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Ask Dave

When Mom Is Hurting

Hiding debt from her husband has driven Susan's mom to the brink of suicide, and Dave steps in to help.

QUESTION: Susan’s mom tried to commit suicide this weekend. She had been hiding $40,000 in debt from Susan’s dad. They make $4,000 a month, but half that goes to one loan they borrowed against retirement. He has $100,000 in a 403b plan and they have car debt. Dave knows a couple ways out of this, but he reminds Susan of the top priority.

ANSWER: I wouldn’t borrow more against my 403b. I’m thinking of just canceling that loan out because it’s destroying them. They could easily live on $3,000 a month and put the other money against the credit card debt, and clean that up. More than anything, your mom needs some in-depth counseling. There’s nothing financially that can be fixed by that; she’s facing shame for the way they’ve handled money.

They have to sit down and develop a game plan. They may get out of this with a little bit of money, and their cars and their house. I don’t like the fact that they have no money, but that’s almost where they are. I don’t like the suggestion, but you might consider paying off the credit cards and the 403b loan with the 403b money.

They have to agree to live on a plan that they put together. It wasn’t the debt that got her to think this way, it was the shame that she let her husband down. Take care of mom and help her have a better understanding of her value and have her maintain a lifestyle that they can afford. They are either going to fight their way through this debt or not have the 403b left.