The Moneyist: ‘I’m spending a fortune on home maintenance. I realize my second husband is essentially living in my house for free’: What is a fair way to split costs?


Dear Quentin,

I am a retired 62-year-old woman. I was widowed in 2006 at the age of 46 and raised my two children (now 24 and 27) on my own. I used my husband’s life insurance money (about $500,000) to maintain our home, provide child care, and get both children through college without student loans. 

I did some investing as well. I saved through my 401(k) at work, maxing out every year. Now retired due to some health issues, I have a small pension (about $24,000 a year), an investment account valued at $2.5 million (from which I’m drawing about 2% a year for living expenses), a home valued at about $400,000 and no debt.   

I remarried 6 years ago. My husband is a wonderful man with many great qualities, though he’s not been great at managing money. He was divorced — his wife left him and their 3 children, and he raised them alone.  (They’re all grown, ages 29 to 35.) He is 65, now retired, was an engineer and had a well-paying job. 

I fully recognize that his financial position was different from mine — he never received any child support from his ex, and, in fact, had to pay her spousal support for 4 years, while I had Social Security and insurance to help my finances. He saved some when he worked, but for many years did not invest in his 401(k). He has a pension that is about 2.5 times the size of mine, and he is starting to collect Social Security next month. He also has about $500,000 in retirement savings.

“‘My home is in trust for my children and the prenup gives him a life interest in the house, should I pre-decease him.’”

When I married my husband, he sold his house, which was valued at $100,000 more than mine, but he had no equity in it (due to borrowing against it for home maintenance, cars and college tuition). He had to take money to closing, repaying the bank for the remainder of the loan.

I lent him that money and loaned him $20,000 for painting, mold remediation and flooring repair that needed to be completed before he moved in. His first and second mortgage and living expenses ate up his entire income, and he was living on credit. He owed about $50,000 on credit cards and $40,000 for his third child’s college costs (she had a loan as well).  

After we sold his house and we married, he paid off everything. He paid me back everything he had borrowed, paid off his credit cards and paid down the student loan (which he finally fully paid off this year).  

We signed a prenup before we married. My home is in trust for my children and the prenup gives him a life interest in the house, should I pre-decease him. We split living expenses.  During the first 4 years of our marriage, that split included money for the mortgage (we paid about $550 a month each). The prenup states that if I sell the house, I would owe him the $550 for each month that he paid half the mortgage; that’s about $25,000 total. I’m fine with all that. 

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