Podcast #159 Show Notes: Financial Infidelity

Financial infidelity can mean many things. I have talked for a long time about the importance of being on the same page financially with your spouse. It is so important to be open with each other as far as your finances go. If you are not doing this together, you are almost surely not going to be successful. For this show, I have a guest that shares her story of financial infidelity, a spouse who was hiding a gambling addiction. She wanted to come on the show to share her experience so that others in a similar situation would not feel so isolated. A lack of support, when faced with a spouse with an addiction, can be a big obstacle to getting help. She shares her story along with resources where you can turn for help if you are dealing with addiction in your family. We also discussed what she did to protect herself financially, and in her recovery, so that she can thrive after a worst-case financial scenario as she experienced.  I would hope that no other listeners and readers are going through something as difficult as this, but as we discuss in this episode, it is, unfortunately, more common than we think. Hopefully, this episode can reach those who could benefit from hearing this doctor’s experience.

This podcast is sponsored by Bob Bhayani at drdisabilityquotes.com. He is an independent provider of disability insurance planning solutions to the medical community in every state and a long-time white coat investor sponsor. He specializes in working with residents and fellows early in their careers to set up sound financial and insurance strategies. He is very responsive to me and to readers having any sort of an issue, so it is no surprise that I get great feedback about him from our readers and listeners. If you need to review your disability insurance coverage to make sure it meets your needs or if you just haven’t gotten around to getting this critical insurance in place, contact Bob at drdisabilityquotes.com today by email [email protected] or by calling (973) 771-9100. Just get it done!

Quote of the Day

Our quote of the day comes from Jeff Steiner DO. He said,

“A budget is the most powerful and cheapest skill you can use to manage your finances.”

I totally agree with that. If you don’t have a budget, that’s one of the first things you should line up in your financial plan.

Financial Infidelity

I think this is an important topic to cover. A lot of people have dealt with it and no one wants to talk about it. During this episode, I basically facilitate this physician telling her story on the podcast. I will highlight some of the takeaways from her story that I think others can benefit from in these show notes. Addiction and financial infidelity definitely interact with personal finance on a lot of levels.

Be Involved in the Finances Together

Our guest admits to not being as involved in the finances as she could have been. It was an aging accountant that sparked her to seek out a consultation with a new accountant that resulted in her discovering the gambling issue to begin with.

“Previously that summer I had taken, shortly after tax season, I had taken our personal tax return to a local recommended accountant to get a free consultation type of thing. And she looked at my personal tax return – married, filing jointly. And pointed out some things that were questionable on our personal tax return. She couldn’t really make much of it because she didn’t have my then-husband’s business return. But she basically told me some of the issues and said, you need to bring in the S corp tax returns and these personal tax returns. Bring your husband here, and we will figure out your taxes.

And so that’s basically what happened. I had found all of the required documents to bring her, but I didn’t actually look at them. And about an hour before we left, I reluctantly got my husband to agree to come. He admitted that he made over twice what he said he was making. I thought he was making in the low six figures. He was making well over twice that. And he reluctantly admitted that he was gambling the remainder. He also, that day, before we went to the accountant, admitted that he was in about $50,000 of high interest payday type loans, which I didn’t even know were a thing. Needless to say, the scheduled visit that I had with the accountant went much differently than I originally anticipated.”

Awkward for the accountant, but she was supportive and recognized that these things happen. Had this doctor not sought to get involved in the taxes at this point, the gambling problem would have gone on for much longer and caused more financial damage.

First Steps After Discovering a Partner’s Addiction

As physicians, we recognize that addiction is a disease, and she wanted to get her husband help. They immediately attended a gambler’s anonymous meeting in their town and found a gambling addiction counselor. You probably see casino ads that have at the end “If you have a gambling addiction, call this number”. It is essentially free counseling for people who have addictions like this.

The second step was dealing with immediate money management issues. She took out a home equity loan to pay off the high-interest loans he had in the 25-50% interest range.

