Does a Career Have Monetary Value?

A few states place monetary value on degrees such as a medical degree, a dental degree, or a law degree.  That’s not the case in Colorado, so the value of a degree needs to be evaluated in a different way.

Some corporate employees have many perks included with their employment…otherwise known as career assets:

  • insurance (life, health & disability)
  • vacation and sick pay
  • company vehicle, gas and repairs
  • stock options
  • pension and retirement plans
  • promotions,  job experience, seniority
  • professional contacts
  • additional education

Many marriages (but not all) are made up of the husband as the dominant wage earner.  Sometimes the wife has put the husband through school or helped him become established, while abandoning or postponing her own education.  She may have quit her job to move from city to city so her husband could pursue his career.  Together they made the decision to spend the time and energy to build his career with the expectation that the family would share the husband’s enhanced earning power.  Over time, he has built up career assets, which are part of what he earns even though they may not be paid out directly to him.  Even in two-income families, many times one spouse’s career takes priority over the others, with the expectation that both spouses would share the rewards.

Case study: Brad and Sheila

Brad, an artist, was married to Sheila, a manager in a high-tech firm.  They had two young children.  Brad stayed at home with the children, as Sheila was earning a good salary at her job.  They had remodeled the loft over the three car garage for Brad’s art studio.  Brad loved it!  He was able to care for the children, as well as having his art studio at home.

Soon, Sheila was promoted to vice-president of marketing which involved a lot of travel.  During one trip, she met someone else and started an affair.  Brad found out about it and even though they tried counseling, they decided to divorce.  Sheila had benefits at work that included:

  • a company vehicle, including free gas and repairs;
  • tickets to the Broncos, Avalanche, and Rockies games;
  • membership at the country club;
  • membership at the health club
  • access to the company cabin in the mountains, and
  • health and dental insurance completely paid for.

Brad had to make payments on his car and buy his gas.  If he wanted to see a football game, he had to buy a ticket.  If he wanted to work out at the health club, he would have to pay for it.

Ultimately, Brad’s team of advisors added the value of these “career assets” to Shelia’s income, thus recommending more maintenance for Brad.  The case went to trial and the judge ruled in Brad’s favor.  It’s often difficult to value career assets, but they should not be overlooked when formulating a divorce settlement.