Laurie Itkin – Money And Marriage: What Every Woman Needs To Know
Join Karen Pulver and Goddesses in this conversation with financial planner Laurie Itkin as they talk about education, empowerment, and inspiration in regards to money. Learn about the importance of transparency in regards to money in a marriage, the importance of prenup arrangements, understanding as a team your assets, debts, and other obligations in regards to money will help you feel so empowered. As Laurie states, “no matter where a woman is in her life, she is going to sometimes be dependent on others financially and sometimes independent and sometimes a shared role, but just know to be cognizant of where you are in that continuum and stay financially aware of your situation all along your lifetime so you can then feel empowered, secure and proud.”
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Laurie Itkin – Money And Marriage: What Every Woman Needs To Know
COVID has shown us the importance of being able to navigate uncertainty especially in real time. Things are constantly changing as we know causing anxiety, fear and insecurity. Thank God, not everyone has experienced COVID illness or being ill. We all, in some way or another, have felt the financial impact that the pandemic has put on us. Whether it is yourself or your loved ones, we are all experiencing that uncertainty. Even when there are other unexpected situations that happened in your life like divorce, illness, disability, losing a job, all of those things can cause insecurity and anxious feelings. It is with that that I am thrilled to be having our guest, Laurie Itkin. Whether it be working with your spouse and investing in yourselves, the guidance and support of a financial planner, that is what we’re going to be talking about. Laurie, can you come and join us?
Karen, I’m happy to be here with you and all the other Goddesses. Thank you for the invitation.
Thank you, Laurie. We are excited, financial goddess. You’re going to help us. I know it’s your passion to educate, empower and inspire women. You had mentioned no matter what age or what stage in their lives, it’s important that we invest in ourselves. Your book is called Every Woman Should Know Her Options, which is fantastic. Can you tell us why you are The Options Lady and about your journey of how you got to this point in your life?
Thank you for sharing the book. I wrote the book, Every Woman Should Know Her Options: Invest Your Way to Financial Empowerment, several years ago. It has been my gift of financial literacy to many women around the world, and even some men around the world who read the book. How I got here is because of my mother. My mother died suddenly at the age of 67. I have no doubt that within a couple of years, she would have run out of money. I don’t want any woman to have the fear that she is going to run out of money. My mother was married three times. It’s important that a woman, no matter whether she be single, in a same sex relationship, married, divorced, widowed, she needs to feel like she controls her money, not that the money controls her. She needs to feel independence and confidence. Everything I do is with that theme of financial literacy and empowerment to women, and every woman should know her options.Laurie Itkin wants to be a partner, a teammate to help make sure the money is invested to grow and provide income and so that your money is there in the form of how you want it to be. Click To Tweet
To be a little vulnerable, my insecurity is controlling my money. Let’s go back when I was first married, I was the breadwinner in the family because my husband was a resident in a dental school in oral surgery. The money I was making, a teacher salary, was supporting us and I was paying the bills. Once I had kids, switch, I had no time, no interest and it was all done, he did it. As the years went by and I know a lot of other women might be able to relate to this, I became dependent on him making those decisions while I still am involved in estate planning. All of those types of things or some investments since whatnot, it’s on his shoulders. I always worry. That’s why I wanted to reach out to you because now in my 50s, how come I let that go? I need to get back into the game and understand. It’s scary to do that. I don’t always know if I’m confident enough to make these financial decisions or invest in the stock market. I’m glad you’re here. Thank you. I’d like to welcome our Featured Goddesses as we have some questions to talk about with you. Camille, you have a question about prenups.
At a young age, my father always made this point of saying that whenever I got engaged, his gift to me would be a prenup. Having been married a couple of times, he had to learn the hard way that a prenup is about protection. I pushed it off like, “I’m never getting married. Don’t even worry about it, dad.” What did I do? I eloped. I never got a prenup. I didn’t follow probably one of his best advice about marriage. I’m curious, what can I do now? Is it too late? What protections should I look into?
