not going to feel as good down the road? That you’re going to get to see each other’s flaws, start to argue, and discover some fundamental differences? That you’re going to run out of things to say, become bored of sex, or hit some roadblocks?

It’s one or the other, Liz.

Either you believe that everything is going to be rosy, in which case, you can wait until the hormones die down in two years before tying the knot, OR you believe that reality will hit you like it hits everybody else on the planet – and you just want to lock in a ring while you’re at your emotional peak.

You will probably say that it’s neither – that you know that reality is going to hit, but you want to marry him ANYWAY. Why now, after only 8 months together? Well, um, because you love him, he loves you, and you both want to get married. The “just because” excuse. Got it.

If this sounds like I’m trying to scare you straight and ask you to reconsider your premature engagement, it’s because I am. In fact, your letter makes my point far better than I could.

“He has asked that I resign from my job and focus on raising our children since he will take care of everything. While I would love to put all my energies into making a wonderful, loving home, I think it is a big mistake to become completely financially dependent on him, however good his intentions are. I think the best course of action is to for us to set up a prenup where we can each have our own counsel review the prenup, set the terms where he is responsible for the home and car he purchases, I am responsible for the home and car under my name. In addition, we should maintain separate 401K/retirement funds, and whatever other personal funds, but contribute to a joint family bank account.

If I cannot work for a number of years while pregnant or raising young children, what is an equitable way to handle finances? If he is temporarily unemployed while looking for a new job or going back to school, what is an equitable way to handle finances in this case? We are in love and clearly have the best intentions of supporting each other emotionally and financially, but I do believe it’s best to set up a sound and fair financial system now without emotions clouding the process.”

Emotions clouding the process. We wouldn’t want that, would we? Not with something as important as love, marriage and money involved.

If this sounds like I’m trying to scare you straight and ask you to reconsider your premature engagement, it’s because I am.

You got the order wrong, my friend. You got engaged before you agreed on a vision of life, before you discussed what you thought of prenups, or your families, or joint accounts, or being a stay-at-home mom. You’ve got no idea who you’re marrying yet, whether you’re on the same path, and whether you are able to compromise and negotiate around some fundamental issues.

All you know is that you have an AMAZING relationship and a ring and you’ll figure the rest out later.

Yes, I believe in prenups (even though I don’t have one). I consider logic equally with emotion and I think it’s practical, given your circumstances, to sort that out in advance.

I think it’s completely unfair for him to tell you to quit your job and raise the kids. I love the fact that my wife is a stay-at-home-mom, but that was her choice, and I thankfully have the means to support our family by myself. You are 50% of this relationship and if you want to work, work part-time, pay for a nanny, or keep up your skill set and resume should you ever want to return to work full-time, that’s up to you to decide, and for your husband to support your wishes.

Until you navigate these issues, your question about how to handle household finances when you’re pregnant is irrelevant.

First, take a step back to evaluate everything. I’m not saying to call off the engagement – what’s done is done. But certainly postpone the wedding date, live together, and work through your respective concerns about love, work and money BEFORE you pay tens of thousands of dollars to stand on the altar.

And if that seems like too much work because you’re so in love that you just must get married as soon as possible, all I can say is that you better get that prenup worked out first.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Ben

    “You are 50% of this relationship and if you want to work, work part-time, pay for a nanny, or keep up your skill set and resume should you ever want to return to work full-time, that’s up to you to decide, and for your husband to support your wishes.”

    Minor nitpick, but no, it’s not “for [him] to support [her] wishes.” It’s for him to understand her wishes and consider whether they’re compatible with his before going forward with a marriage. The way this is phrased sounds as though she should make the decision unilaterally and he should be expected to acquiesce without question, which is just as problematic as assuming she should quit her job for no other reason than that it’s what he wants.

    1. 1.1
      jeremy

      I’m glad you brought that up, Ben. I absolutely agree with you. It is NOT for him to support her wishes. It is for THEM to agree.

      I’ve seen it on too many “mommy” chat sites where a woman decides she wants to drop out of the workforce and focus on her kids, and tells the group “my husband wasn’t happy about it, but in the end he realized it was MY choice.” Nope. In that case, the woman made a choice and the man had no choice – he could support her and stay married, or support her and be divorced. Not fair.

      Decide what life you want to live, and see if your partner agrees. If you both agree, you have a shot at making it work. If you don’t agree, why rush to be married?

      1. 1.1.1
        Karmic Equation

        And why isn’t the guy asking these questions, if it’s so important to him?

        A man who gets engaged WITHOUT asking about what she intends to do if she gets pregnant is EQUALLY as culpable of ending up where he has “no choice”.

        He has to have the balls to talk about it, particularly if it’s as important to men as you say.

