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My wife and I missed mortgage payments due to debts, yet she asks about vacations and hides her finances. What do I do?

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Dear Moneyist,

For 10 years, my wife and I saved up and, in 2018, purchased our first home before we hit the age of 30. Over the last two years, events have not gone in our favor, especially with COVID-19. In March, I had to have gallstone surgery, and that’s when our money problems came to the forefront. My wife and I don’t discuss bills, debts, savings or even spending.

And yet a combination of overdue bills and unpaid debts have led to us missing mortgage payments, and have created a constant and stressful reminder that she is constantly spending money, and even asking about constant vacations that we can not afford. Multiple attempts to get my wife to see the light have ended in heated arguments with no resolution.

The Moneyist: He doesn’t give me any money’: My husband has been making secret payments to his parents. Should I tell him to stop?

On a few occasions, I have suggested selling the house or considering bankruptcy to restructure our debts, but she is unwilling to consider either. I have no knowledge of her financial situation, yet I’m always transparent with mine. This has obviously become a huge problem in our marriage, and I don’t know what else I can do to try and save both our relationship, and our financial future.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Troubled Times

Dear Troubled,

Pay your secured debts first and your unsecured debts afterwards. If you fall behind on your mortgage, your bank can foreclose on your home. If you fall behind on credit-card bills, there’s a lot less at stake. You will have a damaged credit rating, but you will still have a roof over your head. It’s a simple equation, even if the bigger debt (your mortgage) feels like a bigger burden.

You risk condemning you and your wife to a spiral of debts, and 10 years or longer before buying another home if you give up on this one now. I suggest fighting for your home, your financial freedom, and your marriage. All three go together, but you may not succeed at all three. But secrets and shopping have no place in a marriage or a financial plan. They are a lethal combination.

The Moneyist: My fiancé wants me to give up my cushy six-figure job to work at his landscaping company. Should I ask him to pay me a salary?

Your wife may be spending money to alleviate stress and/or escape the reality of her life. But you cannot save your wife if she is not willing or able to save herself. Similarly, you cannot save your marriage if your wife is not willing to support you in this endeavor. Marriage takes work, change takes work, but it also takes willingness. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Love is an action.


Marriage takes work, change takes work, but it also takes willingness. Love is an action.

You can hire a financial adviser and/or seek the help of a credit-counseling bureau. Note the difference between a “debt management” organization and a “debt settlement” company that offers legal and financial services. The former category includes nonprofit organizations that belong to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, while the latter is made up of for-profit companies.

There are no easy solutions. This couple got themselves into $125,000 debt, and they climbed out of it by making sacrifices, something your wife seems unwilling to do. The husband worked two jobs, slept in his car, they stopped all social activities, and ate egg hash-brown casserole, eggs and hash browns, potato soup and hash browns, cheesy potato casserole with hash browns.

The Moneyist: My partner has earned millions of dollars during our relationship. We’re not married, but am I entitled to anything if we split?

The Financial Therapy Association takes a holistic approach to managing finances, including your history, anxieties, relationships past and present, and your emotional life. Financial therapists understand that most good and bad financial decisions are also emotional ones. Your wife needs to understand why she has gotten into this hole and be willing to change, so it doesn’t happen again.

If you live in a community-property state — Arizona California Idaho Louisiana Nevada New Mexico Texas Washington Wisconsin — debts taken on during your marriage is community property and you are both responsible for these debts. Bankruptcy may be an unpleasant, but necessary option. You can’t have a marriage without trust. If your wife doesn’t cooperate, you will have a painful choice.

Not making a choice will not be an option.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com

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