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Separate accounts, same situation

49% of unmarried American couples who cohabitate pool at least some of their money together into joint bank accounts, according to data from the National Couples’ Health and Time Study.

Meanwhile, 86% of couples surveyed by Forbes Advisor said sharing financial goals and money habits leads to more successful relationships.

Unfortunately, John and Marissa are not on the same page about their spending habits. They’re not married and keep separate accounts, but have been racking up immense debt individually.

John claims he was “blindsided” when Marissa’s income dropped recently. She now earns $30,000 a year working as a cook in a nursing home. That’s not enough to meet all her debt obligations and Hammer discovered that she has roughly nine debts in collections.

However, instead of paying off debt, Marissa buys roughly $50 worth of marijuana once a week. “You smoke a lot of weed,” John said at one point during the episode.

“It’s the only thing I do — we don’t go out, we don’t do anything,” Marissa responded.

John, who earns more than Marissa as a maintenance technician, claims he’s the financially responsible one in the relationship. However, he has an addiction to OnlyFans which is draining his bank account.

He also has roughly $2,000 in debt in collections, borrowed another $1,800 from his dad to pay off a payday loan and is neglecting his student loan repayments even though it’s only $50 a month.

“How are you the responsible one in the relationship?” Hammer asked him incredulously.

Altogether, the couple has nearly $46,066 in total debt based on Hammer’s assessment. Besides accusing each other as the cause of the debt burden, they’re also blaming a lack of financial education from their relatives.

Hammer isn’t convinced that’s a good enough excuse. “Welcome to pretty much every household in America,” he said.

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Financial education crisis

On average, Americans lost $1,506 in 2023 due to financial illiteracy, according to a survey conducted by the National Financial Educators Council.

Meanwhile, 88% of U.S. adults surveyed for Dave Ramsey’s website said school didn’t adequately prepare them to manage their money as adults.

Some experts now argue that formal training could be a solution to this crisis. According to a research conducted by CivicScience, adults who said they learned financial skills either in school or in the workplace were most likely amongst their peers to say they felt “very financially literate.” The group encouraged school and employer-sponsored financial education classes.

Such efforts could potentially help adults like John and Marissa take control of their personal finances, find a budget that works and mitigate debt.


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About the Author

Vishesh Raisinghani

Vishesh Raisinghani

Freelance Writer

Vishesh Raisinghani is a freelance contributor at MoneyWise. He has been writing about financial markets and economics since 2014 - having covered family offices, private equity, real estate, cryptocurrencies, and tech stocks over that period. His work has appeared in Seeking Alpha, Motley Fool Canada, Motley Fool UK, Mergers & Acquisitions, National Post, Financial Post, and Yahoo Canada.

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