My husband and I married in our late 40s after living together for five years, and had our child on the cusp of our 50s. We’ve been married for over eight years. He is well-set financially, both from inherited property and from his own career as a military officer and then civilian employee for the same branch.
He has no debts, and mine are minimal and exist only as part of my effort to build a good credit rating. I also have three adult children from my first marriage, all grown before our wedding. I offered to sign a prenup as part of this marriage, because of our wealth disparity coming into it.
In a nutshell, the prenup says I get a battered cottage he owns that’s worth about $100,000, and he gets joint custody of our children. There is no provision for alimony, and child support follows state guidelines.
“ ‘I came to the relationship out of two ruinous previous marriages, having nothing to my name but a bankruptcy and a Social Security disability check.’ ”
I came to the relationship out of two ruinous previous marriages, having nothing to my name but a bankruptcy and a Social Security disability check. Because of my history and his security clearance, we keep our finances largely separate.
Our income-tax return is married filing jointly, to take advantage of the tax benefits that my low income and disabled status bring. The tax return clocks in at around $140,000 a year, mostly from his salary and investments. His net worth is about $1.5 million.
We live parsimoniously, partly from habit, partly to assure our child’s future in the event of our untimely end. I’m healthier than he is, and we each privately expect me to outlive him. He has retirement and personal accounts worth well above $600,000. I have the joint account my disability check gets deposited in: no savings, and a good credit rating again.
“ ‘The tax return clocks in at around $140,000 a year, mostly from his salary and investments. His net worth is about $1.5 million.’ ”
He provides all the costs of living except groceries and cellphones, which I cover. I’m free to spend my disability check as I see fit; I generally see fit to spend it on family and charity. He regards me as more compassionate and as we are religious, he is understanding of my spending choices and jokes that maybe I’ll burnish his halo.
Before the pandemic, I’d planned to go work part time while our daughter was at school. The pandemic sent my life back to the 1950s, as I had to cook, provide tech support and homeschool our child.
I fill out our tax returns, and I learned in the process that the largest account, which I’d thought I was named as beneficiary on, names only our child. I’m sort of OK with that, but I’m worried that if anything happens to him, we’ll be in a crunchy spot for cash flow. I’d always assumed there was at least a military life-insurance policy, but he tells me there isn’t.
“ ‘He equates money with security. He looked genuinely astounded when a financial planner who sells annuities recently told him he’s set for life.’ ”
He assures me he’s made provision for me, but I’m not so confident. He’s very weird about financial matters, and even basic home repairs only happen if I do it myself or throw a major fit.
I learned in one of those conflicts that emotionally, he equates money with security. He looked genuinely astounded when a financial planner who sells annuities recently told him he’s set for life, something I’ve told him for a few years now. He has no debts of any kind.
I’d like to take out a term life-insurance policy on him, but he says hell will freeze over before he’s worth more dead than alive. I want our affairs handled by a personal financial planner who specializes in military retirement, but he balks at the $4,000 annual price tag while taking poor advice from a stockbroker with no fiduciary duty to him and who should have retired five years ago.
Is there anything I can do to compel him into a life-insurance policy, this side of filing for divorce? We both despise divorce and are very committed to our marriage, but I also have to think about our child and our future.
Happily Married, Yet Fearful About Our Future
Dear Happy & Fearful,
I can see why it would make him jittery. Conversations about such matters, when they come from a place of anxiety, tend to have that effect, even outside the parameters of a Lifetime Movie of the Week.
Have you looked into the costs? In your 50s, a whole life-insurance policy would likely be very expensive, as would a term life-insurance policy for more than 15 years. If your husband outlived the policy, you would not receive a payout. It does not seem like a solid investing or saving strategy for you.
Bankrate.com has a calculator for life-insurance policies, but it also urges caution for people who want to take out term life insurance after 50. “Life insurers rely on premium payments to mitigate their risk in offering you a policy. When someone buys coverage in their 20s, the risk of the policyholder passing away and the life insurance company no longer having their premium payments is lower than it is for someone who is older,” it says.
“Additionally, many life insurance policies require a medical exam. A lack of preexisting conditions, health history problems or reliance on certain medications means you are more likely to live longer. If you know your medical review will likely raise a red flag for your insurer — a probability that increases with age — you can likely expect to pay more for your policy,” Bankrate adds.
“ ‘It’s also a dramatic and surprising leap to go from “I want my husband to sign a life-insurance policy” to “I’ll divorce him to ensure my financial future.”’ ”
You cannot compel him to agree to a policy. I get it. You were probably being glib, but divorce would not magically give you the financial security you crave — and in any event, you signed a prenuptial agreement that limits the amount of money you would receive. It’s also a dramatic and surprising leap to go from “I want my husband to sign a life-insurance policy” to “I’ll divorce him to ensure my financial future.”
Your husband would not be alone in equating money with security — that is one of the many benefits of having enough. But as my friend’s Irish mother would say, “As God made you, he matched you!” You both have deeply held insecurities about having enough money. Your husband will never believe that he has enough to rest easy, and you are fixated on this life-insurance policy as a solution to all of your financial woes.
Ultimately, you can’t expect to be a named beneficiary on every account, and it makes sense that he would include your child on at least one. A conversation about estate planning would be a healthier and more productive one to have at this point than one about a life-insurance policy on your husband. It seems that knowing what your husband’s estate plans are should he predecease you would, for now at least, solve this unease.
Just be aware that in such circumstances, another financial anxiety can just as easily pop up in its place.
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