She Was Hiding Credit Card Debt

Shawn just found out they have $16,000 in credit card debt from his wife. He had no idea since she was handling all the money. Dave explains that they have to start handling money together.

QUESTION: Shawn in Memphis just found out they have $16,000 in credit card debt from his wife. He had no idea about the credit cards since she was handling all the money. She was also taking money out of an account she had her name on to cover the bills. Dave explains that they have to start handling money together instead of Shawn’s wife handling it alone.

ANSWER: More than anything, she really was just a money klutz and stepped her foot in a bear trap and didn’t know how to get out. We don’t kill people for incompetence. I don’t like the lying. She’s dancing around the edge of really doing something evil here, but her motivation, especially based on the fact that she feels really bad about it, was not evil. It was just, “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m out of control. There’s nobody to help me.” And she fell into a bear trap.

Number one, let’s go forward on how we’re going to never have this happen again. It is your job and her job to work together on the handling of your money for the rest of your lives. We’re going to do a written budget before the month begins putting your income at the top of the page, each and every month with a new budget, and what we’re going to spend that money on. Food, lights and water, house payment, repaying Mom and Dad, cleaning up the credit cards, getting the car paid off, and saving an emergency fund. What are we going to save our money on? We’re going to have a list right down that page of exactly where every one of your dollars is going to go this month. She’s going to look at it and approve it. You’re going to look at it and approve it. And then we’re going to do exactly that with the money. If we change anything during the month because something comes up, we have to have an emergency budget committee meeting, come back together, change the written budget, and be in agreement on it so that you always know what’s going on and she always knows what’s going on and so that you’re both carrying the responsibility emotionally of the household together.

You both have to play a part in fixing this. I think what you guys did is pretty normal, and it happens more than you would probably realize. But there’s a real simple fix to it, and that’s together, we’re making decisions—lots of communication about the money from this day forward.

If you can’t repay the $4,000 to the in-laws within a month or two, unless they’re in overdraft, I’d ask them to let you repay it. But I’ll bet if you really roll up your sleeves and go on beans and rice, you can knock this out in a month or two. Then you just have to clean up the rest of the mess.