Author Topic: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude  (Read 9191 times)

blue mutant

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BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« on: August 20, 2015, 12:35:06 PM »
I have hesitated to post anything on this topic for literally years but have observed much good advice to flow from similar posts.

Background
My wife and I married 13 years ago, I completed law school in 2007 and as of 2011, started to make decent money (now make about $125,000 Cdn). We have two kids, ages 7 & 9, and my wife has been unable to rejoin the workforce in anything other than part time capacity earning under $10,000 annually. Money has always been a large issue for us as I am frugal and she is not so much. Some further clarifying anecdotes:
- prior to marriage, she stated her student debts were $6-7K but they were actually $11-12K (possible genuine ignorance, which, strangely enough, may be worse than deception)
- My parents gave us $10K, about 1/2 of which was used to pay off her Student debts. 10 years later, she says that money went towards down payment (it did not, my RRSPs were used).
- Other issues with secret credit cards, irresponsible use of credit cards etc.
- Our savings rate is in the range of 20%-25% (largely work RRSPs and mortgage paydown) but we still have persistent credit card debt of about $20,000 (facepunches expected and accepted). Our net worth is around $100,000 and we are both 37-38.

It is not all bad. We live in a modest bungalow, only have 1 car (I walk/bike to work) and, until recently, had no personal cellphones (She recently got an iPhone 6 + $75/month plan).


About 3 years ago, she expressed alarm at her total financial dependence (I agree and sympathize) and we tried to pro/con educational choices. She essentially unilaterally decided to take a fine arts certificate program that has recently finished at approximate cost of $20,000 (tuition, ,supplies, daycare etc). Ever since, there is a constant stream of "You don't support this choice" which is essentially accurate insofar as I typically say it is not a choice I would have made for her. She believes that I should be encouraging Masters' pursuit of fine arts, which would require moving. She has shifted to other online Masters programs (Heritage management/ integrated studies) that are very pricey ($2,000 per course) and may not have straightforward earning potential either.

She would like to work as an artist in ceramics but has never really sold anything other than in barter for other art. My income shields her from any impact of these choices and, in my view, decreases the likelihood she ever puts in the work to achieve a modicum of success.

Ultimately, I just cannot see any real contribution moving forward and anticipate that bitterness over my "dream killing" will be pervasive as well. Any thoughts on how best to approach/ rectify this situation are appreciated.

rockstache

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2015, 12:50:31 PM »
This is a tough situation. In my opinion, you really can't address any financial problem until you address the marital one. A spendypants is one thing, but a lying spendypants who isn't bringing in income (or otherwise pulling their weight in the family relationship, which you did not actually comment on), is a whole different ballgame.

Does she do the lion's share of the housework, cooking, cleaning etc..while you are working? Was this an agreed on arrangement if so? I think possibly some marital counseling could help you both communicate what it is that you need.

For what it's worth my husband also came to the marriage with very little idea about what his debts or assets were. Because he is extremely honest with me about spending, and willing to stay on the budget we agree on, it has never been an issue. Sure, I wish he liked this stuff as much as I do, but I have to work with his strengths, so I don't let it bother me. I think the deception would be my biggest problem with everything you wrote above.

tyort1

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2015, 12:52:35 PM »
Agreed, there needs to be some changes in the marriage itself first.  Counseling is a good idea.

little_brown_dog

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2015, 02:38:16 PM »
As a woman who also is financially dependent on her man (work pt, transitioning to SAHM), I can say with absolute honesty that your wife is a) completely clueless, b) very manipulative and taking you for a ride, or c) some combination of the two. No woman who is thinking clearly thinks a cert in fine arts of all things is going to help set her up for financial independence after being out of the full time workforce for years. Similarly, only someone who is quite ungrateful would demand a second degree in such a questionable field, while not really contributing income to fund said degree, and then act resentful when you question the wisdom of such a decision. This is more a major personality issue than a money issue, counseling would be best.

partgypsy

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2015, 02:52:14 PM »
As a woman who also is financially dependent on her man (work pt, transitioning to SAHM), I can say with absolute honesty that your wife is a) completely clueless, b) very manipulative and taking you for a ride, or c) some combination of the two. No woman who is thinking clearly thinks a cert in fine arts of all things is going to help set her up for financial independence after being out of the full time workforce for years. Similarly, only someone who is quite ungrateful would demand a second degree in such a questionable field, while not really contributing income to fund said degree, and then act resentful when you question the wisdom of such a decision. This is more a major personality issue than a money issue, counseling would be best.

What each partner needs, is to a) both contribute to the household/family. Whether it is financially, housework, childrearing. That in itself can be a juggling act, and maybe more conversations if you expect her to contribute financially, what amount is fair given what else she does (such as childcare which can be time consuming). Second both partners need b) time for relaxation, hobbies, and also something in the budget for personal money.

To me she has confused her avocation or hobby (things that make her feel fulfilled) with her financial contributing. If anything they are costing the household more than they are bringing in. That's OK if it was a degree that would be predicted to pay well once completing, but that's not the degree she did. I personally would feel uncomfortable having my partner subsidize my hobby at that level (20K). There a really small extremely competitive job market at the master's level as well (she will be competing with people who have cvs with have solo/group art shows, funded grants, and/or teaching experience).

