“Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” ~ Pr 6:6-8 ESV
For twenty-three years I was married to a happy-go-hardworking guy who preferred that I handle our personal and business finances. Early on, we both agreed it was one of the few tasks I performed better than he did.
When the bills, mortgage, and premiums came due, I wrote the checks. I handled the checking, savings and IRA accounts along with our business payables, receivables, and payroll. When the statements arrived, I reconciled them, being sure to enter every single ATM withdrawal he made.
Charged with maintaining a filing system, I could put my hand on anything we needed in a minute or less. When April loomed, it was me who filled out the forms and filed our tax returns.
Because my husband didn’t have to handle the day-to-day deadlines and drama, he enjoyed the freedom to work and play unhampered. Never having to stare at that bottom line—sometimes in the red—he figured if he had it in his pocket, he could spend it. He didn’t have to face the consequences because I did that for the two of us.
Even though part of me liked having control, eventually playing the role of bad cop got old.
- “I need you to collect what’s owed so we can cover payroll.”
- “What do you mean you bought a truck?”
- “You told them what? They could wait to pay? But the equipment loans are due.”
- “Yes, I know how hard you work, but that doesn’t always mean we can afford what we want.”
I can still hear the question I used to ask him time and time again: “If I died tomorrow, what would you do?”
Well, the thing is, I didn’t die. But he did.
Being a widow with an income cut by two-thirds is bleak enough without being lost in a maze of unfamiliar financial and personal records. I was thankful I knew what to do. Although it didn’t lessen my grief, in some weird way, it made grief bearable without that extra burden to carry.
Now, fifteen years later, I am blessed to be remarried to a wonderful man. And guess what? Since the day we got married in 2006, this Prince Charming has handled the finances! Without day-to-day deadlines and drama, I enjoy the freedom to work and play unhampered. Never having to stare at that bottom line, I figure if I have it in my wallet, I can spend it. I don’t have to face the consequences because he does that for the two of us.
But don’t I deserve it after all these years?
I hear the Voice of Reason. “Hello Clarice.” He asks the question I used to ask time and time again: “If he died tomorrow, what would you do?”
ME: “Oh, be quiet.”
VOR: “No, really, what would you do?”
ME: “I don’t want to talk about it.”
VOR: “You have to talk about it at one point or another.”
ME: “Why? I enjoy being treated like a princess.”
VOR: “I’d have never guessed. You do know life is not a fairytale, don’t you?”
ME: “Leave me alone. If the time comes, I’ll figure it out.”
VOR: “Oh, really? What’s your attorney’s name? Where’s the deed to your house? Do you know the user name and password to get into your online bank account?”
ME: “It’s filed with our important stuff.”
VOR: “Where is that exactly?”
ME: “It’s for me to know and for you to find out.”
VOR: “Does your husband have a Health Care Proxy? Where are your insurance policies? Do you have a key to the safety deposit box? Do you even know if you have a safety deposit box?”
ME: “Do you even know what a killjoy you are?”
VOR: “You’re being a bit childish, don’t you think?
VOR: “Please, tell me what you intend to do next?”
ME: “Pfftt, pfftt, pfftt!”
After pouting for a period of time deemed appropriate for royalty, I decided to ask my husband a few questions. “Do you have a Health Care Proxy? Where’s your life insurance policy? Can I have a key to the safety deposit box?”
I think I scared him.
Once I explained how loudly the Voice of Reason had spoken, he relaxed and agreed we needed to talk. And I agreed to listen.
Here’s a helpful article by Roger Whitney of WWK Wealth Advisors called Have You Shared Your ICE Plan with Anyone? He’s also provided a free worksheet to download, Your Life ICE Worksheet, to help you organize your financial life.
We’re filling ours out now. I feel better already. How about you?