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Money Management International Improving Lives Through Financial Education
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Telling a loved one you’re in debt

MMI Copywriter

By Kim McGrigg, MMI Community Manager

One of the most common problems in relationships is a lack of communication—particularly when it comes to money. If you are hiding money problems from a loved one, you are probably riding an emotional roller coaster that is impacting every aspect of your life. Being in debt is hard enough without the fear, anxiety, shame, and guilt associated with keeping secrets.

While it is natural to want to protect the people you love, most hidden money problems are eventually discovered adding an unhealthy layer of distrust to your relationship. The obvious answer is honesty. However, telling someone you’re in financial trouble can be easier said than done. Following are some suggestions to help you communicate with your loved one about your financial situation.

-Take a minute to self-reflect. According to Dr. Brene Brown, author of I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t), the difference between shame and guilt is best understood as the difference between “I am bad” (shame) and “I did something bad” (guilt). Shame is about who we are and guilt is about our behaviors. It is important for you to recognize that debt is a result of actions and not an indication that you are a bad person.

-Be honest with yourself.  While the truth may be hard to face, it is important to take some time to assess the situation.  You can't move forward until you get a true and accurate picture of where you stand today. You can expect your loved one to ask questions; “I’m in debt” is not enough information.

-Create a plan. Once you have clear picture of your financial situation, think about what you are willing to do to improve it. Avoid making promises to anyone (including yourself) that you cannot keep. Discover all your options, but be flexible; your loved one will likely have ideas of his or her own.

-Be committed. Making a plan and taking action are two different things. It may take time for your loved one to see that you are serious about sticking to your plan. Regardless, you should be 100% committed to improving your situation because it is the right thing for you.

-Be transparent. Consider allowing your loved one to have access to your financial information on an ongoing basis. While it may be difficult to relinquish total control, it is a good way to build trust and assure that you are both making informed decisions.

-Get help. It may be wise to seek the help of a neutral third party, such as a relationship counselor, to help you create lasting change and rebuild trust.

Remember, sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.

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Money Management International (MMI), the largest nonprofit credit counseling agency in the nation, has just launched a free, new online resource to teach kids about good money management: On the site, children can explore the world of the Money Bunnies and jump-start their learning about wise financial choices. features activities for children ages four to seven that offer an educational, yet engaging, way for kids to begin their financial education. Because parents and teachers are so important to children’s future financial success, the site also includes resources for adults to inspire positive financial lessons.

The site features four interactive sections to encourage good money management.

Story podcasts - Children can read along with a podcast to two Money Bunny storybooks: Money Bunny Takes a Vacation and Brownie Wants a New Bike.

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Explore with your kids today! For more helpful resources covering all things kids and finance, visit the Youth and Money section on

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About Money Management International

Money Management International (MMI) is a nonprofit, full-service credit counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling and debt management assistance to consumers since 1958. MMI helps consumers trim their expenses, develop a spending plan and repay debts. Counseling is available by appointment in branch offices and 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by telephone and Internet. Services are available in English or Spanish. To learn more, call
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