The Freeloader Husband

by TTMK on November 18, 2013 · 11 comments

freeloader husbandWhen couples retire, often times one person might stop working sooner than the other.  This might be planned, or it might be due to an unexpected situation such as a layoff or health issues.

Of course, there are many different permutations of what could possibly happen, that there might not be a one size fits all template of how couples can handle retirement timing.  I got an email from a reader who asked a question about an issue with her husband regarding retirement, and I thought I’d pose it below.

In doing so, I’ll summarize the issue rather than posting the question verbatim – as it will be easier to follow this way.  Here’s the deal as I understood it:

  • Second marriage for both of them
  • Her husband had significantly more money prior to their getting married
  • They signed a prenup, so each person’s pre-marital assets are separate
  • With current income, they share it – along with current expenses during the marriage
  • He wants to retire early, based on his premarital savings and his share of their shared marital savings
  • She can’t retire early, as she can’t afford to do so.
  • He expects that if she continues to work, that her income will be shared between the two of them
  • Her big issue: she wonders if he can do that, and why he can’t share his premarital assets with her

This is how I can best characterize the situation from what I understood.

Quite a touchy situation, right?

It’s not a totally straightforward situation.  But, I mostly side with the woman (reader) here in the big picture.

Now, on the one hand I do think that if there was a prenup signed, and both party had a significant enough time to discuss, consider,  then sign it (in other words, not immediately before marriage or something pressured like that), then it’s totally okay that he keeps more money than her.  That part is fair, and it’s often understandable why someone would ask for a prenup.

However, aside from the legalities, there are moral issues at play here in my opinion.  If her married her, he should have consideration for her feelings in the spirit of partnership.  That doesn’t mean he has any moral obligation to share his premarital money with her, as it’s totally fair that he should control it.  But if we wants to retire early, he shouldn’t expect her to then subsidize him by sharing her income with him.  Isn’t that like a wealthy person engaging in freeloading?

I think that the idea of sharing income as they apparently did is totally normal.  And if one person retires early in a typical marriage, then the other’s income should support both and be shared as a team.  However, this is a much different case where they’re not on an equal playing field.  If he is retiring partially on his money and not sharing it, then I don’t see how he could actually expect her to share her own current income with him.  Even if it’s marital.  When can she retire then?

Somehow, I think the onus is on him to be gracious to his less well-off spouse.  This would apply equally the same way if the genders were reversed.  The principle is the same either way.

My Questions for You

What are your overall thoughts about this?

Where do you agree or disagree with her?

What do you think of my assertion that he shouldn’t get any of her income if he retires?

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

dojo November 18, 2013 at 8:06 am

Wow .. so let’s see: we both came with some money in a marriage years ago. You had more so you’re protecting your money with a prenup, so that you have what to live on at retirement. Now you’re retired, so you don’t bring money at home anymore, since you’re not working, just your retirement. And now you’re expecting ME to support you from my income, when you have kept your retirement money separate. Good deal …

My way: he’s gonna live off his dang retirement money and nothing else. And she should spend her income on HERSELF.

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TTMK November 18, 2013 at 11:48 am

Kind of crazy, isn’t it?

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Little House November 18, 2013 at 9:14 am

That’s a very complicated situation. I have to side with the woman in this case; it’s not fair that her husband is able to retire early based on his wealth that she can’t touch, but will still depend on her income to pay their bills. That’s just not fair. I think they need to find a middle ground where she doesn’t feel taken advantage of – perhaps he needs to share his wealth so they can both retire, or maybe retire, but use his retirement money to help support them both.

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TTMK November 18, 2013 at 11:49 am

Little House, I see it the way you do. It’s not fair for her, and something just seems more than a little bit askew in this type of arrangement.

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krantcents November 18, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Any situation should require agreement from both parties. I expect to retire (again) when I am 70 years old, but my wife may want to continue working. There will certainly be more conversation as we get closer to that date (3 years away for me)

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jim November 18, 2013 at 9:04 pm

I don’t think there’s anything complicated about this. If that a## was my spouse I’d throw his a## out! Talk about a freeloader – ugh! Really? She supports you in your retirement while you kick her to the curb? Grow up moron! This is no kind of decent marriage.

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TTMK November 21, 2013 at 10:29 am

It sounds less than fair in my view, I agree

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SuburbanFinance November 19, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Oh I definitely side with the woman. It’s a no brainer. I can’t believe that is actually going on!

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TTMK November 21, 2013 at 10:28 am

I side with the woman too, can’t see it another way now.

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thepotatohead November 19, 2013 at 10:33 pm

I would think that if he has enough money to retire he would have enough money to pay whatever expenses he has? Isn’t that how he would be able to retire, by having the nest egg built up to pay for whatever expenses he had post retirement. I don’t see why he wouldn’t be willing to use that money to pay for stuff now, when he would have had to use that money to pay for everything had he not gotten married.

I can see him wanting to protect his premarital assets, but I would think that if he is getting a pension, or interest from a 401k that is making him able to retire, that the yearly payouts from those would be part of the “joint” money, where as the pre-marriage principal is the part that is protected. SO any ongoing money being made in retirement would be for the couple and not solely for him.

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TTMK November 21, 2013 at 10:26 am

Protecting pre-marital assets is fair, I see it that way too. That said, protecting it while expecting to live off her current income sounds more than a bit sketchy.

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