Pay Dirt

My Soon-to-Be Ex-Wife Is Falling for a Wild Scam Online. Now She’s Dragging Me Into It.

I don’t think this is my responsibility. Is it?

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Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Dekdoyjaidee/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Pay Dirt is Slate’s money advice column. Have a question? Send it to Athena and Elizabeth here(It’s anonymous!)

Dear Pay Dirt,

Last year, it became clear that my wife and I were heading for divorce, so we divided our joint savings account into equal private accounts. Recently, a mysterious person approached my wife on the internet and convinced her to invest her half in cryptocurrency using an obscure website. I warned her all along that I was suspicious of both her new “friend” and the website she was dealing with.

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She has now made eye-popping returns in a short amount of time, but the website insists that she prepay her taxes before she can withdraw any funds—by buying more crypto! She wants me to loan her the money to pay this so-called tax bill, but I have refused because I think the whole thing is a scam. Nothing about this website seems legitimate; they refuse to even provide a mailing address. She thinks it is legit because her “friend” claims he has worked with it in the past.

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The only financial help I am willing to give her with this is to pay for a lawyer to give her advice. My wife accuses me of being heartless and resenting her wonderful “friend.” My thought process is that once we are divorced, we will divide our substantial marital assets, and then she will be free to be as foolish as she wants with her money. As long as we are together, I think I am entitled to use my best judgment before giving her money. (She has no income of her own.) Am I being unreasonable?

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—This Can’t Be Good

Dear This Can’t Be Good,

I apologize for your divorce—this probably isn’t the first time you’ve dealt with something like this in relationship to your wife. Still, this crypto loser is a big annoyance. Identifying people who promise returns of lots and lots of money is one of the ways the Federal Trade Commission flags scammers in the world of cryptocurrency. And based on your research, a lack of contact information screams “scam” too.

My take? DO NOT, and I repeat, DO NOT give her any more money. She can get her own job, if she wants to put money into her investment and donate it to her “friend.” Cryptocurrency isn’t always shady, but this whole situation sounds like it is. Hold your ground, and let her know where you stand. She’s not going to be happy, as people given hard boundaries rarely are. Still, you know your money isn’t going to some grifter hopping on the latest trend to make a bit of dishonest cash.  

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Dear Pay Dirt,

My grandfather just passed away and left me with a small amount of money for my college education. The will was written when I was still in middle school and I don’t think he expected to be alive by the time I went to college; he ended up living longer than he thought he would.

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My uncle is the executor of the estate and put this money into a 529 of which he is in charge. The thing is I’m 30, and have already finished my bachelor’s degree, with no plan of seeking further education. I took out student loans in excess of the provision of the will and have already paid them back.

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Is there any standing for me to receive directly or assume control of the funds on behalf of my own children? I feel the spirit of such a provision was to remove the financial burden of education from me, but unless I can access it, the spirit of the provision is ignored for the letter.

—Can’t Touch This Money

Dear Can’t Touch This,

Yes, you could, if your uncle would allow it, transfer the funds to your children. 529 plans are always allowed to be transferred over to another family member as a beneficiary for the money you did not use. You could also take a nonqualified payment from your 529, but you would have to pay taxes on any earnings plus any additional fees. So if you went this route, you wouldn’t receive the total amount, but you could receive something. You have options, so please don’t let your uncle bully you into thinking you don’t.

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Of course, in order to carry out either of these plans, you will need him to agree and get on board. If there is anyone else relatively neutral in your family who can help you present your case to him, I’d enlist them, while being cautious not to disrupt existing family dynamics. I can’t imagine that your uncle would resist the idea of you transferring these funds into your control, to use for your own children, especially if you come to him with a concrete plan for how you might do this.

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Dear Pay Dirt,

I am looking to purchase a new car. I have $10,000 to use as a down payment. I have noticed that used vehicles are just as much as, and in some cases more than, a new car. Some people are telling me to lease, as it is cheaper, but I plan on keeping anything purchased for 15 to 20 years, as I did my car that recently died on me. I drove it for 18 years with no expense other than normal maintenance.

