Reason #2: They accept an "allowance"
Q: I'm a stay-at-home mom who's been married for 22 years; my husband is the sole provider in our household. Our bank accounts are in his name only, and I have no idea how much we have in checking, savings, or our IRAs. He gives me an allowance for gas and groceries, but when something else comes up (oil changes, birthday gifts, prescriptions, clothing, haircuts, doctor visits), I'm expected to cover that, too. Then I don't have enough to buy gas and groceries...so he accuses me of overspending and lowers my allowance. I feel defeated. How can we manage our finances together in a mutually respectful way?
A: Your husband has some strange ideas about equality in a marriage. But he isn't entirely to blame here. Why have you allowed him to impose this dynamic on your relationship? A child gets an allowance—you are his wife. He may be the one who earns money, but being a stay-at-home mom is a job, too. Whether it generates a paycheck is irrelevant; it delivers tremendous value to your family. The real problem is that your husband doesn't appreciate what you do, and you can't expect him to value your hard work if you're not valuing yourself. You don't have a money problem. You have a self-esteem problem.
You must demand that your name be put on every account as co-owner, and then learn exactly where you and your husband stand financially. Next, bring your husband in as an equal partner in managing the monthly spending. Sit down at the end of this month and review every bill. If he has a problem with the amount that's being spent, then it's up to him to offer plausible solutions for cutting down on expenses. This is not your problem to fix alone. It's a challenge for you both to solve—together.
Keep Reading: Suze's retirement plan for stay-at-home moms
Reason #3: They keep one teeny-tiny secret
Q: My husband just discovered that I took out a $125,000 unsecured loan (at 8.29 percent interest) without his knowledge—and needless to say, he's furious. I've suggested that we either refinance our home or take out a home equity loan to pay off this debt. What do you recommend?
A: Your husband "discovered" that you took out this loan—meaning you never told him about it? Your biggest debt is the one you owe your husband, who is a saint for sticking by you. It will take work to regain his trust—you will need to hold yourself accountable from now on and observe one of my first rules of finance: Truth creates money, but lies destroy it.
I'm generally not in favor of exchanging unsecured debt for debt tied to your home, because if you have trouble keeping up with the higher mortgage payments, you could lose your home. The one exception is when you have ample resources, plenty of equity in your home and your intention is to stay in the home for at least five. In that case, it may make sense to refinance if you can qualify for a fixed interest rate of around 5 percent. (The home equity loan at 7 percent doesn't give you enough of a rate reduction over the personal loan to be worth it.) As I write this, the average 30-year fixed-rate loan is right around 4.5 percent. Paying off that $125,000 through a 4.5 to 5 percent fixed-rate mortgage in which the interest is tax deductible is a far better deal than paying 8.29 percent on a personal loan in which the interest is not tax deductible.
Next: Why you need to stop worrying about your budget