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by Abigail Van Buren

Wife's Retirement Plan Is To Outlive Husband

DEAR ABBY: When I married my wife, "Celia," I was still in college, and she was a well-paid professional with an advanced degree. She told me that while she supported my goals, she expected me to be an equal partner and contribute my fair share. I worked, took out student loans, and we evenly divided our expenses and maintained separate bank accounts.

Flash-forward 30 years: Celia's finances are a disaster. While I saved, spent wisely and planned for retirement, she spent foolishly and is now mired in a mountain of debt with no savings at all. She ignored my commonsense financial advice over the years and chose to live beyond her means -- new cars, long vacations, expensive jewelry, etc.

I am now comfortably retired, but Celia lives paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford even the smallest of unforeseen bills. I pay for all home repairs, vehicle maintenance, new appliances, etc.

Realistically, without financial help, Celia, now 60, will never be able to retire. Her "plan" is for me to die first, then collect my pension, savings, life insurance and Social Security. Whichever one of us goes first, she's set, in her mind.

Question: Am I ethically or morally obligated to help her financially? Sometimes I want to, other times I don't. -- TORN IN THE WEST

DEAR TORN: You and Celia are long overdue for consulting a financial adviser who can help you get this problem under control. I suggest you find a credit counselor affiliated with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

I am not going to weigh in on the subjects of ethics and morals, but I will say this: As Celia's husband, you are legally obligated. (If she is truly counting on your death to be her retirement plan, you may need to hire a food taster.)

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