A tragic case in Taunton, Mass., where a 53-year-old wife and mother fatally shot herself after faxing a letter to her mortgage company, demonstrates a common issue in many marriages; secrets about money. According to police, Carlene Balderrama fax read, in part, "By the time you foreclose on my house, I'll be dead."
"I had no clue," said spouse John Balderrama. He further explained that his wife had handled all the couple's finances and he no idea that she hadn't paid the mortgage in 42 months. But, in fact, there were clues. According to court records, Mr. Balderrama had filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy three times from 2004 to 2006. Obviously there were long-standing financial issues that this couple were not facing together.
This is not unusual. Spouses more often lie to each other about money than any other issue. From hiding purchases and bills to opening single accounts, spouses often minimize their own spending. And in many households, only one spouse is actively involved in handling the family finances.
For a healthy financial partnership, couples should sit down and review finances at least quarterly. This review should include a look at all outstanding bills, projected income, and any other significant financial data like taxes or insurance due. A running summery of net worth is essential so couples know if they are losing ground.
Many couples find it helpful to identify a financial savings goal at the start of each year. Then the quarterly review can include an assessment on how this piece is progressing.
Through regular cash communication, there will not be tragic surprises like this one in Mass.