How to get out of a financial mess? Anyone have any specific tips or resources please?

Hi everyone...

I am new to this site and have tried to search a bit before posting. A lot of couples with the impact of ADHD suffer from a horrible financial mess. We are definitely in that boat. Due, in part, to my husband's untreated ADHD, we are close to $65-$80,000 in debt. Like credit card debt and regular monthly expenses bills. It's so late right now and I'm exhausted, so my apologies for not introducing myself more fully. But I just couldn't go another day without reaching out in hopes that someone on this site has been through the financial doldrums and somehow came out of it. 

My husband cannot and will not focus on addressing his ADHD because he is obsessed with our financial situation. I am numb, bitter, overwhelmed, and not even sure what to do.

I work 36 hours/week. We have two-year-old twins. My husband has been unemployed just over 2 years, but has a small business which he is not very good at running and makes very inconsistent money usually costing us more than he makes. 

What can we do about the debt? Resources? Tips? Please.

Thank you!




Pbartender's picture

DIY Budgeting...

For an ADHDer,  I've got a pretty good handle on finances, but it takes time and effort...  Right now, I'm working to reduce our debt and thereby free up some spare cash for spending and saving, so we aren't squeaking by paycheck-to-paycheck.  I can give a few more details when I've got more time, but here's a basic few tips to start with:

  1. Start saving bill stubs...  You can figure out what you can spend, if you don't know what you have been spending.
  2. Sort them into wants vs. needs...  And be completely honest about what you can do without.  There's a lot of things that people consider "needs" that are actually "wants".
  3. Plan ahead...  Use those bill stubs to estimate your weekly/mothly income and expenses.  If a bill is variable, find a way to make it more "stable", or estimate high.  I plan out a budget that covers a year's worth of necessary bills at a time, to make certain our "needs" are met.
  4. Use what's left to pay down debts, and indulge in a few chosen "wants".

Considering the amount of your debt and the anxiety it causes, youmight want to look into a debt/budget/financial counselor.  DON'T use debt-reduction programs, they almost universally a waste of money.

More later.



