No ‘wife bonus’? You can still document your value to the family

A recent book, “Primates of Park Avenue,” prompted a barrage of media coverage when it introduced the concept of a “wife bonus” — an annual bonus for a stay-at-home mom based on the corporate bonus of her husband. While media attention caused the author Wednesday Martin to backpedal on exactly how widespread this practice is on the Upper East Side of New York City, it raises an interesting question: How does a wife who doesn’t work outside of the home value her contribution and income?

With no paycheck and no easily identifiable stream of income, divorcing women can hit a roadblock in court. But put divorce aside. Every woman needs to have intricate financial knowledge about her family’s income, and take deliberate steps to build her own net worth, separate and apart from her husband. 

Here are some ideas that will help:

Build a relationship with your financial advisor. Do you know all the details about your investments? IRAs? Accounts separate from your general checking and savings accounts? You should. Money travels many paths through a family’s financial network.

Track expenses. This means ALL expenses. Little details can make a big difference. From daycare to annual couple’s vacations, you need a true understanding of how much it costs to be you.

Review insurance. Your life insurance should be separate from your husband’s, and you will want to understand how much insurance both or you have for the future. Insurance also has a bearing on your net worth.

Have access to cash. Yes, cash is king. You should have a readily available stream of cash in case of emergency — or in case your access to joint accounts becomes limited.

Need help negotiating delicate family issues? We can help with estate planning, divorce, custody and more.