One of my favorite features of MoneyManagement.org is the ability for consumers to submit questions and receive a personal answer via email. Our "Ask the Experts" column has been running for many years and in that time we have answered hundreds of thousands of questions related to credit, debt, and money management. Keeping with this week's love and money theme, I thought I would post some commonly asked questions about couples and finance.
Question: I have just broke up with my girlfriend because of her uncontrollable spending addiction. The crux came a few days ago when I found she had withdrawn several thousand dollars from my account. I have tried to reason with her, but she continues to take money. Is there really any chance she will change? We have been together for two years happily—except for her money problem. -Bob, Utah
Answer: Sometimes knowledge and drive aren’t enough to help someone overcome their financial problems. For some consumers, there are underlying psychological issues related to debting that should be explored with a trained professional. Before money problems destroy an otherwise good relationship, please contact the nonprofit Debtors Anonymous at 781-453-2743 or visit them at DebtorsAnonymous.org.
Question: My fiancé and I plan to get married within the next year. We recently applied for a joint car loan and I discovered that his credit his horrible! I have worked hard to build a good credit history. Will his past mistakes haunt me in the future? -Karen, Wisconsin
Answer: I recommend that you and your fiancé open the lines of communication—your marriage may depend on it. After all, money is the number one reason couples fight. Fortunately, if you marry, your new spouse's poor credit will not be entered on your credit bureau file. Of course, you’ve already learned that your partner’s poor credit can affect you when you apply for credit jointly. Encourage him to reestablish his credit by using a secured credit card wisely.
Question: I divorced my husband four years ago. Our divorce decree stated that we were not responsible for each others’ debts. This month, I suddenly received a nasty letter from one of the creditors. Apparently, my ex declared bankruptcy. They claim my divorce decree is useless when it comes to credit card debt. I am in a state of shock; I thought that this couldn't happen. -Linda, Tennessee
Answer: I am afraid that the creditor is correct. The divorce decree is between you and your husband and not your creditors. The contracts you signed with your creditors have not changed and cannot be changed by the divorce decree. Your only recourse now may be to file contempt of court charges against your husband for his failure to abide by the terms of the divorce decree. Because these issues are legal in nature (and I am not a lawyer), you might want to consult an attorney about your rights.
Question: My girlfriend is angry because I did not name her as the sole beneficiary of my life insurance policy. Is that reasonable? I think she's asking too much too soon. -Michael, Colorado
Answer: No, it is not reasonable. Because you are not married, I advise you to be very careful about mingling money matters. If this relationship is important to you, I recommend you visit a trained relationship counselor to help you establish appropriate boundaries.