Though it might be a drag to do paperwork for you and your family, it’s necessary. The easy option is to allow your partner to deal with it all, trusting them to take care of everything. Best-selling author Ryan Eidson highlights some of the dangers of doing this.
One husband started a small engine business after his wife got fired from her job. Even though the household income was less than before, this did not change their spending habits. The wife’s lavish spending patterns soon put them tens of thousands of dollars into the hole. She asked for money from others and borrowed money from her children on many occasions to pay the bills. The wife hid these bills from her husband. She would always sneak out to get the mail every day. One of their sons began to be suspect that something was not quite right. One day, he went out to get the mail and found some credit card bills. He confronted his mom about it, but she swore him—a 13-year-old boy—to secrecy!
More time passed. This son finally got fed up with the situation. He asked his dad, “Why aren’t you doing anything about this? Why aren’t you checking on the finances? Why aren’t you managing this?” The father just replied with excuses. It wasn’t until about 15 years into this nonsense that things began to change. The husband found out about even more stuff that his wife had been hiding. She had maxed out a couple of credit cards in the process of doing everything she wanted to do. Finally it snapped in his mind, so he got up and decided to make a difference. He told his wife flat out, “You have to go get a job to pay off all these bills, because there’s no way we’re going to be able to pay them off.”
He was right; they were going to lose everything if they didn’t pay down the debt. Again, we’re talking about tens of thousands of credit card debt. Once the husband started doing the paperwork and counting the money, in conjunction with his wife, they reduced their debt. They’ve managed to pay off some credit cards. She is no longer spending money on unnecessary items. They have now bought a truck outright, and this couple is in a better financial state.
The son in this story is now an adult. When he told me this story, I just couldn’t believe the situation (yes, this story is true). Apparently, this type of arrangement is relatively common. Now, for two insights and application to you:
Financial debt. So many people continue to submit to the bondage of debt. This may be for various reasons. Perhaps you’ve always grown up with it and know no other way; maybe you’re just holding on to a credit card for emergencies, yet you use it for regular monthly stuff anyway; or maybe you’re trying to keep up with your neighbors and financing every single purchase you make. Debt becomes a point of despair for some. They think that there is no way out. In their minds they say, “I am a person who will always be in debt,” which sounds just like, “I am a slave and always will be a slave.” They treat it as an illness or disease, and just accept it as part of who they are. Because so many people have loan payments and no savings, the moment their income is cut off, they panic and blame others for their own situation. Debt in our society as a whole has become an issue of identity.
Record keeping. Either you or your spouse is better than the other one at doing paperwork and keeping financial records. I get that. Both my wife and I are capable of keeping the records. I’m the one that prefers to do it, and I keep more detailed records, so I’m the one that tracks our money. When is the last time you discussed your money together? Set aside time to review your records and future cash flow (budget) together. It’s not just about doing paperwork; it’s about being a mature, responsible person. How do you work together as a couple on the household record keeping? Do you like to keep records yourself, or do you prefer your spouse to do the paperwork? How often do you intentionally set aside time to discuss your money together? Once a week? Once a month? Find the rhythm that works best for you. Don’t wait 15 years to change your situation. Start now.
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