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My wife doesn't want me to pay for my son's college

Honor's picture

I am new here and in great need of help. 

My wife and I have been married for 4 years, we were both widowers before we met, I have a 17 year old son and she has two girls, 13 and 16 years old. The way we handle money has always been a problem in our household. My late wife and I lived within our means and agreed that the most important thing was to pay off our debt and save for a stable future. My current wife and her late husband didn't  think the same way, they bought a house and went on trips they could not pay for, as a result they had a lot of debt. When my wife and I were married, her financial situation was chaotic, the house was up for foreclose auction and she was many years behind on her student loan payments. Since we got married we went over my wife's debt as a team, there are no more debts left from her old house and we renegotiated the student debt as a couple. Right now I'm the only one saving for retirement, but in a few years we won't have any debt left as my own house is paid off, so things look great.

Not everything is flowers though, there have been signs of resentment in the past, my son studied all his life at a great school but there was not enough money to send my stepdaughters there too, it was a hardship for our marriage but we managed, until now. When we got married, my wife and I mingled all of our assets, except for an account in which there is a substantial amount saved by me and my late wife for the first 10 years of my son's life, that money is supposed to pay for my son's college.  But now my wife tells me that she is not comfortable with me spending all that money on his college, when she is still paying for her debt after all these years. She says he should earn his own way in life, that it would teach him a valuable lesson in life, except that I think it has more to do with the fact that she had to pay and that her girls are going to have to pay too. We had a big fight about it and for the first time we can't seem to reconcile. 

Any advice on how to handle this situation without hurting my marriage would be greatly appreciated.

qtpie013178's picture

You seem like a great husband, especially financially. I would not have taken on responsibility for her student debt, helping pay is great but being stuck with it...well it's done now. Regarding your son's education, if he was already attending the posh school, and you could afford it, again that's fine. It sounds like your wife is resentful, but if you never met, she would have been happy with her kids' school. The money saved by you and your late wife should be used for your son's college or gifted to him after adulthood. It probably should have been in a custodial account. No worries though, you should be able to prove it is a pre-marial asset; keep it in its original / separate account, do not comingle it with your marial funds. Your wife squandered her money and financial future and now wants to do the same to your son. I would not bring it up, but if she does, explain firmly and kindly that you have helped her a lot with her debts, but that this money was set aside for your son, before you knew her, and that it will be spent for that purpose. Keep at least one separate personal account too, and I would record a will ensuring your son gets up to half of your assets upon death, or whatever is aligned with the law.

tog redux's picture

Your wife has no claim to the money that you and your late wife saved for your son's future, and it's not your son's fault that she failed to do the same for her daughters. Use the money to send your son to college, she will need to sort out loans for her daughters' education.

I bet if there was enough money for all three to go to college, she wouldn't be humming this tune of "he needs to make his own way in life," she'd be thrilled that you were willing to pay for all of them.

Honestly, she sounds quite selfish - willing to allow you to pay HER debts (which was not your responsibility), then wanting to get her hands on money you and your late wife specifically put aside for your child.

Financial issues are one of the main reasons that people get divorced, and she sounds like she hasn't learned one thing about being more financially responsible.

By the way, many people on here feel that parents should NOT pay for a kid's college - but my parents paid for mine, and it was huge gift. In this day and age of ridiculous tuition and high student loan debt, it's an even bigger gift to him.  As long as he works hard in school and you can afford to pay it - do it.

Winterglow's picture

She thinks that learning to pay his own way would teach him a valuable life lesson? So he should do without the money that was set aside for him because she wants that money to cover the things that she should have paid for herself years ago? Um, nope. Ask her what lessons she learned along the way.

I cannot see how she could justify using that money for anything other than it's original purpose. If need be, tell her that it would be completely disrespectful to your late wife's wishes to even consider using that money for anything other than your son's education. 

Sheesh! Talk about entitlement - not only has she unloaded her (unnecessarily incurred) debt onto you but now she wants to fleece your son? Do not stand for this.

ITB2012's picture

Don't fall for it. 

DS and OSS here started college at the same time. DH wanted some of our assets divided differently to give the skids a leg up because XH and I saved double what DH and BM have for OSS. DHs logic is that if I had two kids then they'd each get half of that so DS is getting more than he should. Um, no. If I had two kids we would have set aside even more so the second kid would have the same as DS. DS shouldn't be screwed out of inheritance because DH and BM were cheap and didnt save as much for the skids college. 

Kes's picture

Your wife has the attitude "what's yours is mine, and what's mine's me own".   She is being grasping and greedy and has no right to the money you and your late wife saved for the specific purpose of your son's education.  Tell her to sling her hook, is my advice. 

somethingwicked's picture

LOL "sling her hook" ..LOL

I love that!

you are the gift to ST that keeps on giving ,Kes..

Kitten Whiskers's picture

Tell your wife the college account for your son is not open for discussion or debate.  You and your late wife had the foresight to plan for your son's future, and took the steps to help secure it for him.  Your current wife didn't do that for her own children, and that's on her.  It's hypocritical of her to say your son "should earn his own way" since she certainly didn't do that.  You came along and sorted out her crappy finances for her.  

