19 Jul Why We Need To Discuss Our Debts With Our Spouses?
As a Consumer Bankruptcy Attorney, I meet with individuals seeking bankruptcy information everyday, and I answer their questions about their financial situations. Sometimes they are individuals, but the majority of the time I meet with husbands and wives, and I prefer it this way. I can usually tell who made the consultation and within minutes it becomes painfully obvious that one of the spouses, either the husband or the wife, has taken a hands off approach when it comes to the family finances. Although I understand that one spouse usually assumes the role of House CFO, Chief Financial Officer, it does not mean that spouse must operate without help and receive all the blame when things don’t go as planned.
This is where I will get on my soapbox and rant. My consultations are free to anyone who wants to come in and discuss their financial situation, but I will cut off a consultation when it is not going anywhere or where I feel that my opinions and advice are falling on deaf ears. Yesterday was a perfect example: I met a nice couple who had been married for 20 years and whose finances appeared to have been in a train wreck. The first statement made by the husband was: “I don’t know how this happened. I work all week and hand over my paycheck on Friday.” If you have read any of my blogs, you may have surmised by now that, I do not like when a spouse takes an ostrich approach to the family finances. You know what I mean, by sticking their heads in the sand. It is easier to say that I didn’t know what was going on, rather than suck it up and admit that there is a problem. My first thougths were: Male Ostrich who would rather throw his wife under the bus than admit that he made mistakes. Can I make a dent in this guy’s thinking?
I really don’t like when a husband or wife is just disrespectful to their spouse in my presence. Unfortunately, it is usually the husband who sits in the conference room and is disgusted that he has to be there, but there have been many times when it was the wife. When the wife is the disgusted one, you can just tell there was hell to pay for the finances being what they are, and it will not go away anytime soon.
Because I honestly believe that people are good and would like to pay their debts as they come due, I firmly believe that financial problems arise because the spouses are not discussing what is going on with the family finances. Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating that this must take center stage and be discussed each and every day, but I do believe that when you get married and say ” I do”, you intend to retire someday with this person and together you plan the retirement. Call me silly, but I think the retirement plan needs to have the consent of both parties.
My faith in mankind was restored in my next consultation. The next consultation was with another couple who were a little older and facing significant debts. Again, the Wife was the Household CFO. She had been using the credit cards when money got tight and hiding the bills from her husband because she was ashamed. After she broke down and told me the total amount of the credit card debts, you could tell this amount shocked her husband. He honestly had no idea that the amount of credit card debt was so high. After his moment of initial astonishment, he took her hand and looked her in the eye and said: ” I’m so sorry. I had no idea what you have been dealing with and what you must be going through right now. I don’t blame you for keeping this from me. I am the one to blame. I never even offered my help. “
Wow, I got up and walked out of the room to give them a minute, then I called my wife and told her how much I loved her.
I encourage all couples to discuss their debts going forward. I also encourage them to educate themselves about retirement and to put together a plan of attack. I challenge them to stick with it and retire rich.
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