My husband has a BFA from a prestigious school. He does make art and sell it (probably enough to pay for his art supplies, and also in bartered art) but his way of making income is being a bartender.
So, there are 3 separate things you need to discuss: a) household budget and what each person contributes, in either chores, childrearing and cash, b) time for hobbies, and c) allowances for fun stuff.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2015, 02:56:02 PM by partgypsy »

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2015, 02:57:29 PM »
There are several huge issues to address here. The secrecy is the main thing that bothers me. You need to get to a point where she is completely honest with you about finances. No secret credit cards or accounts. If you don't already have one, I recommend doing a budget and going over it together every month. If you have to do it weekly just to start communicating better about finances, do so.

The other thing that doesn't feel right to me is how she brought up finances 3 years ago. She made it sound like she wanted to be better about it, but then turned it around on you. Her decision to go back to school for fine arts couldn't possibly have been a move for better financial education/independence given her work history with ceramics. It is just something she wants to do, and she wants you to be ok with having to be tied to your job for an extra decade to support this hobby. She then is upset that you don't emotionally support her decision? She was passive aggressive and manipulative with this one. This situation is going to cause huge resentment between both of you, and if not resolved could lead to "unresolvable differences."

Also, what good are online classes for ceramics? It's pretty hands-on. An artist only needs a masters degree in fine arts if she wants to teach at a college or run a museum. You need to have a conversation with her about what her end game is. If she truly believes this can be an income generating career move, she should be able to show you how, with specific job options. Show her how much aimlessly taking on more debt for education will affect your working career if she cannot make money afterward.

zinethstache

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2015, 03:22:35 PM »
I am an IT professional by day with a wicked artistic streak. I can tell you if you are gifted in the arts, you do NOT need a degree to make money at it. I craft in many mediums and I sell them without effort. At this point my name sells my art. This is a serious side gig for me that will sustain my discretionary spending when I FIRE.

So, with that in mind I cannot fathom why a 20k degree is needed for your wife to be a ceramics artist. It just doesn't "compute" (pardon the pun).

(So far I am self taught in the mediums I create in, though I would love to take some classes for fun and camaraderie)

You have quite a pickle there!

justajane

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #7 on: August 20, 2015, 03:27:22 PM »
You are getting some very good input and advice here. As a SAHM who is dependent on my husband's income and does not like it, I have thought of various ways to earn income in the future. Each time I look at getting a degree, I calculate the ROI. Your wife clearly isn't doing that, and I second partgypsy's comment that she is confusing her hobby with a valid career choice. She deserves an outlet or a hobby, but not one that costs as much as this.

I would focus on getting her to understand what her future earning will likely be after all these degrees. Do you think that if you can get her to realize that that she would back down?

Frankies Girl

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #8 on: August 20, 2015, 03:30:11 PM »
An artist doesn't need ~any~ degree whatsoever if they are talented.

Pursuing a master's degree in this field is pretty much just an avoidance maneuver (oh, I can't do X until I get this degree, so you have to keep supporting me/paying my way/letting me slide on being a full contributing partner) - this is my professional opinion.

I am a trained artist, worked as a graphic designer/illustrator for close to 20 years, and earned several national design awards during that time. I have a BFA, but it was practically useless to get my first job... so I got an AA in graphic design, and that got my foot in the door, and got to where I took commissions on a freelance basis, and built up a reputation in my field. I was one of the lucky ones in the art world - most of my friends are talented artists/designers and they make jackshit. I made decent money and was able to save a huge portion of it the last decade or so.

I'm not bragging - just stating my background so you know I do know what I'm talking about.

Unless your wife plans on teaching, there is no reason at all to get anything more than a BS/BFA. And really, she's pushing it getting those if she's pursuing ceramics. Either she has talent that will parlay into a decent income, or she's just playing at being an artist. And if she hasn't really sold anything or gotten her stuff out there by now... well, I'd lean towards playtime more than a serious artist just from the info here. Another little pipe dream thing, but it sounds like it wasn't even a choice for you - she just wanted it, so she's doing it and saying a big "fuck you" at you for daring to not be supportive of her selfishness. Ever heard of the term career student? Cause that's what she sounds like - she doesn't ever want to get back out in the real world and have to do real work.

Did you two sit down and discuss this at all beforehand? Were you both in agreement that this was a good move for your family? Or did she just decide she's going to do this and now is upset/angry that you aren't thrilled with her choices?  You mentioned that she decided unilaterally that she was going to do the fine arts path... which begs the question: Why didn't you ask her to discuss further at the time? In a marriage, no one gets to make a unilateral decision that effects the rest of the family - so I don't understand why this wasn't discussed at the time... unless it went more like: you brought it up, she threw a fit, and you backed down because that's how your family dynamics work... in which case run, don't walk to your nearest family therapist and get the both of you in there ASAP, because that is NOT how a partnership is supposed to work.

I ask because it really does seem like she is acting in a childish/self-centered manner - and she is being pretty selfish to have not even discussed with you beforehand and hurting your family as a whole if you are not only supporting the whole family while she endlessly stays in school, but she's also creating a running 20K of debt that hasn't been addressed. And the fact that she has a pattern of either ignorance or outright deceitfulness is disturbing. She should be concentrating on improving her knowledge on money management, working at lowering expenses and paying down the debt, and discussing shared goals with you and what direction your future goals will need to take and planning for those goals now... not playing at being an artist and thinking all she needs is a degree and the money and fame will just find her at that point.

