“A man is not a financial plan.” Those words were spoken to me by a dating partner during my mid-single years. She was a beautiful, capable, and insightful woman with three minor children and a chronically depressed ex-husband with a poor work history who could not even support himself, let alone contribute to her household. She was a high school graduate without a day in college, making about $150,000 a year doing marketing for a good company.

If that former partner felt she needed a man with a good income to solve the problems caused by living on a financial knife’s edge, she could not have considered marrying me. At the time we were dating, I was starting a new business and made next to nothing. When we stopped dating, I was only making around $50,000 a year—about a third of what she made. If she was “dating for dollars,” she would have looked right past me seeking “the bigger, better deal.”

Cathy also has a story about figuring out how to provide for herself. When she got divorced, she had not worked outside the home since her oldest child was born and her resume included very little professional level employment. She was not making the kind of money the other partner I mentioned was making. But Cathy built a violin studio around her parent time, budgeted carefully, organized her finances, and prepared to take advantage of market conditions. Because of her strategic planning, discipline, and a little good fortune mixed in, debt was not an issue for her and, as a single woman, she took care of herself and her kids in good comfort, and take a few nice vacations without depending on a spouse.

My income has increased a lot since Cathy and I were married six years ago. Would that have happened if her finances were not in order? I don’t know. Because her finances were in good shape, I could take some risks in my career that I could not have taken if we were having to budget right down to the penny each month and be more conservative. I make more than three times the money I was making when Cathy and I got married. Cathy could consider dating and marrying me because she didn’t “need” me to bail her out of a financial mess. At that time, I was in no position to bail her out. But I could join forces with her, and we could each contribute intentionally, pull our weight, and grow together. Let me mention the biggest potential problem with waiting for a future spouse to provide the money for you and your children.

There are two verses of scripture that have been making their way around the internet to make a political argument lately. I want to use them to discuss the smallest political subdivision in the world—a household—and how financial dependency can harm a second marriage. Think of your prospective spouse as the “stranger” in this verse:

“The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low. He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him: he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail” (Deuteronomy 28:42-44).

You may reason “I depended on my first husband. I missed out on a career. So I need someone new to depend on!” The problem with that thinking is that it puts you in the “one-down” desperate position. You are marrying to fill a need for financial resources rather than to build a life with someone you love—and many men can sense that desperation. The wrong ones may exploit it.

Your new husband is less likely than your original husband (if you had one) to see the money he makes as half yours. You weren’t raising his kids while he was taking final exams in college, working two jobs while he went to graduate school, and sacrificing for his career when he was getting established. You didn’t start out as poor college students together, struggling to figure life out. He likely comes to the marriage with a career he was developing long before he even met you. If he is the typical “high value man,” he is not going to simply give up control of the money he makes and just hand it over to you. In many cases, he will be the “head” and you will be the “tail.”

When your divorce happened—depending on your situation—your former spouse may have taken most of the earning power in the form of employment, reputation, education, and/or professional licensing, while you may have taken most of the expenses at least for running a household and meeting children’s needs. But, in your new relationship, your husband’s wealth and career are not things you built together or that you supported while he was building them. He built those things before you came into the picture—and you may be viewed more like a minor child he is supporting financially—rather than the mature woman you are. He may demand that you sign a prenup to prevent you from getting money if another divorce happens.

On this point, control of wealth is power. We don’t want to think about marriage as a power relationship. But how many of you were formerly married to men who controlled you by controlling your access to money? How many of you stayed too long in abusive relationships because you didn’t know how you would support yourselves and your kids if you left? How many of you want a husband who has the power to “get up above thee very high,” or be in a situation where, “He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him?”

Funny story about lending: When Cathy and I were first married, I had a large number of relatively small debts and a few important financial things I needed to clean up but was waiting until I had more money. Although Cathy’s annual income was less than mine, she came to the marriage with a significantly higher net worth and credit rating. She said, “I will make you an interest free loan of $20,000 to cover all these pesky little debts. You avoid all that interest and pay off the debt sooner.”