Shut her down NOW.  

Iamwoman's picture

You're not the one ruining your marriage. 
Your wife is choosing to ruin your marriage through her own greed.

That money was saved for your son's college and she knew that from the very beginning,

Like you, I have a mutual funds account that I have been saving for my daughter's college since she was two years old. She is now 17.

Like you, I invested quite a bit into my marriage as I was the sole breadwinner while I gave my DH the opportunity to get his bachelor's degree (which he did).

Like you, I am pretty much the one saving for retirement (my DH has a small savings but less than $10,000 so not much).

My DD is now 17. I would $hit a brick if my DH told me she should not have her college fund. I seriously would consider serving him with divorce papers if he ever said something so selfish as what your wife is saying to you,

But my DH is perfectly ok with me having more savings than him. He is ok with me having a huge retirement fund (to which DD will be the benefactor as of January 2021). He is ok with me having more savings than him and with me completely controlling our stock purchases and sales.

Why?

Because he is an adult who is capable of making his own way in this world, and who isn't looking to sponge from another human being.

OP, you must think of your child here, and of honor. What if you suddenly die in the next couple of years? You would want to know that your child has a soft landing wile he coped with BOTH of his parents being dead, yes? You would want to know that your life's savings and assets are being passed to your own flesh and blood, right?
 

If you die, your wife gets everything in most stated (check your state). While normally, I would advocate that the stepmom IS the rightful wife and SHOULD get it all, in your case OP - she is too greedy and too stupid with money to ensure anything honest will happen with your assets.

Not only should you give your son the college fund as it was meant to be given; You should probably also consider setting up a dynasty trust in his name so that in the case of your death, your son receives some of your inheritance.

Gimlet's picture

I agree with all the others here. 

Her sense of entitlement is staggering.  It's not your son's fault that your wife is terrible with money and the fact that she expects you to use his college fund on her debt is just plain greedy. 

She says he should earn his own way in life, that it would teach him a valuable lesson in life.

You see the hypocrisy here, right?  She is perfectly OK with asking you to bail HER out of her debt, using your son's money, but it's a life lesson for him?  I would turn that right back on her and tell her you are providing her with a valuable life lesson. 

Stand your ground.  If this is what makes your wife leave, IMO let her leave because she values what you can provide for her more than she values you.  I also hope you listen to IAmWoman and protect your assets.

susanm's picture

Let me tell you a quick story about my first DH.  He was a wonderful man who died too young of a congenital heart defect.  His mother died in an accident when he was a teenager and her sizeable estate all went to his father per the terms of her will with the expectation, which was not enforceable by law as the money became his alone rather than being in a trust, that he then pass it to their children.  When his father remarried a younger woman everyone was happy as he had been much older than the mother and not doing well alone.  But when he died only a few years later happiness turned to shock when it turned out that the will had been changed to leave the entire estate - including the mother's money - to the new wife and the young child that they had together despite his advanced age. 

My DH loved his father and understood him leaving HIS money to his wife and young child but never got over the fact that he gave them his mother's estate.  How will your son feel if you give this fund, which his mother intended to secure his future, to your new wife for her use?  I believe that he will see it as a betrayal of his mother and a squandering of her intended legacy to him.

hereiam's picture

She says he should earn his own way in life, that it would teach him a valuable lesson in life

Haha! She wasn't singing that tune about paying off all of HER and her late husband's debts by herself, was she? I think that would have been a good life lesson for her, but as a loving husband, you've helped her out along the way.

 But now my wife tells me that she is not comfortable with me spending all that money on his college, when she is still paying for her debt after all these years

She has absolutely NO say what you do with your son's college fund. It was money saved by yourself and your late wife, before your current wife was in the picture. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with HER or her debt.

I suppose she expects to live off of the retirement that YOU have saved, as well, since she's not saving for herself?

This would be a hill for me to die on and I would not back down. People really show their true colors when it comes to money. Especially, other people's money.

Sandybeaches's picture

All such great advice and points!!

First welcome to the site!!!  I would like to add on to a few of the great comments posted above!!

First I agree this money and decision was set aside long before you even knew this woman would ever be in your life.  You should follow through with your plan no matter what for many reasons but also because first, your late wife and you planned this together and saved and I can't imagine it would feel to good for you and her memory to go against it especially since it is not your idea to change it.  Second it may cause some very serious problems between you and your son and damage your relationship.  The way I see it unfortunately, there is no good choice with no one getting mad.  Go with your gut and what you want to do.  Your wife will either get over it or she won't.  

If you are to have another conversation as I am sure you will, I might add a few things.  First explain that your prior lives and relationships were very different.  She and her girls had vacations and some of the finer things while you and your wife saved for the future.  You couldn't and wouldn't take away their life and their past, just like she should not interfere with your past plan now coming to fruition.  Your plan just took longer.  She was for the minute with her first husband and you and your first wife were for the future.  