And a brand new iphone 6 and $75/month plan... ooooookaaaay. Just throwing more wood on the fire, huh?

She sounds very immature, selfish, passive aggressive and manipulative. I don't know if you are used to this, or if that's just how she is coming across, but you have kids together and I assume love each other and want to work on a stronger relationship, so I'd honestly ask her to go to counseling to see if you guys can work out some compromises and get her to see that she needs to step up and do the boring adult stuff too like understanding how the finance stuff works, saving money/paying debts, and maybe save the art stuff for her free time as a hobby instead.
 
And of course, say it nicer than what I said. :)
« Last Edit: August 20, 2015, 03:54:43 PM by Frankies Girl »

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2015, 03:42:03 PM »
Your wife needs a plan for how she's going to monetize her art skills.

Right now, it appears that whenever she's pushed to do so, she makes a plan to pursue more, expensive education. This is pretty common among people who can't actually think of any way to make money at what they do. So they shortcut a solution: "If I just keep getting more education, eventually this education will mushroom into a real job." They don't know what the real job is, but that doesn't matter, because more education makes them feel as though they are working toward something and will one day be qualified to do something. A knight in shining armor employer will come in, find them in their Master's program, and offer them a lucrative position in Fantasy Land.

As it turns out, there is no knightly employer. They are not looking for her. And positions that she's qualified for don't pay very much and are kind of hard work. Plus, she would have to actually seek them out. Or she can make her own opportunities - but that's hard too.

And here's a newsflash: Your wife doesn't want to work.

Now - granted, this is an early retirement forum. A lot of us don't want to work! But right now she is killing -your- dream of not working... by not working.

There's no pretty way to call her on it. But you could try brainstorm ways for her make money. Does she take her art to crafts/art shows in your state? Does she teach a class at your local community arts center/museum/recreation department? Does she run a Summer-camp arts program for school-aged children?  Here's the challenging part - none of these things make a lot of money. She probably has to do all of these things if she wants to eek out a living - plus Etsy, plus a website, plus + plus + plus.

She will work 40 hours a week at "art" and it will be hard work. And remember... your wife doesn't want to work. That's the hill you have to climb. It's a lot easier for her to keep going to school, spend the money you dutifully bring home, and cry and guilt-trip you if you push her to do otherwise. Heck - that stuff isn't challenging at all!

There is no easy way for you to solve this problem, especially given your wife's proclivity for secret spending and secret debt. I would suggest taking it in steps - after all, every penny you can get her to not spend is a penny saved! Start with: Stop taking classes and find a way to make a little bit of money with her art skills. Once you get her to buy into not spending more on education and working a little bit, you can push for a little more work... and a little more. I have a feeling you've tried this, but you need to keep trying.

Good luck with everything!

justajane

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2015, 03:57:43 PM »
If she were more frugal, would you be okay with her current earnings? If she is doing the bulk of the childcare, cleaning, and cooking, I don't see how this couldn't be a sustainable arrangement given your income. It's the deception, the flighty education goals, and the obliviousness to the bottom line that seem to be the problem - not her income or lack thereof, right?

Noodle

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #11 on: August 20, 2015, 05:04:20 PM »
OK, I am going to look at this from a slightly different perspective from other posters, some of whom are being really harsh toward your wife (maybe deserved, maybe not...we don't have enough information to know.)

It sounds like there are three big things going on here:

1. Your wife came into the marriage without strong financial planning or management skills and has not developed them since (not knowing her loan amounts, not remembering how you have allocated money toward debt, poorly planned credit card spending.)
2. The two of you don't communicate well about financial decisions. We don't know who contributes how to that situation, but clearly you have trouble getting on the same page (wife doesn't feel she can tell you about spending, wife went ahead with certificate despite your doubts, you are not on the same page about MA)
3. Your long-term goals aren't in alignment. She dreams of education in something that fulfills her soul and hopefully the ability to make money doing it, and you dream of what? FIRE? You haven't really said.

Also, the tone you are using to talk about this is pretty negative toward your wife. Of course, this is a safe space to talk about something that has clearly been bothering you for awhile, which may explain the tone, but if you look at the research of Dr. John Gottman, who has a very high record of success telling which marriages will survive, he says that contempt toward a partner is a big predictor of an unsuccessful marriage. Maybe it's totally deserved (again, we just don't know from our perspective) but I take it you would like to stay in the marriage since you are asking for negotiation/persuasion techniques, not the address of a divorce attorney.

I mean, you could tell the exact same story from a whole different point of view, like this:

Dear Mustachians--I hope you can give me advice on handling a delicate situation with my amazing wife. She has many wonderful talents, but she struggles with financial planning and management. When we got married, she wasn't even sure how much she owed in students loans, and she doesn't always recall accurately what financial decisions we have made together. She doesn't always spend within our means, which has been stressful. Our communication dynamic around finances isn't great either...there have been times when she didn't feel she could tell me about credit-card spending. Still, she was there for me during the stresses of law school even through her own first pregnancy (did I get that math right?)and has stayed out of the workplace to raise our two kids, even though having two little ones at home is pretty tough, at the same time doing the household chores and supporting me emotionally during the early years of my new career. Three years ago, once I was making decent money and our younger was getting ready to go to elementary school, she wanted to get more education and contribute financially to our household. She found a certificate program in fine arts, which really spoke to her, and completed the program for less than the cost of two years of community college (based on my local community college's student costs). I'm really proud of how hard she worked after being away from an academic setting over 10 years. The problem is that there aren't many money earning opportunities with this certificate, but she's really excited about this field and now wants a graduate degree which would be very expensive and probably require us to move just as I'm settled in this career. Plus, I'd really like to pursue my dreams of early retirement (yes? no?) and her fulfilling her dreams will make that tough. How can we get on the same page over these issues?

