Unlike Jane Hawking’s Travelling to Infinity, the memoir by Stephen Hawking’s first wife that was the basis of the film The Theory of Everything, Clare’s Notes on Everything aren’t as interesting, nor are they as compelling a read.
Unless (of course) you are my husband and you find yourself needing to know where the money is hidden.
Funnily enough, I’m not joking.
As it happened, more than half my lifetime ago, Dean (eventually) came to live with me. This was terribly scandalous back in the early 80’s, but we were smitten with each other, and he found himself without a roof over his head due to the sale of the house he was renting.
What else could I say when he asked if he could move in but “Yes, of course, you can live here with me!” And two days later he arrived with all his worldly possessions in the back of his panel van, including a motorbike and a surfboard. I have no idea how he got the motorbike into the back of the van, but as for the surfboard, it was the funniest thing I thought he owned considering we lived in north Queensland and were at least 1,000 miles away from the nearest ridable surf.
Maybe that wasn’t the funniest thing either. The fact that he owned a panel van was hilarious, and it wasn’t just any panel van either, but some model (or other) of the Holden Sandman variety which was marketed towards young men – specifically targeting those with a surfing lifestyle. Again, we lived 1,000 miles away from any surf and I found all of this hysterically funny. I’m having a little chuckle to myself just thinking about it.
But this story isn’t about the car or the possessions Dean owned, it’s about what he did next, and how things evolved from there.
At the end of our first week together, he arrived home from work, opened his pay packet, removed a note or two and, as he placed the rest on the table he said, “You best look after that.”
And so began my unpaid career as a financial planner, advisor, investor and negotiator.
It became my responsibility to manage our money, keep the wolves from the door, squirrel away a few pennies for a rainy day, and (eventually) keep all of us clothed and fed. Sometimes it was tough, and some decisions were heartbreaking (see The Pain of Telling Lies ), but for the most part, I think I did ok and made the best choices I could at the time.
I’ve done this now for over 30 years, without his input or involvement and just the occasional signature or two on the dotted line. He’d ask, “What’s this for?” And I’d reply, “Don’t ask, just sign.” Despite the fact that I could, and still can, easily copy his signature.
But several years ago I started wondering what Dean would do if I was – well, I’m not going to say it, so let’s just imagine I’m in jail and uncontactable – what would Dean do if he had to row the boat solo? ( 🙂 He just told me he’d go round and round in circles.)
But in all seriousness, he had no idea where our accounts were held. He had no inkling how much our utilities cost, let along which company we have an arrangement with, nor how those bills are paid. He didn’t even know where his own superannuation* was, let alone where mine was, and trust me, he needs to know where mine is.
So to counter this and to restore a measure of balance between ‘she who knows everything’ and ‘he who knows nothing’, I started writing Clare’s Notes on Everything and have (several times now) told Dean exactly where to find said information.
Can you believe it, as I read this to Dean before hitting the publish button, he asked, “Where are they again?” Seriously, I will have to have the location of my notes engraved on my will or tattooed on the back of this hand so that when I am ‘thrown in jail’ (for some crime I am totally innocent of), Dean will be ok.
– ⋅ o ♥ o ⋅ –
I don’t think I’m alone in this either. As a matter of fact, I know I’m not. Lucy over at Walking the Wombat inspired this post following an incident where her mother had to ‘step up to the plate and take over the reins‘ because her father was unwell. Thankfully he’s ok now and finally back home.
But it does highlight the importance of knowing all those little things – insurance policies for car, home, health and otherwise – where to find ones will – how to terminate automatic payments – how to return credit cards and close accounts. How to ensure you no longer pay for a phone service that is neither needed nor required.
For us, it wasn’t about Dean not knowing, it was just our way of life and the way things turned out. Dean wasn’t good at managing his money, but I was, so naturally, it became my responsibility when we two became one. After all, isn’t that what a relationship/partnership is all about? Complementing each other and drawing upon each other’s strengths?
I’d never really thought about it before, but now, as we get older, I think about it all the time and it has become important that both of us know all those little details.
Would you know what to do? Would your other half?
* In Australia, Superannuation (or Super) is money set aside over your lifetime to provide for your retirement. It is partly compulsory and further encouraged by tax benefits.