At first, I declined Cathy’s offer because I was nervous about being in debt to my wife. Being in debt to a faceless stranger “out there somewhere” is bad enough. But being in debt to the person you love, sleep with, share meals with, raise kids with, pay tithing with, etc., feels a lot more dangerous. Cathy’s idea ultimately prevailed when I decided to take her loan – and I have since paid it off as agreed.

While I don’t generally recommend loans between family members, Cathy’s loan illustrates how different managing finances can be if you and your partner both contribute significantly to the financial well-being of your family.

I remember just a few years ago, my mother and I were talking about a favorite cousin of mine. My cousin’s husband had tragically died relatively young, leaving my cousin an appealing and good-hearted middle-aged widow. Her husband was a surgeon and left her with a sizable inheritance. If my cousin managed her money carefully, she would never need to work again unless she chose to. As we talked about my cousin, my mom said: “She doesn’t need to get married. She’s got plenty of money.”  Is there really an assumption that the only reason a middle-aged woman might get married would be to get her hands on her new husband’s money? Does a less financially fortunate woman need to simply hold her nose and grin and bear the burden of being married to have access to financial resources?

My mom was born in 1936 and thus came from another time. In the 1940s and 1950s when she was growing up, dads developed careers to support the family and moms raised the kids and kept house. A woman needed a man to take care of her financially and a man needed a woman to tend to the home and the children—and sometimes to make him socially acceptable at certain events. Men and women had clearly defined roles in those days. If you were a working woman in 1955, people assumed you were a “widow” or an “old maid.”

However much we may long for the wholesome optimism of the 1950s, we live in a different world now—especially those who find themselves without a spouse in their middle years. And it is best that you are not tempted into an ill-advised marriage out of financial desperation. I have had many conversations with middle-aged single mothers who are trying to put together some kind of traditional family as envisioned in the Church’s proclamation—even though being widowed or divorced is, by definition, non-traditional. Your best opportunity to find a stable relationship with real equality at this phase of your life is being well-prepared to live happily and comfortably single if necessary—even though that may not be your preference.

So what are we to do? Many women are asking “where are all the good men?” That is a subject for another day. But I will say that part of the answer is that many men with sort of average-paying careers are already overburdened with child support obligations, alimony, saving to recover equity in their homes lost in the divorce, and otherwise cleaning up collateral damage from the divorce. How is that guy going to be the sole breadwinner for not just one family, but two? He might love the special gifts you could bring to a marriage with him, but fear that he could not make enough money to give you and your combined families a decent standard of living and save for retirement. This looms large in the minds of many good men who long for good women to share their lives with.

If you are unable to financially support your own children (with or without help from your former spouse), some of those “good men” may be crossing you off the list because your situation seems overwhelming to them. But I am not suggesting that a large family is, by itself, overwhelming or disqualifying.

For example, one of my former dating partners was a spiritual, intelligent, and attractive 40-year-old woman with six children—some still young enough to need childcare. She had not worked outside the home since her first child was born. I was still recovering financially from my divorce when we met and was building a new business. The thought of taking on the sole support of 6 children felt overwhelming. But this dating partner was teaching music lessons while she was in school developing a higher paying skill. She was busily organizing her finances and budgeting to keep her finances in good order. She wasn’t waiting for a knight in shining armor to come to the rescue.

That my friend was actively working toward supporting herself and her children gave me comfort that we could make it financially if we ultimately got married. (We did not ultimately pursue marriage.) A couple of years later, she got married to a good man rebuilding his financial life too. He may have been unable to seriously consider marriage if he had to take on the sole financial support of seven more people. I often think of this friend when I hear other women complain that dating is futile because “no one wants to take on three (or some other number) kids!” I am not saying this is easy. I know it is not. I am saying: where there’s a will there’s a way. And this woman’s husband took on three kids times two, in addition to his own, comforted by the knowledge that he wouldn’t have to do it alone.

