4 of 8
With the makeup off, Suze helps Sylvia realize the full extent of her financial problems. Sylvia used to work as a hairdresser but hasn't had a job in 12 years. With Sylvia already behind on her mortgage payments, Suze breaks down all of her bills.

Just to maintain the house for her four children—including the mortgage, home equity lines of credit, property taxes, insurance and the telephone bill—Suze says Sylvia owes $4,698 per month. Although her two cars are paid off, Sylvia still pays about $355 per month for gasoline, maintenance and licensing fees, plus $312 per month for car insurance. "But currently, we have no health insurance for you, no life insurance for you, no disability insurance for you, no dental insurance for you," Suze says. "We've protected the cars but haven't protected you."

On top of keeping a roof over their heads, daily expenses to care for her children tally up to about $1,839 per month. And if she makes only the minimum payments on her credit cards, she will pay about $1,754 each month. In total, Sylvia's bills add up to a whopping $9,248 per month.

Suze says most women underestimate what it really costs to live day-to-day. "You think it costs you to live the amount of your paycheck," she says. "The truth of the matter is, if you add everything in, it's probably $1,500 to $3,000 more per month than it's really costing you, which is why you never get out of credit card debt. You never have money to save. You never feel like you can get ahead."

Like Sylvia, Suze says every woman needs a reality check. "Look at the things that you spend on vacation. On gifts for the holiday, birthday, wedding gifts. The little potlucks that you do, whatever it is," Suze says. "Take those major expenses that maybe you just do once a year, divide that by 12, and then add that to your monthly expenses. You'll get a real picture of what's going on."

Sylvia's new reality is that she needs to start from scratch. Suze says Sylvia needs to sell her home and rent a one-bedroom apartment—but not only for financial reasons. "The children are used to sleeping with mommy—all four of these children—to protect Mommy at night from Daddy. … And even though Daddy is not here now, they still sleep with Mommy altogether because that's the only way they feel safe," Suze says. "A one-bedroom apartment is what fits this situation because they don't want to sleep apart yet … they're not emotionally capable of separating right now because of everything they've seen as well."
FROM: Suicide, Lies, Debt: A Suburban Nightmare
Published on March 14, 2008


Next Story