“I’m not saying that people should take out loans to enable gamblers further.  I kind of think of those as like fight or flight type responses. Those were the immediate things. But then after a couple of weeks, when we had taken care of the immediate stuff, reality started to set in. It had wiped out my savings. We lost a decent chunk of our home equity because of that. Not to mention we had been married for seven years at that point, and basically I lost all of the trust that I had in my relationship. It was significant.”

She started seeing a therapist and thinking about the long-term. “When you plan a life with someone and then you find out that there is this big part of life that you had no idea existed, you then have to adjust everything that you know.”

Future Steps to Protect Yourself

She was finishing residency and pregnant when she found out about his addiction. They were working through those challenges when they also had to move to a new state for further training. Leaving their support system and this lower cost of living area to move to a higher cost of living area without support was difficult. This added stress led to a lot of anger from her spouse and started a cycle that led to relapse. He turned from his gambling addiction to an alcohol addiction, which, unfortunately, is common when the underlying reason behind the addiction is not addressed. The addictive behaviors don’t go away, they can just change.

He went about 2 years without gambling. She put several steps in place to protect herself, but eventually, he relapsed and got around those.

“I think that the only real protection from a spouse that spends too much money on whatever they’re spending it on is to not be married. I feel like that has to be said, because in a lot of states, you’re just going to be on the hook for whatever it is, even if it’s irresponsible.”

But with that said, here is what she did put into place. Whether these are all healthy options remains to be said but these are options.

  1. Manage the finances. Make sure the bills are getting paid.
  2. Lock your credit so no loans or cards can be taken out in your name.
  3. Lock the person with the addiction’s credit.
  4. Take away person with the addiction’s access to savings accounts.

“I think that these probably didn’t help things the way that I hoped that it would; it didn’t really help him in his recovery from his addiction. And so, it was necessary for our finances, but maybe it didn’t help in the long run. “

She also considered a postnuptial agreement at one point. In a situation where the person is generally working on an addiction, that might be a viable option to be waived from their debts, or they forfeit certain things if they gamble again. But she didn’t think he was ever really in a solid enough place that he would sign that. They tried to make the marriage work for a while, but he relapsed when his credit improved and he was able to get credit cards and maxed them out. Between that and the alcohol abuse, she eventually sought divorce.

Recovery

She feels like part of her recovery started when she started learning about personal finance. She also got hooked into support groups both in person and online. She told her family. She had gone to GA meetings with him when she first found out. She also participated in an organization called Gam-Anon, another 12-step program meant for people who love those who gamble. But it was the Al Anon groups (for people who love those with an alcohol addiction), that really were more well-attended and helpful for her, after he started drinking.

“I realized that there was literature that addressed addictions. There were support groups out there. There were people who got it. And I went from feeling like “I have to keep this a secret” to all of a sudden “there are hundreds of thousands or more people than that, that deal with similar issues, and my situation is not unique”. Then I was able to find the support that I needed.”

Between the support groups, for the addiction and divorce, and moving closer to her family, with that extra support, she is in a great place now compared to where she was.

I asked her what parallels has she noticed between her story and that of others? How unique is her situation?

“I don’t think my situation is really that unique at all. I know it’s hard to believe, especially considering where I was seven or eight years ago, when I didn’t know that addictions were really a thing. I knew peripherally that there are alcoholics but when he told me that he had a gambling addiction, it was like, “What do you mean?” I knew logically that those existed, but just practically, I had no idea that this was a thing. And maybe that’s one of the reasons why I feel like somebody needs to say this kind of stuff out in a public arena. Because there are so many of us that share this situation. People that share my profession, my age, my background, my family status. I just think that so much of what has happened to me is not rare. That’s one of the reasons why I probably feel strongly that somebody needs to talk about this.”

Trust But Verify

Now a classic phrase that is used in situations like this is “Trust but verify.” What does that mean in relation to a spouse’s financial dealings? How does one trust but verify their spouse’s financial dealings?

“I think that this is something that I didn’t do enough of before I found out about this addiction. And I think that really, to somebody who doesn’t know a lot about the finances of their significant other, I think that the start of this is just, you have to ask questions. Even if at the time I didn’t know a ton about personal finance. Even if I didn’t know the answers, showing interest is the first step. If my spouse had been honest and trustworthy about these things, he would’ve pulled out our finances and showed me statements and business tax returns. He would’ve given me access to logins. And I think that that’s probably how it’s done, trusting but verifying, in a normal relationship. I would have probably asked to be at accountant meetings. And if something felt off, I would have noticed this sooner.”

