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Financial Infidelity and the Governator

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How much money did Arnold Schwarzenegger spend to keep his secret?

Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and California First Lady Maria Shriver were the quintessential power couple. During Arnold's first campaign for governor in 2003, and throughout the groping scandals that dogged him, Maria stood by her man, saying, "I see every day, an extraordinary human being of great character, who is honest and full of integrity." (Yes, she said this without choking on her words. Did she have a clue at the time that their housekeeper's 5-year old was Arnold's son?)

Being First Lady was a role that Maria visibly delighted in. Each year, from the podium at her sold-out California Governor and First Lady's Conference for Women, Maria welcomed her husband, the Governor of California, to the stage with great pride, listing his achievements and sounding his personal attributes. Maria's conference hosted the most powerful people in the world, including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Dalai Lama, First Lady Laura Bush, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and First Lady Michelle Obama.

So, how much did Maria know and when did she first discover that her four children have a half brother? (Can we really believe that she just found out this year?) How much did Arnold spend to keep his secret while he was the Governor of California? Will the Schwarzeneggers stay married, despite this scandal, as the Edwards did before them? Do blood, money and power run thicker than cheating and financial infidelity? One thing that is assured, the finances, family accounting, bank accounts and asset ownership will be more clearly defined going forward, whether or not there is a divorce.

The public will likely never know all of the sordid details, as Maria's family law attorney Laura Wasser is best known for keeping her celebrity divorce negotiations discreet. However it is very likely that financial infidelity will be the battle cry. If Maria didn't before, she will now receive a full accounting of every dime Arnold has spent during their 25 years of marriage, so that the attorneys can haggle over what Maria is rightfully owed. Maria will become a very rich woman and, if she is smart, many assets will become hers free and clear.

What is the right level of support that the Schwarzenegger family should provide to Governor Schwarzenegger's not-so-secret son going forward? Maria will be involved in these financial negotiations, since she is part owner of the money being paid out. TMZ reports that Governor Schwarzenegger helped Mildred Patricia Baena purchase a home worth $268,000 in Bakersfield, California and kept her happy enough to deny the paternity, when Baena was approached in May 2011 by the Los Angeles Times. TMZ.com has posted a PDF of "gift" payments to Baeza totaling $65,000 from the Governor's personal bank account, though that is likely a small fraction of the total support Arnold provided for his son over the past 13 years.

Unfortunately, financial infidelity is far more prevalent than most Americans admit. In his book, The Politician, Andrew Young, an aide for Senator Edwards, who initially claimed to be Rielle Hunter's Baby Daddy, outlines years of secret, high society support of Rielle Hunter and her daughter (with Senator Edwards), Frances Quinn. Dalliances can be expensive. Just ask Eliot Spitzer, Newt Gingrich (married 3X), Prince Charles and Senator John Ensign.

Though these may be the best-known examples of financial infidelity, clearly, anytime there is betrayal in the marriage, money is a likely bed partner. One will break your heart. The other can destroy your future. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, nearly six of 10 children living with only their mother are near or below the poverty line.

As the founder and CEO of the Women's Investment Network, LLC, I have listened to the personal stories of many people who woke up to foreclosure notices on their front door. Some discovered that their partner had purchased real estate, jewelry, vacations or other expensive gifts for a lover, while others suspected but could never find the paper trail. Some spouses gambled away their equity and life savings in the stock or real estate markets without the knowledge or approval of their life partner. Far too many had to start over in the wake of these disasters.

So, how do you protect yourself and prevent your life partner from wiping out your livelihood? Be aware that in the event of a divorce, all of the family assets will be on the table for negotiations, however, those belongings that are clearly "yours" are more likely to end up on your side of the table than those that you have no named ownership in. CPA Mark S. Gottlieb, a respected forensic accounting expert, advises married partners to:

1. Maintain your own retirement account and plan.
2. Make sure your name is on all of your joint investment assets.
3. Review your financial assets, bank accounts, etc. on a regular basis with your partner
4. Review your financial assets, bank accounts, etc. on a regular basis with an independent financial professional and accountant of your own
5. Take responsibility. If your partner loses your money, it is still your loss.

If you are seriously worried about your spouse's spending habits, then you might need to set up your own trust, put your spouse on a tight budget and/or consider a divorce so that you are not responsible for the debt and liability that an out-of-control spouse can run up.

Of course, just like politicians, divorce impacts your social standing with your friends and family. However, even though you might condone some "flings" or mistakes for the sake of the marriage, you should not turn a blind eye to financial infidelity. The Governator, a mega movie star and land mogul, can afford to write some very large checks to Maria Shriver and to the housekeeper/mother of his fifth child. However, don't count on that being the case in your marriage.

About Natalie Pace:
Natalie Pace is the author of http://www.amazon.com/You-vs-Wall-Street-Youve/dp/1593155514/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1259084953&sr=8-1. She is a repeat guest on Fox News, CNBC, ABC-TV and a contributor to HuffingtonPost.com, Forbes.com, Sohu.com and BestEverYou.com. As a philanthropist, she has helped to raise more than two million for Los Angeles public schools and financial literacy. Follow her on http://www.facebook.com/NWPace and on YouTube.com/NataliePaceDOTCOM. For more information please visit http://www.nataliepace.com/np.php?fxn=home.