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Wife is in so much debt

(180 Posts)
DesperatSte Fri 22-Feb-19 10:29:37

I've just found out, that via a number of credit cards and loans on items, my wife has nearly £40,000 of debt I didn't know about.

I was led to believe the cards were under control, paid off and generating cash back.

It turns out that after the money we share for joint expenses, everything each month goes to making the minimum payments and more is constantly being borrowed to do this - her monthly take home pay is less than what is needed to clear this.

I have inadvertently been paying for food and treats for both of us for weeks, which is how I I found out about this when she could not take it in turns or split costs. There is nothing in her current account and she has had to take built up cash (more than she contributed herself) from the account we pay our bills from to cover charges made by her bank.

I have some savings and she's talked about using these to pay things down so that the interest is not as high. Am I selfish not to want to do this? I can see it being swallowed up and if the spending continues, we will be worse off. I'll also need it, as it seems she has no income left and I'll be subsidising her living.

Darkstar4855 Fri 22-Feb-19 10:54:29

A Debt Management Plan might be a good option:

www.nationaldebtline.org

PookieDo Fri 22-Feb-19 10:54:29

Is your house at risk due to this?
I would get advice ASAP as to how bad this really is. You can’t allow her to just ignore it anymore

And no you shouldn’t pay out of your saving especially if she isn’t even looking at going into an IVA or doing anything about it!

SpacePenguin Fri 22-Feb-19 10:55:10

I'm so sorry your family are going through this. You'll probably find that the actual spending wasn't that much, but the amount of interest and charges she'll have added to cards and bank accounts on the slippery slope to where she is now. It's immoral.

So many people have been in the same situation as you. And as your wife. It's a horrible place to be. The forum at money saving expert will give you invaluable information. forums.moneysavingexpert.com/index.php

First step write to each creditor. Say you're having financial difficulties and ask them to freeze interest and charges.

Second step. Get all paperwork together and call a debt management advice charity like Step Change.

Third step. Have an honest conservation about your lifestyle. You've been living beyond your means as a family - why? What's important to keep spending on and what's not?

Final point, I know it feels like a betrayal but your wife didn't set out to lie to you. I'm sure if you talk openly, you'll find that she thought she could get it under control. She was ashamed. She didn't want to worry you. She didn't want you to think your lifestyle had to change. She's probably been under enormous stress trying to stay afloat the past few months. Now she has to face your anger/disappointment/frustration. It's going to be tough for both of you, but it doesn't necessarily spell the end.

notapizzaeater Fri 22-Feb-19 10:58:20

She's not the first and she won't be the last . Has she anyway of generating more income - 2nd job, overtime ?

Have you seen everything ? I'd get her to check your credit reports online to make sure.

JasperKarat Fri 22-Feb-19 10:58:55

Can she considered them in anyway? Might help her avoid interest. Or if you have good credit can you get an interest free credit card or low interest loan and put £15-20k on that so the payments are chasing the debt rather than interest and charges. DH had gotten himself in a bit of a pickle and defaulted on a cc before we lived together, he was self employed and ended up having to take his biggest contractor to court for non payment (different scale it was £1200 he defaulted on) , I paid the £1200 on an interest free credit card and we agreed a set amount he'd pay back each month, he was retraining for a different career by this point so his income was lower. He paid it off in a year, we had a serious chat about financial management and the impact of bad credit and we day down and worked out a monthly budget. This was years ago and he now saves and has excellent credit, he just needed a leg up out of a hole he got himself into by burying his head.

Before considering any of that though you need to know where the money had been going because she can't get out of the mess if she keeps spending

JasperKarat Fri 22-Feb-19 10:59:38

*consolidate

Takethebuscuitandthesink Fri 22-Feb-19 11:00:00

You need to make clear she is in the dog house and that you are furious. But that you love her and are willing to work through this. I see the “LTB NOW!!!!!” brigade have joined the thread but this is rearely the right advice. In future make clear you want to see her finances. I know this is a tough situation op but with your love and support she can make her way through this. Good luck.

LellyMcKelly Fri 22-Feb-19 11:01:23

If you can’t account for if by difference in lifestyle then what on earth is she spending it on? Is she a hoarder or does a have a gambling problem? Until you find out the cause of the spending you’ll. struggle to identify strategies to overcome it. And no, don’t bail her out.

category12 Fri 22-Feb-19 11:01:54

What has she been spending it on? I think that's the vital question.