Maybe your wife really is as bad as some of the other posters think, none of the above applies, and all you can achieve is crisis management. But is there any way to look at the situation more kindly, which will probably help negotiations move along better?

And as others have pointed out...given the communication challenges, maybe a good counselor could help you find a more successful way of negotiating 1-3?
« Last Edit: August 20, 2015, 05:06:53 PM by Noodle »

blue mutant

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2015, 06:52:31 AM »
I appreciate all the feedback.


Does she do the lion's share of the housework, cooking, cleaning etc..while you are working? Was this an agreed on arrangement if so? I think possibly some marital counseling could help you both communicate what it is that you need.


Right now, housework is probably a fairly even split in that I do 90% of laundry, 30%-40% of cooking.
We have done 7-8 sessions of counselling.

As a woman who also is financially dependent on her man (work pt, transitioning to SAHM), I can say with absolute honesty that your wife is a) completely clueless, b) very manipulative and taking you for a ride, or c) some combination of the two. No woman who is thinking clearly thinks a cert in fine arts of all things is going to help set her up for financial independence after being out of the full time workforce for years. Similarly, only someone who is quite ungrateful would demand a second degree in such a questionable field, while not really contributing income to fund said degree, and then act resentful when you question the wisdom of such a decision. This is more a major personality issue than a money issue, counseling would be best.

I'm leaving work to SAHM in another week and seconding this. Also, it's possible to make good money in the arts (my husband and plenty of his colleagues do), but if there's one field where degrees REALLY don't count, it's the arts. My husband has a degree from a prestigious school in his specialty. It's far less relevant than the five years he has spent networking, taking shit jobs, and writing e-mails to anyone and everyone he could. And it's been five years and we are only just now really seeing the payoff for all this work. We're looking at probably another 3 years before this can fully support the family. And it's a monstrous amount of work. If she isn't so madly in love with this that she'd do it all day for free, it won't work, because that's who she's going to be competing against.

This is what I'm worried about. Is the best case scenario seeing some payoff 8 years from now if everything breaks right?


I would focus on getting her to understand what her future earning will likely be after all these degrees. Do you think that if you can get her to realize that that she would back down?

We have looked up government run earning estimator sites and private ceramics teaching studio sites that share approximate costs but there is a strong push towards magical thinking ie. "IF you make 125 and I make 40, we'd be doing great." That's fine but earning $40K probably requires gross revenues of $5k per month, which is just....


Pursuing a master's degree in this field is pretty much just an avoidance maneuver (oh, I can't do X until I get this degree, so you have to keep supporting me/paying my way/letting me slide on being a full contributing partner) - this is my professional opinion.

Did you two sit down and discuss this at all beforehand? Were you both in agreement that this was a good move for your family? Or did she just decide she's going to do this and now is upset/angry that you aren't thrilled with her choices?  You mentioned that she decided unilaterally that she was going to do the fine arts path... which begs the question: Why didn't you ask her to discuss further at the time? In a marriage, no one gets to make a unilateral decision that effects the rest of the family - so I don't understand why this wasn't discussed at the time... unless it went more like: you brought it up, she threw a fit, and you backed down because that's how your family dynamics work... in which case run, don't walk to your nearest family therapist and get the both of you in there ASAP, because that is NOT how a partnership is supposed to work.


I brought it up and backed down because that is our family dynamic.


There's no pretty way to call her on it. But you could try brainstorm ways for her make money. Does she take her art to crafts/art shows in your state? Does she teach a class at your local community arts center/museum/recreation department? Does she run a Summer-camp arts program for school-aged children?  Here's the challenging part - none of these things make a lot of money. She probably has to do all of these things if she wants to eek out a living - plus Etsy, plus a website, plus + plus + plus.

She will work 40 hours a week at "art" and it will be hard work. And remember... your wife doesn't want to work. That's the hill you have to climb. It's a lot easier for her to keep going to school, spend the money you dutifully bring home, and cry and guilt-trip you if you push her to do otherwise. Heck - that stuff isn't challenging at all!


One of the difficulties is that she is teaching through the city. We are exposed to quite a few people in town who make a living in the arts sphere but it is very apparent that they bust their ass to make it work. It seems clear that they are hungry to succeed (starving artists) but that that motivation is lacking (and unnecessary) for my wife in the situation she is in. I am at a loss as to to how that urgency can be created artificially.

OK, I am going to look at this from a slightly different perspective from other posters, some of whom are being really harsh toward your wife (maybe deserved, maybe not...we don't have enough information to know.)

