Why Are You In Debt? (Part 3)

There are people who are up to their armpits in alligators who know just how it happened. But it isn’t their fault. Nope. It just happened to them.  These debt victims still feel so much like victims they can’t find a way to take control of their situation and make the life they want. They are the saddest of all. If you’re in Debt Hell and are too depressed to think about it, you should ask yourself these three questions:

Are you married to or dating a spendthrift? If you have someone in your life who spends money faster than they (or you) make it, you’re never going to fix the problem by sitting where you are and whining about it.  There are people who have no self-control, no ability to defer their own gratification. There are people who don’t give a whit about the danger to their family or the impact of their spending on their loved ones. And there are people who are perfectly happy to live high on other people’s wallets. If you’re married to one of them or in a relationship with one of them, you can leave their dumb asses or you can stay and suck up the misery. Yes, I’m being very blunt. No I’m not suggesting you throw your partner out today. But if you can’t come to an agreement on how you will work together to ensure the safety of your family, maintaining the status quo shouldn’t be the option.

Hey, some people like living on the edge. It makes them feel alive. If you’re all for a life of danger and not knowing what comes next, enjoy yourself. But don’t complain about it. If you’re complaining you’re not happy and it’s time to act.

The first step is to protect yourself (and your children). That means a) building a wall around your finances to keep the aberrant behaviour of your partner from affect your family’s stability.  So no joint anything. If your partner is responsible for paying bills, it must be the bills that will have no real downside if they go unpaid, so it can’t be things like the mortgage. Let him pay the utilities and the extras, and make sure those bills are in his name. Or let her pony up the money for food, so that if there is no money, the impact is immediately apparent. Make sure your credit is separate: no joint credit, no co-signing.  Make sure your savings are separate. And make sure you’re doing whatever you have to in order to become financially independent.

Have you gone through a divorce? The reality is that a divorce can decimate a family financially, regardless of whose fault it is. Compounding the problem are the legal fees that people rack up claim “what’s theirs” including fighting over custody of the children. I’m always appalled at the horrible ways in which parents going through a divorce will behave. But I’ve seen it enough to know bad behaviour seems to come with the territory, no matter how harmful it may be to everyone involved. The only way to avoid this is to never get married and have children --  a pretty poor solution, don’t you think? So the next best thing to do is make sure you’re armed with a really healthy emergency fund and the best lawyer money can buy, if mediation won’t work.

Marriage isn’t something to be entered into lightly – although most of us are more diven by hormones than by common sense when it comes to choose our LIFE partner. Even when you do choose well, people change and you can end up with a lot more or less than you expected.
Sometimes just knowing how much you stand to lose financially is enough to get some people back to the table talking about what’s really important to them. I have a friend who left her husband for several years, raising her boys on her own. Later, she and her love found their ways back to each other and the family is again united.

Are you sick or disabled? Major medical problems can annialate even the best-laid financial plans.  Living on a disability income is no easy thing, and if you have big medical bills that aren’t covered, you can find yourself turning to credit to cover your basic needs. Ditto parents who must deal with a sick or disabled child. I’m sorry there are no easy answers to this dilemma. You’ll have to work hard to find resources you can use to cover your expenses or supplement your income.  And you shouldn’t worry too much about the future since your present is tough enough.  However, you do have to find ways to take pleasure in small things. Look to family and friends for love and support and trying and find a way to share. In giving to someone even less fortunate you will find strength. In focusing on what you do have, you will find joy.

Tune in tomorrow for the final five questions.

Part 1
Part 2

Part 4

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