Looking back she sees lot of things that should have been red flags if she had been paying attention to them. Can a couple successfully overcome a situation like this?

“If you’re talking about keeping smaller secrets, like “How much an item cost?” A small loan that they took out to cover a business expense that they didn’t want to admit to their spouse. Sending money to parents. I think that some of those things probably can be worked out. I don’t know, therapy, accepting the other person wants to support their parents, etc. But I think that the realm of crazy financial instability because of an addiction, I think that that’s much more difficult.”

It probably depends on what your definition of successfully overcome is. She thinks that there are a lot of couples that can and do stay together with situations like this but she puts success on a continuum because just staying together isn’t necessarily success.

“It is overlooked how much work and therapy is required of the non-addicted spouse. Especially if they’re going to stay together, because things like expectations, resentment, a number of things have to be addressed in order for that not to be a toxic home. But even with divorce, I’ve done so much work to get where I’m at. You have to heal after any large relationship ends. And even more so if it’s somewhat traumatic, as addictions can be, but there are certain things that happen to the people who love those with addictions.

Oftentimes in psychological literature, it’s called codependency. I basically thought when I was married to a person with an addiction that if his addiction were controlled or gotten rid of, that all of my problems would be gone. But that’s not the case. There is still so much more beyond that. Even if the addiction disappears, there’s the control, there’s the trust. There are a lot of things that go on.

I think that whether the couple stays together after financial infidelity or an addiction or not, I think that recovery for the person with the addiction requires a lot of work. Recovery for the person who loves said person with addiction requires a lot of work. I don’t think that there’s any way of getting out of that.”

Divorce

She has met with divorce attorneys in a couple of different states, so we discussed how spousal support is determined and how that might change in the case of an addiction like this. It depends on the state. In one state a 10-year marriage meant that the person who earned more had to pay the other lifetime alimony. Other places, the higher earning spouse might have to pay about a year of alimony for every three to five years of marriage.  She agreed to pay spousal support because she had different priorities in divorce, to be over quickly with a cooperative environment for their daughter so that she didn’t experience any more trauma than she had to.

A lot of people might view this as a worst-case financial scenario. But it is possible to survive worst-case financial scenarios. What advice does she have?

“I am a person who has been a long-term planner all my life. I see things like a year ahead. I try not to live in the future too much, but the big picture is always there. And I think  being able to look at that big picture is really the key to surviving these kinds of worst-case financial scenarios. Personally, I had the patients to move to a low cost of living area where I had support figures nearby, like family and friends.

I know that not everybody can do that. But people can make hard choices to decrease quality of life, put up with relationship difficulties for longer than maybe is ideal so that you can mediate instead of going through a very high conflict, expensive divorce. I think that there are things that can be done if you look at the big picture to mediate. I know that some people are in immediate danger. I don’t know that this will work for everybody, but I think stepping back and focusing on silver linings, big pictures, I think that those are really important for me.”

 

Ending

This is a hard situation. Her parting advice was to trust but verify. Learn about the finances in your relationship. Make sure you understand what is happening. Ask questions.

 

“Even if you’re the one who is not traditionally in charge of your family’s finances, please, please, please just spend the time, take the effort out of your life to learn at least a little bit about where your accounts are. I get multiple responses when I talk to people about this. I do think that there is a subset of people who think that “This could never happen to me”. I was like that.  Even if you’re right and you might be one of the people who never get divorced, your spouse could get hit by a bus tomorrow or die of Covid tomorrow. You’ll be so much better off by knowing enough personal finance that this wouldn’t be a financial nightmare for you. If you have to lose someone or go through a divorce, it’s better that you don’t also have the stress of having to learn all of your finances at that point, too.”

 

I’ve talked for a long time about the importance of getting your spouse and you on the same page financially. If you’re not on the same page, at least be reading the same book. But it’s so important to be open between each other, as far as your finances go. If you are not doing this together, you’re almost surely not going to be successful.