Second I would next explain that, no judgment but because she and her girls had lived a different lifestyle that you had to help them out with money that could have been used for all 3 to go to school.  Since you did have to do that and basically you used what could of been school money for her girls, to pay her student loans and get her house out of foreclosure t would not be fair to give them more and not give to your son when they already got their share which was a gift not entitlement.    It would make the shares very unevenly balanced if you gave more.  

Good luck!!  You are very kind and giving!!

The_Upgrade's picture

"She says he should earn his own way in life, that it would teach him a valuable lesson in life"

I sort of agree with that statement from your wife. Only it should be applied to her first if she wants to apply it to anyone else. Her earning her own way in life means she had a choice between holidays and savings. She chose holidays. The lesson now is that there is no money saved aside for college. If she wants to talk about making things even between the kids, well your son was "deprived" of holidays growing up because you were saving for his future.

Think of it in terms of cakes. Let's call the money for holidays or college "cake". She fed the cake to her girls early. You're giving your son his cake later. Her girls shouldn't be entitled to a slice of your son's cake because they have none left. 

SteppedOut's picture

Honestly, this would make me very concerned I was being used for money...and you have done so much already! Ugh! 

You should pay very close attention to what she says and does. Is she working now? If you stay married and divorce later, is it a possibility you may have to pay alimony? 

 

SeeYouNever's picture

I've seen this type of question posted in other parenting/step forums and the answers from non-steps is always "what would be fair is to split the money between all the children equally." My guess is that answer comes from remarried bio mom's...

No, that's not fair. Life isn't fair. Especially step life. Your wife wants to use that money to pay off her debt, including student loan debt? How is that fair? I would ask her why she thinks she deserves to have your late wife pay for her school but not for her own son's? In what world is that fair or right? 

I would hold my ground on this one. Giving her that money is a betrayal to your son and late wife. Your current wife is going to keep asking for your money until you say no. You have to create a limit or she will feel entitled to everything. My guess is she isn't used to hearing "no" from you, right? 

I would consider putting the money into an account with you and your son's name on it, or adding your son's name to the account. This is his only hope for an inheritance and help from his parents, don't take away his college money.

lieutenant_dad's picture

Agree with everyone, but also think it's a mistake that you're the only one saving for retirement right now. If you two get divorced, any debt you two co-mingled with be half yours to pay down, and any money you saved (such as your retirement) while married will become half hers.

She's getting a VERY sweet deal right now without any of the financial risk. You need to start making moves to protect your finances independent of how it affects your marriage. That sounds harsh, but you wouldn't be the first (or the last) to have a spouse take them to the cleaners because the couple was unevenly "yoked" financially.

I would move the funds you have set aside for your son into a trust or account that she doesn't have access to if that hasn't already happened. Then, I'd look at splitting your finances again. It's not a good sign that your wife, who is a mother and widow herself, would rather take money away from a child that his dead parent earned and saved for him versus pulling herself up to do better especially since she has gotten immense help to get her finances on track.

How do you handle this as a couple? I'd say counseling and drawing a very firm line in the sand of what is and isn't okay with you financially. Unless she's paying an unfair amount of household expenses, or you're expecting her to live in such a way where she'll never be able to get ahead and provide similar for her own kids, then she needs to just buck-up and figure out how to deal with her own financial issues.

Catmom23's picture

Your wife has had more help than most people get.  Your son should get help with his college with the $$ that you and his mother set aside.  

notarelative's picture

Your situation is why I am a huge fan of prenuptials when people have previous assets. They force you to talk about these issues and deal with them before you marry.

The funds in that account are for your son. DW should not get one penny of that account. If you haven't done so, be sure the account is titled such that it is for your son and your son only.

There may be no way to handle this without hurting your marriage. Your wife is being unreasonable and selfish. She wants your son's college money to pay the debt she accumulated before your marriage. 

You and your first wife saved that money for your son's education. That is where it should be spent.

 

still learning's picture

Postnup asap! Your deceased wife must be rolling in her grave to see how all her sacrifice for her sons education is being squandered by your new wife and stepdaughters.  Your son can help fund his education by applying for scholarships and financial aid. He can also do work study if if makes sense for his program.  The fact is that none of that is your wife's money. It's not hers to pay her education debts it's for your son.  Wifey needs to get a second job to pay her debts rather than siphon off your deceased wife's hard work.  

The two of you can have mingled accounts when it comes to household expenses but you need to protect yourself financially and look out for your sons future.  

 

Harry's picture

Money from your late wife DS mother goes to his college education.  DW goes out and gets a job and payed her own way. Makes her a better person 

Rumplestiltskin's picture

Ok, as a parent, i would not be in a relationship that lowered the standard of living for my kids. If your son was in a private school and doing well, and had a college fund, do not lower his living standard due to this relationship.

