7 Effective Ways To Help A Wife Who Has Debt Problems

7 Effective Ways To Help A Wife Who Has Debt Problems by Cucan Pemo
It all looked so easy in the situation comedies we grew up watching, whether it was “Leave it to Beaver,” “The Brady Bunch” or “Family Ties.” Women took care of the family and men took care of the money. Maybe, now and then, Mom would save up some money from the grocery allowance to buy herself a new hat, but the bills, the credit cards, the mortgage and everything else were Dad’s dominion.
But it’s a new world we live in, with women working full-time and taking care of their families, too, getting their own credit cards and paying their own way. But not everyone is good with money – and as more women take on credit card debt they can’t manage, more of them are also having to visit debt counselors and file for bankruptcy.
If you’ve married a woman with mounting debt, you may be torn as to what to do about it. On the one hand, you don’t want to put your foot down and act like you’re the big man in charge. But, on the other hand, debt affects you, your credit rating, and your family’s future. What’s the best way to handle a spouse with debt problems?
1) Look for problems early, and nip them in the bud.
Maybe you didn;t notice that she had money problems before you were married, but you should certainly be able to spot them once you’re living together. Spending might be a problem – does she have a lot of credit cards, and does she do a lot of shopping with them? This is a major red flag. Other things that can lead to financial disaster are medical bills or car repairs, or if she’s simply not bringing enough money into the relationship.
2) Don’t give in to societal pressure.
Many women are concerned with “keeping up with the Joneses” – having a gorgeous house, new furniture, a late-model car and all the other accouterments of success. Many couples live beyond their means because they want to give the impression of success, but it’s a sure-fire way to end up in debt.
3) Don’t be afraid to talk about money.
Many couples pool their money into one checking account, co-sign each other’s credit card applications and put their spouse’s name on the mortgage without ever bothering to talk about what it all means. If she knows that the debt problems are her fault, she may be hesitant to discuss it – and you don’t want to make her feel bad. But if there are problems, you both need to deal with them head-on, as a team.
4) If necessary, talk to a debt counselor.
Credit counselors offer low-cost, non-judgmental advice, and you can even talk to them over the phone if you feel embarrasses about meeting them face-to-face. Many credit counseling agencies offering a sliding fee scale, and charge just $5 or $10 a month for their service.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, this may be your best solution – especially if money troubles are causing you and your wife to argue incessantly over finances. Credit counselors see people in bad financial straits all the times, and their job is to help you work out your problems. You have nothing to lose by talking to a counselor, and everything to gain.
5) Make her take responsibility for her spending.
Sit down together with a pad of paper and a pencil, and look at where your money goes each month. Start with your income, then subtract what you spend on utilities, groceries, insurance, rent, gas for your car and other expenses. She may not actually know how little money is left over after all the essentials are taken care of.
Try a software program like Quicken and have her track her money by logging every expense, from her afternoon latte to those new shoes she just “had” to have. When she sees the evidence of her debt in black and white, she won’t be able to pretend that it’s not a problem.
6) Set goals together to pay down debt.
If she’s paying the minimum on her credit cards each month, she’s accumulating more debt rather than decreasing it because of the hefty interest. Make it a goal to pay more than the minimum and get out from under at least one credit card, and set a realistic goal as yo when you’ll do it.
Then cut up all of the store credit cards – if she doesn’t have the cash, then she can’t buy it. If she’s addicted to shopping, she’ll find this difficult, but it’s the only way to get out of debt.
7) Think twice before filing for bankruptcy.
It may sound like an appealing way out of debt – file for bankruptcy and have your debts erased. But in many cases you’ll still have to pay off the debts, usually in three to five years.
And a bankruptcy filing will remain on your credit report for up to 10 years, even if you’ve cleared all of your debt well before then, and can affect your ability to get jobs, insurance or future loans. It should only be considered a last resort.
The best way to deal with your wife’s debt is to talk about it and make a plan for
the future. Dealing with money problems is never easy, but marriage is about teamwork – which means both of you have to take responsibility for your finances.
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