Monday, October 15, 2007


The October 14 New York Times Magazine featured an extensive series of articles and polls that took a close look at what wealth means to the city's over 8 million residents. As a former, briefly-tenured, New Yorker my favorite stat was that only 51% of those polled "think that living in New York City is worth what it costs."

You only find out about the five months of winter AFTER you move there

Since I moved away from NYC, I've had to field many questions as to why I wanted to leave. My favorite answer is "New York is a city designed for the very young or the very wealthy, and by the time we left Mrs. Word Player and I were neither."

According to Mercer's 2007 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey, NYC is the most expensive city in North America (and 15th in the world- shockingly, Moscow edged London for the top spot). I remember a NYTimes article from a few years ago that really took the wind out my sails about NY. It's premise was basically that a married couple with two kids and an annual household income of $1 million could only break even living in Manhattan.

Depressing, no? In 2001, we paid $2000 a month for a 450 sq.ft. apartment in Manhattan... I shudder to think what it's going for now.

Anyway, this Sunday's Magazine had an article on the "superspecialized workers who serve the supperrich" of NYC, such as nannies, party planners, etc. One guy's profession in particular caught my eye- William D. Zabel, Postnup Lawyer.

If you're a "nonmoneyed spouse", this man is the Angel of Death

"What the hell is a postnup?!" I wondered. Here's the blurb from the magazine:

Postnups” — or postnuptial agreements — “are usually for couples without prenups,” says Zabel, a trusts and estates lawyer with Schulte, Roth & Zabel. Why people get postnups: “Either the nonmoneyed spouse — usually the wife — in a 30-to-40-year marriage wants to know what she’s worth and gain some financial security, or the moneyed spouse in a newer relationship — usually the husband, and these days, often a young hedge-fund manager — wants to see if the wife is in it for the money and wants to cap the assets paid out if the marriage were to end in divorce.” Do his postnup negotiations ever lead to divorce? They usually help a marriage, because “everybody knows where they stand.”

Although I'd never heard of such a thing, my gut was in instant disagreement with Zabel's assertion that postnups usually help a marriage. After discovering that "postnuptial agreement" isn't even in the dictionary (though "prenuptial agreement" is), I poked around a little more and found a Time article from 2001 that made more sense to me.

After shocking me (I'm easily shockable these days apparently) with the stat that 20% of newly married couples get prenups, the article lists other reasons that couples get a postnup, including dramatic changes in finances from an inheritance, protection from liabilities one of the spouses may be experiencing in business, and controlling inheritance paths in blended families.

Blake Edwards' films contained hilarious/terrifying perspectives of marriage

I am a happily married man, and admittedly naïve when it comes to marital ruthlessness , but I have been around the block enough to understand (to a certain degree, anyway) why a party with a sizeable amount of wealth wants to protect themselves from someone entering into marriage under false pretenses.

What I don't understand is how any spouse could feel anything but impending doom if, after their marriage partner inherited a big chunk of change, called in the lawyers to cap how much they could get in the event of a divorce. Wouldn't that signal something awful on the horizon if it happened to you? Or am I just being Mr. Sensitive Guy?

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