Explain that to your wife. Your son's education will not change due to your marriage. Now, as far as your wife is concerned, if you truly have helped her out financially, it should have helped her situation as far as providing for her daughters' education. They should be better off with you than without you. Are there ways you can explain to your wife that that is the case now and will be in the future? If so, the situation is more than fair. 

 

Thumper's picture

Welcome to ST.

Based on what you wrote, your wife reminds me of 'one of those'.

What I mean is, HER kids and her kids future are before your kids. IF you pay for your boys college, you may not be able to do the same for her kids.

Listen, I was never one of those parents who believed parents should pay for college.  Us boomers paid for our own college. It was the generation after booners that started this I will give my kids everrrrry-thinnnnnggggg my parents didnt give me.  You know everyone gets a trophy generation? I watched it unfold right before my eyes.

NO JOKE

If you want to pay for your bio's  college--go ahead.  Stop talking about and just do it. YOU are not morally obligated or legally obligated to pay for her kids college.

 

 

 

Gimlet's picture

To be fair, college was much more affordable for the Boomers and some Gen X.   College costs have skyrocketed while wages have remained almost flat.

From Forbes:

Many Baby Boomers and Gen Xers remember working their way through college and graduating with little to no debt. Sadly, that feat is virtually impossible for the current crop of students and recent graduates.

According to figures from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the average annual growth in wages was only 0.3% between January 1989 and January 2016. That’s right, the cost to attend a university increased nearly eight times faster than wages did . While the cost of a four-year degree exploded to $104,480, real median wages only went from $54,042 to $59,039 between 1989 and 2016.

This means that each successive cohort of graduates is worse off than the last. Clearly, the data tells a grim story. There is a tremendous disconnect between the rising costs of education and the flattening of wages, which is only making it harder for graduates to make ends meet while paying back staggering amounts of student loans.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/camilomaldonado/2018/07/24/price-of-college...

 

tog redux's picture

This is true - when I graduated in 1987, the speaker made a joke about our $60,000 education - it was 15K per year.  My college now costs 73K to attend for ONE YEAR including room and board.

It's crazy and the bubble has to burst. I'm not sad that some private colleges are closing, this is unsustainable.

And also - NO. Boomers started the giving their kids everything. The oldest millenial is 39 and the oldest Gen X is 55. Boomers totally started the spoil your kids nonsense.

Iamwoman's picture

Yes, Boomers are parents to most millenials, not genX. 
There is a mix of course due to people having babies at different ages.

I'm genX though. Had my child at 23, and she is GenZ (iGen).

Either way the generation wars are quite tiresome. It's tiresome to have watched the sidelines all of these years as Boomers and Millenials Duke it out, and I get tired at just the thought of GenX being dragged into the ring.

Nope. Leave us out of it. We are an independent, hardworking, largely ignored, compassionate group overall (always exceptions), and it really should stay that way. I'd like to die of old age being a part of the one generation that didn't partake in the nonsense.

Gimlet's picture

Hah, GenX here too, DD is tail end of the Millennials but I had her young as well (21).

College was more affordable when I was 18 but it was changing fast.  By the time I went as an adult, it was pretty damn expensive.

I agree the generation wars are tiresome, just wanted to provide some context.

Sandybeaches's picture

I am Gen X and depending upon what charts you follow my son would be Gen X too as I had him at 18.  

As a parent trying to keep my child on the side of reality, I was gravely alone!  But I have to disagree somewhat with your statement as in my findings, it wasn't just the Boomers causing the issue it was also anyone my age (GEN X) who had kids the same age as my son.  Quite frankly anyone GEN X with kids becoming college age now and even high schoolers, and middle schoolers are doing the same thing.  It is collectively society and how people are choosing to live. 

I think that many Boomers, and GEN X's thought they had it hard and they weren't going to have that for their kids or they were going to be the cool parent or friends with their kids.  We as a society thought that what we had was so bad that we reached beyond our means to make the little darlings lives perfect and uninhibited by rules and disappointment.  Then entitlement was born.  

GEN X is just as guilty if not as largely today, give them time until their kids reach 18.  It is a society thing, granted it was started by the Boomers but most certainly passed down to generations to follow.  Until people get their heads out their A**** and realize what they are doing to their kids by saddling them with 60,000-200,000 dollars worth of debt at 22 -26 so they can have "the college experience" this national crisis is going to continue!  The idea isn't for this kid or any kid to pay for college themselves it is for we as a society to fight back against what is being sold to young people and put the breaks on it!!! 

Wait until these same 22 year olds find out that they had their " life experience " at 22 and now they can't afford a life or future until they are 50 because they have mounting debt to start out that they can never pay!  Oh ya sell them cheap repayment plans to get them and you to borrow.  BUT the catch you can't make money or file taxes with spouse or that payment sky rockets to something they can't afford.  Well sure they can afford the student loan but not too much else like buying a house.  That is the reality.

