Money and Marriage, Retirement and Control

By Amy Dickinson | October 7th, 2022

Retirees wrangle over the true cost of love

couple arguing. Photo by Wavebreakmedia Ltd, Dreamstime. A retired couple is wrangling over money and marriage – she wants money to do with as she wishes or she is out of the marriage.

A retired couple is wrangling over money and marriage – she wants money to do with as she wishes or she is out of the marriage. See what advice columnist Amy Dickinson has to say in this installment of “Ask Amy.”

Dear Amy:

My wife and I are both retirees.

We have been together for a total of 32 years. All of our retirement income goes into a shared bank account.

About six months ago, out of the blue my wife told me that she wanted a divorce. She explained that due to reasons having to do with money, she felt she had lost her autonomy.

It seems she wants to have her own bank account and withdraw $400 a month to go into her personal slush fund to do with as she wishes.

We have discussed this for months with no resolution. I have said that since the money comes out of our retirement funds that it makes no sense for her to have her own personal account.

Am I wrong in feeling jilted that she will stay with me for $400 a month?

Is love worth $400 a month, or is there a deeper issue here?

I’m curious about what your take is on this problem with money and marriage.


Dear Disappointed:

This is not about the cost – or value – of “love.” Or money and marriage, directly.

This is about control.

You don’t provide any details regarding your finances, although your wording suggests that all of your joint income (presumably from pension earnings and Social Security) goes into a shared account, which you seem to control.

And if you have the final word and control access to these funds, then yes – that would be the very definition of “losing autonomy.”

Why do I think you control these funds? Because your wife has gone to the mat trying to get some money that she alone would be able to use as she wishes.

It isn’t at all clear whether you two can afford to grant each of you money of your own to spend as you wish. But if you can afford it then yes, you should each have funds of your own that you can choose to save or spend.

And if you can’t afford for you each to receive $400 a month, then you should negotiate a smaller amount that you can afford.

Money is important. And choices regarding money are often placeholders for other issues in the relationship. So yes, I suspect that there is a deeper issue here.

If your wife chooses to leave the marriage and file for divorce, then she presumably would receive roughly half of your shared assets.

You two could work on this with the valuable help of a mediator. Mediators frequently work with relationship counselors to help couples come to terms with vital issues affecting their future, including the choice to part company, if it comes to that.

Want to get even more life tips from Amy? Read more of her advice columns here!

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart – ranging from money and marriage to DNA surprises. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2022 by Amy Dickinson

More from Boomer