Living a fairy tale life in your own mind comes to haunt

I had a similar situation.  I have done the budgeting, billing and get the taxes for over three decades when at one point in our early marriage, I realized DH had done the same thing as your husband - he was wearing designer suits and ties, driving an MG sports car and staying out late at nights into the mornings while i was taking care of our baby.   Hmmmmm....I can hardly stand to go there thinking about it even now.  We were WAAAAAY in debt and once i saw it (I had assumed he would take care of bills, taxes and budgeting, like my father did but he just didn't.), I saw that we were making less money than the INTEREST on our debt.   By the way, I was buying second hand clothes.  I thought I was supporting OUR life and OUR financial future by supporting him this way and he would be the bread winner!  He said he needed to dress well and a nice car to take out clients.....(it wasn't clients he was taking out now I realize that I have taken off my "trusting wife hopeful glasses". I budgeted and took on a full time job (our little baby went to a full time babysitter).  He went into depression and starting seeing a doctor who cost more than what we made. He said the sports car was what he needed for his depression.  After I caught him kissing a secretary in a bar late at night, he said the only thing that would make him feel better (depression-wise) is to move back to our little tiny hometown.   It wasn't that I was such a fool.  It was that I had no where else to go. It was a time when the word "divorcee" was very derogatory and welfare was not an option.  I agreed to moving back to home town in the middle of nowhere in the county to get away from secretary. I knew this was not a good move for ME to live in the country, but felt I had no options.  We were OK for a while....mostly because I "stuffed" a lot.  I was able to take care of business, "look the other way", find my own happiness, try not to think about what he was doing while on his out of town trips - one or two weeks a month he traveled for business.  I stuffed, stuffed, stuffed.  Now here I am and can't believe as I write this that I had to put up with all that.  Here we are in our sixties and he had started his own business after being let go of two jobs in a row and not working for a year and a half.  I again took up the slack and got a full time job working 50-60 hours a week with a son in grade school while DH "got his business off the ground".  It never really was a living wage and now there has been no retirement money put aside other than what that full time job gave my 401K.  He still has his original 20 year old loan he took out for his business and can't pay it back without taking away from household money.  He WILL NOT talk about money with me.  When I say we must talk about money (or anything important), he diverts me with an argument and tells me to not spend so much.  He told me I SHOULD NOT SPEND more than $30/week on groceries!!!!   He is so out of touch with anything that has to do with money.  Your question is a good one.  What should you do?  I am sharing this so that you have an idea of what your life will be like 30 years from now if you did as I did, helping him, supporting the family when needed and stuffing it like a "good, supportive, hard-working, non-complaining, non-nagging wife".   And now he manipulates me still (I guess I am stupid) and thinks he is very successful and smart (still not in reality with money).  Still flirts.   I feel manipulated, insignificant, unloved and stupid.   What would I do differently?  I would find a relative.   Parent, sibling - even cousin - to tell my story to in total detail and tell them I need some help with living arrangements.  Now that I am older, if a younger relative would tell this story to me, I would certainly help out and house them while they found other housing.  Older women all know how it can go in EVERY marriage and some WILL WANT to help you.  If the first one says no, keep trying until you find one.  DON'T KEEP HIS FAILURES A SECRET - THEY ARE NOT YOUR FAILURES. If he doesn't respect you enough to put some focus into family, he may not want his GOOD GUY reputation to be tarnished. That is why many ADD DH's are not on this site until their wives have already left them. As long as husbands "get away with it", why make any changes? He deserves to be known for how he ACTUALLY treats his wife.   I kept his failures a secret like they were my own embarassing family secret.  I didn't even let my sons know....they don't know anything to this day.  They think their dad is someone to look up to and have fun with. They think I worked so hard because I liked it.

He does not see you as a person.  Find someone who loves you.  Find an older helpful friend to help you out of this.  Then, STAY out of this.  Over time your finances will work out if you can get away from it.  If you have not been married too long, a court will not saddle you with his debt and it will give him the slap on the hand he deserves.  Talk to a family lawyer or a paralegal for some free advice.  Do it today.  Do it right now. 

Dear heaven,   Questions -

Dear heaven,   Questions - Does your H realize how much he spends as opposed to the income ?  We are not in financial debt so bad, but my H is an ebay shopper has to 'window shop' every ngiht, he never thinks he spends that much because he rarely buy big ticket items, and I guess I'm lucky when he does want something that is pricey he usually 'asks permission' because I do our finances.  Hut the $20 here and $40 there adds up, he doesn't 'Get' that so last year when our credit card summary statement came that itemized all the purchases for the year I showed it to him, $45,000 in purchases in one year. Guess I am also lucky that he has always been employed and we both have good careers so its not too big an issue, but if one of us loses our job we would be in serious trouble, not to mention how much we Could have saved for college and other important things.  I was planning on taking his credit card (or MY I should say) away from him and getting him a debit card, loading it with a certain amount of money each month and saying this is what you have for 'play money' and when its gone its gone. I have not had to do that yet but it is something I am considering. What bothers me is this spending money like water seems to have been inherited by my sons too. I try so hard to teach them how to save and earn money, but when their dad gets whatever if he wants or whatever they want its hard to teach that lesson when their dad can't even do that.

other than getting a job that pays better or HIM getting a job I don't know how to get out of debt. You could refinance/consolidate bills, etc. but if the spending doesn't stop you will just be in the same situation again. the spending has to be controlled.

Financial Mess... Any specific tips or resources?

Hi again! My apologies for my delay in continuing this dialog. I was just exhausted the last couple of nights and couldn't stay awake to reply. Thank you pbartender, jennylemon and funnyfarm for taking the time to reply to my post. Each of your responses were valuable, gave me much to think about and reflect on. Thank you for sharing some of your story and my heart goes out to you for your struggles.