        If he doesn’t ask, and he has to live with “her choice” then he has himself to blame as well as her.

        Let’s just say she says one thing before they get engaged, “I intend to keep working.” And then she changes her mind AFTER they’re married, well, hopefully, HE was smart enough to ask for a prenup to work through that scenario.

        If she feels that’s “just not romantic” he can get married without the prenup or he can decide to call off the engagement since she’s unwilling to be reasonable.

        Men have choices and voices, too. If they don’t choose to exercise either before marriage, that’s his bad.

        1. Chance

          I’ve often heard that prenups don’t hold up in court a lot of times.  Best not to marry.  However, if one must marry, I think a good response to a wife who suddenly expresses that she has unilaterally decided to quit her job would be something along the lines of:  “That’s a great idea…. I think I’ll quit my job too!”

           

          We’ll see how she likes that.

  2. 2
    Sunflower

    Love the no-nonsense advice! I could listen to you and Dr. Phil all day long.

  3. 3
    jeremy

    Interesting regarding the prenup. I am all for them, frankly. I just find the rationale in this case to be amusing.

    So the OP has some family money which would be put toward a house and other necessities. Her fiancee has some savings. The OP worries that, in the event of divorce, the assets that she (or her family) contributed would be co-opted by him.

    But let me ask – if she did not have the family money – if she was relying on his savings plus her own income, would the thought of the pre-nup have occurred to her? Would she have signed one if asked by him? In that case, in the event of divorce, the assets that would have been accumulated largely because of HIM would be coopted by HER. Would that bother her, I wonder? It does not seem to bother the majority of female divorcees when it works in their favor.

    Marriage is a financial contract – and one that is most often entered into in bad faith. I think pre-nups should be standard, and only wish they were more enforceable.

    1. 3.1
      Chance

      Good points, Jeremy. I, too, have noticed that many women view prenups quite differently depending on whether the man or woman suggested it. When a woman suggests it, she is often seen as being strong, independent, and prudently protecting herself. When a man suggests it, he is often seen by women as being selfish and unromantic because he is willing to pollute true love with legal paperwork (nevermind that marriage paperwork is the same thing).

      1. 3.1.1
        Sass

        In 2015 everyone should consider getting a pre-nup. The risks are just too high. But you’re right, there is a double standard there.

  4. 4
    Fusee

    As I was reading the letter the first thought that came to mind was that the Letter Writer is definitively NOT ready to be engaged, nevermind married, if she has not discussed these topics with her partner.

    Amen to Evan for another kiss of reality!

    Letter Writer, you need to make a list of topics/questions to discuss and arrange asap a weekly meeting with your fiance to answer these questions and address these topics. DO NOT PASS BY GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200 before you do that. Make sure you cover spiritual beliefs/traditions, money management, views on child rearing, how to handle in-laws, health, and outlook on life/general life goals. Go deep, each topic is supposed to take a few hours to discuss adequately. You can do it with a marriage counselor if you think you need guidance, or if conflicts arise. Conflict of opinion SHOULD arise, as it is virtually impossible to be of the exact opinion on everything, and you MUST make sure you guys can resolve conflict and make compromises before proceeding with white dresses and three-tier cakes.

  5. 5
    Katie

    I don’t wholeheartedly agree on dating 2-3 years before marriage depending on your age, I’m 37 about to be 38 and I think a year to a year and a half is adequate at this age. I definitely agree that 2-3 years is a must if you’re younger and depending on what your life experiences have been.

    With that said, this woman sounds young and naive (sorry), 8 months is too soon and there are already cracks beginning to show. I don’t like that he asked her to resign and raise the children, that should be an agreement they BOTH come to, it is a huge sacrifice for a woman to give up her career in the workplace, in the event that the marriage dissolves especially, it will be extremely difficult to reenter the work force unless you’ve been keeping up with technology and all that etc. A prenup sounds like protection unless your soon to be ex has no means to financially help support you should a divorce occur. It wasn’t worded as “they decided”, it was that “he asked”, sounds like a red flag to me.

    1. 5.1
      Adrian

      Katie, I once read somewhere that regardless of age, anyone in love acts like a teenager. So you should be careful that you don’t fall into the same type of thinking as Liz, 38 or 48, it won’t hurt to give it time.

      I don’t understand how is his asking a red flag? If she would have said that he demands or that he got upset that I said no, then sure it’s a red flag, but how could a man who wants to spend his life with this woman show signs of a red flag just because he asked her to raise the kids instead of allowing a daycare or a nanny to do it?

  6. 6
    Tom10

    @ Liz (Letter Writer)

    “How to broach the subject of setting up a prenup so that in case of divorce, both of our assets are protected?”

    Whenever I’ve struggled to know how to communicate an awkward issue, I’ve always found that straight up face-to face communication is the most effective.

