Biggest Money Mistakes

Biggest Money Mistakes

Vincent and Sonya

From splurging on big-ticket items to not paying the bills, money management issues have plagued Sonya and Vincent's 11-year relationship. They are now $50,000 in debt, without a steady source of income, and are at risk of losing their home.

"Vincent used to make $277,000 a year," explains Sonya. "About two years ago, he got laid off, and since then, he hasn't had a steady job. Even when he was making money, he mismanaged it. Our lights were cut off and we were six months behind on the car payment, but he'd go out and buy DVDs, computers and expensive suits ... He wasn't being responsible."

Vincent defends himself saying he's been job hunting, but "I'm looking for the ideal position that I'm qualified for. I wouldn't take a job that pays me just $9 an hour ... I'm not going to take 20 steps back. I'm also in the process of starting my own business, which takes time away from finding a job."

While Vincent looks for his "ideal" job, Sonya juggles between being a full-time student and working a part-time job that pays $11 an hour, which isn't enough to make ends meet. "I'm working and going to school full time, while he's sitting at home getting unemployment checks and spending them on DVDs ... We have four kids, bills to pay, a mortgage ... It makes me angry because I'm sick and tired of doing everything myself."

"You need to start this over right now," says Dr. Phil. "You need to negotiate some philosophy about this because you're both turning on each other and blaming each other.

"It seems to me that you guys are not being realistic about where you are. You have money problems, correct? You can't pay your bills, but you're spending money. Stop complaining, 'I don't like that you do this.' Be specific about what you want to get done. Come up with a To-Do list. Come up with a plan that you can both be excited about. That's the most important thing."

Dr. Phil continues, "You need to make a deal that both of you can live with, and then you have to be willing to say, 'OK, we've got a plan, we've agreed to it. I'll take this one day at a time and move forward. I'm not going to live in the past. I'm not going to be judgmental and dog on you for what you did do, but from this day forward, understand that we've got to be responsible.'"

Dr. Phil tells Kristen, "You've got to give him the chance to get back on the good side of this thing. To do that, you've got to let the past go, but only when you make a plan for the future. Do now what you should have done before you got married."

"You guys are in dire straits financially," says Dr. Phil. "You received a foreclosure notice on your house. Both cars have been repossessed. You've pawned everything you own, including your computer and wedding ring ... the reality is you're going broke. You need to get some cash flow right now."

Dr. Phil addresses Vincent's reluctance to accept a job that doesn't meet his standards, "You said you don't want to work for $9 an hour unless there's a future. Well, you know what? Nine dollars an hour is better than no dollars an hour ... It would help in keeping the house, the car, buying clothes for the children. And this stuff about starting a business, that's fiction. It's fantasy. It's something that you may want to do, but right now you can't afford to do that. I'm not telling you not to dream, not to set goals, but you need to be realistic."

Dr. Phil continues, "The true measure of success is not 'What am I doing?' It is, 'Am I doing all I can do right now?' If all you can do today is make $200, then make the $200 and say 'I did everything I could do today. I contributed to my family and I was responsible in handling our money.' It isn't about intention ... You've got to get a job today and a better job tomorrow."

Dr. Phil explains to Vincent that once he secures a job and starts contributing financial support to the family, "You will like yourself better and Sonya will like you better. She'll stop resenting you for feeling like she has to carry this heavy burden of being the sole breadwinner of the family. When that happens, you can start to own this together and work your way out of this difficult financial situation without sacrificing your marriage."

Aaron and Raquel

Aaron's gambling addiction has spiraled out of control, putting his wife Raquel and their three children's financial future in jeopardy. In the last six months, he has lost more than $100,000 playing video slot machines.

"The only reason I stopped gambling," says Aaron, "is that I ran out of money. I still have the urge to gamble. I blew our entire life savings of $30,000. If I won $1 million dollars tomorrow, I don't think I could hang on to it. I'm really scared. I don't want to lose my family."

Until recently, Raquel had no idea about Aaron's addiction. "When Aaron is having financial problems, he hides and he doesn't talk to me," she says. "To say that I'm upset would be an extreme understatement."
A full-time mother with another child on the way, Raquel says "my biggest fear is he gets a lump sum of money for the children's college fund, and puts it in a slot machine."

Dr. Phil starts by addressing the reality of Aaron's problem. "You have an addiction. You have an absolute, drop dead addiction that is no less of an illness, it is no less powerful, it is no less crippling and devastating to your life than if it was cocaine or alcohol, or any other substance.

"You have a serious problem, and lying, cheating, stealing and hiding from your one life's partner is the worst thing you can possibly do. You need to get real, you need to get honest, and you need to put this up on the table so we can deal with it. You've got to be completely honest with your wife. You've got to be completely honest with anybody that you talk to about this ... You have got to understand that you can never gamble again another day, another dime in your entire life."

Dr. Phil continues, "This is an illness and it can't be cured. Some people can't drink; some people can't gamble. You can't gamble. You will never cure this. You will manage it. You are not above getting in a 12-step program like Gamblers Anonymous. You not only need to be in Gamblers Anonymous, you need to be in the front row. And, you need to surround yourself with people that will kick your ass if you look at a casino!"

As for how Raquel can best help her husband, Dr. Phil explains, "You need to work at supporting him. But if he refuses to get the help that I'm saying he needs, you need to kick him out until he does. You can't live with an addict because you're not dealing with Aaron; you're dealing with an addiction. The good news is, this is manageable."

Kristen and Jason

Though they have been married for only six months, Kristen and Jason have separated three times due to their reoccurring fights over money. They are now $65,000 in debt and continue to be at odds over how to manage their finances.

"I don't want to be responsible for his debts," Kristen says. "What happens if he doesn't have a job? I'm the one who has the bills in my name. The apartment's in my name ... the phone bills, the electric bill, and that's the cause of a lot of problems."

Jason explains that he feels his wife is too extreme when it comes to finances. "Kristen is absolutely obsessed with debt. She has the impression that debt needs to be paid off instantly."

Kristen feels that their lack of communication is what's ruining their marriage. "We have no budget whatsoever," says Kristin. "Do we talk about it? No, because that would cause major conflicts."

They each blame the other for excessive spending. Jason complains that Kristen thinks nothing of getting pedicures and having lunch with friends, while Kristen says, "I'm scared to death [about our finances], and he's out playing golf."