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'I Totally Ignore My Family's Finances ...'

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.

I willingly took a backseat on every aspect of my family’s financial life.

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And, 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.

Recognizing 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.

So, I reset the deadline. By September, I will get a grip on this.

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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 bedtimes.

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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.

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