Q: My husband will not quit spending. He has purchased several vehicles, only to trade them in for less than we owed on them. During our 18-year marriage, we have refinanced our house six times to pay off loans and credit cards. When we refinanced this last time, I refused to pay any of his credit cards or loans off. I would not have even considered refinancing again, but the low rates were appealing.
That was 21/2 years ago. I have been making triple payments in an attempt to get the house paid off before we retire in three years. He always promises me he will not use his credit cards once we pay them off. But after frivolous purchases, he owes more than $13,000 in credit card debt. Last week, he told me he was buying a brand new truck without the possibility of trading in any of our other vehicles.
I don’t want to be strapped down with his debt should he die before me. My name is not on any of his credit card or loan debt, except the house. Am I being unreasonable? What can I possibly do to stop this?
Dr. Pepper Schwartz: Your husband has a big problem. I know that’s not news to you, but I am worried that he will kill your ability to have a comfortable retirement. You need to get him to a financial adviser or counselor as soon as possible. Many states offer free consultations on debt reduction, so that might be a good first step; maybe the counsel of a third person will make him realize what hot water he has put you both in. This person might be able to help him get rid of his credit cards (because he obviously can’t be trusted with them) and into a situation where you have credit cards with a top limit; otherwise, you will never get out of this mess.
Of course, he needs deeper counseling than about debt reduction. His spending is self-destructive and expresses other issues related to his personality. He needs to gain insight into his impulsiveness and it needs to be stopped. This may sound dramatic, but you might have to threaten to leave him if he won’t live up to his promises. I am not kidding. If he won’t control his spending, he might destroy your ability to be solvent in old age and that could be very sad after you’ve tried so hard to be thrifty and careful about the future. Paying off your mortgage won’t mean a thing if he continues to get you in debt. You need to be firm and fulfill your promises if he won’t take some of the steps I’ve suggested to get his spending under control.
AARP recently launched a Savings Challenge with weekly advice on saving money and breaking bad spending habits. Something your husband definitely should look into!