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365 days. 110 articles.

24 Feb

Marriage has, is and always will be such an interesting topic. It’s an institution; a lesson; an ideal; a pursuit; a promise.  It can be exciting, fresh and unpredictable yet still naïve in its youth, boring on occasion, and at times completely chaotic.

While matrimony can be paradise for some or prison for others, the only way to understand is to open its doors, enter it’s new and challenging world, and then survive on its founding oaths; both curse and blessing to those brave enough to domesticate it; marriage is truly NOT for the faint of heart.

In as few as five years, we have fallen together and stood back up. We have utterly failed one another and forgiven. We have found beauty in our sacrifices and rebuilt success with broken dreams. We have spoken our vows and depended on them when in need…

So why do we choose such a daunting lifetime commitment when the odds of surviving what we call marriage are against us?

When it all comes down to it – I think life, though sometimes difficult and unrewarding, is simply better when shared… And to be told its impossible or even naïve hope to believe in marriages that last a lifetime – well… to some of us – that is a challenge we are willing to accept.

This past year has been quite the curve for me, in both my marriage and my writing. In fact, they are both turning a corner once again. It’s kind of funny when you’re writing finally catches up with its original intent. Change is good…

In review and after a year of writing, it’s time to start anew and refocus. So THANK YOU for reading my thoughts and sharing yours with mine. MAO has been a blast.

To the next chapter in all of our lives… And may your marriages be blessed with each day shared!

Cheers with wine!

the Mrs.

P.S. I’m going to leave these posts up for a bit… I’ll procrastinate the cleaning for a little while.

In 5 Words – A History of Marriage

7 Jan

A History of Marriage by Elizabeth Abbott

In 5 Words…

Revolutionized my opinions on marriage.

How times have changed from the old days that we too often cloak in the golden glow of nostalgia! The very nature of marriage is changing…
Elizabeth Abbott

This book was my first non-fiction completely oriented to the topic of marriage. In fact – the Mr. brought it home for me without asking… And I am so glad that I took my time to read this! Bear with me as most of my highlights focus on the issue of divorce, but really it all goes hand in hand with marriage of course :) …

The Mr. was actually the one who picked this up on the new books rack at the library – just published in 2010, Elizabeth does a great job at pulling in relevant topics that enter the typical conversation over coffee. She touches on Lady Gaga, the rising father’s movement, Ellen Degeneres, Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie and more…

Elizabeth chronologically analyzes marriage and it’s evolution from the 19th century up to today… I was truly amazed at how many popular notions and beliefs were explored and sometimes even abolished!

With that being said.. and myself being quite the strongly opinionated person, I am humbled to say that I have been wrong in many of them… I will admit that I was the person who believed divorce “equals failure rather than solution, that divorce laws encourage if not actually cause divorce and go hand in hand with the secularization of marriage…”

So… this book really helped to soothe my anger and disappointment towards the rising trend of divorce and separation only to give me understanding and compassion towards those whom divorce offers resolution or even salvation.

The institution of marriage in it’s beginning was purposed as something completely different than today. Marriage represented a contract, for the purpose of furthering a family’s estate, and influence when needed. It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that “Love, erotic as well as romantic, had become so integral to marriage that marriage was sinking under it’s weight.”

But despite this shift, one of the major driving forces behind the practice of divorce started within the women’s rights movement. Not studying much of the topic I never knew what few rights women had in marriage in the late 1800’s and how hard we worked to achieve these basic rights such as child custody and the right to have our own property, wages, or even our own bodies.

The law denied her existence because of couverture, the legal notion that a wife’s being was merged with her husband’s. Without her own identity, a woman had no right to her own property, wages, or body, and the notion of marital rape was inconceivable. Divorce did more than terminate failed marriages or free spouses to remarry. It freed wives from couverture.
Matrimonial Causes Act 1857
Caroline Norton

Thus when divorce first entered the scene of marriage, it “promoted interdependency, with equal right to property, earnings, and child custody and guardianship… The idea was that they would consult with and listen to each other, and neither would force his or her will on the other”

Divorce offered salvation to “the battered wife or abandoned husband, for the wife whose children starved because her “breadwinner” husband owed his wages to the tavern keeper or the card shark, and for the husband whose wife flaunted lovers and neglected the children.”

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Outside these topics… Elizabeth covered much more such as marriage in the past, present, and future; love and sex in marriage; children at the heart of marriage; parenting in modern marriages; gay marriage; money and marriage; weddings and so much more…

This book also does a great job exploring issues at the heart of marriage that many are facing today…

When and why did weddings become so crazy producing bridezillas rather than domestic goddesses?

Could marriage ever be a perfect modernized fantasy like the Cleaver’s or the Anderson’s?

How much impact does a father really have in the upbringing of children and the stability of a home in general?

How has gender equality affected the structure and nature of marriage?

Can wives really be “Molly Maids in the house, Marilyn Monroes in the bedroom and Martha Stewarts in the kitchen” while balancing a career and personal life?

__________________________________________________________

And in the end how did the author feel about all of this?

I believe that children’s welfare is paramount. I believe that marriage with children has a different dimension from childless marriage. I believe that individual women must not be expected to surrender the gains collectively won as a condition of staying married. I believe that gays and lesbians who wish to marry should be able to do so with the same rights and responsibilities as other consenting adults. I believe there is a fundamental causal link between satisfying marriages and men and women’s education and economic statuses. I believe that many public policies – including maternity, paternity, and parental leave; child care; tax laws; judicial, prison, and immigration policies; divorce laws; and egalitarian public standards – profoundly affect marriage. I believe that outstanding events shape the nature and development of individual marriages; wars and recessions; the collaps of North America’s manufacturing base and its associated living wages, benefits, and security; homophobia and racism; popular culture; and human longevity. I believe that marriages in mansions and marriages in shacks feel quite different.

How can we improve the state of marriage today? Recognize that divorce will not fall into disuse but that, if better support and coping mechanisms are provided, spouses will resort to it less.

___________________________________________________________

Honestly, this book is not your typical history saga, but has the most interesting ideas and theories that push your natural inclinations, expanding your comfort zone past both societal and religious preconceptions.

Without much ado, it now sits on my select shelf ready to be borrowed to anyone even remotely interested… I promise you won’t be able to put it down once you pick it up!

Cheers with wine!

the Mrs.

Related Articles

In 5 Words

28 Jun

Couples Retreat

Jason Bateman, Vince Vaughn, Kristen Bell, Jean Reno & others…

So – why did I wait to see this? 

The Champs

Sometimes, a few good movies just slip past – it’s hard to see past the theatre action-packed ones.  We always take a date night when a great must-see-on-big-screen movie comes out. Yet once in a while we stumble across a decent romantic comedy that’s still relatively fresh… 

Let’s see here – five words…?  

Nostalgic (for couples), funny (as in always chuckling), raw (a bit at times), and I totally lost my mark of five words…  

I would watch it again – as this time I’d be prepared for the few awkward moments.   

I liked how each person was unique – bringing their own problems and strengths to the table. So of course, each couple was even more strange – yet similar. 

The movie does a good job of highlighting common challenges married couples encounter – even the dreaded divorce. The advice wasn’t shy, occasionally akward, and very real

The Ladies

 Either way, I really appreciated that despite the problems that came up, no one really blames any one else for their own problems. The guys are pretty stand up and the girls call out each other too whenever necessary – which reflected how beneficial it is to keep close friends that support your marriage (even when it sucks). 

I have no idea how everyone was suddenly happy at the end? I must have phased out for a bit… Good weeknight movie. 

the Mrs.          3.5 out of 5 stars
the Mr.           4 out of 5 stars 

Have you seen this movie? How would you rate it?

Book Review: Smart Couples Finish Rich (Cdn Version) Part 7

26 May

 

Step 9 – Increase Income 10% in 9 weeks

Bach prescribes a “Proactive Income 9-Week Plan” outlining a step-by-step plan to increase your income by 10% in just 9 weeks. Each week breaks down the required positive actions to see this goal come to fruition.

Steps include:

Understanding your true hourly wage
Evolving from complaint mode to action mode
Writing down and posting your expectations as encouragement
Cleaning up both your office and home
Identifying the value you add to your company
Applying the 80/20 rule and maximizing this ratio
Evaluating your positions’ worth outside of your own company
Verbally practicing your request for a raise
And lastly, celebrating your success – be it through increasing your worth as an employee or even achieving the 10% increase this step by step plan envisions.

As I just received a raise less than 3 months ago and am in line for another in less than 2 months, I haven’t completed this plan – but – I have definitely jotted down a few notes to keep in mind for next year’s performance review. Overall, at the very least this chapter does a great job at amping up your self-confidence and work performance.

Previous: Part 6

Overall, Smart Couples Finish Rich truly outlines proactive money management for all couples, married or living together. The book provides a conclusive review of your current financial situation, solid investment advice, and easy-to-use tools to get started on your path to financial freedom.

David Bach is a spectacular motivational author, and I was grateful that he shared his strategies for living and finishing rich. All of the techniques highlighted were applicable and presented in a fresh and easy-to-understand manner. This book is a great read for couples on the precipice of merging their finances, be it at the forefront of marriage or a new chapter of a long-term relationship.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

~

Now – down to the feedback… Personally, I felt I went way too deep in review – typical for those who know me :) But – this book really pulled a lot of weight for us right now as we are on the verge of becoming debt free.  I wanted to share exactly how we as a married couple were affected by the book’s sound advice, piece for piece. I tried to reread what I wrote (each Part) and couldn’t even finish without becoming bored myself on the longest post – haha.

As I am writing these for my readers out there, your opinion would be painstakingly appreciated. I’m aiming to cut down any further reviews to be short and sweet – but it’s going to take some practice I think – like packing for a trip; I can’t take everything with me :)  So – what lengths would you like to see (one-page, multiple short posts, full reviews like this one)? Give me a shout!

the Mrs.

Book Review: Smart Couples Finish Rich (Cdn Version) Part 6

24 May

Step 8 – 10 Biggest Financial Mistakes for Couples

1 – Having a 25-year Mortgage.

Strike 1 for my husband and I.

Bach does a great job in highlighting the differences between 25, 18, and 15-year mortgages. The main difference is reduced interest costs – potentially saving you hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is long-term savings so although your pockets won’t get heavier (they’ll actually get lighter), this is a serious decision that even affects your anticipated retirement date.

My husband and I are actually up for renewal on our mortgage at the end of 2010. Through other readings I became aware of this simple slip-up, so Bach again drove the point home and we are definitely going to be changing this in our books.
[Update: Just sold our property; in the market for another mortgage and we’re aiming to purchase in 2 years. We will be regularly consulting with our financial advisor while mortgage shopping. What’s been great is that our advisor is rarely unaware of any financial tidbits we pick up (good thing I think).]

2 – Not taking credit card debt seriously.

Strike one and a half.

In both good and bad ways, my husband does not even own a credit card… As for me, while attending university/college and maintaining three jobs to pay for tuition, I indulged and rewarded myself on occasion. Unfortunately, these rewards have taken the toll and 3-years post-graduation I am still paying these off.

This is one of our goals in our marriage – to be (bad) debt free within the next five years. The sooner one addresses this mistake the faster and more stable your financial portfolio can progress.
[Update: Able to pay off all of our credit card debt with the sale of our property this year! Yay :)]

3 – Trying to get rich quick by day-trading.

The lesson emphasized here reinforces the knowledge that accumulating real wealth takes more than just months, or even years; it takes decades. Impatience runs rampant in most people hence pitches of quick earnings are truly tempting but painstakingly false promises. Bach relates day-trading (stocks) to gambling and presents eye-opening statistics that hit home and stay there.

We haven’t purchased a stock yet, so although this isn’t really applicable to us at the moment, Bach’s point was duly noted as we had a hard time disagreeing with this practice.

4 – Buying stocks on margin.

In simpler words – borrowing to gamble…

This follows one of our personal financial policies – if we can’t put the cash up front to make an investment, we can’t afford the loss if it fails. This also automatically places you in a grantee/debtor position and as Bach points out – if your financial advisor/broker is urging this practice find yourself a new one.

5 – Not starting an educational savings plan soon enough.

Strike 2 and a half.

Before this of course, Bach strongly advocates developing your Security Basket first. Without this, your children could graduate debt-free only to look forward to another financial burden of carrying their parents through retirement. I don’t think anyone would want this for their children.

My parents were never able to support me through my post-secondary education (I would even argue that it was for the better anyways), and while it was tough – I’m glad they didn’t. I learned how to be self-sustaining at a very young age and it has and will always continue to be an invaluable skill. I also learned the value of education – I had no life for these years, but when I graduated it was the greatest accomplishment of my life – and I knew I could expect the same out of every major life decision in front of me. I’m going to repeat this lesson with my children – there are so many bursaries/scholarships out there for those who will fight for their education. And while it will be a difficult task for our children to find the funds, I feel there are many more avenues of needed support that we can levy…

Bach notes that universities and colleges are expensive… and getting more so every year. I agreed with this statement as I remembered the strain of continually rising tuition as a student. For those who decide to support their children through educational savings, Bach reviews multiple investment options depending on how much time you have ahead of you, including Registered Education Savings Plans (RESP), Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG), and alternative Mutual Funds.

For an extensive listing of scholarships and other sources of financial support is the Scholarships Canada website.

6 – Not teaching your kids about money.

As we all know, unless you attend university in any field of finance and economics, you likely haven’t learned many of the basic economic principles that should be taught in high school. This is a very sad reality for most of us.

Canada needs a mandatory national standard for financial education, but until then everyone should recognize the need to educate our children about money. Bach recommends sharing your investment strategies with your kids on a regular basis. Don’t be afraid to share your financial successes and mistakes as well.  Kids are always interested in becoming rich so learning about money is actually quite a hit. Recent surveys show that the average child spends four and a half hours a day on electronics – even 10 minutes of that time each day will have an enormous impact on their lives furthering their knowledge of money.

My husband and I are avid supporters even though we haven’t had children yet. If there’s one thing we agree on about raising our future children, it encompasses educating our children in finance. We both have just learned the basic economic principles through our marriage of four and a half years – we hope to install whatever we learn into our children every day. Unfortunately, not so easy with Chuck Norris.

7. Neglecting to sign a prenuptial agreement.

Strike three.

Prenups outline who walks away with this vs. that.  According to Bach, those with substantial assets tend to approach this objectively before marriage. Bach also notes that more than half of all marriages end in divorce – wow – personally I prefer to think of it as almost half of marriages are successful.

Beside the downer key enforced through this noted mistake – a prenuptial agreement protects both sides in the marriage. My only disagreement lies in how would anyone know what your marriage (financially) will look like 50 years down the road? At least, that’s how far down we’re looking.

8. Not having a greater purpose beyond the two of you.

I found this “mistake” a well-rounded case. It’s so easy to get caught up in the routine of life, going to work, getting married, having children, etc… that it’s easy to convince ourselves that sometime down the road we’ll accomplish something big. Unfortunately, for most of us, that crash into reality could be the last push into a mid-life crisis, or even a divorce citing irreconcilable differences.

Bach notes that this greater purpose can be many things such as, a religious calling, a charity or even a community project.  Couples that dedicate their lives together to a greater purpose are generally the happiest and most fulfilled, building a solid relationship foundation.

My husband and I work on numerous projects – myself sometimes the team coach and administrator, my husband always stepping in as both director and supporter. If we didn’t have these dreams to work on, I really don’t know how we’d continue to grow together rather than separately.