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I’m finding a new car will cost me $30K or more. Everyone tells me to just buy what I find at a dealership, but if I’m spending so much on a vehicle, I would prefer to have something I really want and not settle, as I do plan on driving it for many years. Some say I should wait until next year when the chip shortage is over, prices will be lower.

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I don’t believe prices will go down. Should I buy what I want or settle for something less than? Also, should I buy now or wait?

—This Market Is Wild

Dear Market Is Wild,

I first read this as a shortage with chips you eat, but whether it’s snack chips or car chips, the answer remains clear. You never know what the future will bring, and chances are inflation on car prices is not going to go down soon. If it will, we have no freakin’ idea when. Also, you’re still going to be waiting on those car chips next year.

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Since you keep cars forever, buy what you truly want, now. Your massive down payment will lower your payments so they’re much more favorable than they would be if your vehicle bit the dust unexpectedly and you hadn’t been saving. You still don’t necessarily have to buy a brand-new car, but you can buy the best used one you can find, and drive that baby looking cool into the next 20 years. Since you’re so financially savvy, I’d buy now instead of putting money into the dead car you have—that’s already a money pit. I can’t wait to see you with the wind blowing in your hair as you drive off the lot, new friend!

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Dear Pay Dirt,

My lovely wife of 35 years and I are struggling with how much we can spend in retirement. I semi-retired this year at the age of 60 from a lucrative career. Between us, we have saved $4.2 million divided among various IRAs, 401(k)s and SEPs. I continue to work part time as a consultant, which brings in an additional $20,000 or so a year. I expect this work to dry up over the next two to three years as I ease further into retirement.

We have set up a plan to draw around $160,000 a year, which will increase every year based on inflation. We also expect to someday receive an inheritance of approximately $1.5 million.

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Here’s the thing. My wife is perfectly comfortable with this setup, while I am deeply uncomfortable with the amount we are spending. Our financial planner—who I trust and we’ve been with for 30-plus years—keeps telling me to relax and enjoy retirement. I, on the other hand, want to watch every penny and try to live much more frugally than the amount we have budgeted.

This has become a real source of contention in our marriage because I live in a perpetual state of fear (perhaps irrationally) that we are going to run out of money. The thought of ending up in a run-down nursing home in 20 years haunts me. My wife is getting tired of me second-guessing about almost every purchase we make. Any thoughts you might have on this plan would be greatly appreciated!

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—Can’t Stop Worrying

Dear Can’t Stop Worrying,

There are so many unknowns in retirement that I get why you’re stressed—especially if you feel like you are burning through money and not getting along with your spouse when you try to discuss how you are feeling. We want you to be more zen, because stress can lead to health complications when you are older.

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In case you need someone to say it: You’re in a great space financially, even with your rate of spending. Your investments will carry you over even if you need access to intensive nursing care later on. For that reason, I wonder: Have you tried financial therapy? Finding a financial therapist would help your situation, even if you attend financial treatment just by yourself. Financial therapy looks at the integration of cognitive, emotional, behavioral, relational, and financial aspects of well-being. Focusing on the cognitive part of your own relationship with money, even before working on the relational aspect with your spouse, would be a tremendous first step to relieving any stress you are feeling.

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Your first step should be to go to the Financial Therapy Association and find a therapist who can meet your needs, either in person or remotely. Good luck. I hope you feel better soon!

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—Athena

More Advice From Slate

I met a woman, and we hit it off almost immediately from our first date. And soon enough, we started sleeping with each other. At the beginning, we knew we weren’t exclusive. As time went by, we spent more time together, and it just wasn’t sex anymore. At least not to me. I asked her if she was still sleeping with other people, and she said yes. I tried to break it off, but she said she wouldn’t sleep with anyone else anymore. It sounded like a compromise under pressure, and that’s what it turned out to be: I stupidly went through her messages, and not only hasn’t she stopped, she seems to be sleeping with men for money and is a little flippant about protection. I really like this girl a lot, but I actually don’t know what to do at this point.

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