It's late again, so I'll be brief, but I do look forward to this online community and will continue to connect with everyone. ADD as an adult sure can be challenging, and exhausting and devastating.

My husband lost his job in April 2010. He does have a small entrepreneurial business which is essentially traveling sales. Much of the sales is seasonal, and it has been very hard for him to run his business, which requires a lot of travel, while also trying to return home to his role as a new father and husband. The costs of running the business exceed his profits. He's not very organized and has come up against lots of barriers and challenges- his own lack of motivation and discipline being one of his top challenges. Plus it's costly to run a household and manage on-the-road life-expenses. DH has managed to run up a pretty outrageous amount of debt- a lot of revolving credit debt. Like somewhere between $65,000-$85,000 of debt I think. He is so distraught that he is completely cranky and irritable all the time. He is basically spending countless hours on the computer, obsessing, blaming, escaping, whining, blaming, whining, freaking out, driving me to fury. I cannot tolerate him for more than a few minutes. His ADD is completely unmanaged. He says he cannot focus on addressing the ADD until he gets the debt under control. This has been going on for quite a while- 8-10 months(?) It's worse this month because he has finally been denied further extensions of credit and doesn't have enough money to cover his basic monthly bills.

I am not interested in bailing him out. He wants me to get a 0% balance transfer offer for him. He wants my dad to loan him (us) money. We cannot even discuss these 2 requests of his, because at my first hint of not wanting to do either of these he launches into how insane I am and how could I not take this more seriously. He has offered to give me his credit cards, allow me to pay him an 'allowance' and he will "never, ever get in this situation again."

@@@&%^[email protected]#)*&^[email protected]+::&"($%@!~??><))*[email protected]%)!!!!!!!<<>>??!!***$

That beautiful line above is my condensed version of my venting and highly negative commentary detailing my opinions, emotions, thoughts and point of view. Melissa Orlov's book indicates EMPATHY is step #1. I fail. I am no where near true empathy. So for now, you cannot see me roll my eyes, grunt and cry, scream and shout, escape and shut down. But you can see my pretty little punctuation marks!

So.... back to my original post......

Again, thank you to others for their insightful comments and sharing so vulnerably about the tragic challenges ADD brings to marriage and finances. What I am hoping for is that someone may have some specific recommendations about handling such a large debt. Did you file bankruptcy? How did it impact you and your family? Did you work with a debt-consolidation non-profit company? Did you borrow from family? Bail out your ADD spouse? What other options are there? How did you manage to keep a parent-child dynamic OUT of this conversation as you dealt with such debt? Have you gone through significant debt/financial problems in cycles? If you "fixed" a similar financial crisis- did you go through it again after a 'good-behavior' period of years? Are there any breaks for people with mental illness? I hear it is very difficult to get one's ADD classified as a disability and receive disability benefits. Are there any accommodations made for mental health crises? Any recommendations?

Help? What can he do? What can I do? Specific links/websites/financial consultants, etc are welcome!

More from me soon. Hoping for more suggestions. Thanks!





DO NOT help him financially

DO NOT help him financially get out of the debt he has made for you.  It will NOT pay in the end.  He will not remember or appreciate it one day.  It is what I did.  30 years now and he STILL has not paid the loan against the value of our house he took out for his business.  He wanted to take out a second one (put a paper in front of me one morning and said I MUST sign it RIGHT NOW because the banker was WAITING).  I said no.  THANK GOD I sttod my ground or we, at our retirement age now would be in deeper debt.  He used the loan to give him a pay check.  Now it of course is gone.  We are looking at retirement with debt.  You must go to your parents or other relative and don't go back to him. He will be OK.  He got himself into this.  He WILL get himself out.  Don't let this string of debt and promises and excuses keep you involved any longer.  Do not co-sign any loans.

