Who Have You Hired To Manage Your Money?
When Mr F and I got married I didn't really have any idea how much money he made. I was under the impression that it was enough. When we bought our house a few months before our wedding we bought a house that Mr F said he would be able to pay the mortgage and utilities of with his income, knowing that I would not be working once we had kids. When we moved to Ann Arbor Mr F put all the utilities in his name and paid all the household bills. I stopped working but still paid my own credit card bills and medical bills from some savings I had. I always paid my bills in full. I just assumed Mr F did too. We didn't talk about it. Mr F was running his own business from home and he had all those bills to deal with so it just seemed to make sense that he would just throw the home bills in with that too.
Mr F is 8 years older than I am. He had been running a *successful* business for years. He had been living on his own for years. I had only been out of grad school for a couple of years. He made a significant amount more than I did as a social worker. It just seemed natural to let Mr F take over all the bills. He was older, more successful, independent, and he was the man. He was the natural choice... right? It never occurred to me to ask how he paid his bills... you know... on time?... in full?
It took me a few years to realize that maybe Mr F wasn't the best choice. Nothing was said but I was starting to pick up on a *stressed* vibe from Mr F. Still I didn't take over the finances. At this point I felt overwhelmed and like I wouldn't be able to figure it out. To be honest I just didn't want to pay the bills... does anyone? By this point Mr F was now hiding things and becoming defensive and more more reluctant to turn over the finances. Red flag anyone?
A couple years later and Mr F (with the help and encouragement of his fantastic therapist) was finally ready to reveal the truth. Mr F had made some pretty big financial mistakes that resulted in something close to 35K in avoidable debt. Why do I say avoidable? Well because it could have been prevented. Of course had I known what we could and couldn't afford I might have made different choices... but more importantly because most of the debt with incurred simply because Mr F was just bad at paying bills. He didn't pay attention and paid them late. He racked up finance fees and bounced checks. We filed our taxes but he didn't send the payment. Why did he do all these things? I'll never really know. He felt overwhelmed with the burden of running a business and the house for one. And he has ADD. And he kept thinking he'd get it all under control next month... which just kept getting pushed to the next month, year, years... you get the picture.
I was shocked by Mr F's admission. I was dumbfounded that he just hadn't told me after the first year managing our household expenses. I was sick to my stomach and furious both with him and with myself. Why hadn't I stepped in? Why didn't I ask more questions? Why was I so comfortable taking a back seat? Within days we had acquired a loan so we could pay off all the miscellaneous outstanding debts. I took away all of Mr F's credit cards. And I took over paying all the bills. All of them. In the last few years I have never once bounced a check, or racked up any finance fees. It took us a couple of years but we were able to payoff the loan in full (while paying less each month than Mr F had been trying to manage the debt).
The lesson we learned from this is that the person who manages your family's money is performing a major job and you need to hire the right partner to do that job. When I think about Mr F's skills and his deficits it is almost laughable that we hired him for this position. I blame myself as much as I blame him for the debt he acquired. So my question to you is who pays your bills and why? Did you consciously *hire* one of you over the other or was it a more passive decision?
I've put a poll up in my sidebar today. Please, please, take a few seconds to answer it.
Pop on over to Smoochiefrog's Money Monday post. This is her third post in her debt series documenting her journey back from bankruptcy.