    @ Katie #5
    “I don’t wholeheartedly agree on dating 2-3 years before marriage depending on your age, I’m 37 about to be 38 and I think a year to a year and a half is adequate at this age”

    Evan said that “Unless you are 40-years-old and want to get pregnant yesterday, there is NO compelling reason to get married after 14 months”. 37/38 is close enough to 40 to use the same timescale.

  7. 7
    Ari

    There’s a lot of good comments and great advice from Evan. The thing that stands out most is “in case of divorce”. If we’re preparing for something to fail, should we really be getting married? I am not judging , I have done my fairshare of preparing for relationship failures. At some point, there has to be trust in the relationship succeeding.

  8. 8
    Robyn

    A pre-nup is like accident insurance – you hope you won’t need it, but if things do happen do go awry & you end up in a “relationship wreck”, you’d be better off having it than not having it.
    Having a pre-nup also forces you to consider a variety of “what if’s” that you may not have discussed or considered previously (especially if you’ve had a whirlwind romance like Liz).
    And even if you’ve discussed these topics in the past, it’s still a good idea to review them in more detail as well as document them in writing before you get married. Yes, that may sound cold & clinical, but it’s the only way to make sure that you’re both on the same page (as the saying goes) when it comes to mission-critical stuff that will affect both of your lives for decades to come.

    1. 8.1
      jeremy

      I both agree and disagree with your comment somewhat, Robyn.  Yes, a pre-nup is like an insurance policy…..but only in very limited ways.  For example, a couple may agree to share assets while married, but in the event of divorce they each take what they each contributed.  They may agree to that, but it is legally un-enforceable.  They may agree that in the event of divorce no alimony should be paid – but that too is un-enforceable.  A couple may each agree that both should maintain jobs and contribute financially to the family….but that is un-enforceable.  In fact, most ways in which a person might wish to protect him/herself are legally un-enforceable.
       
      Again, in the case of the OP, a prenup would work in her favor but not his.  Given that her assets pre-date the marriage, she could legally protect them for herself.  But given that he is the one who will be earning the income and supporting the family, he will be unable to protect the assets he earns during the marriage (in spite of the fact that she could have contributed from her savings as well).  So in this case, the prenup is insurance for her, and of no value at all to him (and, in fact, is punitive to him).
       
      I have no problems with prenups.  I just think they should be enforceable, regardless of what the couple agrees upon.
       

      1. 8.1.1
        pat

        Isn’t he choosing to not “protect his assets” by telling her to give up her job, so that she is 100% financially reliant on him to stay home to take care of their family?  You make it sound like she’s being selfish and he’s being vulnerable and I’m pretty sure that’s not the case.

        1. jeremy

          Pat, I would agree with you except for the minor fact that she has this family money which she does not plan to share with him – either during marriage or in the event of divorce.  As stated by her, that money would be used for HER car, HER things, etc.  His money is “their” money, and her money is “her” money.  That’s where I take exception.  And even if she were to craft a pre-nup stating that in fact her money is hers and his money is his, that pre-nup would not be enforceable.  Monies earned by him during marriage would, de-facto, be divided 50-50, regardless of pre-nup.  Only her money would be protected.
           
          So, is she being selfish while he is being vulnerable?  YES.  If she gave up her job as he requests, she would be entitled to life-time alimony in most states, pre-nup or no, in the event of divorce.  Divorce laws exist to protect women in just those circumstances.
           
          Having said that, she would be well-advised to keep her job, at least part-time.  She would also be well-advised to be sure that her life goals match her fiancees.  Sounds like they might not.

  9. 9
    Robyn

    One other comment / suggestion I would pass on to Liz:
    Before you do a single bit of wedding planning, you need to go thru “1000 Questions for Couples” by Michael Webb (see http://www.questionsforcouples.com/). You need to get to know each other in a lot more depth if you’re going to spend the next 40+ years together.
    Then negotiate your pre-nup, finalize it 100% with both of you having signed the documents.
    And then start planning your wedding & honeymoon.

  10. 10
    Adeleaide

    Since I first came across Evan’s work, his advice has always really sat well with me. Like, “Oh yeah….I see. Got it! Thanks!” This advice he consistently gives about taking things slow, (not necessarily because you are wrong in your assessment of your compatiblity in the early months/years, but because you cannot possibly know if you whether you are right or not, yet) has been the last bit to click into place for me. But I get it now and this blog has really helped with that. So thank you to Liz for and Evan.
    Evan is right. It is only natural not to have all these issues seen up within one year of meeting. But that just means that one year after meeting is way too early to commit to partnership for life. You say that meeting each other was a dream come true. Maybe you should wait for the dream to fade and give yourselves a whole lot more time to work on these real life fundamentals about whicb you speak. Whether or not to have a prenup seems like the least of your potential differences, to me at least.