Full Transcription

Intro:
This is the White Coat Investor podcast where we help those who wear the white coat get a fair shake on Wall Street. We’ve been helping doctors and other high-income professionals stop doing dumb things with their money since 2011. Here’s your host, Dr. Jim Dahle.

Dr. Jim Dahle:

This is White Coat Investor podcast number 159 – Financial infidelity, a personal story. This episode is sponsored by Bob Bhayani at doctordisabilityquotes.com. They’re a truly independent provider of disability insurance planning solutions to the medical community nationwide and a long time WCI sponsor. Bob specializes in working with residents and fellows early in their careers to set up sound financial and insurance strategies. He’s been extraordinarily responsive to me anytime any readers had any sort of an issue so it’s not surprising that I get good reviews for. If you need to review your disability insurance coverage to make sure it meets your needs, or if you just haven’t gotten around to getting this critical insurance in place, contact Bob Bhayani at doctordisabilityquotes.com today by email at [email protected] or simply by calling (973) 771-9100.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
All right, let’s do our quote of the day. This one comes from Jeff Steiner DEO. He is a doc, he’s an author of a financial book, and he said, “A budget is the most powerful and cheapest skill you can use to manage your finances”. And I totally agree with that. If you don’t have a budget, that’s one of the first things you should line up in your financial plan.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
Thanks so much for what you do. It’s been an interesting time in this pandemic. There are a lot of you that are out of work, either lower volumes in private practices, being furloughed without pay, being asked to take pay cuts. It has been interesting, I’ve run into quite a few of you who have employers asking you to do something that your contract doesn’t say you have to, and now you’re faced with the decision of trying to enforce the contract and maybe being fired in 90 days for doing that, or just going along to get along.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
It’s a hard situation for a lot of you. And I’m sorry you’re in that. Now that we are too, our volumes are down dramatically in our ER. I’m recording this on the 23rd of April and it won’t run until May 21st. But right now, our volumes are almost dead in the ERs in Utah. I think I saw four patients on my last shift. Not one of them had fever and a cough. I’m not even sure I’ve seen a patient yet that had a positive coronavirus test.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
And so, it’s a very different situation in some parts of the country versus others, which I think is leading to a lot of this very bitter, almost debate in the press and among people about when to open the economy. And it’s unfortunate, it’s been politicized so much. Clearly both sides have important aspects, important and solid arguments for when to open things up and when to allow things, because there are health risks even to not open up the economy. When people don’t have any income, when they’re not working, they lose health insurance. They lose the ability to get care. They don’t seek out care. There’s more depression, there’s more suicide, there’s more abuse. And so, there’s, health aspects, both ways to doing this, so it’s not purely a health versus economics question. Not to mention there’s all these issues of whether shutting down really helps that much.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
You look at a country like Sweden that didn’t have nearly as much of a shutdown as United States did and they are trying to kind of muddle through and reach herd immunity faster than other people are. And who knows in the end, when we look back that may look like the right approach. But for now, it’s definitely a difficult question of when to start allowing some businesses to open, when to let people out, how much to enforce masks. You end up with these personal liberty questions right now, as I’m recording this, and this will all sound silly in a month when you hear it, maybe. There are all these people out protesting to open the economy up.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
You see a lot of constitutional rights versus public health issues being debated as well as economic versus health issues being debated. I’m glad I’m not the one that has to make any of these decisions, but they are certainly momentous in effect all of us, both health wise and economically.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
So as you wrestle with these, and for those of you who are truly on the front lines, unlike me, I certainly don’t feel like I’m on the front lines at this point anyway, please stay safe out there and please do what you can to keep our country moving forward.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
If you are still feeling pretty locked down, not doing much and have extra time, this is a great time to check out our online courses. We have online courses. You can find them at the whitecoatinvestor.com, if you go to the tab at the top under “Courses”, there’s one called “All our courses”. This includes not only the ones we’ve made ourselves here at the White Coat Investor, but a number of other ones from our partners, both in the WCI network, as well as outside of the network.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
There are courses there on telemedicine and on coding and billing and on budgeting and on all kinds of other things that you may find useful in addition to the more hardcore financial literacy ones that we do and the wellness ones that we have done in the past. There’s even a course on negotiation, there’s a course on local tenants, there’s courses on real estate, there’s courses specifically designed for women. All of these, you can’t enroll in at any given moment, but most of them are evergreen and you can roll in at any time. So, check those out if you’re looking to get some more online education.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
Now we have a pretty interesting interview today. This is somebody that actually reached out to us and asked to come on the podcast, but we’re going to keep her anonymous because I think it’s a really important topic that a lot of people have dealt with and nobody wants to talk about it. And so, I’m going to be facilitating her, basically telling her story on the podcast today. So, let’s get into it here.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
All right. I don’t even know what to call you since we’re going to keep you anonymous on the podcast, but welcome to the White Coat Investor podcast.
Speaker:
Should I give you a fake name?
Dr. Jim Dahle:
If it makes you feel better. I’m not sure any of the listeners are going to care one way or another.
Speaker:
Okay, that’s fine.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
But you have a really difficult story to tell. Even semi publicly, heck even anonymously. Why did you offer to tell your story on the White Coat Investor podcast?

