Weak can't help weak

November 20, 2011 

Dear Dave,

My husband and I have been married less than a year, and already we're having huge disagreements over money. He's got a big heart, but often he'll just give money to friends and family. Sometimes, this leaves us short when it comes to monthly bills, paying off debt and saving anything. I guess he thinks we'll get by somehow, but it scares me. What can I do?

- Summer

Dear Summer,

It sounds like he does have a big heart, and I'm sure that's one of the reasons you love him. But this kind of behavior is completely irresponsible. What's worse, it's driving you crazy. At this point, you have every right to be scared and frustrated, because the message he's sending you is he wants to take care of everyone else before he takes care of you and your family. That's not a good idea.

Broke people can't help broke people, meaning only the strong can help the weak. At this point, you guys should be working together to get your own financial house in order. I'm talking about becoming debt-free, with a fully loaded emergency fund of three to six months' worth of expenses in place, and something set aside for your golden years. Then, once all that has been taken care of, if you have a friend or family member in financial need, you can gift them $300 or whatever you guys agree is an appropriate amount.

I'm a big giver, both at my business and in my personal life. But I've learned that my first gifts should go to my wife and family. After I've taken care of my own, then comes giving outside of the household. You guys need to take care of yourselves right now. Kill off the debt and build up some wealth so that your husband's heart can function in that gift.

- Dave

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