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‘He’s essentially the most computer-illiterate particular person I do know’: I used to be my husband’s analysis analyst, caregiver, prepare dinner and housekeeper. Now he desires a divorce after 38 years.

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My husband and I have been married for 38 years. He “retired” in 1992 at the age of 50. His plan was to start an investment advisory firm with my help.

I was 43 years old at the time and gave up my job as a database programmer to be his IT person and his “back office”. (His salary at the time was $ 75,000, mine was $ 33,000.) We started with three friends as clients as a test run, and it showed him he wasn’t made to manage money for other people.

“Plan B” was just to manage our money, for which he also needed my help. He was used to being “the boss” and always needed an administrative assistant. For 29 years I have been his Research Analyst, Trade Executor, Report Producer, Medical Supervisor (since his health has deteriorated), Cook and Housekeeper, etc.

In other words, I’ve done everything necessary to run the household and “business” to give him the freedom to make only investment decisions (which I’ve always left him with). He’s the computer illiterate I know. If he can’t just “click” a link, he has no idea how to do anything.

“Living together around the clock for the past 29 years has had its ups and downs, and lately mostly lows.”

Living together around the clock for the past 29 years has had its ups and downs, and lately mostly lows. He keeps talking about divorce because I don’t seem able to meet all of his needs. We have approximately $ 706,000 in fixed assets, of which $ 472,000 is in its Roth IRA.

My Roth IRA is roughly $ 168,000. Most of his investing activity is focused on his IRA as its size makes it more flexible. We have approximately USD 66,000 in a joint brokerage account. Our “job” has been exclusively our investment activity for 29 years. We have approximately $ 200,000 in equity in our house.

The problem is this: He seems to think he’s eligible for ALL of his Roth IRA, plus half of our joint account, plus half of the equity in our house, or $ 605,000, which leaves about $ 301,000 for me. His rationale is that his IRA is entirely his and he made “more money” than I did when we were working, and also the fact that he made all the investment decisions.

My rationale is that 1. We have been married for 38 years. 2. I had no choice but to work and become his assistant. 3. Without my help, he would not have achieved any of this. 4. I believe that whatever either of us did during either our work years or our “investment years” was marriage income and should be divided equally. 5. We previously used funds from both IRAs to pay ongoing bills and fund other joint accounts.

I didn’t have an IRA before we got married. I contend that if we split up, everything should be divided equally. He will insist on fighting me over it, which will only make the lawyers richer and less parting us if I’m right. Please give me your opinion.

More lows than highs

Love ups and downs,

How your assets are divided up in the event of a divorce depends on a number of factors, including whether you live in a community of property or a community of property and / or the division between marital and segregated property and your contribution to the marriage, both financially and financially in non-financial terms.

There is only one aspect of your letter that I disagree with: “2. I had no choice but to quit work and become his assistant. ”While your husband was unable to manage other people’s money – and I leave it to you to decide whether he has managed your money successfully – , it is better to make peace with the decision to quit your job.

The good news is, it’s not because of your husband. It’s not his way or the highway. According to you, your expenditure of time and effort was at least as high as that of your husband. As you say, anything you earn during your marriage is generally considered matrimonial property.

“How exactly the Roth is divided is subject to negotiation, and without an agreement a judge would decide,” says Farias Family Law in Massachusetts, a state of justice. In that case, the court will decide how much of the spouse’s Roth IRA to split.

“The good news is, it’s not your husband.”

“The parties can split the Roth account or offset its value against other assets,” says the firm. “For example, the parties can agree that the account holder keeps the Roth, but the other receives a larger share of the equity in the marital home.”

Because you are also depositing dollars after tax into a Roth IRA, you can usually make tax-free and penalty-free withdrawals after the age of 59½. These tax considerations are taken into account when dividing the property (in the case of 401 (k) s, as you probably know, the money is taxed when it is paid out).

According to data from the Pew Research Center, the “gray divorce rate” in the US has doubled, for better or worse, for adults over 50 and tripled for those over 65. People are living longer, more women can thrive and become financially independent, and the pandemic has not helped.

“Make sure you have a financial plan after your divorce.”

MarketWatch columnist Angie O’Leary, head of wealth planning at RBC Wealth Management-US, wrote about the phenomenon earlier this year, outlining a number of do’s and don’ts regarding taxes, life insurance, retirement planning, and how divorce can affect women differently affect than men.

“A qualified household rules, or QDRO, is typically used to break down certain age and retirement plans from employers,” she writes. “A QDRO recognizes the joint marital interest in retirement assets and gives the ex-spouse a share of those assets.” And make sure you have a financial plan after the divorce.

Given the length of your marriage and contributions, and in the absence of a prenuptial agreement, it seems difficult to imagine a divorce tribunal that would not divide up your property fairly and fairly. Keep your emotions out of the process. Hire a lawyer, compile all financial statements, and tell your husband about your state’s divorce laws.

The end result may be that you get divorced or reassess your nuptial agreement and lead a separated life and stay married. Divorce at this point could be financially devastating. Whichever you ultimately choose, I wish you more highs than lows for the years to come.


You can email The Moneyist at qfottrell@marketwatch.com with any financial and ethical issues related to the coronavirus and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Check out Moneyist’s private Facebook Group in which we look for answers to life’s thorniest money problems. Readers write to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Ask your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or take part in the latest Moneyist columns.

The moneyist regrets not being able to answer questions one by one.

More from Quentin Fottrell:

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• My brother’s soon-to-be ex-wife embezzles money from her business. How do we find hidden accounts?
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