Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Money & Mortality

Several responses to my post on marital finances were to the effect that married couples need to be aware of each other's finances in order to be prepared for emergencies. It made me think of how whenever we have a family get-together - which doesn't happen as often as any of us would like these days - my parents would insist on sitting us down & updating my siblings & me, complete with documents, on where they stand financially & what each of us would be entitled to get in the event of their death. They'd feel compelled to explain & justify each decision they had made & plead for our understanding. Decisions like why the younger siblings are entitled to more because they're still students, why the girls need more economic security than the boys etc....And I remember how awkward it would be, how embarrassed we'd all get, how my sister & I would start crying because we can't stand the thought that one day our parents might not be around. And how my parents would then start telling us we should never fight over money after they're gone, that instead we should always stick together etc... And then my older brothers would say that of course they will always take care of us girls. And I would say the same to reassure my parents. I mean, of course I'd take care of my little brother & sister if they needed it. How likely is it that I tell my 16-yr-old sister - unpleasant though she might be - to go out & earn her own living? Do these things really need to be reiterated ritually & periodically?

God, I hate those conversations.

I never read the documents. Never felt up to it. I'd just stuff them in a drawer & keep them sealed until the next meeting & the next set of 'updated' documents when we'd be told to destroy the old ones because they're now worthless. I wouldn't do that either. I'd have to touch them to destroy them and I don't want to. Much easier to just shove them all somewhere out of sight & not think about them.

When I tried to think of handling my husband's finances in the event of his death or disability, the first reflex was I don't care. If I can't have him then I don't want his money. You see, I don't have any sense of entitlement to my husband's money. If I had to borrow money from him, it would feel just as awkward as if I was borrowing it from a friend. The fear of imposing would be the same. Even more so actually because while a friend would let me pay it back, my husband never would. When he tries to give me money, I feel just as insulted as if a total stranger was trying to give me charity or something.

I didn't feel any richer when I got married. Financially, I still felt I was on my own. So I never really gave much thought to what he does or does not have. If he gives me something, it's a gift. It means he loves me. It would mean a lot less if I thought he was giving it to me because it was my legal entitlement by that piece of paper he signed with my father.

A long time ago, a friend of mine was once talking about everything she was entitled to get from her ex-husband that she isn't getting & how she was suing him for alimony even though they had no children & the logic of it just went straight over my head. I mean, if I break up with a boyfriend, would I say to him:"Ok, now you owe me X dirhams for the two years we dated"? To me, marriage is just a formality, a piece of paper that makes it possible for me to be with the man I love without having to upset my parents or deal with any culture/religion-related issues. If I was born in a different culture with a different set of religious beliefs, I don't think I'd have ever married or felt compelled to declare our love for society's approval. I'd just live with him.

It's different with my parents. I've always known that my parents have worked all their lives to give us a good standard of living & that virtually every cent they ever made was made with us in mind. They brought us into the world & they feel very strongly that our well-being is their responsibility. That makes sense to me. I would feel the same about my children.

With my husband, am not his daughter, am his wife. We're partners, we're equals so am not about to charge him for being his wife. I'd only agree to share our finances if it was done with the understanding that we are equals, if he would feel as entitled to my money as he wants me to feel to his. Otherwise, I prefer to keep our finances seperate. I want no part of a partnership where I am the junior partner. Blame it on my horoscope. I am a typical Libra - the sign of the Scale. I like everything properly scaled & balanced.

And yet my mother has convinced me that in the event of an emergency (not a fatal one), I might need to know about his assets so I can use them to help him or just to keep them safe for him. That I had to accept.

I decided to start with myself. For the last hour or so, I have been writing down details of my own financies, trying to figure out what he would need to know about my finances if I were to suddenly drop dead or comatose? And having all sorts of questions about how to be fair.

There's my gratuity. My parents are named as the next-of-kin beneficiaries in the event of my disappearance from the scene. It's in my work contract that I have to tell them who to give my end-of-service benefits to if I die. Should I tell him about that? But before I tell him, shouldn't I make him a beneficiary also?

There's an apartment & some pieces of land that my parents have bought me in Casa. If I die, should they go back to my parents - and my siblings after them - or go to my husband? Who is more entitled? How do you choose between your family & your husband?

The apartment is currently leased. The rent money is deposited in my account back home. Ok, he should know about that account. My parents already know about it since my father opened it for me but my husband should know too. That's pretty straight-forward.

And then there are my savings - which are invested in a portfolio of bonds & stocks with the same investment firm that my father uses. Again, my parents are named as the beneficiaries & the next-of-kin on that. I guess I should add him to the list & make him aware of it.

Loans? I just have my credit cards. But these will be automatically deducted from my gratuity because banks here will only issue you a credit card if you bring a letter from your employer to that effect. And besides, I rarely use them anyway. And when I do, I make sure I repay them within the 40-day grace period so that I don't have to pay interest. That was something my parents taught us because they believe interest is haram. Haven't got anymore loans. I had a loan but it's finished now. And I finished paying for my old car two years ago.

Do I owe anyone money? Well I owe my brother some money because last time he was here, I happened to be out of cash & couldn't get to an ATM so he loaned me some cash. But it's not very much & anyway he refused to let me pay him back & I doubt that if I died he'd let my husband pay him back. It's better to keep silent about that sort of thing.

Does anyone owe me money? Quite a few people. But do I want my husband chasing after them after I am gone? Not really. Some of them I trust to bring it back when they can without being asked. The others I know can't afford to pay me back & I only gave them the money in the first place because they're close & I had to help but I called it a loan so they wouldn't feel bad about it. So this he doesn't need to know either.

It's more involved than I thought. I hope HIS finances are less complicated.

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Blogger Forsoothsayer said...

just let the law of your country of residence take care of it.

alternately, just get a joint bank account.

1/17/2007 03:39:00 AM  
Blogger SaRaH said...

Well I think it is completely a hastle and morbid to think about. I know it is logical but I never bragged about being logical. I understand and feel your frusteration but hey just get it over and done with and you will be done.

1/18/2007 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger Haroun El Poussah said...

That is funny stuff!!

1/18/2007 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger Twosret said...

Finances are very important and I think you are heading the right direction. You have to have everything in place. I was in tears at the life insurance agency but I had to do it.

Now that we have kids, it is even more important to make sure everything is in place.

Please put your emotions aside and look after yourself and your husband and future children best interest.

Best wishes

1/19/2007 05:29:00 AM  

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