It's a sick sad reality.  Wait until "Johnny" has to live home until he is 30.  This expensive college life experience was created  and the parents that bought it changed society.  Boomers and X's alike and until people wake up it is going to continue to change society.  I am thinking the Pandemic may help that graphic change a little.  

tog redux's picture

It wasn't ONLY the Boomers doing it - but Thumper's statement was that the Boomers were wonderful parents and the "following generation" started spoiling the kids, which is inaccurate.  The Boomers started that trend. 

(I am GenX by the way). 

somethingwicked's picture

Agree with everyone who is  nicely calling your wife out as a greedy money grubbing gold digger .

And maybe as we are onthe subject of $$ , you really should update your will to protect your bios  in the event something unfortunate befalls you.

Sad to say there are shark second and third spouses out there .

Maybe your wallet was what she found most appealing when on that "Enchanted Evening" she saw you standing across a crowded room?And your wallet was a beacon that attracted her .It happens.

(Anyone here enjoy musicals? That last is an homage to South Pacific..)

Smile

 

 

susanm's picture

He may need to wash this woman out of his hair......  Smile

 

hereiam's picture

Any advice on how to handle this situation without hurting my marriage would be greatly appreciated

I guess you have to accept the fact that it may hurt your marriage, if in fact, she is that selfish and wants that money for herself or her kids.

I would tell her one more time, what that money is for, what it has always been for, and that that is exactly what you are going to do with it. You don't have to justify, explain further, or argue your case (or give her kids the same). No ultimatums, just this is what is going to happen.

She can accept it or not. You should not be bullied into giving up what you have built for your son.

And, now that you know exactly where she stands, I hope you take the advice to protect any inheritance that you want your son to have should something happen to you.

ETA: And to protect yourself, as well.

ndc's picture

Of course you should shut your wife down on this immediately - the money should be used for your son's education, as intended.  If your wife continues to go on about it, or indications are that the marriage is being affected, I would ask her point blank if she married you for your money, and let her know that it certainly would appear so based on the way she's behaving.

Livingoutloud's picture

Sadly some SMs give us all bad name. They want skids out on their own at 18, want dads not help with education and pretty much want skids stop existing yet surely they don't act like this towards their biokids. I'd divorce my DH if he acted like you wife. Shameful 

 

Honor's picture

I thank everyone who took the time to answer to my post, even though some were fairly harsh. I'm still trying to understand all the acronyms but nothing that prevents understanding. I would also like to clarify that while my wife made it very clear that she does not agree that I use all of the money contained in that account, she made no reference to using the money to pay her student debt, or even to help with girl’s college expenses, she simply says that part of the money, which is a substantial amount, given that in addition to monthly money deposits there’s money from other sources as a year-end bonus, could be saved for emergencies. This does not cross my mind though, as a lot of that money was put there by my late wife and it would be a betrayal not only to my son but to her as well, who could have used this money for so many things, so many projects that she had and which unfortunately she was never able to accomplish. Right now I’m doing research on accounts that will make sure that my son will receive the money intended for his education, even if something were to happen to me before he finishes college. I’ve also been thinking about changing my will, making sure my son has something to inherit, especially what's left of his mother's estate.

BethAnne's picture

If your wife wants you two to have an emergency fund then I would address that with her as a separate topic from how to spend your son's education fund.

Perhaps there is already money that you two have that in your head is available for emergencies that she has ear marked for another purpose or maybe she is thinking of dfferent types of emergencies than you are. Delving deeper into this topic might help to work out what the real issues are and if building an explicit emergency fund together should be something that you both work on going forwards.

 I might also broach the topic of financial security and if she is feeling particularly insecure right now and why that might be. (Though I think most people are feeling more cautious these covid filled days). 

notarelative's picture

An emergency fund for a second marriage should not be funded with first marriage money. 

You should consult a lawyer to be sure the account is titled correctly as rules vary by state. Your bank or brokerage may not be the best source of information (says someone who was told incorrect information). While you are there discuss wills and powers of attorney. (You may want someone other than your current wife to help your son with his inheritance.)

tog redux's picture

Not to mention, she wants it all funded by HIS money. Where is her contribution to retirement and emergency funds?

SteppedOut's picture

I'm almost sure she has ideas on how to use the money if she doesn't want it going to your son's education. 

Honestly, I don't know how you aren't LIVID she thinks she has any say on how your late wife's savings for your son is to be spent. 

Winterglow's picture

Saving for emergencies is a great idea and I suggest you discuss how much you can both lay by for that purpose. It should absolutely not be financed by your son's education account. ALL of that money should go t him, no ifs or buts. Even if you do not give him all of it ro pay for college, any money left over should be his for a deposit on a flat, or whatever he might need to start his professional life.

In no way, should money from your first marriage that was saved for a specific purpose finance the emergency fund for your second marriage.

I stongly suggest financial counselling for your wife.