Also, the tone you are using to talk about this is pretty negative toward your wife. Of course, this is a safe space to talk about something that has clearly been bothering you for awhile, which may explain the tone, but if you look at the research of Dr. John Gottman, who has a very high record of success telling which marriages will survive, he says that contempt toward a partner is a big predictor of an unsuccessful marriage. Maybe it's totally deserved (again, we just don't know from our perspective) but I take it you would like to stay in the marriage since you are asking for negotiation/persuasion techniques, not the address of a divorce attorney.


I struggle with the tone. I actually am a family law lawyer and my "drafting" probably tends towards adversarial (I try to be neutral). I have read some Gottman and agree that I have contempt for my wife's willful ignorance on financial matters. The willful part is what drives me bonkers. I would like to be FI (not necessarily RE) as my job is moderately stressful and I would like to have FU money at the very least. As it stands right now, a job loss for me would be catastrophic.

Jouer

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #13 on: August 21, 2015, 06:56:47 AM »
Is Red Deer like Fort Mac in that a job at Tim Horton's could pay $40k a year? (this may be a slight exaggeration)

justajane

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #14 on: August 21, 2015, 07:30:39 AM »
I appreciate all the feedback.


Does she do the lion's share of the housework, cooking, cleaning etc..while you are working? Was this an agreed on arrangement if so? I think possibly some marital counseling could help you both communicate what it is that you need.


Right now, housework is probably a fairly even split in that I do 90% of laundry, 30%-40% of cooking.
We have done 7-8 sessions of counselling.

I think in general you have to realize that everyone probably perceives the household split in their own favor. In other words, she is very likely doing more than you think she is. You haven't brought up cleaning or childcare at all. My guess is that she is doing the bulk of that, which means that she is doing well over half of the "housework." And she should be doing the lionshare if she is at home. I used to think that I would be made of time once my kids were school aged, but it doesn't really work out that way. I still have a baby at home and two in school, but I do find that school aged children are still a lot of work. There's all the scheduling and mental head space that they take up, and usually the mom does all this whether she is working or not.

I still want to know the answer to this: if she were more frugal and stopped pursuing education in the arts, would you be okay with the current arrangement? Or is your contempt (now that someone has used that word and you agreed with it we'll go with it) resting in the fact that you have a spouse who doesn't work or earn very much? If it's the former, I think you can work through it. If it's the latter, I think you are going to have problems and probably need to work on your own attitude towards your wife. She is working, even if she doesn't get a substantial paycheck for it.

Did you both agree to have a stay at home parent or was that a decision she made unilaterally?

little_brown_dog

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #15 on: August 21, 2015, 09:55:26 AM »
 I think the OP has already done a pretty good job compromising – after all, the wife now has a fine arts cert to the tune of 20k, and I assume she also has plenty of time to practice her hobby due to her reduced work schedule (made possible by her working spouse). This is probably why there is resentment and contempt festering...it is hard not to get contemptuous when you feel like you aren't being met halfway (sounds like wife feels exactly the same).

What makes me uncomfortable is that the wife appears to be giving ultimatums – “if you love me you will let me do the masters” even though there are some very objective, valid reasons to question yet another degree. This is a classic manipulation tactic, and puts the other partner in an unfair spot. You are really only left with two choices – cave to their will and go against what you think is best for the family and finances, or refuse to fund/support the degree and cause massive resentment/marital strife.  I have seen this exact scenario play out in some of our friends’ relationships – there are some partners who are chronic degree chasers, and because of the high value most of us put on education and “personal growth”, they are able to easily manipulate and accuse those who question them as being unsupportive. For whatever reason, they feel like because it's education they are entitled to it, regardless of how many degrees they already have or the potential negative impact on their partner or the family finances.
 

OP - props for starting counseling...hopefully if you continue to go, you will be able to explore this in more depth. A good counselor/psychologist will be able to immediately pick up on any manipulation tactics that are being thrown around. Hopefully your wife is forthcoming with the therapist so you can get to the bottom of her need to constantly chase new degrees. It is possible she is suffering from housewife's syndrome (depression caused by a lack of perceived meaning in one's own life, common among sahms in the 50s/60s) and so she is trying to build a new identity come hell or high water.

Trudie

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #16 on: August 21, 2015, 10:09:18 AM »
Agreed, there needs to be some changes in the marriage itself first.  Counseling is a good idea.

I agree.  Sounds like there are other underlying issues at the core, but they are just manifesting with money issues.  Counseling would be a wise investment in your relationship.

Pigeon

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #17 on: August 21, 2015, 10:56:45 AM »
Quote
I think in general you have to realize that everyone probably perceives the household split in their own favor. In other words, she is very likely doing more than you think she is. You haven't brought up cleaning or childcare at all. My guess is that she is doing the bulk of that, which means that she is doing well over half of the "housework." And she should be doing the lionshare if she is at home. I used to think that I would be made of time once my kids were school aged, but it doesn't really work out that way. I still have a baby at home and two in school, but I do find that school aged children are still a lot of work. There's all the scheduling and mental head space that they take up, and usually the mom does all this whether she is working or not.


I was thinking that as well.  IMO, doing laundry is the easiest household chore, taking almost no time if you own a washer and dryer.  If you were to ask my husband how much cooking he does, he's probably say close to half.  If he sticks something I've already made (like a lasagna) in the oven twice a week, that's a lot.  The real housework is cleaning and childcare and doing the endless errands.