If she's been spending it on frivolity, then fine, it's all her fault and she needs to seek help.

If she's been using it to supplement her income to cover unavoidable expenses, the question has to be asked, how is it that she's living beyond her means if you're a team?

WeCameToDance Fri 22-Feb-19 11:02:10

This is so difficult. I think I would have to leave as I wouldnt believe that they wouldnt do the same thing again the minute the debt gets under control.
A family member got himself in around as much debt as your wife has and hid it from his wife until he had to come clean. They got it under control, contacted Stepchange and negotiated payments. He has now taken out another secret credit card and maxed it out on top of the other two credit cards he has access to that his wife knows nothing about.
Basically I think what im trying to say is if she just sees it as a problem to solve to get the bank of her back and not as the catalyst for learning to be better financially she may well do it again. Start by obviously cutting up the cards. Contact all the relevant organisations, stepchange and christians against poverty come up a lot and make a manageable plan from there.

myhamsteratefreddiestarr Fri 22-Feb-19 11:04:19

OP, my XH did this to me, built up debt behind my back. I repaid it for him and he did it again. It nearly split us up at the time because I couldn't deal with the betrayal, and he couldn't see that he had done anything wrong hmm.

If you bail your wife out, she WILL do it again. People who spend like that don't just stop. She needs to get professional help and you need to tackle the problem together.

A company like Stepchange would help her to work out some sort of repayment plan.

You should support her with getting help, but you should not repay her debts.

You also need to take full control off all the money, including her salary and she just gets a set amount of spending money each week. She needs to cut up all cards so that she doesn't have access to any credit.

She needs to get into some sort of plan, so that her credit is cut off.

MadAboutWands Fri 22-Feb-19 11:07:13

Unfortunately they are not HER debts but YOURS together.

So you will have a way to solve that issue together, incl how to keep those debts under control (and it building anymore of them!)

You CAN consider that those debts reach of trust, refuse to pay for them and even decidethe separate butbthe bottom line is that you will be part of the repayment oneay or the other.

I do agree that just using savings you have isn’t good enough. She needs to eep those debts under control and that starts wth taking responsibility for them.

hellsbellsmelons Fri 22-Feb-19 11:07:18

This would be a deal-breaker for me.
£40K - HTF did that happen?
Please keep your savings.

I'll be subsidising her living. thats what married couples do
Yes - when times are tough. You share equally.
Not in a situation that could have been avoided and is all down to the other person.
This is like gambling. She is probably addicted to shopping.
She needs to prove to you over the next 6 months that she is not taking on any more debt.
That she is committed to paying it off.
Only then, when she has shown she has come control can you help her.
Otherwise everything will be gone and she will carry on.
She will have had no consequences and so will keep going down this path.
I feel she may need some counselling to understand why this is happening.
During her commitment to change and pay back the outstanding monies, she will need to sell off a lot of the stuff she has bought.
Have a look at what has some value and can be sold.

Charliesdarling Fri 22-Feb-19 11:11:27

Too true LellowYedbetter . Good point.

WTFIsAGleepglorp Fri 22-Feb-19 11:13:00

Protect yourself.

Financially disassociate yourself from her debts.

Do not help her out.

She must help herself.

She must get in contact with StepChange and sort through how much she owes, cancelling or freezing cards, contacting the credit card companies and setting up payment plans.

She must account for the money.

Jaxhog Fri 22-Feb-19 11:13:53

Whist I agree that the solution needs to involve you both, it appears your wife cannot be trusted to manage her money wisely and has put your family into serious debt. She needs to understand that she has jeopardised your whole family.

I hope she's now cut up her credit cards. If not, then you need to do so.

You need to sit down together and work out a way to pay these debts off. This will have to include a sharp cut back in her personal spending. She got herself into this mess, and needs to feel the pain of getting out of it. Has she bought herself expensive clothes or such that can be sold? If so she should be doing that. Only you can decide whether this is enough of an emergency to dip into your savings. Get some debt advice if needed.

Then sit down with her and ask her calmly how she got into this mess and why she didn't feel she could tell you until the situation had got so bad. Be prepared to listen. Don't get angry, although I can see why you might feel this way. Your aim should be to find out the cause so you can stop it from happening again.

