“She has no ambition”: I am 41 years old and I earn $100,000. I buy a house before I get married. My fiancée earns $50,000 and has student debt of $20,000. What is a fair marriage contract?
I have been in my current relationship for almost three years. I’m a 41 year old young woman, I have a nice stable career and I make about $100,000 a year. I am ambitious and my prospects increase my income by $10,000 every year. I have about $140,000 in savings and no debt. I am about to close a house, which will be entirely financed by me.
My girlfriend, 38, works a few odd jobs that she loves and makes $50,000 a year. She has very little savings and about $20,000 in student loans, and is unable to buy or help with down payments/closing costs, etc. She lives on paycheck, pretty much, and since she loves what she does, isn’t motivated to do anything else to earn more.
We don’t live together, but have started discussing marriage and plan to move in together when I close. My family is not happy with this relationship for several reasons. My girlfriend doesn’t have a stable career. She has no ambition and earns much less than me.
““My girlfriend, 38, has a few gig-type jobs that she loves and makes $50,000 a year. She has very little savings.”
She understands and said she was happy to sign a prenup. I will also add that my brother is going through a nasty divorce so the whole family is on edge. We all live in Louisiana – a community property law state – and his ex-wife who cheats and plays with him takes him to the cleaners.
Given all of this, I need help determining what is right for the prenup and for our living situation. For the prenup, I thought we don’t include any spousal support, no splitting of pension accounts/contributions made during the marriage, and everyone’s debt incurred during the marriage is their own.
The new house and the mortgage will be in my name alone. Anything she contributes to the mortgage will be paid off if I ever sell the house – but not if we get a divorce. In addition, she will be reimbursed for contributions to capital improvements.
““We’re going to create a family budget to include combined expenses, mortgage, utilities, groceries, and restaurant meals together.””
As for living arrangements, we will create a family budget to include combined expenses such as mortgage, utilities, groceries, restaurant meals, etc. Until we get married, we’ll split things down the middle. After the wedding, we will open joint savings and checking accounts.
We each contribute the same percentage to our checking account to cover the household budget, so I would pay more since I earn more. Then we put the same amount each month into a pooled savings account to build a pooled emergency fund.
I can’t plan for every eventuality, and these are very unsexy premarital conversations. Is there anything else I’m not thinking of? Does this seem fair to me and my partner?
Wedding and pre-nuptial planning
I can answer your penultimate question. The last question is for your partner.
Marriage is many things, but as you suggest, it’s a business contract as well as a commitment to spend the rest of your life together. Or, at the very least, a demonstration of the will to do so. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of your prenuptial agreement, the general feel of your letter is one person who holds all the cards, and another person who doesn’t look much. Indeed, you mention that your family can’t stand the relationship, and your fiancée is vaguely, probably unfairly, compared to your former sister-in-law.
I don’t see clearly from your letter that you respect and/or support your partner’s choices. If you have any doubts about her reluctance to move on to a better paying career – instead of the one that makes her happy – the differences in your respective outlook will only get worse over time, especially as the imbalance economic in your relationship grows. Forensically dividing your finances will only go so far. Your letter was about finances, but I guess I was hoping to read something nice about your fiancée. And I’m sure she has a lot of good qualities.
““It is not clear to me from your letter that you respect and/or support your partner’s choices.””
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to prenuptial agreements. It really depends on what each side considers fair. Your fiancée is registered, but if you repay her contributions to your mortgage if you sell the house, it would make sense (to her) that you apply this principle to a possible divorce. Otherwise, she will be punished if you break up, but the result is the same for you. I would suggest that any percentage your fiancée contributes to the mortgage be based on your wages. If you pay $1,000, she pays $500.
When you set up a joint account, you must ensure that the money in this account is not used to make major renovations to your home or that you use mutual funds to pay the mortgage. This would likely confuse the assets and turn them from separate assets to matrimonial/community assets. Finally, “ambition” is a tricky word, and “no ambition” are trickier words. You equate salary with ambition, and your partner earns pretty close to the average salary in Louisiana. Ambition can also mean making a living doing something you love.
This marriage contract protects you. I’m not sure it does exactly that for your fiancée.
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