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Ask Dave

Figure Skating Financial Fiasco

Gina is planning a wedding and bringing a figure skating daughter into the marriage. The skating costs around $500 a week. Gina doesn't want her fiancé to help pay for it. Dave can't justify this for her.

QUESTION: Gina in Los Angeles just got engaged over the holidays and is planning a wedding. Gina is bringing one daughter into the marriage, and her fiancé is bringing two sons. Their children each have their own activities. Her daughter is a figure skater, and his sons are musicians. The figure skating costs around $500 a week. Gina doesn’t want her fiancé to help pay for this. Dave can’t justify this for her.

ANSWER: You’re spending $25,000 a year for a 10-year-old to figure skate. I don’t think it’s a question of whether you love your daughter or not. What do you get for this when she’s 30? It’s not priceless. It costs $25,000 a year. She’s participating in a sport. My kids participated in sports. They were competitive—cheerleaders and ice hockey players and everything. It’s not a measure of your love for her what you spend on her sports. It’s not a measure of whether a child can learn good discipline habits that take her from athletics into adulthood and not be $25,000 or $30,000 a year. Of course she can. The only other possible reason for you to be doing this is that there seems to be some indication that she’s going to be able to make millions of dollars a year as a figure skater.

I raised three children. All of them were athletes to some degree—none of them world- class athletes. I’ve counseled with people who had gifted children in different areas for 20 years in financial counseling. I’ve just got to continue to be a fan of yours and not agree with what you’re doing because I don’t think it’s wise. I don’t accept that it’s a given and it’s affixed because I think you’re affecting every other part of your life, including this kid’s life. Scott Hamilton is a world-class ice skater. He and his wife Tracy are friends of ours. Scott might disagree with me. I’d have to ask him one of these days, should somebody who’s making $80,000 spend $30,000 on a 10-year-old’s ice-skating lessons? I think Scott would tell you no. I really do. I might be wrong because he loves his craft. He’s obviously been world class and set the standard in several things in that area. I don’t know. I can’t put words in his mouth. I’d have to ask him. It’d be interesting to do. It’s probably not fair to put him on the spot. There’s no logic to it at all because it’s not taking you anywhere.

You’re spending 35% of your household income on a 10-year-old’s ice-skating lessons. It’s not like you’re saying $10,000. Five hundred dollars a month—maybe. Maybe, and then I’ve got to start thinking about it. I’m not going to sit here and wale on you. You guys are going to do what you’re going to do. I’m not mad at you about this. Don’t misunderstand my tone. The problem is I couldn’t do it myself, and so I don’t know how to counsel you going into the other. I will tell you that combining incomes in second marriages is tougher than the little couple that’s 22 years old because of all the stuff you bring in—the baggage from the past. Add to that kids, then you’ve got an even more complicated dynamic. Add to that the kind of things we’re talking about here, now we’ve complicated it yet again.

If I were in your shoes, the one piece of advice I think we can probably agree on is that you guys really need to spend some detailed time discussing these things out and have very clear communication and expectations. I would do some premarital counseling in depth. I always recommend premarital counseling for anyone getting married, but you guys have got enough moving parts to this thing that are dangerous, and I don’t want this to mess up a good thing in the relationship. And it can because you’re so set on this that if he wakes up one morning and looks over and says, “Hey, this ice skating thing is kind of out of control. We need to rethink this,” that’s going to be very hard for you to hear from your husband. I don’t know how to “keep it separate.” I think we’ve got to be in agreement that this is something that when he gets you, he gets this ice skating deal. It goes with the deal. He can accept that now, but boy, we really need to talk about what happens if one of you lost your job. Then what happens? Is her whole world destroyed? Are we going to sell the house to keep the ice skating up? How far are we willing to go? Because you’re obviously willing to go a very long way.

Always ask yourself where this is taking you any time you’re investing money in anything, including your kid. If you were trying to save her life, it’d be different. Where is it taking you?