In 2008, one of my clients
asked me to file a multi-million-dollar fraud claim against another company. I was five years into my career as a
litigator in a national law firm. I
spent three solid months poring over balance sheets and financial statements
to piece together a fraud claim. My
efforts paid off, and eventually my client won a $10 million settlement.
These days, as a mostly full-time mom, I go months
without reviewing balance sheets or financial statements. Including
my own. Sure, occasionally I log on
to my bank account to see if a check has cleared, but I never spend more than
five minutes reviewing the transactions. I have ceded all the fiscal heavy lifting to my husband: he researched
college plans for our two kids, he monitors our retirement plans, and he
maintains the spreadsheet that tracks our expenses.
willingly took a backseat on every aspect of my family’s financial life.
I didn’t need Suze Orman to tell me that I am doing myself and my family a
disservice by staying in the dark about my family’s finances. I understand how precarious it is to have all
the financial knowledge vested in my husband. God forbid, if something happened
to him. ... And even beyond those morbid thoughts, I want to be an equal
partner with him and model a healthy partnership for my children. The fact that I don’t even know the passwords
for our accounts is a signal that I am not holding up my end of the partnership
in this area.
the folly of my head-in-the-sand approach, I decided to set a deadline to
become as educated and involved in our family finances as my husband.
I blew through the first deadline. There was always something more pressing—a
child with the stomach bug, a new episode of Glee, or a chance to just sit down. In the fleeting moments when I remembered my commitment, it sounded so boring to sit down at the computer to
look at spreadsheets.
I reset the deadline. By September, I will get a grip on this.
Now, September has come and gone and still I don’t even
know how to review my Roth IRA or the various long-term savings accounts from
my previous employment. In law school, I
had a professor who was fond of making fun of “irresponsible parents” who
preferred “ignorance” to “responsible
financial planning.” I was sure I would
be different because I “knew better.”
Based on my missed deadlines, I have to admit I am not
different at all.
And this is important. Arguably, it’s more important than finding my client a route to a fraud
claim. After all, this is my family, and it’s my job to take care
of them. Whether I like it or not,
financial care is part of the picture, just like Gymboree classes and enforcing
Since I am too tired to focus on finances at night after the kids are in bed, I have
decided that our next date night should be devoted to my financial education. The babysitter is expensive, but not getting
a handle on my family’s finances could cost my family much more.
So, I am booking a babysitter for the upcoming weekend,
and I am resetting the deadline for the last time. Date night will be sushi and spreadsheets,
which isn’t the most romantic evening in the world, but I know the peace of
mind will be worth a million dollars.