Today’s excerpt is from the fictional tale: Financing Your Life—The Story of Four Families Taking Their Financial Lives Out of the Red and Into the Black. In this excerpt, we see the relationship between Shannon and Toby start to crumble as Toby’s secrets begin to come out.
Shannon and Toby
The Financial Truth Will Set You Free
“How much credit debt do you have that I don’t know about—that isn’t on our two shared cards?”
“I don’t know, like …” Toby mentally tallied all his cards. Holy cow, that’s actually a lot more than I thought. I guess I never really added it up before.
“I don’t like how long this is taking you. Is that indicative of a huge balance?” Shannon’s heart rate accelerated as she imagined the worst.
“About $4000. I think.”
Shannon’s mouth fell open, her jaw loose and her lips unable to form words. After processing the information for a moment, she said, “Did I hear you right? Did you say four thousand?”
“Yeah, but I need to pull out my statements to make sure. I might have forgotten something.”
“Oh my, Toby—what were you thinking?”
Toby’s voice rose almost to a shout. “I was thinking that I was an adult who could handle his own money—just like you can. It’s not like I took out the debt after you lost your job.”
“But you keep spending and increasing it.”
“I bought a freaking hat today—give me a break, will you? I can’t buy a hat?”
Now Shannon’s voice reached the level of shouting. “No. No, you cannot buy a forty-dollar hat while I’m unemployed. We have no savings, I’m going to have a tax penalty for taking a loan out of my 401(k), and we can barely afford to eat on your salary alone. You cannot buy any more hats!” Shannon’s face crumpled and she ran into the bedroom to cry.
She hadn’t yet cried over the loss of the job she loved or the career she cherished. She hadn’t cried over the blank stare she received when asking potential employers for an application, over the hours she spent in the house staring at the computer monitor waiting for it to deliver news of a job opportunity or the stress of eating pasta every night because it was cheap. She hadn’t even shed a single tear during the hundreds of times she hit refresh on her email box waiting to hear back from any one of the online applications she’d completed. But finding out that Toby had a secret stash of credit cards and debt? That was too much. That was the final straw.
Watching Shannon run out of the room, Toby felt terrible. When she was asking him about his debt, he felt cornered, like a rabbit trying to stare down a fox. It was true; they’d never established any parameters for how they were supposed to handle their separate bank accounts. They had a joint account for bills and they each contributed 50 percent of the total bills each month to it. Then, they had two shared credit cards for emergencies. But their personal financial affairs were just that—personal. He’d never cared what she was doing, and he assumed she never cared about what he did. If I really thought she didn’t care, why did I always make sure she didn’t see my personal credit card bills? Maybe, on some level, I knew what I was doing was wrong.