  11. 11
    BeenThruTheWars

    Devil’s advocate: we got engaged at the 6-month mark and married at the 14-month mark, and our 9th anniversary will be on New Year’s Day. He was in his 30s, I in my 40s when we got engaged and married. I asked for a prenup because, being ten years older, my assets were greater. It was also my second marriage, his first. When he asked why I thought we needed a prenup, I said, “If, a week after we’re married, we realize we made a terrible mistake and start throwing crockery at each other and decide to split up, do you really think it’s fair that you’d be entitled to half of everything I’ve worked for all my life, and vice versa?” That helped clarify matters without having to go into all the legalities of marriages of short duration, etc. (Also to the poster’s point, in many states inheritances are not considered marital property.) Anyway, I have never done away with our prenup even though our marriage is in fine shape; however, every other year or so I review my trust and will and leave my husband a little more of my estate. We keep our finances totally separate. It’s worked out well for us. But I agree with Evan, a lot of this is dependent on how old you are and what life stage you’re in. If you’re talking about having kids, I’m assuming you’re a lot younger than we were.

  12. 12
    Fay

    “Anyway, I have never done away with our prenup even though our marriage is in fine shape; however, every other year or so I review my trust and will and leave my husband a little more of my estate. We keep our finances totally separate. It’s worked out well for us”

    So your husband is earning his way in the marriage by proving to you he is worthy enough for you to share everything you have without question? 

    I understand you are entitled to do what ever way you see fit, but my idea on marriage is without question, sharing what I have with the man I love. The thought that things could be separate is foreign to me.  

    BTW, this is my second (soon to be marriage after being together 5 years) and Im the one with all the assets. His only asset? That he loves me unconditionally.  I dont care and after being with him through thick and thin over a 4-5 year period and watching him lose everything in the divorce property courts to his exwife, I still stand by him. I love his heart not his wallet. 

    Im not asking for a prenup.  

  13. 13
    CaliforniaGirl

    @Fay, so if I worked much more and harder than my future husband and also was frugal and saved everything I could and he had a good life and didn’t bother to save and something doesn’t work between us because you never know, I should give him half of my money??? I had a prenup conversation with my boyfriend because he started to talk about marriage and his point of view is like yours, that we have to share everything. The only thing is he has nothing and he makes 3 times less than me, so he has nothing to loose. I have a degree I paid for and while he was partying at some community college, I worked my ass off at two jobs and got a degree from a prestigious European university. Yes, I would share my salary with him and will pay for the most expenses (as I am doing right now), but my assets and the revenue from it shouldn’t be shared in case something goes wrong.

    1. 13.1
      Joe

      Would you still ask for a prenup if you he was the one making 3x what you are?

      1. 13.1.1
        Karmic Equation

         

        Not a fair question, Joe.
         

        A fairer question, is would the OP *AGREE* to a prenup if he were the one making 3x more than her and he was the one who had the assets and she having less or none.
         
        It is the responsibility of the person with the higher assets to ask for a prenup.

         
        If a CEO man wants to protect his assets from his gf, he needs to have the balls to ask for the prenup and the will to walk away if she says no. And it’s every bit the prerogative of the gf to walk away if he asks for one and she doesn’t want one. Or they can try to work it out.
         
        In the end, either logic will prevail and both will try to work it out as emotionlessly as possible. Or the one who is more “in love” will cave to the other’s desire.
         
        In a case like this, where there’s potential children, perhaps a prenup would be more enforceable if the prenup focused primarily on the custody and care of any future children. For the most part, that seems to be where men are most “screwed” in divorce settlements. Exwife gets primary custody AND 1/2 his assets.
         
        Perhaps for men, if they demonstrate that their sincere concern about losing access to their future children by negotiating their custody and financial care premaritally, women would be more amenable to a prenup that lowers his financial assets to her.
         
        I would imagine most courts would be more willing to enforce a Custodial Care Prenup, than an asset allocation prenup. And I would think that most women would be willing to take less in the assets area for themselves if they know premaritally via the prenup how their future children will be financially cared for in the event of a divorce.

         

        1. jeremy

          @Karmic
          “It is the responsibility of the person with the higher assets to ask for a prenup.”
           
          You’re quibbling details, but I actually disagree with you.  If I were a high-asset man looking to get married, and my lower-asset girlfriend approached me and requested a prenup, I would be absolutely BLOWN AWAY by how awesome she was.  She would be overtly showing me that she wants ME, not my assets, and is willing to be the one to broach the subject.    It would be a way for a commitment-minded woman to ease the fears of the men they want to marry, by pro-actively offering to sign a pre-nup.