First of all, whenever I raise the issue of prenup, people who haven’t been married before cringe, people who have been married before think it’s the best idea. First of all, your father is a wise man on great advice. It’s not the prenup itself that I’m interested in. It’s the process that you and your partner are going to go through together because when you work to put a prenup together, each of you must disclose your assets and your debts. If you are marrying somebody who already has children, this is a great opportunity to discuss what are his or her obligations, maybe alimony to an ex-spouse, child support, an obligation to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars of college costs several years from now. By going through the process of the prenup, you are getting financially intimate with your soon–to–be spouse. I cannot tell you how important that is to put you both on a level playing field. You will start that marriage with transparency because if you start that marriage and you don’t know what either of you has, several years from now when there’s a death or divorce, if those horrible things happen, you are going to be scrambling to catch up.
What do I do now? We’re several years in.A prenup is a process that you and your partner are going to go through together and you need to start your marriage with this transparency as it shows respect and love to each other. Click To Tweet
We’re going to talk about that. Rachel, that was your question.
I’ve been married now for many years. What do we do? We didn’t go through the process. We don’t have one. What are the next steps?
If you are already married and you do not have a prenup, this is an opportunity for you to work with your spouse to get some better transparency and financial literacy among both of you. One of the easiest tools to start with is your tax returns. Many people say to me they don’t know what’s in their tax return, they just sign it. Either one spouse is going to be using TurboTax or another program to prepare the tax return, that spouse is going to be knowledgeable about what goes into that tax return, or you have a tax preparer who you pay to prepare that return. I always recommend, ask your tax preparer, “Can I pay for you to spend an extra hour with me explaining all the parts of the tax return?” It’s important. A lot of women, when they are getting divorced, men too, when the woman has a business, they don’t understand the income that’s being generated from the business and the tax return tells you a lot about that. That’s the first thing.
The second issue is having a checkup with your spouse. A good opportunity to do that is without threatening them because people don’t want to feel like you don’t trust them and you’re threatening them. You may say, “I’d like to understand, if you were to pass away, what would I need to do? Maybe we should talk to an estate planning attorney and make sure we understand what our assets or debts are, our obligations to children we have from a previous marriage.” You want the opportunity to get up to speed with what your net worth is, what your income is and what your expenses are. You will feel empowered. This will mitigate a lot of fights you may have with your spouse. Who doesn’t want fewer fights in their marriage?
I can’t tell you how many women I know that hide purchases from their spouse. I see smiles. I see a little laughter here and there because you go out and get something and you’re like, “I don’t want to talk about that because I didn’t need it but I wanted it.” If you can’t even talk about that with your spouse, how are you going to talk about tax returns? If you can’t talk about tax returns, then how are you going to talk about everyday expenses? It’s the same. You have to be honest with your spouse.
Let’s talk about why do women and men too, men don’t volunteer their purchases either. This is a same sex issue in terms of the gender doesn’t matter. Why would you hide a purchase from your spouse? A couple of reasons, maybe you’re ashamed of yourself for buying it in the first place, and you don’t want to share your shame with somebody else because then you’re double shamed. You’re already punishing yourself for making that expenditure. You certainly don’t want to get judged. One of the ways to help this problem is I always like to recommend that couples have three accounts. You each have personal account and you have a shared account for shared expenses. Perhaps you have a pact with each other that if you’re making a purchase over a certain amount or you’re spending a certain amount a month, whether it’s $1,000, $500, $10,000, it depends on your lifestyle.
You don’t need to always get permission, but if it’s a large purchase that you feel because remember, you have a fiduciary obligation to your spouse to use your joint money in a way that will benefit the family. It benefits you. You are part of the family. Thinking about your joint money, respect that money and your spouse’s feelings but if you’re going to have a spendthrift and a saver who’s won’t spend money, I counsel couples on this. I have couples coming to me. It’s not even divorce related. They’ll say, “We need a neutral person with experience to help us reduce conflicts. What tips do you have, Laurie, that will help us stop fighting over money?” That’s just one example.