Speaker:
All right. Well, as you are going to learn over the course of the next however long we talk about this, I am a single mother physician who recently in the last few years divorced somebody with an addiction. And we’re here to talk about addiction and financial infidelity because it definitely interacts with personal finances on a lot of levels.

Speaker:
And the reason that I offered to tell this story is that because as I was going through what I was going through, it was very isolating. And actually, if you know anybody with an addiction, isolation is part of the disease. I was told when I found out about said addiction, that if I told people, my ex-husband would divorce me. And at the time I wanted to respect his recovery and so I didn’t tell anybody. And now having gone much further forward from that, seeking out support, telling a lot of people, not everybody in my life, but I see that other people that are going through this isolation is actually part of addiction. And lack of support is really the biggest problem in getting help.
Speaker:
Part of my recovery has been that I think that everything happens for a reason. I am in a unique position that I’ve been able to help people who have gone through things similar at this point. So, this is just part of me paying it forward and shedding light on something that people might be experiencing and are not able to talk about it, or think that it’s not appropriate to talk about. Well, it is, it’s the first step in getting help.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
So, while you’re helping yourself, I think you’re going to help a significant number of our listeners today. But infidelity can mean many things. Even financial infidelity can mean many things. In your case, it meant a spouse who is hiding a gambling addiction. Tell us about the day you found out.

Speaker:
Sure. So, I was a fourth-year resident in a smallish city in the Midwest and I was five months pregnant. I took a week off during my pregnancy to kind of do housekeeping, I called it. I had a couple of doctors’ visits scheduled, I had maintenance done on my car. I had a health exam for increased life insurance because I was pregnant, I thought, “Well, now I probably need a little bit more health insurance than I had before”. And additionally, I had an accountant visits scheduled. And the accountant visits that I had scheduled that week is the reason that I found out.
Speaker:
Specifically, my ex-husband had an S corporation for a nonmedical business. And we had moved between states in the course of my medical training. And so, the accountant was out of state. He was getting older and was starting to give me the impression that he was a little erratic and not reliable. Specifically, we’d have highly variable tax bills. Some years we would owe $2,000, some years we would owe $20,000. One year an extension was filed. My ex-husband told me that it was because of health reasons. I think the accountant broke his hip or something like that. But just a bunch of things that just didn’t all fit together.

Speaker:
Previously that summer I had taken shortly after-tax season, I had taken our personal tax return to a local recommended accountant to get like a free consultation type of thing. And she looked at my personal tax return – married, filing jointly. And pointed out some things that were questionable on our personal tax return. She couldn’t really make much of it because she didn’t have my then husband’s business return. But she basically told me some of the issues and said, you need to bring in the S corp tax returns and these personal tax returns. Bring here your husband, and we will figure out your taxes.
Speaker:
And so that’s basically what happened. I had found all of the required documents to bring her, but I didn’t actually look at them. And about an hour before we left, I reluctantly got my husband to agree to come. He admitted that he made over twice what he said he was making. I thought he was making in the low six figures. He was making well over twice that. And he reluctantly admitted that he was gambling the remainder. He also, that day, before we went to the accountant, admitted that he was in about $50,000 of high interest payday type loans, which I didn’t even know were a thing. And needless to say, the scheduled visit that I had with the accountant went much differently than I originally anticipated.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Wow, that must have been pretty awkward for the accountant too. Huh?

