Dear Helaine: My husband is 63, and I am 60. We've been married two years.
When we met, he told me he had a solid retirement income. We initially agreed I would retire at about the same time as him, and we would travel. Instead, he retired last year at 62, when he received a $30,000 package for early retirement. I suggested he work another year, and we could retire together, but he said he didn't want to work any longer. My husband then said I needed to work till 62 because he worked till 62.
He micromanages our finances for at least an hour a day. He continually moves money from one account to another to make sure there is only what we need in our checking account. He says if we leave money in the checking account, we will spend it. He's cut back on his cellphone, cable and entertainment.
He made $100,000 a year before he retired. That's three times as much as I earn. He's now telling me to work till I'm 63 because that's when one of his pensions kicks in. Part of my salary goes into my own account, and I only use our joint account for gasoline and groceries.
I know his financial situation allows me to retire earlier than 65, and that's what we planned. I now feel resentment going to work every day while he is not working and controlling the money. -- Love and Money
Dear Love and Money: A lot of people, after they leave the workforce, get extremely concerned about their money. Little wonder. They are now dependent on savings, investments, pensions and Social Security. If they encounter a financial crisis, there is no earning their way out of it. That's scary for many, including, it seems, your husband. After all, he's not just attempting to deny you spending; he's cutting back on things he enjoys as well.
But that doesn't mean his controlling behavior is acceptable. It's not. At best, he pulled a bait and switch on you, and he has serious issues with allowing a partner to have equal say in the marital finances. At worst, he's an abusive spouse, using his greater net worth to lord it over you. Not only would you be inhuman if you didn't feel resentment in this situation, I would be concerned about your psychological well-being if you weren't frightened and furious.
My advice: I would demand the two of you go to a financial counselor jointly, and get a sense from an objective expert what you can and can't spend, how much you can dedicate to travel annually, and when you can afford to retire. If your spouse refuses to go, or continues to attempt to control your spending and otherwise act in an offensive, dictatorial way, I would suggest seeking legal advice. I hate to say it, but it's possible this relationship can't be saved.
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