The_Upgrade's picture

Wills certainly deserve careful consideration in blended families. My DH and I share a young daughter and he has one from a previous marriage. I would be rolling in my grave if something happened to me and ANY of my estate ended up with my stepdaughter who I have never interacted with. Apart from my DD there are many friends and family who I would rather it go to. It could've happened though because SD is entitled to part of my DH's estate but if I pass first all of my asset would've been absorbed and become his if I hadn't set aside a trust for my own child. 

lieutenant_dad's picture

Hold on. Am I understanding this right that you're still putting in things like year-end bonuses to this account for your son? If so, your wife has more of a right to be upset by that, especially if there are things that she would like for you two to experience together that can't be because it all funnels to your son with no discussion.

Your wife is a woman who valued experiences over savings. Your departed wife valued projects and savings over experiences. You can't treat your wife the same as you did your departed wife. Stashing away large chunks of money for your son because that's what you used to do isn't going to cut it. You have a new life and a new family now, and that comes with having to compromise to keep everyone happy.

I agree that all the money in that account belongs to your son. It was established for him by you and your departed wife. BUT, future moneys need to be discussed with your wife. It's not that she is entitled to those funds, but she deserves the same respect and say as your departed wife did in regards to finances. Your wife isn't just an emotional replacement for you. She is a whole human being whose wants and needs in life should carry the same weight that your departed wife did while she was alive.

That's not to say, either, that you should bankroll everything your wife wants. BUT, her ideas about money are fundamentally different. In what ways have you changed in order to meet her needs financially? As in, if she values experiences and trips, are you setting aside any funds to allow trips to happen, or is everything back on the same course it was before of "save everything for the son"?

This is a tricky balance, because your money should be spent how you want to spend it. But, at the same time, you can't get married anx create a new family with someone and adhere to the old family contract without negotiation. It sounds like your wife is trying things your way by reconfiguring and paying down her debt. I'm sure that makes you more comfortable. So what are you doing to help meet her needs?

Your perceived obligation to the dead doesn't trump your actual obligation to the new family structure that you willingly established. Your wife isn't just a bed warmer who is there for your companionship. That's what a GF is for. A wife gets to help decide how your FUTURE together looks. She has no claim to the past, and any claim she tries to make is woefully wrong. BUT, she does have a claim to the future, and beholding yourself to the dead is unfair to her. You married her knowing her values, so help honor them as she is seemingly trying to honor yours. Your late wife accomplished what she could in life, and if you wanted to continue her legacy, you needed to do it on your own, not bring another widow onto the scene to help you personally fulfill all the projects of the departed.

Kitten Whiskers's picture

I believe what OP meant was year-end bonuses, etc. are now set aside for emergencies, and there's no reason to take any money away from the education account.  OP isn't being unfair to his current wife in any way.  He and his late wife set up the account to secure a future for their son.  I think he does have an obligation to see to it his late wife's wishes are fulfilled in regard to their child.

 

lieutenant_dad's picture

Okay, if I misunderstood and he's actually putting money away for emergencies, that's fine.

However, I still don't fully agree with trying to maintain an obligation two parents made when they were a two-parent household. If OP wants to continue to contribute what he did to his son because that's his portion, fine. But I wouldn't agree with continuing on with any legacy of the departed wife while remarried.

The first marriage ended. Yes, it ended tragically, but it ended. By entering into a new marriage, OP has now set out a different path with his new wife. That requires time, money, and energy, and should include the same time, money, and energy as was put into his first marriage. If OP is trying to fulfill the legacy left behind by his departed wife, then that means he's pulling resources from his current marriage, which is unfair. That makes OP's current marriage "second", and makes it more likely to fail.

I'm not saying OP should pull any money from the account already established, or that he shouldn't continue to pay his portion towards his son. However, if he wanted to fulfill promises to the dead, he needed to remain single. By getting married again, he is starting a new legacy with a new person. He can continue to contribute to his son while not being beholden to the past.

tog redux's picture

But his child is still alive. And he still wants to follow through on what they agreed to, because he believes in it.  

A kid's education is more important than current wife going on vacation, which is how she got herself in debt. 

Gimlet's picture

Normally I would agree with you,  but in this case OP has already stepped up to help bail his wife out of her terrible financial decisions. 

I agree that different people value different things, but buying a big house and going on vacations when you can't afford them is just a poor choice.   She lost her home to foreclosure and she was YEARS behind on her payments, all while taking trips. 

OP is the only one saving for retirement as well.  I agree that he should not use the pre-marital account that was intended for the son's college to fund their emergency account.  New monies should also include a contribution from the wife.

Edit: Also it rubs me the wrong way that his wife is using the "builds character" argument to convince him not to use that money for his son's education, while being fine with him helping her adult self out of her own set of problems.

OP - why isn't your wife saving for retirement?  Is she contributing to the emergency fund? 

Edited based on update from OP. 

tog redux's picture

Right - she wants him to not pay for his kid's college so SHE can be more secure - is she contributing? Doesn't seem like it. 

Gimlet's picture

"Bad with money" people stress me out. 

I would be an anxious mess if I missed one student loan payment and there is no way I could enjoy a vacation knowing that was over my head.  I'm having heart palpitations thinking about it.

I am curious to hear what OP says about that. 

