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Friday inspiration: Learning to communicate and compromise on money matters after hidden debt was revealed

Friday inspiration: Learning to communicate and compromise on money matters after hidden debt was revealed

This is part of a series of interviews with people who are either working to improve their financial situation or who have already reached their goals. This week’s interview is with Ken, who writes Money Matters. (Warning, if you type in the url manually, be sure to type .org and not .com)  Ken is working on improving communication with his wife and on being transparent about spending after his hidden debt was revealed.

Could you tell us something about yourself?
Last year we had a little over $17,000 in credit card debt. We didn’t talk about money much because it always seemed to lead to a fight.

In what way have you turned your financial life around? (Or what are you working on changing?)
We’re out of debt, and we’ve managed to rebuild our savings. Our finances are disorganized, and most savings is tied up in investments (no cash).

Can you give a little bit of background on your story? What were things like for you pre-change?
Pre-change, I was pretty secretive. My wife didn’t even know about the debt until she tried to buy something and the card was denied (over limit). My “excuse” was that my wife is the type of person who wants to save everything that’s not spent on essentials. Usually when I wanted to buy something, she’d say “no.” (I’m not saying this to justify what I did, just to explain how I justified it to myself.) Eventually, I figured out that I’d just buy it, because I’d figured out how to hide the debt from her. Even though she didn’t know about debt, we fought about money all the time. I was over sensitive about any question she had regarding money (afraid she’d find out about the debt) and she was always suspicious about why our savings account wasn’t growing.

How much progress have you made?
On the debt, 100% – we’ve paid off all the credit card debt. On communicating on money matters, we’ve made some progress but still have a ways to go.

How do you feel about your financial situation right now? (Or how did you feel after reaching your goal?)
I was really grateful when I realized my wife wasn’t going to divorce me over it. Just having her know about it, and working together to get it paid off, was a huge relief. We had a good talk about what frustrates each of us regarding money. It was good. Lately though I see both of us drifting back to old attitudes.

What was the catalyst that caused you to take action?
A purchase was denied, my wife called the credit card company to find out why, and they told her. She offered me a divorce. I said no. We talked. What amazed me the most was that my wife was less angry about the debt than she was about the fact I hadn’t told her about it.

Did you have any setbacks? If so, how did you deal with them?
I set up online access for all of my accounts and wrote down the logins for my wife, she can check any time she wants and there is no way for me to hide spending from her any more.

What has been the hardest part of the process?
Learning to compromise on money matters.

The easiest?
Learning to talk about compromising on money matters.

How long has it taken?
About 11 months.

What will be your next step?
Keep working on communication.

What’s the best financial advice you’ve received?
Don’t lie to your spouse about spending.

What inspiration could you give to someone in a similar situation?
Things will work out. Come clean with your spouse. Don’t try to blame your problem on others, especially not on your spouse. If you are sincere in wanting to make things right, you will probably be forgiven.

Would you like to share your story? If you would like to be interviewed via email for a future article, please email me at c o m m e n t s (without the spaces) to let me know you’re interested.

View Comments (2)
  • Is it a men/women thing? because I’m not remotely surprised that she was more angry that he’d been hiding it from her, than that he was in debt.

    Nice to see people getting it together in any case.

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