What If Your Spouse Is Reckless with Money?

Did you take a financial compatibility test before you got married to your spouse? I am sure the answer is no and even if you did, people and circumstances can change over time. If one spouse is more cautious with spending and one is reckless, then this will not only cause tension, but the financially reckless spouse will most likely hurt or greatly strain your finances. It can also be a huge source of marital tensions. What should you do if you find yourself in this situation?

Here are some approaches, from rational, gentle approaches, to tougher, harder approaches, along with observations:

Communicate and work together: Hopefully, the remedy to your situation is as easy as communicating with each other to make sure that you are on the same page financially. If your finances are steadily strengthening, debts are decreasing or paid off, savings rates are sufficient, and charitable giving is charitable, then it doesn’t really matter if your spending seems reckless. However, when your income is growing and you are still struggling to pay for ordinary expenses, then it is time to have a talk. Both spouses should be aware of financial matters, savings goals, and limitations on spending. One can hope that this will solve the problem, but if not, then try again or move on to another approach.

Take charge and prioritize cash outflows: First, the more financially responsible spouse should be in charge of financial matters, including saving and paying bills. Next, the order of financial priorities needs to change, including saving first, preferably automatically, then paying bills and debts. This will cover your basic financial needs.

Cut off access: If the previous approaches still do not work, then you have to cut-off or greatly restrict access to funds and credit. I know, this sounds harsh and controlling, but it is not. If someone had a gambling addiction then you would do the same or you will find yourself homeless, which is not an exaggeration. Spending addictions are similar and you need to protect yourself and your family. If you are at this point then your spouse has issues with spending money.

Outside support: Financial decisions, views, and habits are very much driven by our emotions, our past experiences, and our attitudes about money. If you truly have a spending addiction, then seek the support and help of a professional that is experienced with these matters. I am not a psychologist or therapist, but anecdotally, it appears that reckless spending stems from several causes: seeking happiness by purchasing things (which is short-lived, possibly for mere minutes), the attitude that you deserve “things” (this is kind of related to the first cause), you do not care or think about finances (adults need to behave like adults), and lastly, you are just trying to sabotage your situation (it could be to get back at your spouse or because you do not feel you deserve financial security – again, seek therapy).

This can also happen with a business partner if you put them in place of the word spouse. It just won’t work.

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