I love everything that you’re saying because like Karen, we had a shift in balance after when I worked with my first two kids, but my third one is when I stopped working. I noticed, even though everything is shared and we have a common account, I’ve lost my power. I feel that because I’m not earning an income and I have less of a say of what we spend money on and my husband is managing it more. Our financial advisor also recommended that I have my own account, it’s not that much money but it’s enough that I don’t feel I have to be accountable for everything I buy. It has changed our relationship. I love you saying this. It gives me my own personal freedom and there’s less answering, I only have to answer to myself.Couples need three bank accounts – shared expenses, and individual accounts so there is a mutual responsibility and you can stop fighting, asking for permission, or being dependent on one member. Click To Tweet
Rachel, you articulated that well because sometimes it’s the money but oftentimes the money is symbolic of something else. By you having to ask permission to spend money because you’re not the one bringing in that money, negates the role you play in the family. You are a partner. In California, we have a saying that when you get married, you’re a community. One person can be not earning money and the other person earning money and those roles can shift, but the point is that it’s community funds no matter who earns it. When people get divorced, they hate that. They don’t like that because they feel like, “I brought in 80% of the income and now I have to share this income.” That’s an issue we face a lot.
I do want to comment something on prenups. One other reason why it’s important to get a prenup is because by not signing a prenup, you are invisibly signing an invisible prenup. That’s the laws of your state. In California where I practice, that means that you may end up having to share things that you don’t think are fair. You may not like how spousal support will apply depending on what side of the fence you sit on. Every state is different. Some states, you may have an inheritance and you may not be able to keep that separate depending on what you’ve done with it. It’s important by not going through the process of having a prenup, you are having a prenup and it’s the state law where you may end up filing for divorce and you are not going to like that especially if you don’t understand those laws.
That is important for us to hear. What I picked up on was in your story, you had mentioned that your grandfather gave your mother and you an allowance, which I feel made you dependent on him. A lot of women and men maybe with their spouses, it’s that dependence on another person. That’s why it’s important to take that power back. Dena?
I have gone through all these steps. I unfortunately lost a husband several years ago. Thankfully I met another and remarried. I have two kids. He has a son, he has a divorce, we have a prenup, lots of money conversations. Fortunately, they weren’t easy but they weren’t forced. We’ve been upfront. Our estate planning with lots of complexities. What do you recommend or what advice do you have for preparing for these uncertain events that may happen like death, divorce?Educate your children about the consequences of the choices they make in life so they are being empowered to make good decisions for themselves, especially when it comes to money. Click To Tweet
Dena, my heart goes out to you. You’ve experienced many things, painful experiences but it sounds like you’ve grown, and you seem financially savvy now because you’ve gone through these exercises. Let’s talk about them separately. You can’t prepare for death but what you can do is understanding where you are because from a net worth standpoint, when I say net worth, what are the family’s assets? What are the family’s debts? You can always say that to your spouse, if you are married to somebody who is in control of all the money, the way to get this on the table is to say, “What if something happened to you? What if you were hit by a car? What if you got cancer? What would I do to make sure that I can thrive financially and our children, if we have any and they can and maybe your children from a previous marriage?” That is going to motivate your spouse to want to take you up to speed, to want to ensure that you have transparency.
Occasionally they don’t. They may say to you, “You have the phone number of our CPA and our financial advisor.” I encourage you once a year to say, “If you have a financial advisor, I would like to spend extra time with this financial advisor or CPA to understand where we stand.” Sometimes a spouse feels like they’re being patronized by another spouse. It can be condescending. They don’t mean to sometimes. Spend that extra time getting financially literate. That’s going to help you so much. In terms of divorce, same thing, you do not want to feel like your spouse, maybe one foot out the door or maybe your one foot out the door and not understand the ramifications. Here’s the most important question women ask me, “Laurie, am I going to be okay financially? Am I going to run out of money? Am I going to have enough money to buy a house? Am I going to have enough money that I don’t have to work until I’m 80?” You want the answers to those questions before death or divorce occurs.
Along those lines, Michelle has worked with Laurie and that is how Laurie and I met. She connected us. I only heard amazing things about Laurie and how, not only did Laurie helped Michelle with the basics of what to do during her divorce but being sympathetic, empathetic, listening to what Michelle’s needs are and a real authentic person. That’s why I wanted to have Laurie on the show to help all the goddesses out there. Michelle, can you talk a bit about your experience working with Laurie?