My brother is married to someone who sounds a lot like the OP's wife.  Oddly, he's a lawyer, too.  She ditzed around with trying to do murals and sell watercolors, but to be honest, she has no business sense, works slowly and really isn't very talented.  She would have made more money working at Target, but at least she wasn't looking to get an expensive MFA. 

While I don't think counseling is a bad idea, I think at the end of the day you're going to have to decide if you can live with her being a SAHM and living on your not inconsequential salary or if you want to move on. 

My SIL ended up going the SAHM route.  Their one kid is in college and she still doesn't work.  I couldn't live with somebody like that, but my brother seems to have made his peace with it. 

Sibley

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #18 on: August 21, 2015, 10:58:32 AM »
Since you've started counseling already, has it helped? If not, is it because you're seeing a counselor who's not a good fit, or because one or both of you is unwilling?

cincystache

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #19 on: August 21, 2015, 11:39:50 AM »
As a woman who also is financially dependent on her man (work pt, transitioning to SAHM), I can say with absolute honesty that your wife is a) completely clueless, b) very manipulative and taking you for a ride, or c) some combination of the two. No woman who is thinking clearly thinks a cert in fine arts of all things is going to help set her up for financial independence after being out of the full time workforce for years. Similarly, only someone who is quite ungrateful would demand a second degree in such a questionable field, while not really contributing income to fund said degree, and then act resentful when you question the wisdom of such a decision. This is more a major personality issue than a money issue, counseling would be best.

Great perspective there...

I agree that some counseling is in need, it sounds like there is something deeper than finances going on here.

I work in a STEM field so I can't speak from experience but art is extremely subjective on the whole. In my opinion, the more subjective a field is, the less you need a degree to make money.

On the contrary, something objective like engineering, welding, medicine, etc. where there is a right way and a wrong way to do something is probably worth the money to learn the right way. A degree in these fields has value in that it proves you have presumably learned the right way to do something useful to an employer or a patient etc. There is no right way and wrong way to do art...

DoubleDown

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #20 on: August 21, 2015, 11:50:28 AM »
That's a tough situation OP, you have my sympathy. I realize "counseling" is the go-to solution usually offered, as evidenced above, but I personally don't have a lot of confidence in its ability to solve marital problems like this. If it does anything helpful, I think it will be only to help you sort out your own feelings and options.

So, I'll risk a different approach that many will probably think is horrible and jump all over, but I'm sticking to my guns: Start pronouncing major financial decisions for the family to put you on a healthy track, and that's it. You are the breadwinner, you control the purse strings so to speak. For example, you sit down with her to define a reasonable monthly budget, and you stick to it. You also stick to your guns about what is reasonable. You decide, with her input, what a reasonable "allowance" is for each of you to blow on whatever each month, and you stick to it. And you start "paying yourself first." That is, you start directing a desired portion of your earnings into savings vehicles FIRST, and THEN you see what's left to live on. So, you max your 401k's and IRA's (or Canadian equivalents), put some other money into taxable investments, then determine what's left for the family budget and fun money. If she objects to any of it, you simply say, "That's the way it's going to be from now on, as long as I'm the only one earning. If you want to earn income too, then you can have more say in how your own income is spent."

I definitely do NOT mean you should lord it over your wife and make her come to you for every nickel, or not consult her in decision-making. But without you laying down the law, so to speak, I see nothing changing favorably. Now, she may very well react very negatively to the idea of you dictating these financial terms. I would expect it based on how you've described her, and that's okay. That may be just the urgency that's needed, as you've described, to get her to realize she can't just take without contributing. She wants more money to blow? Great, there's the urgency to go get a paying job. Also, with this solution, you are completely removed from making any judgments about her chosen hobby/profession. She is free to decide whatever she wants in relation to her arts career, so long as she's finding a way to pay for it. The approach is completely fair, reasonable, and instituting this will also likely quickly reveal where she stands in this marriage.

Anyone who would argue this approach is sexist, I will tell you I would give the exact same advice to a woman who was the breadwinner with a non-contributing and spendthrift spouse.

justajane

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #21 on: August 21, 2015, 12:11:07 PM »
Anyone who would argue this approach is sexist, I will tell you I would give the exact same advice to a woman who was the breadwinner with a non-contributing and spendthrift spouse.

But she is contributing. Is money the only way that a spouse contributes to a household? I don't get this perspective.

bsmith

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #22 on: August 21, 2015, 12:13:09 PM »
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Ever since, there is a constant stream of "You don't support this choice" which is essentially accurate insofar as I typically say it is not a choice I would have made for her.

Dude. I don't even know where to start with this. So, I'll just direct you to counseling.

Noodle

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #23 on: August 21, 2015, 12:25:26 PM »
I'm wondering--at the time that you went to law school, what were the conversations like? Was it about a job that was a better fit, or trying to increase income, or something that had been planned from the outset as your career path?

Pigeon

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #24 on: August 21, 2015, 12:28:26 PM »
Laying down the law isn't how partnerships work. 

I think the wife's unilateral decision is a big problem, but it isn't going to be solved by the husband making unilateral decisions.

MissStache

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #25 on: August 21, 2015, 12:30:27 PM »
First, you've got to let go of the stuff that has already happened.  You can't be upset at her about the $20,000 art school because you already let that happen.  You have no recourse to go back and be mad about it now, even if you feel like it was a waste of time.  What is done is done, and it isn't functional for you to resent it.  Focus on the stuff that you can fix.