        2. Karmic Equation

          As would a woman with assets whose man proposes with ring on one hand and prenup in the other. Never gonna happen, Jeremy.

        3. jeremy

          I Disagree again, Karmic.  Women earn higher income than men in roughly 30-40% of current marriages, last time I checked, yet men pay 97% of alimony as of 2010.  That either means that the higher-earning women are not divorcing, or it means that men are not collecting alimony in spite of being eligible for it.  Whether they are not collecting it out of moral code or fear of shaming, fact is that these stats show large numbers of men who must not be feeling entitled to their higher-earning ex-wives’ money.

        4. Karmic Equation

          Jeremy,
          What does men not collecting alimony have to do with prenups?
          If men who are eligible for alimony don’t feel like collecting it or the courts are not enforcing their collecting it, how is that the ex-wife’s fault? 
          Last time I checked, the majority of law makers and judges out there are men. Your beef is with them not changing or enforcing the law to your liking.
          And it’s very likely that higher-earning women are not divorcing at the same rate as higher-earning men are getting divorced. Odds are the higher earning spouse is the “older” spouse. And as discussed in other threads, women lose SMV as they age, even if she remains attractive, while older men often retain or even gain SMV (as long as they’re not layabouts, and remain reasonably attractive) as they age.
           
          Since men are gatekeepers of relationships, divorced men have an easier time getting back into a relationship than divorced women. Because all he has to do is find a compatible woman to offer a relationship to. While women need to find (1) a compatible man who is (2) willing to commit to an exclusive relationship.

        5. J

          @Jeremy
          “If I were a high-asset man looking to get married, and my lower-asset girlfriend approached me and requested a prenup, I would be absolutely BLOWN AWAY by how awesome she was.  She would be overtly showing me that she wants ME, not my assets, and is willing to be the one to broach the subject. ”
          As a lower-asset girlfriend, why would I even be thinking about my partner’s assets when it comes to a relationship? I wouldn’t think to mention a prenup simply for the reason that I want the man and not the assets and they play no part in my decision to marry a man or not.
          However, if a higher-asset boyfriend mentioned a pre-nup, I would turn my attention to the difference in assets and I would give the situation its due consideration. Just because it never crossed my mind to ask for a prenup doesn’t mean I’m only after the money or that I’d bulk at signing one.
          It is a situation I was in not too long ago. A month before my husband proposed, he mentioned he was thinking about a prenup. Completely unbeknownst to me, he stands to inherit a lot of money when his grandfather passes away. I was completely hurt that he had a lack of trust in me, but I heard him out. Even though I secretly hated that he lacked faith in me, I told him I’d be willing to sign a prenup, if that is what it took to make him feel comfortable, completely locking me out of that money as long as all monies we earned after married went into a joint account and any children we had would be entitled to the inherited money.  In the end, I guess my willingness to sign and explore a prenup was all the assurance he needed because he never mentioned it again.
          And, ironically, although he stands to inherit a pretty penny one day, I actually came into the marriage with almost 100X the amount of assets he had and never once bulked at sharing those with my husband or thought to ask for a prenup to protect them.

        6. Henriette

          I’m with Jeremy on this one, @KE.  I’ve always said that if I were to marry a guy with fewer assets, I’d ask for a pre-nup but if I were to marry a guy with greater assets, I’d definitely, absolutely ask for a pre-nup bc I want to establish beyond the shadow of a doubt that I don’t consider what’s his to be mine. 

        7. Karmic Equation

          @Henriette,
           
          Ahhh…but you already have SOME assets. Suppose you were an uneducated waitress with NO assets?
           
          Once a person, male or female, has enough assets to sustain themselves in the event of a divorce, even if they were the lower-earner, asking for a prenup is window-dressing.
           
          If you’re making 100k and your bf makes 150k, and both of you own homes and cars, does it really mean anything if you ask for a prenup? You’re both protecting something. But if you’re making 25k, living paycheck to paycheck, barely making the rent, how likely would you be to ask for that prenup? At THAT point it is more meaningful for the higher-earner to “prove” his/her love by NOT asking for a prenup. — And I do think a lot of men DO do this.
           
          And we all know how likely women making 100k is gonna date a man making 25k, right?
           
          I’m such a woman. And I don’t intend to remarry. But if I were, I surely will have a prenup in place. And if he’s offended by my asking for the prenup, then odds are the relationship will end or we would never marry. That’s being financially responsible. Unromantic, too. But I do view marriage as a legal contract not as a romantic undertaking.
           
          OTOH, if he’s a millionaire and asks for a prenup, I’d be ok with his asking and not offended. But I don’t date millionaires, so we’ll never know. lol

        8. Henriette

          @KE  Well, I have assets now, but when I was fresh out of grad school I had no assets whatsoever.  Even at that point, I knew I’d want a pre-nup if I were to’ve married.   Marriage has never been about financial gain for me, whether I had assets or not. 
           
