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The Complete Every Mistake In The Book Series:
“One house, One Spouse, One Job”
That is one of the basic tenets of financial teachings by the FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) community and its rationale is wonderfully summarized here by WCI. Even if one’s goal is not to retire early, it is wise to follow.
So please continue to follow this story as young, naive Xrayvsn proceeded to commit financial cardinal sin by breaking each and every component of this primary FIRE doctrine.
Mistake #7a (One Spouse):
Well this was the last and unfortunately biggest mistake I could have made both emotionally and financially.
Before I delve into this horrible chapter in my life I have to provide a little bit of background.
My parents are from the Indian subcontinent. My father and mother were married in an arranged marriage.
As the only child I had a tremendous amount of pressure to find a “nice Indian girl” to marry. As I came to the United States when I was less than a year old, I was indifferent to trying to maintain cultural practices.
Fast forward to my final year in Radiology residency.
I was approaching 31 years of age, still unmarried. I believe my mother then began her frantic search to find me a partner for she feared that when I finished residency I would become a young rich single doctor and would likely be caught up in that lifestyle.
It truly was a global endeavor as she enlisted friends and family from the U.S., Canada, England, as well as from the Indian subcontinent.
The results of this search was a girl two years younger who lived in England and just finished medical school training. By everyone’s accounts this was a perfect match since we were both doctors and, according to matching our horoscope charts, we were compatible.
We actually communicated for around 3 months by phone and she then flew to the US exactly on the one year anniversary of September 11 (foreshadowing the events to later come). Initially it was agreed that it would just be a meeting and she would return back to England and see if things progressed.
Unfortunately the plans changed. As soon as we met there was heavy pressure from both sides that I should propose to her and marry her. I reluctantly agreed to do this and we married November 1st, less than 2 months after meeting.
Very soon after marriage things began to unravel as this supposed “perfect match” was anything but. I had arranged for her to enter my radiology residency program as a first year by agreeing to stay on as an attending during her training period (four years).
Things started cropping up leading to her dismissal from the residency program within the first two months. Throughout the remainder of the marriage she tried getting back into any residency program but with black marks on her record she never was able to do so.
After increasing pressure from our families to start a family of our own, in 2005 we welcomed a daughter into the world.
I was hoping that this would give her a sense of purpose and ease the sting of not being able to enter residency.
It did not.
I tolerated the marriage as long as I could because in our custom divorce is shunned upon and quite rare. I also wanted my daughter to not have to endure her parents getting divorced.
However after 8 years of marriage the behavioral changes of my wife got worse and I just could not remain married to her. I was actually doing my daughter a disservice by allowing her to witness an unloving home.
I therefore filed for divorce in 2010. Apparently by doing this act I woke the sleeping giant and a truly vindictive person came out.
The divorce proceedings were lengthy and highly contentious.
My wife found an unscrupulous lawyer who saw me as having “deep pockets” and between the two of them they fabricated so many allegations.
The senior judge presiding over the divorce, which was finalized 13 months later (with numerous hearings in multiple court jurisdictions), said it was the most contentious divorce he had ever officiated over.
“Do you know why divorces are so expensive? Because they’re worth it”- Henny Youngman
Estimated Hit to Net Worth:
- It is staggering the amount of assets and money I lost through this process. The judge ordered me to give her the value of the entire 401k ($140k), our Health Savings Account ($25k), alimony of $2100/mo for 3 yrs and child support $2100/mo, two condominiums we had owned (equity totaled about $60k), as well as $100k in cash due within 30 days of the divorce decree (which I didn’t have and had to use credit card access checks to cover). In addition my own legal fees had already decimated all of my savings, eclipsing the $300k mark. Without even factoring the loss of potential investment gains the total is $850k+
- On a side note, I was left with the marital home because it was currently underwater due to the housing crisis and mortgage balance. The judge also graciously let me retain sole possession of my student loan debt.
Superpower Take-home points:
- For the most important decisions on your life you have to make your own decisions. Mother does not always know best.
- By trying to appease others I put myself in harms way. It was the darkest chapter of my life and not only was there a significant financial toll but there was an emotional toll as well. My relationship with my mother and the other parties involved have never been fully mended.
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