Help! My husband’s finances are ruining mine.
Do you fear that your husband’s past habits might drag you both down?
Fear not, Fair Lady. I have been in your shoes, and I not only survived, I have thrived. I am going to share my story to showcase that, although circumstances can look bleak at the onset, if you and your Honey Bunny want the same thing out of life, you can conquer any obstacle. My husband and I would not have the wealth we have today without each other. That being said, let me take you back to the beginning.
When my husband asked me to marry him, just three short months after we met, I immediately said yes, but my impulsive “yes” was quickly followed by some level-headed questions. Do you want kids? What do your finances look like? What are your aspirations in this arena? It might sound cold, mixing love and money, but I was 33 at this time, and realized your sweetheart can have a completely different vision of “happily ever after.” (My last suitor proposed that we live in his van!)
My future husband owned his own business, lived in a glass luxury high rise, and had furniture so expensive you didn’t want to sit on it. I lived in Astoria, with a roommate, and had recently started IVY. My gross income was only $1,050 a month! On the surface it looked like my Prince should be worried about my financial stability, but looks aren’t always what they seem. As it turned out, the man of my dreams was $48,000 in debt.* In contrast, my net worth was almost $200K. *
However, after a short “spill and reveal” session I felt that this $48,000 was surmountable because we both had the same financial aspirations. Within one year we got married, had a baby, and my husband’s business took a turn for the worse, causing him to take $18,000 out on his personal credit card without telling me! For a girl who had never had debt, this scared the fuck out of me! I had a newborn baby and was swimming in pool of $66,000 of debt. I aggressively pitched my husband my Millionaire Boot camp service™ and preached how I could help Team Renegade with its cash flow/debt issues. Fast forward five years, and we were about to pay off the last installment of the $66,000. It was a fabulous feeling handing over that last check, with one small exception. My husband had forgot about a $25,000 loan he had taken from his parents. WTF?! I was surprised, but what surprised me the most was my internal dialogue. Inside I quietly thought, “We got this.” That’s when I knew the only thing between me and my financial dreams is Time.
It’s easier to tell the story looking back. Living it was scary, as I was figuring things out as I went. I didn’t know the answers. And when I did, I didn’t know that I knew them. In an effort to save you a little heartache, here’s the Cliff Notes version of what I learned along the way, and what would have been good to know in advance.
Don’t worry. This won’t ruin your freedom. Just focus on solving the root of the problem.
In the end my husband had $92,000 of debt. This is an outrageous number, but it was surmountable because we focused on solving the root of the problem: the spending. It’s very common for people to focus on “making more” as a solution. My husband was no exception. That’s why the debt grew, and grew. If you make more you will spend more. The solution, in this case, and which is often the case, was to control the spending and create consistent cash flow.
If you don’t know the answer, fret not. Your only job then is to find someone who does. The takeaway is to focus on how to make this problem go away forever, not, to make the current debt disappear.
Hire a professional for their expertise and impartial option.
I didn’t do this, and in hindsight I wish I did. It can be overwhelming finding yourself up to your eyeballs in inherited debt. It was for me, and I was not gentle in my quest for a solution. This not only slowed down the process, but it caused my husband to hide the $18,000 he took out on his credit card. And, most likely, it made him “forget” the $25,000 loan. Instead of acting like a teammate, I was shaming him. Not a good strategy for long-term success. Obviously.
Hiring an outside professional gives you two things. First, they can be more objective. Having an non-emotionally invested person looking at your finances makes it easier to have an objective conversation on how to reach your family goals. This drastically reduces the need to lobby or fight for your position. Second, although you may know the answer, there is nothing like your significant other hearing it from an impartial professional. They hear the information differently. This used to piss me off, and sometimes it still does, but I have to admit it’s been nice to fight less and get my way more. For good or bad, I found this to be true.
Forgotten debts will pop up. Expect them.
Be patient. It’s not important to figure out if they “truly forgot” about the debt or if their amnesia is mostly “wishful thinking.” It doesn’t matter. It takes time to open up and be vulnerable. I admit I have an unfair advantage. I have seen “forgotten” debts pop up from clients that started in similar positions. It is so consistent to this fact pattern that you can almost predict that it’s going to happen. If this happens to you I urge you to take a leap in thinking and reframe this “forgotten debt” to signify “the light at the end of the tunnel” because that’s what it is! This is their guarded way of coming clean. People that have debt believe they will never be debt-free. “Remembering” is a sign that they are starting to believe.
Secondly, expect more than one forgotten debt. In my case there were two zingers. YTD.
Have goals you are trying to build together.
To me this is the most essential step. If you can focus on the life you are trying to build together, it makes it a lot easier to burn through the debt. There becomes a sense of team. You feel like if you can kick this debt’s booty you can do anything. Build anything. Climb as high as your imagination will let you fly. I find that, as cliche as it sounds, knowing what you want is half the work. Once you can define it, and see it, it seems like it’s’ “just down the road.” This is what happened to me and my husband. Even though we were paying off debt for the last six years, as each one fell away we started to believe that our dream goals were inevitable.
* Every debt has a story, but if it’s not gambling or drugs, it’s “easily” fixable, which happens to be the case in this story.
** I had been saving to buy an apartment and for my wedding. So, needless to say, I had a lot of liquidity.
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Call me. It’s not scary. I promise. Your future self will thank you.