Archive for September, 2010

And Now You Are One

Thing 1 and Thing 2 once again played the role of cutest flower girls in the world at a family member’s wedding. It has been a few years since my nuptials with Hot Momma, so I began to seriously question the state of marriage ceremonies these days when the priest advised the group at the rehearsal that some things are inappropriate for a wedding ceremony in the church and then proceeded to give the example that at the end of the last wedding he presided over the bridesmaids streaked down the aisle. I sat there pondering the logistics of such a feat (e.g. how did they get the dresses off so quickly?) as well as cliche manly thoughts (e.g. were they hot?). Then, realizing that I was having these thoughts in church, I snapped back to reality to discover the priest had actually said shrieked. Totally different.

The beautiful wedding was a traditional ceremony in a very ornate church complete with tall stained glass windows and a long center aisle which provided everyone with ample opportunity to see Thing 1 and Thing 2 strut their stuff. The bride looked good too. Everyone kept their clothes on, minimal shrieking occurred. The priest proclaimed that they were now joined together and not to let anyone separate them. Weddings make me reflect on Hot Momma’s and my oneness.

I remembered reading a post by J.D. Roth (no not that J.D. Roth) from GetRichSlowly.org discussing life after debt. He frequently shares that travel is an important interest in his life. He told us of a travel opportunity which had come up but questioned whether he could afford it. He said he needed to come up with his $5,600 by February and parenthetically explained that because he and his wife keep separate finances, she had to come up with her own $5,600 but that would not be a problem since she is the responsible one and has tons of money in savings.

FrugalDad.com had a guest post by Elle from CoupleMoney.com on setting up a financial system as a couple. She described her budgeting system in which she and her husband tally their family expenses and then deposit a proportional amount in accordance to their income. For example, if one spouse brings home 70% of the income, they deposit 70% of their income into the account from which they pay the family expenses. She says they “feel like proportional deposits are a more fair way to handle the bills” for them and acknowledges that everyone has their own budgeting system. She goes on to explain that “it’s fair for us because the bills don’t become a burden on one person.” To be fair, Elle does explain on her blog that she writes from her personal perspective and that you should appreciate that what works for them may not work for you.

Then there is Dave Ramsey’s take on marital budgeting. Anyone who has ever listened to Dave knows that he would disagree with J.D. and Elle. Ramsey’s explanation for combining finances is “when you budget together and put both incomes at the top of the page, and WE spend OUR income on paper and on purpose, WE have agreed on OUR goals and dreams. You need each other. As a long-term means of being effective with your money and marriage, you need to work together and have shared goals.”

While I can see how it could make things more convenient to just have yours, mine and ours; I tend to agree with Ramsey that a married couple should throw everything into a unified pot. Here are only a few reasons why:

Communication
If communication is key to a healthy marriage, communication on finances is one of the most important topics. Aside from communicating about longer-term goals and aspirations for their money, couples that are actually budgeting and tracking their spending need to communicate on the day-to-day spending so that it can be accounted for in the budget. If couples are able to communicate openly about money, they should be able to communicate effectively in other areas of their marriage.

Commitment
I am an attorney, I handle divorces, and I know that often one of the first things a spouse does when they decide they are getting divorced is to start putting money aside either to hide it from the other spouse or to have a cushion for starting their separate life. When a couple combines all assets it makes hiding away funds more difficult and, at least to me, shows a degree of commitment to the marriage. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that people who have separate finances are less committed, but I know that it is significantly easier to begin the process of unwinding the joint venture when the accounts are already split.

Sharing
Yours and mine seems incongruent with being “joined together” in marriage. Maybe I’m old fashioned but, in contrast to Elle’s concern, I have never felt burdened by paying the majority of the family expenses since I am the main income producer. Hot Momma is primarily a stay-at-home mom. We made that choice together. I do not view it that I pay the bills or that she should contribute more to the bills. We pay the bills. She needn’t feel controlled and she doesn’t need permission, she is free to buy whatever she wants. The money is ours. We have already communicated our plans for money in our budget and if either of us is wanting to go off script we communicate again but the money is ours and it is a shared decision. It seems to me that it is hard to be selfish when you are sharing.

We are not the only couple that has benefitted from Dave Ramsey’s teachings. Tony and Alisa DiLorenzo claim that Dave Ramsey saved their sex life. So what do you think? Yours, mine and ours or we are one?

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Family Law Burnout

Lee Rosen of Divorce Discourse posted on reaching a breaking point in family law. One of the readers commented that having another practice area can help and Rosen commented that it would only work for lawyers smart enough to handle two practice areas. My response was as follows:

I have never viewed it as being smart enough to handle more than one practice area but more of a necessity as a small town attorney. While there are practice areas which I do not handle, e.g. bankruptcy or social security, it is generally accepted in our area that attorneys handle more than one practice area. While reading your post I had the same thought as Mr. Sanderson that it is easier to avoid burnout when I can scale back my family law cases and take on cases in other areas. While I agree that it would be great to be able to focus on only one practice area, I believe there are some benefits to a varied practice so long as you are providing competent representation.

Your timeline seems accurate, I have been practicing for six years now and I do not do as much family law work at the moment. I have tried to do a better job of screening clients on the front end and establishing boundaries so I get paid and so I get fewer Sunday night phone calls when the visitation exchange did not go perfectly by the court order but the kid did come back in one piece. I think client screening is one of the most important skills regardless of practice area to maintain sanity in the workplace for attorneys and the staff that will interact with those clients.

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I highly recommend Rosen’s site and have linked to it from the inception of this site. For those of you interested in technology in the law firm, he has many excellent posts and podcasts that have helped me in my position as honorary IT manager of my small firm.