          I also thought/ still think a pre-nup is a wonderful tool to help a couple hammer out the details of their financial life going forward.  If I were to have stayed home with hypothetical kids, do I think I’m entitled to half of my husband’s earnings?  What if he wants me to re-enter the workforce when the youngest kid starts school, but I refuse?  If I spend myself into $50K in debt, should he be “on the hook” for it?

      2. 13.1.2
        CaliforniaGirl

        The salary difference doesn’t matter, matters the assets we have before. If you had, let’s say, $1mil in investments and your girlfriend had $300 on her checking account, would you just marry her without asking for a prenup? if yes, you are very generous guy.

    2. 13.2
      Bailey

      You are my kind of girl to marry.

  14. 14
    Liz

    Thank you Evan for your reply to my letter and everyone else for their comments!  It’s funny that you picked up on something more important and relevant than my original question about prenups.  And by funny, I mean brilliant.  “You’ve got no idea who you’re marrying yet, whether you’re on the same path, and whether you are able to compromise and negotiate around some fundamental issues.”  I hate to prove you right, but a couple of months after I sent in my question, I noticed we had some fundamental differences.  Nothing major, but definitely something to work out now before tying the knot. 

    My rush is because I’m 33, want to have kids and have read many doom and gloom articles about 35 being a big milestone in terms of decreasing fertility and increasing chances of complications such as Down syndrome, autism, miscarriages, etc.  But after thinking it over, I realized it was more important that the partner who I plan to spend the next 40-50 years and I are truly compatible and can work through life’s challenges together.  It won’t do much good if I have a healthy baby but get divorced later.  It will help ALOT if my partner and I have solidified our relationship and can handle a miscarriage or a special needs child.

    Also, I want to say thanks again for all the other comments.  It’s terrific to get different viewpoints on this issue.  After rereading my question, I can see how some male commentators would view it as me protecting my family’s assets while assuming my partner should share the fruits of his labors.  Would I take offense if my fiance brought up the idea of a prenup first and I did not have the family assets?  Yes, I would.  So I’m very glad for this switch-a-roo question.  Now I know how he feels and can approach the situation with that understanding.  By the same token, I would hope my fiance could also look at the current situation from my point of view.  I hope he would not get offended and understand I am simply protecting pre-marital assets and trying to set up a fair arrangement.  

    I want to make it clear that if we do have a prenup, I want my future husband to be protected as well.  He is planning to buy a condo and lease a car before we get married.  That’s what I meant about he will be responsible for his home and car.  If we do get divorced, I would not ask for a share of that, and will sign a prenup to that effect.  Not having been married before, I don’t know the finer points of pre-marriage assets VS income made while married.  But I am very glad that this was pointed out so that if we keep going in our relationship and (hopefully) get married that it would be a fairer financial arrangement for both me and him. 

    But first, 1000 questions to work through…….then maybe we will work on the “accident insurance”.  Love your comments Robyn 😉 

    1. 14.1
      jeremy

      @Liz,
       
      Thanks for posting your update.  It gives a bit of clarity on the issue and also shows your willingness to be introspective.
       
      A question, if you don’t mind:  You wrote: “Would I take offense if my fiance brought up the idea of a prenup first and I did not have the family assets?  Yes, I would. ”
       
      Might I ask why you would take offense?  After all, if your fear was that he would divorce you and take his assets with him, aren’t those assets HIS, because he earned them or entered the marriage with them (just as you feel your assets are yours because you are entering the marriage with them)?  Or do you feel that those assets are not his, because in a marriage a couple is supposed to share their assets?  And thus, his seeking to protect his assets would indicate a degree of selfishness and lack of sharing? 
      Do you feel that, as his wife, you are ENTITLED to your share of the assets he brings – whether or not the marriage endures – and thus his seeking of a prenup would be offensive to you?  And if so, why do you not feel offended at your own request for a prenup, for the same reasons?
       
      In today’s society we hear an awful lot about male entitlement.  Men are not entitled to a woman’s sexuality.  We hear it over and over, and it is true.  But we never hear the opposite side of the coin.  Women are not entitled to a man’s finances, though they often feel they are, and would not reciprocate. And frankly, the law still enables this mentality as it used to do for sexuality.  I hope that your situation sheds some light on this subject for you, and perhaps for some readers who might think the same way.

      1. 14.1.1
        Liz

        @ Jeremy

        I would be offended simply because I would feel that he doesn’t trust me, that he doesn’t trust that I would do the right thing.  But as I said, having looked at it from both perspectives, I understand it’s not a matter of trust, but a matter of financial fairness.  