Everything you said is true, Karen. Laurie, you’ve been a godsend. I knew nothing financially. I paid some bills and I defer to my ex. I knew there were signs that things weren’t great but there was so much going on in my life that I still couldn’t focus on the financial, I hated it that much. After a long marriage, I’m somewhat newly single. I went to Laurie because Laurie helped me understand what I have and what my life would look like. We’ve been mediating, after several years, we’re still not entirely done. I want to know what my life would look like financially. That’s where you came in and grounded me when I was all over the place and scared. That’s where I’m at. Also, I know I’m going to continue to work with Laurie, and now I’m going to start planning. The first step was understanding what I had and could I live off of that? As soon as we sign, it will be about planning and how to not run out of money at 67 or 70 or 60. Now I’m strong enough to know I’ve got it. It’s been a great relationship.
Thank you, Michelle. I’ve loved working with you too because I know when we started working, your brain was moving like this and it’s a puzzle. I help women identify all the puzzle pieces and make them stop moving and putting them in. We have gaps, pieces are missing and over time slowly, we try to figure out what those pieces are. Now with Michelle, she’s going to be 100% responsible for every money decision in her life. I don’t want to be the kind of financial advisor that says, “Michelle, I will take care of everything. Don’t worry about it.” My philosophy is I want to be a partner and a teammate. I feel like we have to do this together. I have some strengths. Michelle has some strengths. We can complement each other but at the end of the day, she’s going to be my boss but we are going to work together to help make sure that she is investing her money in a way so that some of it will grow for the future, some of it will be here to provide income on a monthly basis. It’s not just thinking budgeting, it’s how you’re going to invest your money so that it’s there in the form you need it to be at whatever age you’re in.
It’s unbelievably empowering. Karen and I were talking about how I didn’t know anything but I had this epiphany and I thought to myself, how did I not know? This is my life. It’s part of my life. It’s part of me and I have to know. It hit me and I enjoy it because then I’m able to make decisions. It’s been hugely empowering.
That’s why I wanted Laurie to come on the show because this is a vulnerability, a weakness in me that I would like to be educated and learn and understand. I’m hoping to touch on our readers that it’s okay. I remember, Michelle, getting that phone call, you were excited. I said, “What happened? Which therapist did you see? What’s going on?” You said, “I saw the best therapist, the financial advisor, Laurie Itkin. She said I’m going to be okay.” That was a weight lifted off your shoulders, which is what exactly Laurie, it’s an emotional thing. Money is not just what I can buy, what I can do. It’s an emotional weight that by her knowing she was going to be okay, helped her to make clear, rational decisions about other things in her life. I’ve seen that.
Let’s talk about the dark side of this. Many women are not going to be okay, and this is why being engaged throughout the marriage, whether you’re the breadwinner or not, you have to be. I worked with Worthy, we did a study of women and there were many financial surprises that women faced during the divorce. These were not like showing up to your house and balloons and a cake surprise, these were nasty financial surprises. A lot of women didn’t know, not only do they have a mortgage on their house but there’s also a home equity line of credit. There’s such little equity in that house that if they were to sell the house, there would be barely any money for a down payment on another house. They learned that there were loans for a spouse had a business. They learned that there was nothing in retirement, maybe $10,000. They learned that there was credit card debt. There’s the dark side here.By not signing a prenup, you’re actually signing an invisible prenup that will not be favorable to you. Click To Tweet
After 10, 15, 20 years, this stuff you can find out that everything you’ve thought you’ve worked for and grown with your spouse is worth almost nothing and could even be negative. I hate to scare people but I can’t not scare people because it is the truth. You are complicit in that. If you decide in your marriage to ignore it and rely on your spouse no matter how smart he or she may be, this is the risk you’re taking. You’re taking the risk that there may be nothing whether you stay married or not. This is important. This is what happened to my mother. I know because my brother and I got a modest inheritance, I’m not complaining about it. I’m saying that we were shocked how little money was left because of her father leaving her inheritance and her third husband, it was a money pit with his rental properties. She trusted him or she wanted to not have a fight with him. If she lived three more years, they would have been financially drained. I feel that.
