Don't Combine Finances Yet

Catherine's first husband passed away. The life insurance policy covered their debts. Catherine remarried. How can she combine her life with him without feeling like she's giving up all of her progress?

QUESTION: Catherine in Phoenix says her first husband passed away. She had a life insurance policy that covered all of their debts. Catherine is 32 and remarried. Her new husband has $175,000 in student loans, a repossessed car, and $30,000 in credit card debt. He makes about $30,000 a year. How can she combine her life with him without feeling like she’s giving up all of her progress?

ANSWER: I don’t think you should pay off his debt. I think you should leave your money where it’s at. I would not recommend you combine finances at this stage of the game. I need to see that he’s going to make it as a husband—that he’s going to turn his life around and become a provider rather than a parasite. I don’t see that in his habits. I don’t see that in his decisions. I don’t hear confidence that you have in him. I don’t hear any of that. I don’t know how this is going to turn out at this stage of the game. I sure hope it turns out.

Chiropractors make more than $25,000 a year. They do. I deal with them all the time. He’s not making good decisions anywhere on the career or money front. Let’s pretend that he turns this around and starts making $100,000 a year, which a good chiropractor ought to do. He starts making things happen and he starts attacking this. He’s plowing his way through this. The guy is showing himself to be a stud. Then you come alongside him and finish off the debt and you combine your money. That’s what you ought to do. Until he does, I’m scared for you. So no, I think you need to keep this stuff separate. I would advise you to do that. Very seldom do I advise that, but this is a very unusual situation and you have vastly different value systems between the two of you.

You’ve got to get that stuff squared away before you combine because I don’t know how it’s going to turn out. I don’t believe in living your whole life that way, and I would be putting it on him that he is to turn this around. It’s one of his obligations as your husband. As you see that and he plows through $50,000 or $100,000 of this stuff and you want to put another $50,000 or $100,000 with it and finish it off out of your investments, then that’s going to make sense because now he’s proven himself to be a valid member of this family financially speaking. We can work together because we’re heading in the right direction. Right now, we’re not heading in the same direction. It’s a big difference.