There are a couple of things that stick out to me.

1.  Credit card debt.  Can you get rid of these and switch to cash only?  Give her an allowance.  In fact, BOTH of you should be on an allowance to show that you are both working towards staying in a budget.  That will help solve the problem of overspending...maybe.  I am very alarmed about the secret credit cards.  That is such a huge, waving red flag that I kind of can't get past it. 

2.  Art school.  Sure she can go, but she needs to pay for the classes.  She needs $2000 to pay for a class?  Then she better sell $2000 worth of art.  Or, she can save up her personal allowance and use it on that.  That will show you how serious she is and will probably teach her a thing or two about herself.  Don't say "you can't do this" but instead say "what ideas do you have to pay for this?" She should have plenty of time to make stuff and run an Etsy business or something like that. 


DoubleDown

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #26 on: August 21, 2015, 12:51:52 PM »
Anyone who would argue this approach is sexist, I will tell you I would give the exact same advice to a woman who was the breadwinner with a non-contributing and spendthrift spouse.

But she is contributing. Is money the only way that a spouse contributes to a household? I don't get this perspective.

Perhaps I missed the major contributions made by the OP's spouse. The way I read the OP's account, he was the only one bringing income into the family. The spouse, on the other hand, is spending a lot more money and accruing credit card debt (i.e., not only is she not bringing in income, she's frivolously spending the income he's earning), and household chores and child care were pretty much evenly divided. She's also looking to "invest" even larger sums of money in a graduate degree for an occupation she's earning $0 at. I'm willing to acknowledge that I missed something, please let me know if there's something substantial I missed.

mpcharles

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #27 on: August 21, 2015, 02:39:29 PM »
This is a tough situation. In my opinion, you really can't address any financial problem until you address the marital one. A spendypants is one thing, but a lying spendypants who isn't bringing in income (or otherwise pulling their weight in the family relationship, which you did not actually comment on), is a whole different ballgame.

Does she do the lion's share of the housework, cooking, cleaning etc..while you are working? Was this an agreed on arrangement if so? I think possibly some marital counseling could help you both communicate what it is that you need.

For what it's worth my husband also came to the marriage with very little idea about what his debts or assets were. Because he is extremely honest with me about spending, and willing to stay on the budget we agree on, it has never been an issue. Sure, I wish he liked this stuff as much as I do, but I have to work with his strengths, so I don't let it bother me. I think the deception would be my biggest problem with everything you wrote above.
I agree 100%. She is playing dressups, I want to be an astronaut and a painter too, but I know I'll never goto space.

She needs a reality check, maybe you could jolt her someway, temporary have no income?

Sent from my ASUS_Z00AD using Tapatalk


Potterquilter

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #28 on: August 21, 2015, 03:12:22 PM »
I am a potter. In the studio where I work there are many clay artists that do wheel throwing, hand building and sculpture. i don't know anyone who does it full time without a spouse or parental support, an outside job like part time teaching, and a few of us who are FI from other jobs.  And I know some really talented people. I do just as well as most of them and have no degree in art. People buy what is esthetically pleasing to them, what goes with their sofa and so on. There is no rhyme or reason to buying choices. And the market is flooded with cheap decor flooding in from China.  I do mostly functional pottery like bowls, plates and mugs which people often buy for gifts. Occasionally I get commissions for urns but that is rare. People want to see a physical object or samples.  One of my sculptor friends does beautiful work, but the right person has to come along. Has she sold stuff already? 

Does she work in a studio or do you have a home studio?  A home studio will be expensive to set up and electric bills are high with firing. Plus clay, chemicals for glazes and so on. Plus the mess.

But perhaps you could suggest a compromise. Say maybe she could pursue her art through sales on etsy and craft shows.  After a year reassess if a degree is worth it.



11ducks

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #29 on: August 21, 2015, 04:30:30 PM »
Anyone who would argue this approach is sexist, I will tell you I would give the exact same advice to a woman who was the breadwinner with a non-contributing and spendthrift spouse.

But she is contributing. Is money the only way that a spouse contributes to a household? I don't get this perspective.

Perhaps I missed the major contributions made by the OP's spouse. The way I read the OP's account, he was the only one bringing income into the family. The spouse, on the other hand, is spending a lot more money and accruing credit card debt (i.e., not only is she not bringing in income, she's frivolously spending the income he's earning), and household chores and child care were pretty much evenly divided. She's also looking to "invest" even larger sums of money in a graduate degree for an occupation she's earning $0 at. I'm willing to acknowledge that I missed something, please let me know if there's something substantial I missed.

I can't remember him saying anything about childcare responsibilities being equally divided? If his firm is like my sisters, he may regularly work 80+ hours a week, meaning childcare is her f/t responsibility. Which makes earning difficult (ie if you can only work shifts from 9-2pm, near the school).

OP, can I ask whether your budget specifies child costs? Between replacing clothes, shoes, school supplies, med stuff, field trips, dress up days, friends bday presents the occasional outing and the billion other kid related costs, much of that money you see as frivolous wastage may realistically be being spent on your children? And if you aren't the primary caregiver, you may not even know that this has been done/was needed?