One thing I would support from the wife is saying that if the son didn't do well that OP shouldn't continue to pay for his school and shouldn't just hand over the money.

tog redux's picture

Me too - and I don't see it as "bad with money" so much as "irresponsible and unable to delay gratification". 

Apparently BM was this way, and was always broke. After they divorced, DH found out she took out multiple mortgages on their house, which only she owned, thankfully - since she walked away from it after they divorced, despite making a six figure salary. 

He and I are savers and delayers of gratification, so it works much better. 

Kitten Whiskers's picture

From what I can gather, OP has already spent time, money, and energy helping his current wife sort through the fallout from her fiscal irresponsibility.  Whatever money is in the college account is strictly offlimits to the current wife, period.  OP said his late wife put a lot of money into the account, and, yes, he does have an obligation to see to it her wishes are followed.  His current marriage has no bearing on what he and his late wife agreed on for their child.  It sounds like the current wife's financial and living situation has been greatly enhanced by OP.  I doubt she's suffering.  I also don't doubt if OP died tomorrow she would grab every last cent she could, and leave his son to fend for himself.  

Sandybeaches's picture

Honor I truly mean no disrespect to you. But since you clarified some of the open questions quite frankly it makes it worse.

There is absolutely no debate as to whether this money should go solely and completely to your son for his education. This woman that you are married to has no stake or claim or even allowed an opinion on that money. It is my hope that you will see that and be worrying about how you are changing that account to make sure your son gets it.

I think the account needs to be titled to you and your son and she would have no claim to it. But what I would do is look for an attorney to take care of this immediately if not sooner. Quite frankly she has a lot of gall to even think that any of it should be put aside for anything but your son. What a terrible position to put you in. Making you choose between your marriage and your late wife's memory and your child how awful!!! You are not wrong don't walk run to the nearest attorney and get this taken care of immediately!

Livingoutloud's picture

I worked hard and saved and sacrificed for many years way before I met my DH. If he told me that money I saved supposed to be his and his kids' I'd absolutely divorce him. OP already helped his wife with paying her debt  but she now wants more. She now wants money put aside for OPs kid college way before she even knew him.

if she wants him to save for old age, then she'd not ask of him to pay her debt off  and she'd be better financially and took care of herself, got a second job if need to. She is NOT entitled to his money saved prior to them getting married 

this is not 1800. Women could work and save and don't rely on men. Yes this marriage might fail. And it might be for the best. I'd not want to have a greedy spouse. No crime in divorcing a greedy hag and staying single 

 

1wonder woman's picture

My children lived at home and both went to local colleges. Thank God we did do things the way we did back then because my husband found out he had brain cancer and our son had been in college for 2 years and my kids are 4 years apart. My kids both lived at home finished college and received their degrees and continued to live at home for another 4 years each. We did not cosign for their student loans neither...They both saved their money by living at home paid on their student loans and bought themselves brand new cars while living still at home. Now they both own new homes and both have great paying jobs plus their student debts are all paid off. My two kids appreciate things so more I feel because they had to work hard for their money to pay for their own education, cars and homes. See we did not plan on my husband getting brain cancer and battling it for 11 1/2 years and we did not plan on him passing away.

Now you have to think about the what if's too.... What if you cosign for your sons education and he drops out of school. Well then you could get stuck paying that debt off someday. Sadly things do happen in life that we never planned for. Plus you must remember the older you two get something health wise could happen to one of you and then what? Plus you two still have two more kids at home that also need to go to college too. When you marry someone your money becomes hers and her money becomes yours... same goes for the debt and the raising of the kids.  Her kids become yours and your kid become hers... So there is no more this is my kid this is your kid... this is my money and her money or her debt or your debt... nope you are now a blended family now those single days are over you gave that life up the day you said I do! Where you two spend your money going forward should be a joint decision. Again ya gotta think about your own future and ya gotta think about the what if's too... The old saying...  A HAPPY WIFE = A HAPPY LIFE...this is soooo true!  Does not sound like your wife will be very HAPPY if you pay for your son's college. ... you must think about protecting your marriage and your guys future. 

Kitten Whiskers's picture

Seriously?  OP and his late wife set up an account specifically for their son's college education.  His current wife has absolutely no say about the account, and, no, it does not become her money simply because she married OP.  Her kids are not OP's kids and vice versa.  Whether or not she has the money to send her daughters to college isn't his problem.  If she's not happy OP spends the money in the college account on his son's education also isn't his problem.  OP protecting his son's future that he and his late prepared for is far more important than keeping his money-grubbing current wife happy.  

Winterglow's picture

So by that token, his wife would have the same rights as him to his family heirlooms no matter how many generations back they went. Or if he had inherited a house or two from his grandparents he should put her on the deeds ASAP? Or if he'd spent 20 years building a business, he should hand over half as soon as they marry? Without having contributed in any way? 

