Don't ask, don't tell
So I was cruising through my Google reader this morning and happened on a reader's conundrum over at Make Love, Not Debt.
Seems this guy got married after getting a "vague" estimate from his wife of her debt: besides student and car loans, about $15,000.
The first thing that strikes me as odd is that he wouldn't push further. Isn't student debt an awfully nebulous amount?
At any rate, after they were married, she had trouble getting a job and had to make do with a lower-paying occupation. She did eventually get back into her chosen field and back to making the $50,000 a year the man says they each make.
Unfortunately, he recently discovered they owe nearly $100,000 because of her spending. The minimums are about $1000 a month and she's still spending. Did I mention her five cards are maxed out?
As you might expect, she's refusing to change, and he's trying to take away the cards. They're at an impasse.
So... Lots of people chimed in with advice about marital counseling. One called him an enabler. One bitter fellow suggested immediate divorce as she clearly has no interest in changing.
Here's what I don't understand: How could you marry someone without a full accounting (if you'll pardon the pun) of her finances and debt?
I really and truly can't imagine saying "I do" without knowing exactly what kind of debt I was accepting in the process.
Would you marry someone without first meeting her kids? Of course not! But, after children, money is the most-argued-about topic in marriage. So what gives?!
I keep hearing stories about this sort of thing. And I have to wonder why these people never get around to talking about finances, goals for the future, and plans about how to get there.
Before you start in: Yes, I know some people are excellent at secret spending. It's a practice that truly bothers me.
I was on a forum once where many of the women would openly talk about hiding their purchases from their husbands. They would schedule deliveries for when their husbands weren't home. When new things arrived, they would be hidden in plain sight -- among the older things. If the husbands noticed, the women just insisted they'd "had it forever."
While I may not understand it, I do see how one partner can hide purchases pretty easily. Although it seems obvious that if both partners go through the financials together, the behavior is a lot harder to keep hidden.
That said, this woman didn't seem to be hiding anything from her husband. He just didn't want to make enough trouble to get the whole set of facts. (He explained that it took a lot of "pushing and pulling" to get the vague answer about debt.)
Obviously, most people suggested marital counseling. That's very important, of course. But I wonder why only one other person thought to ask him why he ignored some pretty big signs.
Most importantly, why didn't they have conversations about spending and saving and debt before they got married?
I also found it interesting that no one much cared why she is spending this way.
Like eating disorders, drugs and other self-harming habits, overspending is a way for people to avoid dealing with their problems. If you feel bad, you can overeat, or refuse to eat, or take some drugs, or go shopping.
The point is, any regularly occurring excessive behavior is usually a sign of a problem.
Both of these people clearly have a lot of work to do -- on themselves and their marriages.
But enough about my opinions. What would you tell this guy?