I wanted to say something in regard to that. I was told by a professional one-time, this resonated with us, that whoever the breadwinner is in the home and whoever’s not the breadwinner, if that’s your situation, you have a worth already by the things you do. If you’re the house cook, the house cleaner and the house babysitter, all of these things if you add up what that cost would be, if you had people doing those jobs for you, you have worked. Whether the conversation should happen or can’t happen or won’t happen, there’s a starting place right there. You have worth, you do provide for your family and therefore all that financials information is yours to be had as well. I thought that was a good way to start and have that conversation because you’re already giving yourself some work if you’re not working. That was some good advice to help people.
My ex doesn’t see that value. I am fortunate that I know I’ll be fine but it’s scary. At the end of the day, I’ll talk in terms of divorce, sadly in this world that I’m in California and it’s the best state to be in but it doesn’t hold a lot of weight when it comes down to financial issues. It’s a sad thing for women.
I hate to say it, many breadwinners, it’s the women too. I have a lot of women coming to me and they’re divorced who have to pay spousal support to their spouse. They’re not happy about it. California is known for having some of the most generous spousal support laws, you may get more spousal support in California than in many other states. I have many women coming to me whose husbands were engineers. You have smart people who can get a job, they’ve been laid off in their 50s. Somehow, they don’t go back to work. Maybe they try to start a business and it’s not successful. These women are going to be paying a lot of spousal support to their husbands.You need to ask yourself if you’re going to be okay financially before a death or divorce occurs. Click To Tweet
They feel the same way, Michelle, as your husband feels. They feel like, “I’ve been the one earning the money and I’ve got to subsidize this guy.” I want to reiterate that. It’s not traditional sex roles here because this is happening with both genders. That’s important to know. It’s an equal opportunity employer. We spent a lot of time talking about divorce a bit about death but it’s important that no matter where a woman is in her life, she’s going to sometimes be dependent on others financially and sometimes be independent and sometimes be in a shared role. Being cognizant of where you are in that continuum and staying financially aware of your situation all along the lifetime, you will be fine. You will feel empowered, you will feel secure and you will feel proud.
Along those lines, I do have a question that popped up. How do you feel about your children and being open and honest with your kids about your financial worth? I know I’ve had this discussion with other women and my husband, it depends on their ages but now my kids are young adults. Some people are completely honest about every single thing so their kids are aware and some aren’t. I’m curious on your thoughts on that.
This is an issue that comes up with affluent people who have wealth. First of all, you want to be on the same page as your spouse on what you tell the kids. That’s always helpful. You may also want some guidance from a financial advisor, a therapist, an estate planning attorney because you don’t want a kid to know that they’ve got a whole trust fund coming to them if you think it may not motivate them to work. The one advice I would give to your children, whether they be boys or girls, is to instill in them that they need to be prepared. They need to be prepared in their choices in life and career if they can be financially independent. They need to know, they have to understand the savings that if they decide in a marriage that they will leave the workforce and raise kids. They need to understand the pros and cons of those activities. It’s all about choices but educating your children on what are the consequences of each choice they may make in life. You’re empowering your children to make good decisions but good decisions that work for them, not for you.
Thank you for sharing that. Thank you for empowering us with all of this amazing wisdom and education. If our readers would like to contact you, how can they do that?
The best way to do that is to go to my website, TheOptionsLady.com.
Thank you for joining us.
Thank you. It was a pleasure.
Welcome everyone to show and tell time, Favorite Things. We’re going to start with Michelle. What have you brought that brings you happiness and joy?
It’s interesting because it’s a material thing. It goes full circle here because Laurie gave me the courage or the knowledge to understand what my future looked like and what I could do. I was terrified because my car was on the brink and I was afraid how I was going to buy a car now that I’m single. This is my favorite thing because this is the key to my new Tesla that I bought. I couldn’t have done it without your help.
Tell our readers what it is that you held up.
I held up my phone, which is the actual key to my new car, my Tesla. It felt empowering to buy. It’s not about the material thing, it’s just about me and having control over my life. I felt like it was a good financial decision for me to make but I wouldn’t have known that without Laurie.
Good for you. Don’t lose that key.
I have a few more it’s okay.
Dena, how about you?