Hi.  I just did a quick

Hi.  I just did a quick Internet search for services (lawyers and law clinics) in Virginia that might be able to help you or from which you might be able to get useful information.  I'm not personally acquainted with any of these (I live in another state).


Thank you RoseRed

Thank you RoseRed... sometimes it helps to have someone else get you started in the right direction. Thank you so much for the links. That was very thoughtful of you. I'll start doing some research soon- tonight perhaps. If anyone else has personal experience with exhorbitant debt and bankruptcy to share, please do. Thanks again, Rose.

I wish that I could offer you

I wish that I could offer you more relevant advice.  Fortunately, my husband and I have not had to deal with large amounts of debt.  He was unemployed for several years in the late 1990s and early 2000s and then lost another job a few years ago, and so we have dealt with our share of financial challenges, but because he had a well-paying job before the first firing and we're both frugal, we had a big savings cushion.  I very much understand how stressful it is to have money problems, though, again because we're so frugal.  When you spend almost no money and still see your bank account balance dropping month to month, it's very painful.  

Something that might or might not be relevant:  I've taken over almost all of the bill paying and much of the legwork for big-money tasks (buying insurance, negotiating college financial aid, and so on) because I don't trust my husband to do things on time.  Although I sometimes find it stressful to deal with things like insurance, it's much less stressful than dealing with unpaid bills or family members without health insurance.  And as far as this being something a task that I shouldn't "take away" from my husband, well, I think that's BS when you're dealing with money and health care and other major issues.


I do ALL the bill paying, finances, budgeting, etc.  I would also be worried that things would not get paid on time if left to my H. I just know he would forget and I hate nagging.  Luckily it is a task that doesn't bother me too much, i would rather take care of the bills than worry they weren't paid.  He does have a credit card and debit card that I have wanted to take away from him from time to time because he impulse shops but I already feel like a parent most of the time taking those away would really make me/him feel like parent/child.  however IF we were in debt i certainly would be cutting up those cards.   There are plenty of other tasks i would like to give him that would not result in our credit being ruined or the electricity being turned if I could get him to clean the bathroom that would be something I would gladly hand over



I am not interested in bailing him out. He wants me to get a 0% balance transfer offer for him. He wants my dad to loan him (us) money. We cannot even discuss these 2 requests of his, because at my first hint of not wanting to do either of these he launches into how insane I am and how could I not take this more seriously. He has offered to give me his credit cards, allow me to pay him an 'allowance' and he will "never, ever get in this situation again."



do not do have your dad bail you out because studies show that people like that just get back into debt once credit cards are paid off by a friend/family member.


What you could do, (if this were possible to keep secret), is to put your H on a controlled money access to CCs (cut them up)....debit card only....which is funded by his job.  Then, if you could privately ask your dad for money (don't tell H) and then pay your dad back....but don't let your H know about any of this.  H would have to think that the big debt still exists on the CCs.  


I can tell you this....transferring some/all of the debt onto 0 interest will only help for a year or whatever the limit is.  You won't get that much paid off in a year.  


You could keep your CC, that has a lowish credit limit on it.  


Your H needs treatment.  My H was always horrible with money (so were his parents), but I didn't realize it at first since he paid the bills and made a high salary.  We didn't save nearly as much as we should have.  Now, I have my own business and we're saving and investing  a lot....and he has little control over money.



He has offered to give me his credit cards, allow me to pay him an 'allowance' and he will "never, ever get in this situation again."



When my H makes these kinds of promises (ones that he'll have a hard time keeping or even REMEMBERING),  I have him write them down, date it, and sign it.  If I could, I would write them on our bedroom wall and have him sign it just to serve as a daily reminder.  Seriously, H will say stuff like this and later claim that he never said it.  

The Now and Not-Now issue with ADHD

I could never understand why and how my H could "forget" what he had recently charged.  Now I know it's part of the "now" or 'not now" thing going on.   


Once he's charged something, the memory of it is he can quickly run up his card because he won't remember other things he's charged.