Winterglow's picture

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Honor's picture

I'm not sure if it was clear but a large chunk of the money saved for my son's education was saved by his mother and me in the first 10 years of his life, in those years the end-of-year bonuses, both mine and my deceased wife's went to that account, but after she died half of the household income disappeared, so no more end-of-year bonuses for my son's account. After I married my wife even more so, after a few years being just me and my son, there were three other people in the house, so I think you can say that this is where my end-of-year bonuses go currently. I will admit though, that I still put a few hundred dollars in that account every christmas, because blended families are difficult you know? My son's mother was the youngest of three siblings and her parents and grandfather are still alive, for them my son is the only thing left of her, so you can say that they spoil the kid, every year there´s this flood of gifts that arrive in the mail for the boy and while my stepdaughters are old enough to understand that these gifts come from my son's family, it's just not nice that he apparently receives so much more than them, you know? So instead of buying gifts for my son, I deposit the money into the college account. Besides that only my parents deposit a few thousand dollars every year on his birthday.

As for my wife's desire to travel and experiences, this is where things get complicated, we go on a big family trip every year and we take small getaways just the two of us, things like a weekend in a hotel or risort, but I'm the only one paying for it because my wife's financial situation was far worse than even I imagined before we got married, before the wedding and mingling our assets  I really thought that the only reason my wife went through difficulties was due to the debt acquired by her and her first husband in the two years he was ill before he died, later I would discover that much before he fell ill they lived well above their means. So you can say that the way I changed to accommodate my wife’s needs financially is by making sure that we’re paying off all debts, so that in a few years, after the kids leave home for college and we’re finally free of debt, we can travel without having to live from paycheck to paycheck, because that's what put her in this situation in the first place. This is a trap I don't intend to fall in.

Last I think I should clarify that my wife is no stranger to hard work and that my stepdaughters are mostly supported by her, and that although she is not saving money for retirement or the emergency fund she in fact pays about 40% of the bills in our house, which includes the student debt. She is just very very bad managing  money, if there is something she wants very much but it’s not in the budget she simply wants to take money that should go to another obligation and “figure it out” later, I really had to put my foot down some times in the past four years.

Gimlet's picture

Thanks for the reply, OP.

So she isn't contributing to the emergency fund or retirement and she is supporting three people in the household but only paying 40% of the bills, which includes her own personal student debt bill. 

Your contributions to your son's account are reasonable and you can't control what his mother's side of the family chooses to do for him.  It's kind that you try to manage the gifts and choose to contribute to the college fund instead of buying him more things.

That is great that your wife works hard, truly.  It's not so great that she continues to try to purchase things she can't afford, that she isn't contributing equally to the household, and that you have to foot the bill for everything.   It sounds like you have that sorted though, so I would absolutely put my foot down about this account.

No way should you fund the emergency fund with the money for your sons's college.  You should not be the only person funding it in the first place. 

Kitten Whiskers's picture

OP, your wife pulled a bait and switch on you regarding her financial situation.  Living above one's means is a choice, and she chose to do that.  She would still choose to do that if she could.  What would she be doing if you weren't in the picture?

As I posted before, make it perfectly clear she has no say in your son's education account.  No discussion, no debate.  How you two choose to co-mingle your funds now is one thing, but that account is strictly offlimits to her.  

Rags's picture

I am usually Mr. the marriage comes before any kids regardless of kid biology.  However, you and your deceased wife were diligent in saving and managing your debt.  You saved for your son's college.  Your new wife gets no say in how that money is spent.  If she and her X did not save for their daughters' college educations then that is on them.

It would have been better for all involved if you had chosen a mate who had similar financial/savings perspectives as you have.  Too late now.

This is just going to have to be one of those things that  you both agree to disagree about or.... split the blanket and find someone more suited to be your equity life partner.

Both my wife and I are prioritize education people.  I am fortunate that my parents were able and willing to heavily participate in my university education.  I was on the 11yr undergrad plan due to changing majors regularly and transferring between several colleges and universities.  My parents funded the first two years and helped significantly during the last two years. I funded the middle 7 years out of my own pocket.  I am eternally appreciative of their help.  I did graduate with $10K in school loan debt for the last 1.5 years due to just wanting to get it done by then.  We paid that off within 3 years of graduation.  My DW had great VA survivor benefits from her BioDad who was killed in a vehicle accident while on active duty with the US Army.  Most of her undergraduate and graduate degrees were paid for by those benefits though we did take out a ton of school loans about 2wks before she finished her MBA to top off our available cash after I lost my job in the semiconductor bubble implosion of the early 00s.  

Since we were both in either undergrad or grad school for the first 9 years of our marriage we worked together to make those educational goals happen and we have worked together to knock out debt when it has been accrued.

In your case.... I think that it is imperative for your DW to have to pay off her own school debt and for you to use the funds that you and your first wife saved for your son's college education for the purpose it was intended.

When your SDs start college, there may be opportunity for you and  your DW to help them though I would not allow your DW to guilt  you into anything if she has not gotten her own school debt retired and gained some clarity on her own crappy financial performance.

All IMHO of course.

Good luck. You in all likelihood are going to need it.