I’m not going to go into any marriage horror stories or divulge any reason why I divorced my first husband after 9 years of marriage, back in 1983. (well, maybe a few) I never wanted to marry him in the first place. I was 23 years old and I had my whole life in front of me. Why I chose to marry, without love, still baffles me to this day. But I was a ‘good girl, I was, I was‘ and my parents wanted me married, so that’s what I did.
I would later learn that my husband only married me for my parents money. That became obvious to me right after my mother died in 1978. I had inherited $100,000 from my grandfather who chose to skip a generation and NOT leave his money to my mother because grandfather didn’t want my mother’s husband, my father, to inherit any of his money.
Yes, it’s true. Most rich people are despicable, greedy selfish people. My family used their money to punish and control. The worst ones being my parents. They whored me out to marry just so they would have a SIL to run their business. My husband ran their business alright. Right into the ground as he secretly stole their company via a double-billing scheme….but I digress. I told you I wasn’t going into any horror stories.
Immediately after I married, my husband took over our finances. Or better yet, he took over MY finances. He was the poor boy. I was the rich, spoiled bitch, remember? He took possession of my inherited money and bought himself a Mercedes Benz, some fancy clothes and jewelry and very expensive furniture. I, however, couldn’t spend any money unless he approved. And he never approved. The event that sticks out the most in my mind happened in 1976 during the family’s annual business trip to Bermuda. I had always wanted a Waterford Crystal stemware set and I knew I could get a good deal on them in Bermuda. I scrounged up $1,000 and as soon as we arrived in Bermuda, I went to Front Street and bought a service set in Waterford crystal (eight wine, eight water glasses). The shop boxed everything up for me and had it delivered to my hotel room. When the set arrived my husband grabbed the two boxes and demanded to know what they were. When I told him it was $1,000 worth of Waterford Crystal he promptly dangled both boxes over the balcony (we were several stories high) and threatened to drop them. How dare I buy something without his permission? I managed to save one box but the other one fell to the ground.
Yes. He was that vicious.
I never got to use those glasses. I only have half a set and most dinner parties I give have a minimum of 6 people. I still have them, however to this day. I keep them in a separate cabinet. I rarely look at them. I opened the cabinet today because I knew I was going to photograph them and write about them. They are completely covered in dust. Unusable. I keep them to remind myself of where I came from and to how far I have gone. After nine years of both physical and mental abuse, in 1983, at the age of 32, I walked out of my marriage with just the clothes on my back and I walked out of my parent’s business and all the money it would have entailed if I had stayed. I have never looked back. I walked straight into an attorney’s office and the next afternoon, I met Nick (my hero, my love and my all!) and we have been together for the past thirty-five years! Nick was a master at making money. I was a master at managing money and together we made our own way in this world for richer and for poorer.
So, that brings us up to current events. My daughter told me she invited her father to my granddaughter’s birthday party. I had known that the man, now 68 years old, had fallen onto very bad health. He was a diabetic who let his condition go unattended and suffered the consequences. He was hospitalized for a long time. When I saw him at the party, my SIL had to go get him out of his car and escort him to the party location. My ex was bent over, had trouble walking, talking, getting his own food or even opening up a chair to sit down upon. This was no time, thought I, to cause any more grief than needed to be. This was no time, thought I, to remember the past or discuss any negativity. Geeze, we all are in our late 60’s. Enough! So I sat down next to him and we started to chat and catch up on old times.
Obviously, the first thing we spoke about was his health. He told me he has to go monthly to get injections in his eyes otherwise he would go blind. He also told me when he drives he uses a pair of binoculars to read the street signs. “Did you do any traveling before you fell ill?” I asked. He told me the last trip he took was that trip we took to Bermuda, forty-two years ago! He told me he’s always working and even now, at the age of 68 he plans to keep working, despite taking his social security, till he dies. “Why is that?” I inquired.
And then he proceeded to tell me his whole retirement planning: he and his wife own a McMansion worth $860,000 but the two of them have borrowed and borrowed out their equity over and over again, that it has no value. Currently they are carrying a $683,000 mortgage! If he were to sell, by the time the realtors got their fee, there isn’t enough equity ($860,000 – $51,600 fee -$683,000 mortgage – $8,600 closing fees = $116,800 equity) left over to do anything. They couldn’t buy another home or downsize without taking out another mortgage. They’re both 68 years old. His wife is waiting till she turns 70 to claim her own Social Security because they need as much money in retirement to maintain their ‘style’ of living’. Whatever that is?
My ex also went on to tell me that he pays $32,000 a year in property taxes on his McMansion. (I later checked with Zillow, and my ex was telling me the truth!) Because of the high taxes, he explained, he couldn’t sell his McMansion if he wanted to. No one will buy it. He has to lay out $2600 a month just to cover the taxes. Throw in the mortgage payment, insurance, utilities etc and now you know why, sick and all, he must continue to work till he really does drops dead. He told me he has to work to pay for a home that nobody lives in (all the kids are gone), to pay for an in ground pool that nobody swims in, to pay for a landscape that nobody sees the exterior surroundings (he’s on a manicured one acre), to pay for two leased vehicles (an $80,000 BMW and another luxury vehicle his preposterous wife drives) that other than themselves, no body else rides in.
AND THIS MAN WANTED TO TAKE OVER MY FINANCES?????
I didn’t have the heart to tell him (actually, brag to him) that Nick and I can live on $2,600 a month! I did tell him that we have no debt. We paid cash for our home, our cars and our lifestyle. Have already traveled abroad and now have an RV to travel America. Nick is 61 and fully retired. I retired at age 50 when we first downsized. I’m 67 and I don’t have one financial worry in the world. My ex did ask me if I inherited anything from my father and was it worth the wait? By the time my dad died, Nick and I were already financially free. I really didn’t need my dad’s money. I told my ex that the Federal Government took 55% of my father’s wealth because he didn’t plan accordingly. And the state got another percentage of my father’s money. By the time I inherited whatever my dad had left me, it was just ‘chicken scratch’. “It’s still in the bank, earning me interest“, I told him. “I don’t need it. Sometimes I use it to buy a vacation home (like Newport RI or Sarasota FL) but I’m kind of done with real estate“.
Nick and I chose a lifestyle that was not centered around money and keeping up with those imaginary Joneses. We chose experiences over wealth. We chose living a true, authentic, living-within-your means lifestyle. We made our own way and never relied on anyone else. Sometimes we were ‘rich’. Sometimes we were poor. But we were always in love, always happy and always so glad to be together. If I wanted to spend money, Nick said nothing. If I made a mistake (which I often did) he never chastised me. He just helped me get back on track. Thankfully, my two daughters followed in MY footsteps and not their father’s. Both daughters are gainfully employed, married for love and handle their money, very, very well. They have never borrowed one penny from me! (once they went out on their own)
The best decision I made in my lifetime so far, was that day, back in 1983, at the age of 32 when I decided I was finally going to take control of my own life and live it the way that I saw fit. With only the clothes on my back, I made a new and better life for myself. Don’t ever let anyone tell you, you can’t be the best that you can be. Because YOU can!
You just have to take that first step.
Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper.