How to Hide Money from Your Husband...and Other Time-Honored Ways to Build a Nest Egg: The Best Kept Secret of a Good Marriage

How to Hide Money from Your Husband...and Other Time-Honored Ways to Build a Nest Egg: The Best Kept Secret of a Good Marriage


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When Heidi Evans's ninety-one-year-old aunt died, her sons were dumbstruck to discover a bankbook with a balance of $50,000 hidden in her top drawer. She had been a devoted housewife and mother all of her adult life — so where had the money come from? But the women in the family just smiled. They knew. Like generations of women, Aunt Lee had been building a nest egg, stashing away a few dollars a week from her household allowance (and maybe sometimes from Uncle Irving's pockets) so that she could have a little money of her very own — for a rainy day, for her kids, or just to pay for her dreams.

Now Evans revives this age-old practice of stowing away money and shows women of all ages how a nest egg can make marriage more secure and more fun, and divorce or widowhood less devastating. This award-winning journalist shows us just how the nest egg works by introducing us to a fascinating variety of women whose marriages have been marked by the war over money. These intimate and revealing stories give us a clear view of the financial landscape within marriage today, from relationships in which men control the money — and their wives — to families in which women can openly save their own money for the years ahead.

And so we meet Veronica, a hair colorist in her twenties who stashes $20 a day from her tips so she can pay for the little luxuries she and her new husband would like. And Meryl, whose husband left her for a younger woman after twenty-five years of marriage and who now finds that divorce has generated a desperate need for private savings. Later, we meet Irene, a seventy-seven-year-old for whom early widowhood might have meant poverty for her and her sons if she hadn't been so smart about creating a nest egg.

The age-old tradition of the nest egg has become more important for women than ever. Indeed, financial security is the number-one problem facing women today, in and out of marriage. Women are still earning only 76 cents to every dollar earned by men and champing at the bit to have equal footing — or at least the ability to buy that third pair of black pumps without an argument. What to do? Save a little for yourself...with the full knowledge of your husband (if you can) or on the sly (if you must). Whether you pick your husband's pockets or work like a dog for your own paycheck, money is marriage insurance, and it's nonnegotiable.

So what are you waiting for?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743242493
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 04/05/2002
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 611,115
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

Introduction When all 105 pounds of my aunt Lee was carted out of her New York City apartment at the age of ninety-one, it came as no surprise to the women in our family that a bankbook with $50,000 was found buried in her top drawer.

"Remember to shove a little down south from what your husband gives you every week to run the house," she told my mother and all the other young married women in our family. "For a rainy day. For yourself, for the children. You never know when it will come in handy. Be smart."

The humble wife of a raincoat manufacturer had amassed her little fortune by stashing away a few dollars every week for sixty-five years, unbeknownst to my uncle Irving.

Her three sons -- a dentist, a scientist, and a dog trainer -- were dumbstruck when they discovered the bankbook.

"How the heck did Mom get her hands on this kind of cash?" exclaimed Seymour Evans, the Scarsdale dentist, shaking his head. Seymour's wife, Edith, who has been quietly following her mother-in-law's priceless advice for the last thirty-eight years, smiled knowingly to herself and said, "It beats the heck out of me, Sy."

Thus were born the Evans family's "Shove It Down South" accounts. Charles Schwab could do a lot worse.

You never forget such family stories -- and Aunt Lee's eventually inspired an article I wrote for The Wall Street Journal about married women who hide money from their husbands. As I interviewed women around the country from all walks of life, I was amazed by how many of them, including the highly successful, said they kept a secret or separate stash. The amounts ranged from $300 to $200,000. The women ranged from a twenty-six-year-old lawyer to an eighty-three-year-old homemaker who had been hiding her money for forty years in a cigar box covered with scripture that she called her "Jesus box."

It quickly became obvious that this practice of having a nest egg of one's own was not confined to the Aunt Lees of this world -- that is, struggling immigrant wives. Not by a long shot. This exists across cultures -- Chinese women call it hui, Japanese women call it tonomoshia, Americans women call it a nest egg, Jewish women a knipple, and Caribbean women a sous-sous. As I spoke with working-class and professional women, stay-at-home moms and grandmothers, it became clear that I had tapped into a rich vein among women of every age and station. "Get real!" a secretary I met on the subway told me one night when I asked her if she saved money on the side. "Doesn't everybody?"

All of the women -- and men -- you will meet in this book are real. And so are their stories. Their names and some details have been changed only when it was necessary to protect their privacy, their children, or their nest eggs. Whether they earn $25,000 or $200,000, all women have certain common threads in their lives: concerns about financial security for themselves and their children; the desire to make some decisions independently of their husbands; questions of trust and the balance of power in their marriages. The more women I spoke to about this phenomenon, the more light it cast on a larger truth: Money is feminism's next frontier.

In the war between the sexes, money and what it represents unite women in a sisterhood that transcends politics, social status, and anything else. Money -- not sex -- is the key prize in the struggle between most couples. If you want to find the flash point of conflict and resentment in the lives of most American couples, the friction that dwarfs all others, follow the buck. The wallet is the window into the soul of marriage.

Today, believing that our men will always be there, that they will be loyal and loving until death or divorce do you part is right up there with "I'll respect you in the morning" and "My wife will never find out." With the divorce rate soaring and those adorable young interns showing no signs of going away (darn!) we'd be crazy not to cover our assets.

And for those who stay married, having such a stash may be the greatest gift of love you ever give your mate. What husband wouldn't be thrilled to have $100,000 appear out of nowhere? Just think of the possibilities, of what you could do with that wad of cash. You could buy retail, help your kids through college, or go on that much-dreamed-about second honeymoon.

Any woman who is tempted to put down this book and say "It's not for me" needs to read this book even more. We are not talking grand larceny -- we're talking grand planning for the future. You should put money aside whether you love your husband more than life itself, or if you just tolerate him, or if you know deep down that you won't be sharing the same toothpaste forever.

So what are you waiting for?

Copyright © 1999 by Heidi Evans

Table of Contents

Foreword by Judge Judy Sheindlin

1. Women, Their Men, and Their Money
Twenty Ways to Build Your Nest Egg

2. The Newlywed Game: Till Checkbooks Do Us Part
The Early and Middle Years

3. Bad Guys
The Middle Years

4. Men: Their Tricks of the Trade
(And Other Helpful Hints for Women Who Are Getting or Giving the Boot)

5. Knowing the Score
The Golden Years

6. Out of the Mattre$$ and into the Market
Accountants and Planners and Stocks, Oh My!

Conclusion: The Ten Commandments of Money and Marriage



By Judge Judy Sheindlin

The most important words for any woman to remember in her marriage and in life are these: In order to be happy, stress-free, and have the widest possible options, you must be financially independent.

Once you are dependent on anyone, your life options shrink and very often you are stuck in an untenable situation -- whether it be a relationship, a marriage, a job, or anything else. And money is often the only ticket out.

Men are different. If a relationship ends, they can go out and support themselves much more easily than women can. They can dig ditches for $25 an hour. They can shovel garbage onto a truck. They have a great many roads open to them to earn a living. But women lack the brawn; they can't go out and do a construction job and comfortably deal with a heavy hydraulic machine for $30 an hour. They need to think ahead -- and that's the central message of this book.

I've always tried to impress this upon my own daughters: The only way to true independence for a woman is to have a profession, a vocation, to at least have some money socked away for yourself -- to cope with any kind of emergency. We all know life is full of emergencies. If you are being brutalized physically or emotionally, you need a financial escape hatch to take care of yourself. If a mate suddenly dies or disappears, you can't be left in the lurch, unprotected and bankrupt. Think of it as insurance. You don't anticipate that there is going to be a flood or a tornado suddenly destroying your home and driving you out of it. But you certainly prepare for it by taking out home owner's or flood insurance. The odds of droppingdead at forty-five of a heart attack or cancer are slim, yet we all buy medical and life insurance. Having your own money is marriage insurance, short and simple!