Sisters, regardless of whose “fault” your divorce was or how “unfair” your circumstances may be, plan to build a post-divorce life that allows you to support yourself and your children—even if you hope to remarry. You may ultimately marry a doctor or a lawyer, and he might bring many resources to the table (though, as a lawyer, I can tell you we can go broke in the wake of divorce too—and I did).  But what if you meet a great guy who is a schoolteacher paying child support for five or six children from a former marriage? Do you want to overlook him because he cannot realistically afford you on his salary?

You may be hoping your drug-addicted and chronically depressed former husband will financially support you because there is a court order telling him he has to. You may spend a lot of money on lawyers trying to get money from a person who doesn’t have any and come up empty. Even if your former is financially stable or successful, he may experience health challenges, unemployment, business reversals, death, or other circumstances that make it hard for him to support you. (I have seen financial problems and job loss for formerly successful men coincide with divorce more often than not—because of depression and loss of life energy surrounding the divorce.) In troubled times, you may be the last person to get paid if your former feels resentful toward you because of the divorce. I am not saying you don’t deserve your child support or alimony. I am merely saying it is sort of inherently unreliable to count on someone who is upset with you for your financial support.

You should work on creating a life where you don’t have to depend on a former spouse for your essential support needs. Take what your former gives you—but don’t plan to rely on it permanently. Be able to support yourself and be pleasantly surprised if your former ends up being a reliable source of financial support.

Ironically, being able to support yourself well (or being on your way there) will make you more appealing and a more realistic choice for a good man trying to do the same thing in the face of his own financial obligations and challenges. You may build a beautiful life as you are figuring out how to overcome these challenges together.

To summarize some key principles:

  1. Create your own source of income that doesn’t depend on a former spouse;
  2. Create your own source of income that doesn’t depend on a future spouse;
  3. If necessary, get additional education or training to make you more valuable in the marketplace;
  4. Use your former spouse’s parent-time strategically to work or improve your career;
  5. Carefully budget and manage your money to avoid creating financial problems—and adjust your living standard if necessary;
  6. Both before and after you are re-married, make it so you both contribute financially and value each other’s contributions (which does not require that you have the same income or level of assets); and
  7. Remember, where there’s a will, there’s a way! Don’t let discouragement set in. Sit down with paper and pencil, map out your goals, and start to create action steps to take you where you want to go—and start now!

Love and the desire to build a life together are the reasons to marry. Money is just a practical resource you need to keep living happily together under the same roof. The woman who has found a way to be more financially secure before she has married is less likely to find herself in a situation where, “he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail.”


If you would like additional resources, go to loveinlateryears.com and sign up for a FREE Consult so we can direct you personally – we are here to support you! Coming soon, we will be offering a really affordable mini-class on thriving financially after divorce so stay tuned for that by signing up to receive our FREE weekly inspirational LILY Letter (which will keep you informed of new supportive resources). I am excited about this financial course that Cathy and I have been building and hope it will be life changing for many of you. Meanwhile, if you are still recovering from a painful divorce, know that you are not alone. We have a comprehensive Life Design After Divorce self-paced course to help you heal from the effect of divorce faster and intentionally design a life you love.

About the Author

Jeff Teichert, and his wife Cathy Butler Teichert, are the founders of “Love in Later Years,” which ministers to Latter-day Saint single adults seeking peace, healing, and more joyful relationships. They are co-authors of the Amazon bestseller Intentional Courtship: A Mid-Singles Guide to Peace, Progress and Pairing Up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jeff and Cathy each spent nearly a decade in the mid-singles community and they use that experience to provide counsel and hope to mid-singles and later married couples through written articles, podcasts, and videos. Jeff and Cathy are both Advanced Certified Life Coaches and have university degrees in Family & Human Development. They are the parents of a blended family that includes four handsome sons, one lovely daughter-in-law, and two sweet little granddaughters.

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Website: http://www.loveinlateryears.com/

Podcast: https://anchor.fm/loveinlateryears