Hitmen and hardship: the danger of losing a high-paying job with a demanding spouse

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If you’re used to being a finance high-roller, suddenly having your six or seven figure job whisked away from you (and followed by a prolonged period of unemployment) can be devastating.

We’ve been here before, with bankers complaining that with school fees, a huge mortgage, and nannies, a $1m pay packet can suddenly look like peanuts. But what happens when your spouse expects the a high standard of living, but shrinking pay packets or ongoing redundancy stops financial professionals from being able to maintain it?

For some, it’s a spiralling nightmare. Take the case of Ari Schochet, who used to haul in close to $1m a year working as a portfolio manager for Citadel. His eight-year marriage ended during this period, and he was ordered to pay $100k a year in alimony – then his job was taken away. Now, he’s been to jail at least eight times in the past two years for failing to pay: “It’s a circle of hell there’s just no way out of,” he told Bloomberg.

Then there’s Irving Adams, who lost his job as chief compliance officer at Israel Discount Bank of New York a few years ago. His wife, Elena Sava, became so frustrated with the new austere reality that she hired a hitman to kill her husband – paying him in $66,000 worth of rare stamps.

Many of you will now be contemplating playing the world’s smallest violin at this stage, but if this all seems a little puerile, consider the concerns of the 1% and their spouses. The anthropologist Wednesday Martin infiltrated the world of the ultra-rich wives and mothers in London and New York – many of whom had husbands working in the City and Wall Street – after marrying a banker and wrote a book documenting their lifestyles in Primates of Park Avenue.

Far from being ladies of leisure, they are frenetic, worried and obsessed with preserving their status, her research suggested. “Because they have the resources to engineer better lives, they never stop. They have an infinite number of experts that they can hire to improve their family but it translates into greater stress and unhappiness,” she told the Times. Money is both expected and taken for granted, suddenly having this taken away would surely end in divorce.

This may seem a little misogynistic focusing purely on male bankers, but examples of high profile female finance professionals getting embroiled in messy divorces are few and far between, probably because men still occupy the majority of senior positions. One study in 2011 by Here is the City simply suggested that nearly 72% of divorced female bankers wished they hadn’t got married in the first place.

There are examples of marriages in the financial sector being built on a more solid foundation, though. Michael Kemp, a former chief dealer in foreign exchange for Credit Suisse First Boston in London and Singapore, lived a lavish lifestyle in Asia and “made enough money so that I wouldn't have to work again” but ultimately lost it when the Asian property bubble burst. He’s currently living in a one-bedroom flat in London’s Brick Lane with his wife and two children and waiting for a council house. It’s a fall from grace, but at least his wife stuck by him.

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