A midlife crisis is okay, as long as you take time to plan it out
Q: I would love to quit my job, as would my husband . . . and we'd love to start over and do what we really enjoy, changing where we live, and even how we live. Like a mini midlife crisis.
But we have a mortgage, a beautiful baby boy, and all of the responsibilities tied to them. Some people are saying it would be "irresponsible" or "stupid" to pack up and pursue our dreams, especially if it meant financial loss (from selling our home at a lower price).
But I'm feeling more and more like I don't give a darn, and so is my husband. And I'm beginning to think our child would benefit from seeing us do what makes us happy, rather than toil away at some superficial dreams of happiness. Despite that, I'm just scared of making the next step. Maybe I'm really seeking affirmation here . . . can you really put a price on happiness?
A: I can. It's the number I get when I add up subsistence costs for a responsibly run family — food, shelter, clothing, insurance, emergency cushion — plus any "luxuries" I don't consider optional. Everyone's are different, but common ones are lessons in a child's interests, or driving safe cars, or startup costs associated with a dream career, or travel to one's home country, you name it. Such priorities are as unique as families themselves.
It's the minimum income and savings that represent the maximum amount of financial risk you can comfortably tolerate.
The temptation is, I think, to talk about life changes in broad, conceptual, "happiness" terms, but I don't think happiness regularly coexists with financial distress. Tough to teach your son to seize the day when the bank is seizing your assets.
Obviously, though, there are more ways to be responsible than just remaining tethered to a mortgage. Selling your house at a loss isn't an insurmountable obstacle. You just have to find the money elsewhere, or a way to live without it.
Midlife crises have their place in any thoughtfully lived existence. Just treat them as the beginning of a careful planning process, as opposed to the end.
Take control of yourself when your marriage is falling apart
Q: My wife told me two months ago that she wants a divorce, but has not done anything to initiate one. I found a marriage counselor who I just started seeing (my wife refuses to go), and I am monitoring our joint bank accounts daily because I'm afraid she's going to take off with no warning. I'm tired of feeling like a prisoner in my marriage. I can't afford to move out but I hate feeling like a stranger with my wife.
A: Please find yourself a reputable attorney — your marriage counselor, alas, should have some names — and start taking steps to insulate yourself financially.
I realize your finances aren't in a lawyer-friendly place, and you may still hope to reconcile.
However, you're looking at the best among evils here: a divorce you can't afford, suspense you can't bear, and a wife you suspect might flee. The only remotely promising choice is the one where you actively prepare for any possible outcome.