Communicating About Money

How do you non-ADD spouses communicate with your ADD spouses about money?

For me and my ADD hubby, it's been one fight after another. When we were dating, he was employed full time, and seemed to be OK with managing his money. I think the fact that he had a surplus was the key. There was enough to eat out most every night and still pay the bills, albeit late since he never had the patience to sit on the phone to make the payment (or the memory to put the bills in the mail). That was before he was diagnosed.

Since we were married, he's been chronically unemployed or underemployed. I have gotten very little help from him. When he's been employed full time, he would tell me that he was getting paid one thing, and I would ask for contributions based on that number, only to find out that he got paid more. I used to think he was spending money on "bad" things, now I just know that he's oblivious to what he spends. 

He's very underemployed right now...making about $150 a week on odd jobs. Since he's moved back in, it's been an issue. He doesn't give me any help and I struggle to pay all of the bills and buy food for us both on my pay. He keeps telling me that he will give me money but it never materializes. His only bill right now is his cell phone and gas money to get to work. He seems to be doing OK with the gas money but the cell phone bill never gets paid and when they threaten to turn it off, he comes running to me, looking for the money. I don't have it! 

We finally established an emergency fund with a portion of our tax refund and I don't want to touch it. But recently, his cell phone kicked the bucket and although he has insurance on it, the company won't replace or repair it until he pays the $100 deductible. He says if he does that, then he won't have the money to pay the monthly bill. So he comes up with the idea to take $300 from the emergency fund and he'll buy a used phone from a friend and then pay $150 to buy me a phone on his plan (we've been meaning to do this for a while). Honestly, I don't want to go onto his plan because then I'll be in danger of having my service cut off due to his non-payment. I will eventually, but not right now. Nor do I want to take money from the emergency fund. I think the money is going to pay for his overdue bill as well because he doesn't have it. He says we'll pay the money back (we'll=me) but I have little faith that will happen. He's never kept his promises on paying me back before. Money is always tight and we desperately need to be saving since we're heading down the foreclosure track on our former home. No one is going to touch me now credit wise and I was the one who always got the loans/credit cards/accounts because my credit was good. Not so anymore. But he doesn't understand that. He tells me that he can spend $60 in three days on eating out and energy drinks "if he's not careful." This is not acceptable...not when money is always tight. And yet, I can't get him to see that. Instead, I get backed into a corner and made to feel like a bad person because I won't help him. This couldn't come at a worse time--he has a job interview this afternoon and every part of me wanting to fight him down on this one, but I didn't want to upset him either. Not to mention that I'm currently dealing with a very, very dear and cherished family member who is dying from cancer. I'm an emotional wreck without adding this to the flames.

So any tips on dealing with money? ADDers are welcome to weigh in on how they manage to manage their money. I feel like there's nothing I can do. I won't go through his wallet and pockets looking for money nor can I compel him to give it to me. He's knows that I need it and yet he doesn't make it a priority. I want to say that things will get better once he has steady work again, but I think I may be foolish to believe that. He's never been big about depositing his checks into a joint account nor do I want to give him access to one because he's proven in past that he can't manage his own bank account much less once that shared by us both. It's a Catch 22.

I know it's hard, but first,

I know it's hard, but first, try to not say anything before the job interview.  (I'm the nonADHD spouse but I'm the one who can't keep my mouth shut and so I know how hard it can be to not say something that you want to say!)

I don't know what you should do but here's what I do now vis-a-vis money.  My spouse has never been a big spender but he also is neglectful and oblivious about money issues much of the time.  So, spending a lot of money usually hasn't been a problem but earning money and paying bills have.  We used to use a joint checking account.  Almost two years ago, when I realized that a new job was not going to magically materialize for my husband, who had been fired from his previous job, I decided to separate our finances to the extent possible.  I'm still on the joint account but I also opened my own checking account, into which I deposit all my income from work.  I pay almost all the bills, either on paper or electronically, some from the joint account and some from mine, just depending on convenience and which checkbook I can find at the time.  I consider us to be jointly responsible for most of the bills (except for the landline, which I pay all of because I don't have a cellphone; the cellphones (owned by my husband and daughters; he couldn't resist buying really fancy phones and I refused on principle to share in the expense even for our daughters); and my husband's credit cards), and so twice a month, I go through the accounts and even things out.  That is, if more money came from my account for our joint bills, I make a transfer to the joint account, and vice versa.

My husband is paid in cash by one of his current "employers" (his father), and I occasionally remind him to deposit that money into the joint account, just so that there will be money available for his share of the bills. I try to not say anything about purchases he makes.

In line with my goal of protecting myself and our daughters from my husband's potential financial neglect, I've done other things to segregate my property from his.  I opened a special bank account just for gifts, because in my state, if we were to divorce, money from gifts would be divided between me and my husband unless I could prove it was a gift.  I can do that with the special account.  I have been extremely fortunate that my mother has been very generous to us and me, over the years, but especially since my husband lost his job three years ago.  So the money from her goes into the special account.  I have written my will and have directed that my share of our joint property go to my daughters or my siblings at my death.  