        I am not offended if our prenup protects both of our premarital assets.  That is precisely what I’m advocating for: protection for both parties, not just mine.  Thanks for your valuable input.

        1. jeremy

          Liz, you wrote: “I would be offended simply because I would feel that he doesn’t trust me, that he doesn’t trust that I would do the right thing.”
           
          What’s the right thing?  Is the right thing not taking half the marital assets?  Is the right thing declining alimony?  The law entitles you to both of those things….which is why most women don’t view them as the “wrong thing.”  Also, if a couple divorces, there is usually rancor between them and a lack of good will.  It would be foolish to expect a divorcing spouse to “do the right thing” when the law entitles them to more.
           
          This is not to say that there aren’t any women who take less than the law allows, or who decline alimony because they believe it is unfair.  But most take what the law allows.  Until and unless the laws are changed, trusting someone to “do the right thing” in the event of divorce is foolish.

      2. 14.1.2
        Henriette

        I agree with Jeremy on these points.  It’s lovely to imagine that we’d all behave beautifully if our marriages ended in divorce but realistically, many or even most of us would not. 
        A lawyer once explained prenups to me thus:  “When you make decisions in the heat of a divorce, it’s hard not to be driven by hurt and anger.   By coming to an agreement in advance (when you’re in love and genuinely want the best for each other), on how assets should be split in case of a divorce, you have a greater chance at crafting a solution that is kind and fair to both parties.”   To me, that’s actually very romantic; that you care about each other so much that you are ensuring (as much as the legal system will allow) that you will spare each other unnecessary pain in the slim (ha!) chance that your marriage fails.

        1. Sass

          Or more often, driven by the divorce lawyer who wants a piece of your larger settlement. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen couples relatively amicable about their split up with plans to calmly “discuss” how they will divide up assets. Then the lawyers get involved and convince each party that they were so wronged and taken advantage of by their ex and the only way to heal is to take them for all they have, because “you earned it” by being their loving spouse. Check out one of these couples 6 months after they split. They are ready to bury the other one in the ground, regardless of how amicable they were in the beginning.

      3. 14.1.3
        Cat5

        Generally speaking (disclaimer: it varies state by state) if a person keeps his/her assets separate than the assets and any earning or losses from them remain his/her sole property.

        But, generalyl speaking wages earned during the time of the marriage or assets commingled and their income become joint property.

        Gender has nothing to do with it.  It depends on whether the individual keeps his/her separate property separate.

        Why should wages earned during the marriage not be considered joint property no matter who earned it?  If one spouse is working and the other is not (for whatever reason – childrearing, disability, or what have you), then the non-working spouse should just be screwed because he/she didn’t “contribute” money to the marital community?  There is no recognition for what he/she did “contribute” to the marital community?

        If both spouses are working both of their wages form the marital community so they are joint wages.

        Marriage is a joining together of two people legally to form a community.  There are provisions for keeping separate property separate, and there is a provision for joint property that forms that community.  Follow the rules.  It’s not rocket surgery.  

        If you don’t want to form a marital community, then don’t get married.  But, be careful even if you live together long enough in some states you form a marital community whether you like it or not.  Just ask Lee Marvin.   

          

        1. Jeremy

          @Cat5

          When a couple agree to get married, neither spouse usually begrudges the other to share in marital assets.  For example, if a high income man marries a low income woman, he usually expects that they will share all earnings while married.  But if the marriage breaks down, most would very much begrudge sharing of assets that were not contributed to equally.

          Scenario A – woman earns $300k per year, man earns $30k per year.  In this case, she has contributed literally 10x what he has to the savings.  And let’s say they both work full time, no kids.  Is it fair, should they divorce, that he get 50%?  If so, it’s quite a windfall for him, and quite a loss for her.  I would hope that we could agree, on a moral level, that in that scenario it would be unfair to split assets 50/50.

          Scenario B – man earns $80k per year, woman stays home with the kids, earns no income.  In this case, should they divorce, most would agree that she should take 50% of the assets to compensate her for her unpaid work.

          Scenario C – man earns $1M per year, wife stays home with the kids with a full time nanny to help.  In this case, should she still get 50%?  Why is the unpaid work of the woman in scenario C worth more than that of the woman in scenario B?  It is one thing to say that a person should be compensated for unpaid work, but quite another to willy billy say that the value of that work equals half of all assets, no matter what those assets are.

          That’s why I believe that prenups should be enforceable, not just for preexisting assets, but for income as well.  It isn’t fair to say “if you don’t want to split your assets, don’t get married.”  Instead, we should allow couples to agree as to what would be fair and craft their own marriages. 

  15. 15
    twinkle

    @California Girl: That situation u described is pretty much what many men put up with when they marry lower-earning women, with the genders reversed. Financially, these men stand to lose a lot in marriage, which is one reason why they’re less keen on average to get married.