Yet women rarely have such wisdom or foresight when it comes to their relationships. Look at the divorce statistics in this country: We know that nearly half of all marriages in the United States fail. And this means, among other things, that if you spend $50,000 on a wedding, there's a good chance it's money down the drain. Think of it -- that fifty-fifty shot is a much higher percentage of risk than that of dying from a heart attack or a stroke or cancer. It's much higher than the chances of being driven out of your home by a fire or a flood. But we don't prepare for these eventualities in our lives, in our fundamental relationships. And women can pay a huge price for this.

That's why we have to take action, starting at an early age, to squirrel away the money we all need to handle life in all its twists and turns. Unless we have millions socked away in a trust fund -- and most of us don't -- women need to give themselves a measure of financial independence, something totally separate from the men in their lives. Take it from someone who knows.

I had two small children when my first marriage ended in divorce. Yes, it was a draining experience for our family, but I had a law degree. I never felt frightened that I would not be able to support myself and my kids. I didn't have much money in the bank -- which was a mistake -- but at least I had a degree, a way to earn a living. And that's important for any working woman.

For millions of women who don't work outside the home, the lesson is no less important. However you do it -- whether you hide money secretly or build a financial nest egg with your husband's full approval -- you need to plan for the future and create that security. The older you get, the more important it becomes.

It's not just a lesson for the rich.

We've all known people in low- and middle-income homes where the husband comes home from work and turns over his paycheck to his wife. She pays all the bills; she gives him a weekly allowance. He doesn't want to know about money, and on the surface it looks like she's in control.

But what if that marriage breaks up tomorrow? He still has his job, but she has nothing. Any idea that she was "controlling" her financial future is gone. So the financial message for all women could not be more simple: Be smart. Never feel trapped. Do what needs to be done.

Believe me, I've done this in my own home for years. And it's not just because I'm planning for an uncertain future, or that I don't trust or love my husband. I do this as much for him as for me. By putting away money, I have the freedom to do many things, like buy him an extravagant birthday present or get something for one of our five kids that's very expensive. This kind of money doesn't grow on trees, but because I've been saving religiously -- for myself -- the money is there when we need it. I also do this because my husband, God bless him, is one of the world's great spenders. He buys things that please him, makes big purchases on a whim, and he doesn't worry about the future.

I worry about the future. A lot.

He may get angry with me sometimes and say: "Don't tell me what to do with my money." So the answer is simple. I have built up my own nest egg, I have my own accounts. And that, frankly, is where our family's financial protection comes from. Somebody has to do it -- and women must do it because they are more vulnerable to life's vagaries. Unfortunately, millions don't have a clue -- and that's why a book like this is so important for your overall health and well-being.

Having your own money also becomes urgent when your marriage or relationship doesn't work out. If it comes to pass that my present marriage should end -- or if I pass away before my husband -- I still want control over the money and security I have built up. Nothing would tick me off more than another woman -- and that includes a subsequent Mrs. Sheindlin, thank you very much -- ending up with 25 cents of my hard-earned money. I don't want her to get her hands on a penny, not on $100,000, not on anything. I would turn over in my grave if any person other than my husband or the children or our grandchildren ended up with that money. So I must do whatever is necessary to protect this money. No one outside my family is going to get that cash. I'd rather put it in a box and carry it with me down into the grave taped to my tush!

Ladies -- protect what you have, now and in the future! You have to learn about the big bad world of finance, understand how wills, trust funds, and stock markets operate. More than ever before, you need to grow up and start playing the same financial angles that men have been playing for years.

I've seen a lot of their games, believe me. As a family court judge in Manhattan for fifteen years and now as television's Judge Judy, there's very little that has escaped me in the way of financial chicanery and the hell that couples go through over money. And what I have seen most commonly is truly depressing: Women are not prepared for the sudden end of their marriages or relationships, especially when it comes to money. In far too many cases of domestic abuse, women are reluctant to leave, mainly because they have no idea how they will support themselves without a man in their lives. They are powerless on perhaps the single most important issue facing them and their children.

I speak about this when I address groups around the country. I recently gave a talk in Nevada to professional women and told the audience that the greatest single favor they could do for their daughters -- and their sons -- would be to imbue them with the gift of financial independence, to give them the wisdom to understand the value of money at an early age and to plan their lives accordingly.