OK, maybe I do have one suggestion for you.  Could you look around to see if there is a free or low-cost legal or accounting clinic to which you could go for credit and financial counseling?  I have a feeling that you're not the only person looking for help to keep from being burned by a spouse's financial incompetence.  



RE:financial incompetence,

That has been a struggle for me.When I first got married to DH his credits was"zero" he had no job,money"nothing" .So I paid all the bills,but,before marring him he was just about coming out of his anger management program, and he was looking for work,I met him at my business place, and he told me he fixes car's/boats and he works in the marina before also.So I gave him a chance to fix my car that needed fixing ,When he fixed my car at first I was impress by the intelligence behind his works criteria, and the way in which he fixed my car and so very good nothing that I have ever seen before,

"from no one" ,and I was very much impressed and attracted to him and then"the hyper focused courtship"began on his part of course.Knowing he would bring to the table financially was never in my mind that he "wouldn't" or "couldn't",the truth is he has helped me with a few dollars before with applying to odd jobs he had while unemployed, but I still did most of the paying of the bills and the buying of the food """And still do"""!.I am a bit financially secure b/c I own a small well recognized business, so I was not so much needy at the time, but as time went on, having an extra head at the household tends to cost a little more than the average usual cost.So then when he got employed,instead of sticking home with me and joining heads with me he left and got his little own apartment,hah betrayal beyond imaginations,the fact remains he "wouldn't" help me now and found  a great reason for his excuses,and before he "couldn't" do it properly with his little paying odd jobs,we had a joint account before and he took what was his and left me after I helped save the money to buy a truck by contributing"fully" to the bills, and instead of buying the truck, he got an apartment and poodles away,Maybe he used me or not? I don't know?but I know he is trying and he love's me and I could tell when he is distracted or lying.The money thing has been a constant struggle with my ADHD husband for the whole entire marriage of over a year now,he has taken me out,buy some food"but that's it" nothing in my hand for not even a I love you shopping money,or anything like that,in fact he thinks that when he spends today my turn to spend tomorrow,imagine that.Now he buys his "little" groceries but still I would help him because maybe he feels that since I am eating to I should help him contribute"silly",I do it anyway.But he still pays his rent late and the cable bill,and I have to remind him all the time.

Responsible with Money

Rosered,  You have been doing some of the same things I have with separating our monies.  But there is a big part of our monies that is a big blurry messy pot called "his business".

He rents two warehouses for which he pays to house his hoards of "I don't know if it is junk or valuable" stuff.  He fixes machines with parts of used machines he buys.  He tells the bank where he has a 20-year old loan that it is worth a lot, (He took out a loan 20 years ago against the value of our house to start this business)  He tells me it is just scrap iron that he pays $6000/year to warehouse??? He does not pay much toward household expenses and nothing toward retirement or savings. I was in a discussion this weekend about a local man in a very small community who embezzled nearly $1 million dollars as the town clerk over many years and now he is going to jail.  He is saying he had psychological "issues" now.  One of the group said, "Why didn't his wife go over his books and realize something was wrong?"  I said, "A wife isn't going to go through her husband's (he also had a small business) business books. How is she to know what is going on with how he makes his money in his business and as public servant?"  She said, "Of course, you would know. You would know something was out of whack and you would go through his paperwork and check it out.  She must be just as stupid as her husband."  I felt sick to my stomach.  My husband's business accounting is very much all cash. (He says he doesn't trust himself with a credit card.  He buys gas $5 cash at a time and pays with it with $10 cash ($5 cash back).  He traveled 30,000 business miles per his taxes last year and all he has for receipts are a tall pile of cash $5 receipts. Something is amiss.  And now I realize that by trying to trust my husband and giving him the benefit of the doubt so often and not try to handle his business, my reputation and also my self respect are in jeopardy.  His business is a mess.  His desk is a mess. I cannot do this alone anymore.  I am just as overwhelmed with his mess as he is.

ADDer who balances the books...

I know... The Worst Idea Ever... Long before I ever knew about ADD, I realized that I was always wondering where the Hell all my money went. I also HATED the paper ledger in the check book. I discovered Quicken back in 1991 and my Uncle (Successful Surgeon/2nd dad to me/Super Role Model) kept track of everything in Quicken. Once I started using it, I became obsessed with keeping things up to date (Obsessed, go figure...) and I really got my check book organized and started seeing my spending patterns and knew what was available to spend. I was paying bill online in 1994, everyone said I was crazy!!! I HATE writing out checks, stuffing envelopes, finding stamps and remembering "When" to mail them so they hit the accounts at the "Right" time. Who's crazy now ;)

After my DW and I combined accounts (She was a book keeper), I figured she would be much better at this than me, so she took over the accounts. Years later, I realized this task completely stressed her out and she had stuff everywhere. We never knew what was in the accounts, so we were always in trouble. I offered to take over the bills/checkbook and went back to my Quicken roots in 2003 and as data was compiled we began to "SEE" where the money was going. Categories for Dining, with subcategories: Weekday Lunch, Weekday Dinner, Weekend Dining. This is just one example of how you can really see where the money goes. I enter ALL of our receipts. This keeps me responsible too. I don't like having cash on me, because it just disappears into the unknown, so I track Cash ATM withdrawals in Quicken, but prefer things to be paid with the debit card. I track all credit card debt as well, but sit down before you watch these totals calculate with your net worth. 

