Know Your Worth Wives & Mothers

Commoner Kate is living every female’s fantasy. But, as Diana found, there’s no free corgi. There’s a loss of freedom that comes with fame – and marriage.

Yet many women watching the broadcast will have a lot more in common with Kate than they think – especially those who’ve been married for a few years. Take Emma and her hubby Walter, for instance.

Five years after their big day, Walter had a problem: he wasn’t getting any action.

At first he thought it was just that they were both so damn busy – Walter at work, and Emma at home looking after their three-year-old daughter, Stacey.

But the weeks turned into months.

It was around the six-month mark when Walter finally mentioned it to his mates. “Only six months?! You’re doing well!” said one. “That’s what affairs are for!” offered another.

Yet Walter wasn’t a wanderer, so instead of getting something on the side he sought out some counselling.

Enter Bernie Bolger, a brassy blonde psychotherapist who speaks with a thick Irish accent and doesn’t mince words: “Tired? A headache? You’re jo’kin are’n’cha? Come on Wally!”

Bernie explained that ‘the issue’ (sex, in this case) is rarely ever the real issue. “Five years ago you were both high-earning professional people. You were equals. But then Emma left the workforce to have Stacey, and now she’s a full-time mum. In short, Walter, Emma has lost her independence – and with it, her libido.”

Most women I speak to say “my husband just assumed I would take time off to have kids”. As a consequence they feel they lose their financial independence; reverting back to teenage hood and having to justify their spend to the household’s breadwinner.

Everyone needs their own monetary mojo.

My mum always worked a couple of days a week while I was growing up. When I asked why she worked, she told me it was her ‘running away from Dad money’ (thirty years later she’s yet to make her dash — but she could afford first class if she did).

It’s inevitable that mothers take time out of their careers to have kids, but there are some practical steps women can take to make sure they don’t end up losing their financial independence in the process.

THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

Rule 1: Picture yourself knee deep in nappies

There are blokes (and it is mainly blokes) who use access to money as a power play in a relationship, robbing their partner of their independence, and self-confidence.

And it’s a lot more common than you think.

To avoid monetary manipulation, the first step is to put yourself in the family portrait — long before the picture is taken. So have the conversation.

Woman: “Do you expect me to take time out of my career to raise the children?”

Man: “Well, yes”

Woman: “I’m happy to do that, but raising a family is a joint venture, and I assume this will be a (well) paid position?”

Rule 2: Make sure you get paid

Some couples choose to pay the caregiver a ‘wage’, but here’s how most couples work it: they have a joint account where each is a cosignatory. And it makes sense, because you’re both ‘jointly and severally liable’ for expenses.

But if you’re expected to transition from full-time careerwoman to full-time taxidriver, toilet cleaner and therapist, you’ll need a sanity allowance that fits within the family’s budget.

Get it put into a separate account that you can draw on as you see fit.

This doesn’t give you licence to be Lara Bingle, but it will give you some financial independence, and a just reward for one of the toughest jobs going around.

Rule 3: Keep working – and take control

Leaving the workforce for an extended period can, over time, lead to a loss of confidence. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep working.

Even if it’s for a few hours a week, it’ll keep your skills up (and it’s worth it just to qualify for the Government’s Co-contribution Scheme – and even more so when you consider than nearly 50,000 divorces were granted in 2009).

Another idea is to take control of the family finances. Completely. Don’t just pay the bills, talk to the bank and the accountant – and don’t take any rubbish.

Case in point: we were recently interviewing for a position at Barefoot. The candidate walked in, shook hands with the three of us blokes and sat down – completely ignoring our female colleague, who is in charge of recruitment. He didn’t realise it, but the interview was over before his bum hit the seat.

It’s a similar situation when talking to couples about money: smart financial service professionals understand that when it comes to mature, loving relationships, financial decisions are always made jointly.

My experience as a financial advisor has shown me plenty of examples of women who wandered down the aisle without thinking about the next stage of their lives.

And if you don’t think that even a royal princess can fall on hard financial times, I have one word for you: Fergie.

Tread Your Own Path!

How Much for a Royal Wedding?

At an estimated $80 million, the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton will be one of the most expensive in history.

Here are just some of the items on the bill:

Flowers

$800,000

Wedding dress and jewels

$434,000

Police/security

$32 million

Lost productivity for a day off

$6.4 billion

But it might not all be bad news. Verdict retail analysts in the UK have suggested a couple of positives for the British economy:

Boost to tourism

$300 million

Food and champagne for private parties

$550 million

BERKSHIRE BOUND

This weekend I’m in Omaha, Nebraska, to hear what the world’s greatest investor, Warren Buffett, has to say about all things money.

There’s a lot to talk about – house prices are still falling in most major US cities, 13.5 million Americans are out of work (and nearly half of them have been unemployed for more than six months), and then there’s the ticking timebomb of government debt.

I’ll be blogging, tweeting (@scottpape) and eating fried food dipped in creamy dressing throughout the weekend. Then next week I’ll bring you a summary of what the smartest guy in the room is thinking – and what it means for your investments.