9 – Not figuring out who’s responsible for what.

One of the biggest merges that occurs at the onset of marriage involves the finances. To have joint or individuals accounts…? Who will actually pay the bills and how will they be split? Even Bach describes his first marital argument over this very issue. And honestly speaking, this is one you don’t want to avoid tackling with your spouse. Bach offers general advice as there isn’t one schematic for every couple out there, including maintaining independent spending accounts for gifts and personal privacy; opening a joint account for household bills and even your security basket funds; and deciding who will pay for which bills to avoid missed payments.

B automatically handed over the financial reins the day we were married. He isn’t the type to track finances in any way so he was glad to relinquish that control. I accepted this role with pride and responsible determination. The trade-off included his awareness (I wasn’t going to curb our budget around his bad spending habits) and valuable opinions in every financial decision we approach (as I have quite the agenda set up for us).

So far this system has highlighted both advantages and disadvantages but we review, review, review… If we as individuals and in relationships evolve, why wouldn’t our financial strategies?

[Update: B has decided to drive for now – and I’m eager to take passenger seat. Diversity is good right?]

10 – Not getting professional financial advice.

Bach makes a solid point that the rich almost always use financial advisors. Why is it wise to rely on another professionals’ advice? Mainly due to time restraints – we don’t have the time to really dig into every piece of investment advice we stumble across (and there is a plethora of information floating around with today’s technology). And when you don’t have the time to actually perform, review, and monitor your investments, a professional advisor is great fit.

Mr. and  I went through three advisors to find the right one. Due to our initial lack of knowledge, networking and up-front cash to invest, getting the attention of a sound advisor was a difficult task. And when we started to see them slip through our fingers, we almost lost hope.

Through this search process, we actually became more and more aware of the impact of our finances and the world of investing. We did more research before we approached another advisor to ensure they met the needs we were bringing to the table.  We definitely don’t regret the process as it taught us invaluable insight – but I would highly recommend taking your time to research exactly what you’re getting into.

The more applicable knowledge you bring to the table, the easier your advisor can discuss your options, and most importantly, the more you will understand what your advisor has in mind for your financial platform.

Bach also presents the eight golden rules for hiring a financial advisor…

1 – Hire locally. You want someone that you can see in person and meet with at least once a year.

2 – Get a referral. Ask the wealthiest person you know; a referral is usually a foot in the door with a good advisor.

3 – Check out the advisor’s background. This should be practiced across the board for all professionals you will enter into a business contract with. Be wise and don’t assume your first advisor is your best friend.

4 – Be prepared. Have every pertinent document ready for review. If you’re not willing to expose your finances, you’re not ready to hire one.

5 – Know your advisor’s philosophy. Make sure they’re not a salesman and that they’re genuinely interested in an investment strategy that meets YOUR needs, and not their commission goal.

6 – Go with your gut. First impressions mean a lot. Mentally catalogue your impressions as you will probably know your final decision within the first meeting. This is a long-term relationship so don’t afraid to be picky (advisors actually use the same approach for their potential clients).

7 – Be prepared to pay for their services. Know how your advisor is being compensated and be sure this matches your expectations. There is quite a difference between commission and fee-based advice. Each are set up for different purposes, so be prepared for which direction you want to head in. Just remember, that paying a bigger fee does not guarantee better returns on your portfolio.

8 – No referral? Do your own research. Bach lists websites to help you find a financial advisor in your area as well as where to find background checks. Another bit of advice Bach notes is to find ways to say “thank you” when your advisor does a job well. Like any professional, relative, or friend, a simple “thank you” goes a long way…

As for our score, we hit 3 of 10 – not bad I must say – which goes to say that even though we’ve been proactively improving our financial foundation, there’s always something more to learn; we always find another tip or strategy with each new read!

What did you score out of ten? Do you have anything to add to or disagree with any of these practices?

~

Previous: Part 5

Coming next!

Step 9 – Increase Income 10% in 9 weeks

the Mrs.

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