No Action is a Choice


In the midst of our financial disaster I went to a bar to have a drink with some friends and friends of friends. I had set aside $10 to join them.  Mostly I wanted to leave the house and walk by myself to the bar. Life was in upheaval and time alone was precious.

Always in a group of friends of friends there is that one woman. She’s the take charge sort. She’s opinionated. She’s politically informed solely by reading the New York Times. She’s righteous and she knows she does not like me. I’ll call her Miss Informed.

I mentioned that I had assisted my husband pack up his office, that he had lost his business, and in fact, our family’s entire financial status was up in the air. (Let me interject here that I should never have brought this up in a group of people that I did not know but my precarious financial existence weighed on my mind so it may have been inevitable that it would come out. Also that one glass of wine might have gone to my head.)

Miss Informed replied immediately and emphatically that if her husband ever did that she would divorce him. I, awe struck by her quick decision-making skills, made no reply. Clearly she was the invulnerable sort.

The repercussions of the daily difficulties my husband and I were experiencing together had not entered my mind. We were busy trying to maneuver through each day by dodging knocks on the front door from the mortgage lender and figuring out how to feed our family of four and two great danes on a much reduced budget. Life had become more of a daily puzzle than a finger pointing screaming match of accusation.

Of course as life went on, and paying the bills remained a challenge, at times my mind would wonder back to Miss Informed. Was she right? Finances are often cited in the top ten reasons for divorce.

I knew that my husband had made some bad decisions and I silently went along with them. I decided that if I was willing to give up my right to stay involved in our finances then I must be willing to live with those consequences.

To take no action, to stay silent, is to make a choice. Unfortunately it is usually a choice you would never make for yourself. I had excused myself from financial decisions because I believed myself to be less informed. My husband had started his own business while I attended graduate school to study history and archives. What did I know about finance?

That attitude was my biggest mistake. As a human involved with another human, it was my duty to get informed. At the heart of being human is to be fallible. Was I assuming that my husband was incapable of making a mistake? My willful ignorance was an attempt to remain a child in an adult world.

I wish I could say that my financial knowledge has improved greatly since then, but it has not. I did learn to speak up, to express my opinions, the value of saving, about delayed gratification, the need for restraint, and the necessity of a budget.




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