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Ashamed of debt and failure

A discussion about debt and relationships was initiated by a Baltimore woman named Jessy, who called Ramsey seeking advice about dealing with her husband. Although she’s an experienced doctor, Jessy has been staying at home in recent years to raise the kids while her husband promised to manage the family's finances by himself. However, when she noticed some of her credit card bills were not being paid in full she grew suspicious that all was not well.

Her husband eventually revealed that the family had accumulated significant debt and they would need to consider downsizing their home to stay afloat. “I just wasn’t paying attention at all and now we’re basically in trouble with debt,” she told Ramsey, holding back tears.

Hidden debt can be a strain on any relationship. Jessy said talking about the debt with her husband is difficult and she’s worried about offending or emasculating him by bringing it up. “... he wants to be the man in charge taking care of everyone,” she said.

“Well, a proper man in charge shares the burden of running the household with his wife,” Ramsey responded.

Co-host George Kamel concurred: “There’s nothing manly about secretly going into debt.”

Ramsey sympathized with the couple's struggle because his financial hardships in the 80s had a similar effect on his wife. “I felt like an idiot when I went broke,” he said. “I wasn’t an idiot, but I had done some idiot-butt stuff that caused us to go broke. And it really wasn't Sharon's fault and she was scared to death like you are. That's why the tears are so close to the top.”

To resolve the situation, Ramsey recommended having an open and honest conversation.

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Relationships and household finances

Women have made great strides toward financial independence and involvement in financial planning. But there’s still some way to go.

The share of moms staying at home with kids surged from 15% in 2022 to 25% in 2023, according to a survey conducted by Motherly. Eighteen percent (18%) of mothers said they had changed jobs or left the workforce in the past year, and the top reasons cited were staying at home with children (28%) and lack of childcare (15%).

A GOBankingRates survey also found that 12% of women have partners who control the finances in their household.

Meanwhile, financial infidelity is rampant. Forty-two percent of U.S. adults living with their partners or married confessed to keeping financial secrets from their partner in a Bankrate survey. Around 55% of U.S. adults surveyed by Forbes Advisor said debt-related stress had led to a loss of trust in their relationships.

Looking ahead

Talking about financial issues and debt can be difficult. But Ramsey believes this stress can be diffused through open dialogue. He encouraged Jessy to look past their previous mistakes and attempt to create a plan to tackle their debt problem together.

He said, “This is a relationship issue. The two of you have got to sit down together and you just say ‘Look, I screwed up by dumping this whole thing on you … whatever the mess is we’re going to face it together.’”


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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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