Having a "Picture" that a couple can SEE together will help get the big picture. I HATE unknowns and chaos and we lived like that for years. Until I could quantify the finances I just spent like it was there...

Good luck!

It never materializes....ha!

I see a lot of familiarity in some of your words..."He keeps saying he'll give me money but it never materializes" - I would attribute this to the good 'ole ADHD "good intentions".  When my ex and I first started living together, he was struggling financially so I paid most of his bills for about a year, not cheap mind you.  After that year his business turned around and he was making a good living.  Funny thing was, at that point he never thought to say "hey let me help or give you some money for the time you helped".   And I absolutely hate having to ASK for money.  This became a huge arguing point for us because at this point i felt taken advantage of.  This is one of his largest sticking points - that i felt he took advantage of me when he didn't (he is diagnoses but in denial about the effect of the ADHD on our relationship).   Knowing what i know now, most of this was his ADHD.  I KNOW he would have given me every cent but I had to ask for it to get it done (and ask again and again).  But, my codependency issues dropped in and I was standing firm that he should just do it on his own or offer on his own.  I kept being the martyr and silently reeling as he lent money to his mother.  Again, knowing what i know now, id do things differently.  But, c'est la vie - it's a one way road it seems - he flew the coop and still holds grudges (I'm still to blame for all the problems).

In your case - is he reluctant to help out truly or do you think it could be ADHD symptom of not getting around to it?   Is it something you could manage if he decided on an "allowance" and the rest went into an account set up JUST for house bills and you took care of his cell phone bill?   This is where i was headed with my ex - but never got there.  I agree with the poster that advised not to approach it before the interview - you want him to be in top shape for that otherwise this point about money is irrelevant.  Good luck.   If he does get the job, celebrate and then maybe approach him when spirits are high with a "new idea" for handling money to alleviate everyone's stress.  Easier said than done, surely I know that!

Thanks all for the

Thanks all for the comments.

I hope we are going to be able to set up a session with our counselor to discuss this all. He responds better when I vent in counseling than when we're on our own. Although, I think he read my vent e-mail to the counselor since he was borrowing my Blackberry yesterday. It looked like it had been opened when I got the phone back yesterday evening, but he didn't say anything. 

I did hold my tongue (for the most part) before his interview--it went well (YAY!) and we hope hear back within a week about whether or not he makes the next round. It's a law enforcement related job, not his top pick, but it gets him going in the direction he wants to go. He used to be a cop and was fired for chronic lateness (and probably for pissing people off); when he was a cop he had most everything together which would make sense since it is a high adrenaline job. That was before he was diagnosed with ADHD. He loved his job and deep down, I don't think he has ever gotten over losing it.  

I think a lot of his issues revolve around self-worth. I think he wants to help, intends to helps, wants to be involved with financial planning, etc. but he just can't comprehend our financial situation. Whenever I show him what bills we are paying and the amount of money left (usually pennies), he gets really defensive and says he doesn't like the format of the budget (although I put together per his guidelines). The last argument we had devolved into him saying he was worthless as a earner, that he hated me being the bread winner, that he should just kill himself, etc. That upsets me, of course. I know he's not a lazy person. Heck--he's a born hustler. That boy can make two dollars out of a penny if given a chance. But I think he's just overwhelmed with his circumstances and doesn't know how to control his cash flow. What words we did exchange yesterday morning were tinged with his usual tendency to go to extremes. He HAD to have a phone and if I wouldn't give him the money out of the emergency account then he would either shovel s--t for two weeks or perform vulgar sexual acts for money. He wouldn't do either, but that's how he swings sometimes.

He's not a big spender, it's just the little things that add up. I've told him what he needs to contribute weekly. He knows it but it never materializes. He's using cash right now after we had a big debacle with our joint and personal accounts. The way it was set originally was that we had a joint account for bills and it was linked to personal accounts for us both. For a while he did OK, but then he started going into overdraft and when he didn't put money back in there, it would automatically draft out of our joint account. Of course with money so tight, the automatic draft would often put the joint account into overdraft or leave me with not enough money for the bills. I finally had enough and moved my account to another bank so he wouldn't have access. It's been OK in the interim but once he does have a "real" job again, something will have to be done. I would prefer to make sure all of our bills are paid--cell phone and everything. If I do fork over the money for the cell phone situation, my caveat may be that I handle the management of the account. But that leads us back to the problem of will he have the money to contribute to it?

Ideally, he will get a job that pays a fixed sum on a regular basis and we can go from there. Hopefully I can convince him to deposit it into the joint account so all of the bills get paid and we can decide on an allowance for us both. He's been resistant to that idea in the past--too much like a parental relationship in his mind. But that's the only way we can control his spending, I think. Perhaps after he runs out of his allowance a few times, he will be compelled to keep track of his money better. 

YZZ--I don't use Quickbooks, but I have this crazy spreadsheet that tracks all of our expenses, bills, debt, etc. I'm such a dork! :-)