Uptheapplesandpears Fri 22-Feb-19 11:17:24

Oof. How on earth has that happened? Do you jointly own the home?

SlothMama Fri 22-Feb-19 11:18:44

I'd sit her down for a chat, I'd want her to cut up all of her credit cards. Then I'd make a spreadsheet listing all of the cards and debt on each of them. Can she take out a loan to pay off some of the debt? Then move as much of the debt as she can to an interest free card, which is then to be cut up so she can't use it.

If she refuses to do that I'd leave her personally, I wouldn't want her debt saddled onto me.

PCohle Fri 22-Feb-19 11:21:30

Isn't there a good chance some of her debt is already saddled on to him? The way debt is divided up on divorce is complicated but debts run up by one party during the course of a marriage can be seen as a joint responsibility in some circumstances.

I think you need urgent legal advice OP. Leaving your wife may well not allow you to walk away from her debts.

ThumbWitchesAbroad Fri 22-Feb-19 11:22:07

My mother was a bit like this.
My father bailed her out once, then again, then again. Not to the tune of what you're saying but still a lot of money.

What I'm saying is that she'll do it again; and if you make a draconian statement about it, she'll hide it from you again.

I couldn't live like this and I would want to see her cut her credit cards up to avoid this happening again - but there will be plenty of people who say that is wrong and infantilising (and they're probably right, but the woman can't be trusted to NOT spend money).

My sister is like my mum - spends money she doesn't have, puts it all on credit and then wastes an enormous amount of money on interest and bank charges.

I would only bail her out on condition that she has no more credit cards and that you have control of the majority of the finances, with her having a monthly allowance (again, infantilising but she's already shown herself to be utterly fucking irresponsible with money). I would try to help purely because it would burn me so much that the money was going into a vast black hole of interest and bank charges, rather than paying off the actual debt.

But I agree with trying to recoup some of the money by selling stuff that isn't necessary.

Icedlatte Fri 22-Feb-19 11:22:23

Hi op, what a shock for you.

I was living a perfectly nice life until one day I found out my DH had £38k of secret debt. He had also been leaning on me to pay for everything, and (although it took me and solicitors a long time to unravel it all) he had effectively lied and siphoned money out of what should have been the family funds which was now lost in the debt hole.

Ultimately throughout our marriage I had worked full time (as had he) but now all the money I had earned was gone, without me opting in to the usage of it.

I couldn't get past the deceit, and also my DH was looking to me to fix his mistakes, rather thankfully taking responsibility and action to fix it himself. I couldn't trust we wouldn't find ourselves back there again.

We got divorced, it was declared unreasonable behaviour and financial abuse, and we were divorced with a clean break clause within a year - which means I am in no way liable for his debts.
The court also ruled he should pay me £20k as a settlement, to pay back money he had 'taken' from the family pot.

I hope you can work through it together, but if not, there are options

Cornishclio Fri 22-Feb-19 11:22:23

I can understand you are angry and feel betrayed. Presumably you keep your finances separate. Has the debt accrued due to buying unnecessary things or childcare costs etc or is she on low income and got into a debt spiral due to paying for food etc?

I would go through a budget with her and work out a way to pay the debt off. If you use savings to pay off the most expensive debt she has to replace those savings. I hesitate to say it is all her fault as if there is a disparity of incomes and she is having to cover half the household costs on a much lower income that is not fair you have a lot more disposable income. She should have said that ages ago though before the debt got to £40k. I think the cards need to be cut up

AnnaMagnani Fri 22-Feb-19 11:22:49

How has this built up?

Have you also responsibility in that you have been enjoying the stuff she is buying without a thought about if it is affordable? Have you been insisting on being 50:50 when actually your incomes are 70:30 and she just couldn't keep up?

If you are married, you are a team and that is in finances too. It rings alarm bells with me that you see this entirely as her problem to fix as if you had nothing to do with it at all - more than likely you did.

RomanyQueen1 Fri 22-Feb-19 11:24:16

I don't understand how a couple can live like this. It's weird, tbh.

TatianaLarina Fri 22-Feb-19 11:24:30

Do you have kids, if not I’d be out of there.

Stepchange + debt plans, if you have property to sell she can pay back debt out of that when you split up.

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