We have a coin jar designed for coins that has the little slap but certainly anybody could use any jar. We haven’t been putting coins in it since COVID because we’re not using any paper money to get coins. In the past, we’ve always enjoyed taking it to the bank when it’s full and finding out how much is in there. As a family, we decide what to do with that money whether it’s saved for vacation activities, food, split up or donated, whatever we decide. It’s a fun little activity.
I have to tell you a funny story about that. My husband had one of the big, plastic Coke bottles that he filled up all of his childhood. He went away and then he came home and it was empty. We still don’t know who cashed all that money.
It’s funny you say that. My father had a shoebox and my father passed away several years ago. My mom sent it back with me to tell my kids whoever took it into the bank and sorted it gets to keep it. A lot of points.
It’s a fun thing to do. Rachel, how about you?
In light of our women empowerment discussion, I brought a book that was a gift for me.
What is it called, Rachel?
Be More Wonder Woman: Fearless Thinking from a Warrior Princess. As you love Glinda the Good Witch, Karen, I love Wonder Woman. I’ve loved her my whole life. I am constantly trying to bring that power back to me as a woman, arm myself, protect myself and be smarter about decisions. Thank you, Laurie, for helping us all on this journey.
I knew we were going to be talking about finances. I brought my school cap as a reminder because my parents divorced or separated three days before my graduation from high school. I had to pay my own way through school because they had to deal with divorce and figure out whose house and all of that fun stuff, which is probably why my dad was like, “Prenup for your engagement gift.” I was able to go through college. It took me a little bit longer than some of my friends and family, but I paid it all off and I didn’t have any college debt when I graduated from college. That made me excited. I was on the Dean’s List too but I had to work my way through it.
Good for you. That’s a great favorite thing.
It took eight years.
One of my favorite things was given to me. It’s in my nightstand and it’s a little knit pouch and inside are $0.18. It’s called a high pouch. It was given to me by a Holocaust survivor that I went to go here. She makes these and it’s called this high pouch was made by hand especially for you. $0.18 is enclosed as eighteen is a spiritual number in Judaism. In the Hebrew alphabet, high equals 18. High symbolizes life, luck, healing, prosperity and joy with Peace Sephora. This is from her. She gives these out to people whenever she meets them. It’s nice to keep on my bedside. I look at it and realize how grateful I am that I have her in my life as well as everything abundance that I have in my life. Not material necessarily just abundance of friendships like you guys and meeting new people like Laurie that help us in our lives. We’re now onto Laurie’s favorite thing. What did you bring?
I want to encourage everybody to take improv comedy classes with their significant other if they have a significant other because I got married late in life, so I’m an independent person. I’ve realized that if you don’t continually learn new things with your spouse, you will grow apart. Improv comedy was something that I was interested in. I took some classes myself and I came home in a great mood every time I came home. He said, “Why are you in such a good mood?” I invited him to try. Even during COVID, there are online improv classes. My favorite thing is a gift to others who are in a marriage or relationship that’s going stale. Take up something fun with your partner and learn together. It creates new lines of intimacy between the two of you.
It’s funny you say that. My husband and I did improv as well, we did all the levels. Do you know for the first couple weeks of the classes, we didn’t tell anyone that we were married? We came in at different times and sat apart from each other. We were only introduced by our first name. When we finally did tell people, people were like, “I thought she was married to that guy,” someone different. I agree with you. I always joked that it was the best disguise couples therapy that we could ever have because it brought you together. You have to do ‘yes, and.’ Everything has to be a yes and not a no. You can take it home with you and continue. We’d come home and we get mad at each other, I say, “What happened to the ‘yes, and?’ Where did that go?” I love that favorite thing. Thank you all for sharing your favorite things. Thank you so much, Laurie, for joining us.
- Laurie Itkin
Every Woman Should Know Her Options
Be More Wonder Woman: Fearless Thinking from a Warrior Princess
About Laurie Itkin
Laurie Itkin, CDFA, is a financial advisor, divorce financial planner, and certified divorce financial analyst. She is the author of the Amazon bestseller, Every Woman Should Know Her Options: Invest Your Way to Financial Empowerment.
She has been quoted in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and has appeared as a financial expert on broadcast and cable television.
She received her B.S. in Economics with a concentration in finance from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Laurie can be reached through her website, TheOptionsLady.com
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