If your wife left today, have you considered the costs to replace her- as a (presumably) quality in home carer, cleaner, cook, transporting kids around, organising, house upkeep etc?  Putting a financial value on this may help you to quantify the ways she financially contributes to your family, even if the art stuff is a bust.

Fwiw, I think taking a Masters is unnecessary/expensive if she hasn't shown that she has what it takes to be an artist. Maybe encourage her to sell her pieces at a market stall first to see if there's a business there (of course, ensuring she has childcare so that she can do this without child wrangling simultaneously). Good luck with it.

SecretMinimalist

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #30 on: August 21, 2015, 06:05:42 PM »
OP, is it possible that when your wife said 3 years ago about wanting to contribute financially, what she meant was she wanted some "purpose" in life outside of being a SAHP?  Is she meeting (or hearing about) friends /your work colleagues / work colleagues' spouses etc and feeling a lack of status?  Being described as an art student or an artist maybe gives her a status/ sense of being valued that she wants - for herself, or to show you she's still interesting, or to enhance your status (so you can say to colleagues, clients etc "my wife is a ceramic artist" rather than "my wife works at Starbucks to earn extra cash" - you might not care about this but maybe she does).

Could you both find ways for her to feel valued that are cost neutral or brings in an income?

« Last Edit: August 22, 2015, 12:03:09 AM by SecretMinimalist »

takeahike

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #31 on: August 21, 2015, 06:36:10 PM »
I feel badly for you. This would drive me bonkers. I too was desperate to be independent so I got my Bachelor's in Nursing, with full emotional and a great deal of financial support from my husband. I can now bring in some decent dough. He would have NEVER been onboard (as no sane person should be) with me spending years getting an art's degree. That is some first world luxury right there. 

SwordGuy

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #32 on: August 21, 2015, 08:01:32 PM »
An artist only needs a masters degree in fine arts if she wants to teach at a college or run a museum.
This is COMPLETELY TRUE.

SirFrugal

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #33 on: August 22, 2015, 09:04:46 AM »
My brother is married to someone who sounds a lot like the OP's wife.  Oddly, he's a lawyer, too.  She ditzed around with trying to do murals and sell watercolors, but to be honest, she has no business sense, works slowly and really isn't very talented.  She would have made more money working at Target, but at least she wasn't looking to get an expensive MFA. 

This is what I was thinking...if she wants to have a hobby and contribute a little money great, have your hobby and find whatever job you can get.  If she wants more income potential so she could be self supportive in the event something happens to her husband...then go to school for something with better job prospects.  No offense to the artsy folk here...its just there are a lot of other fields one could get into require a lot less natural talent to be successful in, and that will typically have a much better return on investment for a degree if the goal was just to make money.

BCBiker

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #34 on: August 22, 2015, 03:11:33 PM »
To OP: Everyone has the desire to feel fulfilled in some capacity. I suspect that if you showed more appreciation for her (as a mother, wife, and partner in life), she would probably not spend so recklessly and/or feel like she needs this fine arts gig. With your income you don't need any additional income for FIRE if you get her on board. 

A common FIRE mistake I see on here is thinking that FIRE will solve all problems. Make your life better now instead of waiting to quit even if it delays FIRE date. FIRE alone would be miserable IMHO.

Argyle

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #35 on: August 22, 2015, 03:33:42 PM »
I also am wondering if the wife's goals are really the same as the OP's goals.  It seems as if he/you are taking as a given that she should be making substantial financial contributions.  She has a law degree, am I right?  (Can't see the original post right now.)  If so, there seems to be some shadow expectation that she "should" be making a good living as a lawyer.  As it's worked out, though, she's essentially being a Stay-At-Home-Mom, which is a lot more demanding than it sounds to many.  Presumably she's done the vast majority of childcare (and ages 0-5 are a punishing job in that regard), ferrying to and from school, keeping on top of clothes and supplies, school needs, appointments, playdates, and so on.  Parenting has become very labor-intensive in recent years, when kids can no longer just wander down the street to their friends' houses or walk themselves to and from school any more.  So it may be ideal if your wife had contributed financially, but I wouldn't discount the contributions she's made on other fronts.

It seems to me that the next step is to get you both on the same page in terms of goals and acknowledgement, which is not to say to get you both on your page.  I imagine some compromise is called for on both parts.  She has a dream of being an artist, and like many artists, and many women, feels safest in a structured program, even if that's not strictly necessary to be commercially successful.  It may be that her goal is not to make a living selling art (which is your goal for her art), but simply to be doing art.  It sounds to me as if she's said to herself, "I've been out of the workforce so long, and I'm still needed for childcare and all that — my chances of running a high-powered career are minimal at this point, and I'm not all that sure I'd even want it.  But I want to do something fulfilling that's for me and not just serving other people.  So art is my interest right now."  Meanwhile you (OP) are resentful because you feel she's not pulling her weight financially.

So like others, I think some extended and non-blaming conversations are needed, probably best conducted under the oversight of a counselor.

swick

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Re: BIG question re: Wife's eduation/ fiscal attitude
« Reply #36 on: August 22, 2015, 04:16:50 PM »
OP - I posted a link in another thread you might find very helpful in working through some of this with your wife and getting on the same financial page:http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/mustachianism-around-the-web/great-resource-for-spousesfriends-who-are-'dreamers'-and-'feelers'/