The Moneyist: ‘He emptied our joint account!’ — three husbands and one boyfriend tried to steal this woman’s money

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Dear Moneyist,

I would like to share a story from a woman’s perspective. I have had three marriages and one ex-boyfriend.

Husband No. 1: He somehow lost job after job. I was supporting us with everything. He got another job, then he lost that. We needed a home, so I helped us get a small farm away from all the chaos.

Then he began chasing women, and finally followed one to Texas. The children and I felt better with him gone. So I filed for divorce. I had to hunt him down to serve him. In court, he wanted alimony. The judge laughed him out of court. I kept everything

Husband No. 2: We argued over bills.

‘He began chasing women, and finally followed one to Texas.’

Husband No. 3: He wanted the house as he felt that me having a house unfair. He said that I should sign over everything if he was to pay any of the bills.

The Boyfriend: We starting dating long-distance, we had known each other before. He had an excellent job, talked me into letting him move from Seattle in 2014, so we could build a life together. I agreed. He transferred his job.

Recommended: My husband grew up dirt poor and doesn’t believe in insurance or banks, yet he racked up $7,000 on my credit card

Everything was fine for a while, but then things began to change. He complained about the bills. He was always on the computer, playing games and surfing the web. I got edgy and he noticed, so he asked me to get married, and I agreed. We opened up a joint account for property-tax savings. I deposited my paychecks, and he contributed $1,000. The balance was $6,000.

‘After New Year, I went to the bank and he had emptied our joint account.’

In 2015, I ended up in the hospital for over a month. When I got home, one day before Christmas, something was strange. He started yelling at me, and the day after Christmas he walked out. After New Year’s, I went to the bank and he had emptied our joint account, save for $1,000. I asked why, and he said I owed him that for my half of the bills.

I took him to court, he told the court that he was just renting space and owed me nothing, as he said he had come here to find a place to live. He said I owed him money for supporting us. Later on, I found his new residence had been rented since December 2014. It was a quarter of a mile from our residence and he moved there with a girlfriend from Seattle.

Don’t miss: I’m torn between helping my parents and pursuing long-term business goals to support my husband and child

I have been fighting the debts he left, as he said to the courts he didn’t owe anything since he was a “renter with benefits”, and there was no proof we were going to get married. How do you trust someone after all of this?


Dear Jules,

This man says he’s dated one “money monster.” You’ve had four.

Oh, boy. Talk about fourth time unlucky. Thank you for your letter and for sharing your story. I’m sorry you had to go through this. Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is walk away from a relationship and all of the Disney dreams that you imagined in those early days. Love and fantasy are closely intertwined. Hollywood has a lot to answer for. Loving someone is a leap of faith. Moving in together is a big step. Marrying should never be taken lightly. And sharing your finances with your life partner is probably the biggest step of all. Not everyone does and that can work out pretty swell for them. Other times, there are warning signs that are worth addressing, as this man did with his girlfriend.

‘Marrying should never be taken lightly. And sharing your finances is probably the biggest step of all.’

Were there any red flags with these men? The best thing we can hope to do when a relationship turns sour is to take the lessons from that experience and to apply it to the next one. It’s useful to know what we don’t want in a life partner, as much as know what we do want. Perhaps you would like someone who is financially solvent, has a career that makes him happy, his own home and/or savings. Make a list of what you don’t want in your next partner, and a list of what you do want. Be prepared to compromise on some, but not all. Usually, this column recommends talking to a lawyer. In this case, a therapist may help you deconstruct your decision-making process.

Also see: My dying friend wants to marry me so I can have his Social Security — should I do it?

Few people like to talk about money. That’s one plot point that’s often left out of the movies about falling in love (though I do recommend “Gloria Bell”). We search for romance, but you can’t build a life on that alone. How we manage our finances gives us a bird’s eye view into how we manage our relationships. Are they capable of long-term financial commitment? Do they have an inability keep a healthy credit score? If not, why not? Not everyone has the same privilege or start in life, so a high credit score is hardly the only way of measuring someone’s reliability. But it may, in some circumstances, give you an indication of how responsible your prospective partner is.