This goes double for women because they are not merely being independent for themselves; usually there's a family involved. They should never feel guilty about squirreling away enough money to take care of themselves and their children. They should never feel as if they are cheating if they have the wherewithal to stand on their own. That's true if a woman is forced to bail out of a lousy first marriage, or if she is worried about taking care of her children in an uncertain second marriage, or if a husband suddenly dies or is incapacitated and the wife has to be the single provider for the family.

Smart women have been taking care of business for decades.

My father was a dentist, but my mother took care of the money. He totally absolved himself of any financial responsibility, because his two hands were in someone else's mouth much of the time. If she went out for an hour or two, she would quite literally go through his pants pockets -- while he was wearing them -- to make sure he didn't take in any additional cash while she was out to lunch! She'd just dip into his pockets with one smooth movement, taking out whatever was there. My mother treated his money like her money, and also kept a little nest egg of her own.

I've learned these lessons in my own life. Today, I don't have a little hiding place at home where I stash money. I have a Merrill Lynch money market account. It's my personal checking account -- my personal financial independence. My husband knows about it, but even if he didn't, or opposed the idea, I would take that money and keep it separate. Every woman should do the same.

We're not just talking about six-figure, high-interest accounts. Let's talk small. Women should start reading this book, and saving money, in their twenties. It's easy to get started: You just take a dollar out of your wallet, every day, and put it in a jar. What do you spend a dollar on that's so important? Two packs of Life Savers or gum, if that. Ladies, take that same dollar and sock it away. At the end of the month, take it out of the jar and put it in a savings account. At the end of five years, by the time you are twenty-five to thirty, with interest and the money compounded, you could have as much as $2,000 saved up.

That money could turn into a small fortune if you do this faithfully throughout your life. You'll reach a point when you're thirty and say: "A dollar a day? That's ridiculous. I'm going to take out five dollars a day -- or ten." If you keep doing this, by the time you're fifty the money you have on hand -- separate from everything else you've saved -- could be astronomical! It's the key to independence that every woman needs, and it starts with one dollar.

Today, young people think they're financially invincible. They think they'll always be able to earn a living somehow, and some may be right. But for any woman to think this way is absurd. If you're earning $200 a week, you can still take money and sock it away. Whether you have job security or not, the relationships you're going to encounter in life are not permanent. There's no guarantee that any man will be around forever. So get smart!

Remember, marriage is not a dress rehearsal for something else. If you become miserable in that relationship, you either will or will not have the financial means to get out of it. You have to be able to say good-bye when the time comes -- or pay a terrible price for the rest of your life.

If you have a happy marriage, all the more reason to build a nest egg that can make a huge difference for both of you and your children. He may raise his eyebrows when he learns that you've been stashing cash -- but how angry will he be when you pay for a vacation he thought was impossible, or if you can help pay for a college education that neither of you thought was in reach?

Men are funny creatures. Some will go ballistic if they learn you're taking care of your own needs. But others will react very differently. Some of the smarter men in our midst will say: "You know, it's true. That little bit of financial security is very important to her, and it makes her more of a partner!"

What it really comes down to is this: If your mate has confidence in you, he should want you to feel comfortable. If he wants you to feel secure and he has the strength of character to tell you this, it's all the more reason to be financially independent. Believe me, this kind of man won't be royally miffed if he discovers your secret account. If he's really Mr. Right, he'll laugh it off and say: "Yeah, well I guess if you have $5,000 stashed away, you have $10,000." That money simply means that you're more comfortable and more secure in your marriage. It makes you happy, so there's no downside.

However, if you have a mate who wants you to feel dependent, no matter how much you argue to the contrary, it's all the more reason to build a financial future independent of him. If he insists on dominating you, you simply must empower yourself with an individual nest egg. It may not seem like a big deal when you're starting out, in your twenties, but it could become an impossible situation in your forties and fifties if you don't take these elementary steps.

This is a win-win situation, ladies. It's not simply a question of if you should do this. You must do this.

So ordered,

Copyright © 1999 by Heidi Evans

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