    In the OP’s story, I totally agree with Evan. There’s another reason why she should wait longer than 8 months to get engaged…she can afford to. Let’s be honest, she’s financially in a better position than him and in a better financial position than the average woman, which gives her an advantage. Why is she so worried about pinning him down to marriage so fast (which is what it comes across as)? I don’t think the guy is going anywhere if they date for several more months.

  16. 16
    Cat5

    I  do not believe in pre-nups.  I say this as a lawyer who has been married and divorced.  I was also the one who made the most money in the marriage.
    Pre-nups are the lazy person’s way out and a bill of goods people have been sold that it’s to protect yourself.  It’s for lawyers to make money and other greedy people to ensure they get your assets while driving a wedge between you and your future spouse.
    If you want to keep your separate property separate – that’s easy.  You just have to put in the time and handle it correctly.  If you would rather be lazy in your attitude towards your marriage and plan for it’s demise so you don’t have to handle you business responsibly and correctly, the marriage is more likely than not doomed to failure anyway.  Of all the couples I know who had pre-nups, I believe they are all divorced.  Seriously, off the top of the head, I don’t know any couples who signed a pre-nup who haven’t gotten divorced.  YMMV.
    Also, if you want to keep the community property and give the other person none of it, then why get married?  (That’s like having your cake and then having the other person’s cake also.) You can just live together…in  some states.  (But, you have to be aware if it is a common law marriage state or provides for equitable liens for long term meretricious relationships.)
    Finally, why would you want to marry someone who doesn’t want to equally share the community property with you or, conversely, why would you want to marry someone who you wouldn’t want to equally share the community property with?

  17. 17
    Mrs Happy

    @ Jeremy at 14.1:
    “aren’t those assets HIS, because he earned them”
     
    I think that if she stays home and does all/most of the work raising children and running the household, and he works in paid work, they have both worked. It’s just one position is paid and one isn’t. I’ve done both roles both part time and full time, and both are tiring and hard work. Thus if they divorce it wouldn’t be fair to only count the results of the paid work (i.e. the savings and material goods and assets) and give them to the person who was earning the money during the marriage. 
    The very fact of having a partner at home doing all the unpaid work related to the home and family, actually boosts the paid work person’s income, and seniority at work. (See Annabel Crabb’s book ‘The Wife Drought’ for the numerous references on this.) Of course it’s better for someone’s career progression if they don’t have to think about what to buy and cook the family for dinner that night, and remember to call the school about Johnny’s excursion, and leave work at 3pm to pick up the kids, etc. Of course if you can stay back late at work, and travel on short notice and without worrying about arranging childcare, and go out for drinks after a long day and network with colleagues, you go better in the job, than someone who can’t do those things because they have that other 50+ hours/week job of running the family to get to.
     
    I also think it’s unfair to take all of the man’s savings, and use that as a home deposit, but keep your own (or your family money) cordoned off. If you have money or access to some, I’d think it fairest to at least match his deposit and contribute jointly to your first home. 
    My husband and I both work in paid work some days, both look after our kids some days, and to me this is ideal. It gives a lovely balance. No resentment (“s/he doesn’t appreciate how hard I work”) grows. But we have had the ability to structure our commitments this way, and we both work for ourselves in industries where this is possible. I’d hate to do all one or the other roles for years on end, especially while our children are so little.
     
    I’ve been married twice. In the first our finances were separate. In my current we lump all our money and assets and mortgage etc, together. I like the latter better. I feel like we are together (e.g. against the bank!) in life. (Sorry housing prices are catestrophically high in my city. I’m sure banks are full of lovely individuals.) We both work hard. I happen to make much more money than him, but to me that just gives the advantage of, oh great, I only have to do paid work a day a week and I can pay our whole mortgage off, and that gives me more time to be with the kids.

  18. 18
    Fran

    This is something I have been saying to my friends for years. It’s great to read something that validates my beliefs.

    Boyfriend/girlfriend – 12 months

    Living together – 12 months

    Engaged 6 -12 before marriage

  19. 19
    Legal_Templates

    Getting on the same page about money is the cornerstone of a healthy, happy and supportive marriage. Whether you decided to get a prenuptial agreement or not, the conversation surrounding that choice is a chance to lay out all the cards on the table and get, proverbially, financially naked.

  20. 20
    Henriette

    Well, there’s not only one cornerstones of a healthy, happy and supportive marriage.  So I would change to “Getting on the same page about money is one of the cornerstones…”

    In any case, I agree whole-heartedly that couples need to talk often and in depth about money before marrying.  I actually think that they don’t because they know it might cause friction and think it will be easier once they’re man & wife.  Hah. If you can’t talk about money with your partner, don’t marry him/her.

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