Few people like to talk about money. That’s one plot point that’s often left out of the movies about falling in love.

Research suggests that a high credit score can help predict whether someone is trustworthy. Similar credit scores are “highly predictive” of whether couples stay together, according to a 2015 paper by researchers at UCLA, the Brookings Institution and Federal Reserve Board, Washington, D.C. “Initial credit scores and match quality predict subsequent credit usage and financial distress, which in turn are correlated with relationship dissolution,” they wrote. “Credit scores reveal an individual’s relationship skill and level of commitment.” Some folks look at finance, career and education when choosing a partner. Some might regard that as shallow. Others may say it’s smart.

Don’t miss: Before I give my fiancée a $7,000 diamond engagement ring, I want her to promise to bequeath it to my daughter

Equifax EFX, +1.33%, Experian EXPGY, +1.74%  and TransUnion TRU, -0.14%  are not the only ways to judge a person’s finances. It would be a shame to let three husbands and one boyfriend reduce your search for love to three digits. Some other questions I would ask a prospective partner: What do you care about? That speaks to a person’s career and hobbies and volunteer work. What are your friends like and how far back do they go? That helps to reveal their values and ability to sustain lifelong relationships. Grifters are unlikely to have many of the latter. How do they get along with their family? Also, revealing, but not everyone can choose their family.

Choosing a partner is one of the most important financial and emotional decisions of our lives.

People will spend months looking at real estate before they find the right home. They will spend hours scouring the web looking for the best credit card. But sometimes they will move in with someone or say “yes” to a proposal of marriage because they want to be loved and/or don’t want to be alone. Choosing a partner should be a leap of faith and be based on gut instinct, but it’s also one of the most important financial and emotional decisions of our lives, especially if you are going to set up home together and have children. One financial adviser says, “Divorce is like going through a terrible recession.” You know that more than most. Hence, the unromantic checklist.

Recommended: My husband asked me to file a joint tax return without telling me he owes back taxes

Here’s a curious statistic, which you can take with or without salt. Two-thirds of all divorces are initiated by women, according to the National Marriage Project, a non-partisan initiative based at the University of Virginia. One theory: Child-custody laws tend to be more favorable to women. Another, less generous theory: Men may be more likely to cheat (although some studies suggest wives cheat on their husbands just as often as men cheat on their wives). It may be that women and men have different emotional needs in a relationship. Or older women who married when the gender balance in society was less egalitarian may seek more economic independence.

Also see: Should two people with $1 million in debt even consider getting married?

Romance and finance go hand-in-hand. More than half (56%) of Americans say they want a partner who provides financial security more than “head over heels” love (44%). That’s according to a recent survey released by Merrill Edge BAC, -0.06%. This sentiment is held in almost equal measure by both men and women (54% and 57%). Generation Z (born between 1996 and 2010) is the only cohort to choose love (54%) over money. Interestingly, the more often people are married, the more practical they become about their partner’s financial state. (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis reportedly said, ”The first time you marry for love, the second for money and the third for companionship.”)

Here’s the bottom line: If you choose the same kind of person next time, don’t expect a different result.

Don’t allow your four previous relationships to prevent you from seeking a fifth, long-term, happy, trustworthy and reliable partner. You deserve a happy relationship. Here’s the good news: You have all the information you will need, if you look for it. I’ve outlined some possible red flags, but what are red flags for you? And, yes, there are always white flags too. Perhaps it’s a man with a passion and purpose beyond making (or losing) money. Or, to use a job interview analogy, look for those character references that can be delivered over dinner or on a visit to his family home. Here’s the bad news: If you choose the same kind of person next time, don’t expect a different result.

If and when you find a happy relationship, we’ll still be here. Please tell us all about it.

Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, family feuds, friends or any tricky issues relating to manners and money? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).

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Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas: inheritance, wills, divorce, tipping, gifting. I often talk to lawyers, accountants, financial advisers and other experts, in addition to offering my own thoughts. I receive more letters than I could ever answer, so I’ll be bringing all of that guidance — including some you might not see in these columns — to this group. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

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