A Family in Crisis:Stacy Drops a Bombshell

A Family in Crisis:Stacy Drops a Bombshell
Dr. Phil brings in financial planner Elizabeth Warren to help assess the family finances.
With credit card debt and Stacy's outstanding student loans amounting to nearly $125,000, the family's financial outlook seems bleak.

"Our financial situation is on my mind 24/7," admits Stacy. "Before we ever got married, we talked about who was going to work. [Chris] was going to work full time and I was going to stay home and take care of the kids."

Chris, who is currently in training as a car salesman, says his first paycheck was $604.

He asked Stacy several months ago to get a job to help out with the bills.

"I'm a Mormon," says Stacy. "We've relied on the church to pay our rent, to pay our electricity in the past, and right now they're providing most of our food . . . I took my jewelry to the pawn shop the other day to get a loan, and that was so that I could pay the electricity so it wouldn't get shut off."

Says Chris, "The first time I found out that Stacy ever pawned jewelry, I was furious. I worked hard to give her the jewelry that I did — especially an engagement ring. I hate failing and marriage right now feels like a failure."

Dr. Phil asks Dr. Elizabeth Warren, a professor of law at Harvard University and author of The Two Income Trap, to assess Chris and Stacy's financial situation.

Professor Warren asks Chris what jobs he had applied for when he was unemployed. He tells her he had applied at Wal-Mart and local grocery stores, but never received a job offer.

Professor Warren then asks Stacy what work she's qualified to do. With a Bachelor's degree in criminal justice and a Master's degree in professional counseling, Stacy responds that she is qualified for many jobs. When Professor Warren asks Stacy what positions she has applied for, Stacy admits that she hasn't been looking for work, stating that she and Chris can't both be away from home for 40 hours a week.

"The overdue bills add up to $40,397," says Professor Warren. "The interest on that, as best I can tell, is running at about $800 a month."

Professor Warren asks Stacy if it's Chris's duty to earn a living.

"That's his role," remarks Stacy. "It's part of our belief system [as Mormons]."

Dr. Phil uses a graphic to point out Chris and Stacy's current family expenses. "The expenses for just the basics right now at your current standard of living is $4,448. Your net income is $1,570 and your income shortfall is almost $3,000."

Dr. Phil asks for Professor Warren's evaluation of the family's financial picture.

"The conversation that we had is that Stacy just doesn't want to work," explains Dr. Warren. "If she's going to work, she's going to get rid of Chris and try to do this on her own."

Dr. Phil turns to Stacy, "I heard you say in the tape that your religion, your belief, is that it's the husband's divine

responsibility to provide and for you to nurture the children."

Brandishing a piece of paper, Dr. Phil points out, "That's not what [the Mormon creed] says. It does say mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. Disability, death or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. If you get in a special circumstance, then you may have to change roles some, or share roles or do things differently."

Dr. Phil asks Professor Warren what steps the family can take to improve their financial future.

"[Stacy's] got to go to work, and she's to got to go to work now," insists Professor Warren. "Not next month, not six months from now, not after the baby comes. You've got to have rent now."

Professor Warren then says that Stacy and Chris need health insurance as the next step in protecting for the future. Says Professor Warren, "You don't have health insurance and you're already looking at a baby on the way ... it's really important."

Dr. Phil wonders if Stacy and Chris should consider bankruptcy to eliminate their debt.

"Bankruptcy is a one-time, get-out-of-jail-free card with debt," explains Professor Warren. "If you use it now and then, God forbid, you hit more medical debt or Chris loses his job, folks, that's it."

Dr. Phil asks Chris is he's on the verge of making more money at his current job as a car salesman.

"If I go to straight commission, the potential is to make more money immediately," says Chris.

"You're selling cars, which isn't your first choice," points out Dr. Phil. "You've been a professional in golf, correct?"

When Chris admits that he did apply for positions at golf clubs, Dr. Phil chimes in, "But didn't you send out five applications? How many golf clubs are within 45 minutes of your home?"

Chris tells Dr. Phil that there are probably 160 golf clubs in his area. Dr. Phil asks Chris why he didn't send out more applications to those clubs, and he responds, "I tried to pick and choose the ones I thought I would be most successful gaining that position."

That's no excuse for Dr. Phil.

"I would just be in those people's faces every way I could, every day I could," he stresses. "We are up against the wall here."

Dr. Phil wants to know why Stacy, who claims her family is 30 days from being homeless, isn't working.

"I realized deeply that I am holding onto resentment toward [Chris] and that's blocking me from moving forward," says Stacy.

"You can't afford to be pissed off, woman!" yells Dr. Phil. "You've got to get a job."

Stacy replies, "I feel like I'm rescuing the situation. I felt like ... he still was willing to make $20,000 a year or whatever, and that wasn't OK with me."

"Starvation is not therapy," Dr. Phil points out. "You have children in the home. You don't teach him a lesson by saying, 'OK, we'll just wait until you get it.'"

"That's what I was doing," Stacy admits.