In the LearnVest Personal Stories series, everyday people share the details of their money lives, discussing the individual choices they’ve made and how it’s impacted their financial journey.
Today, one man recounts the moment he realized that he and his wife were drowning in debt, and how digging themselves out transformed their finances, their marriage—and his calling in life.
Before tying the knot, my wife, Kim, and I never discussed money.
It wasn’t an intentional choice to be secretive—we just never prioritized sharing details about our income, spending habits, or debt when we were dating.
But I had financial skeletons in my closet. With $18,000 in student loans and another $18,000 from an auto loan, I brought a significant amount of debt into our marriage.
I guess I didn’t worry about fessing up to Kim because I wasn’t too concerned myself. I figured, with a little discipline, I’d get around to paying it off at some point.
What did alarm me, however, was an incident that happened shortly after our wedding.
In the course of one month, Kim charged $600 of new clothing and designer handbags to our joint credit card—a fact I discovered while looking over the statement one day.
I was truly shocked, and it got me thinking: Did we have a spending problem?
What I realized, after taking a closer look at our finances, is that it wasn’t just Kim who was threatening our financial well-being. In just a few months’ time, we’d run up a $7,000 balance on our credit cards, thanks to a combination of Kim’s shopping, my overspending on everyday expenses, and our $1,400 honeymoon cruise.
When I combined that balance with my own debt and Kim’s outstanding $9,000 in student loans, I realized we were on the hook for $52,000—plus another $350,000 for our mortgage.