Speaker:
Yeah, it was. But she was really supportive. Like she recognized that this is something that happens and she actually probably was more well versed in the way of life than I was. And so, she knew that addictions were a thing, she knew there was help out there. So, I mean, her first questions were like, “Are you getting help? What can I do?” We were blessed with an accountant who handled that pretty well.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Financial advisors, many of them have told me they do a fair amount of therapy. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that about accountants before, but I suppose it, it may be true as well.

Speaker:
There you go. She filled in as a therapist, the first therapist of many.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Now you mentioned that you felt financially trapped. At least in the beginning. Can you explain why?

Speaker:
Sure. At the beginning I feel like I had what I now refer to it as like a good wife response. Especially as physicians, I mean, we recognize that addiction is a disease, right? It’s in our dropdown menu for diseases we can diagnose people with. And so, he had a disease. I agreed to help him. We actually had in the city that we were living, there were a number of gambler’s anonymous meetings, which is like a 12-step program, similar to like alcoholics anonymous, for people with gambling addictions. And we went to a GA meeting that night. And I managed to find a sponsored gambling addiction counselor. You probably see like casino ads. And casino ads always have at the end “If you have a gambling addiction, call this number”. Well, those people actually exist. The state actually pays for essentially free counseling for people who have addictions like that.

Speaker:
We had an appointment scheduled with that particular counselor in our city the next day. And so that was like the first stuff. Then we had to deal with the immediate financial stuff. The fact that he had some loans like, I don’t know, he sold somebody that pink slip on his car. He had some loans that were like in the 25% to 50% interest range. So, the next thing was like immediate money management. Fortunately, he hadn’t taken out any loans in my name, which that actually happens with people who have addictions, which is awful, but I had great credit. I had a relatively fabulous financial upbringing. I’ve always made smart decisions with money. But we decided that we needed to figure out a longer-term solution to the high interest debt. And I took out a home equity loan. So that was kind of the first steps when I found out about this.

Speaker:
I’m not saying that people should take out loans to enable gamblers further. We can talk about that later if you want, but those were the first things that we did. And I kind of think of those as like fight or flight type responses. Those were the immediate things. But then after a couple of weeks, when we had taken care of like the immediate stuff, reality started to set in. It had wiped out my savings. And I am a very frugal person who was very debt averse. That was a very stressful thing to me. We lost a decent chunk of our home equity because of that. Not to mention we had been married for seven years at that point, basically, I lost all of the trust that I had in my relationship. It was significant.
Speaker:
I started seeing a therapist pretty quickly and started thinking about the long-term. And that was when I started feeling, I think financially trapped. I was a resident nearing, like within a year of finishing my training. When we’re going through our medical training, you have to make plans as a family unit, like any relationship. I had signed contracts for fellowships actually starting the following summer. And we were moving from a low cost of living area to one of the coastal high cost of living areas, because those are oftentimes the only cities that you can get, very sub-specialized fellowships in. And then I knew that I couldn’t live in the new city. I couldn’t afford life. I couldn’t afford childcare. I was going to be working a ton. I wasn’t going to be making enough to pay for having a child in that city. These were kind of large barriers for having any other choices in the matter.

Speaker:
Additionally, if I had considered divorce at that point, which I didn’t seriously because of the financial and medical training things, I would have been trying to move states with an infant. Now that I am divorced, I understand how complicated like custody type decisions are. If I had wanted to move from one state to another, with an infant and I was divorced, I would have to get the court approval. And so, then I ended up having to get court approval, at least moving for fellowship. I ended up moving states again for a faculty position. It would have just made life very complicated. I did want to make the relationship work at that point, but I am not sure that I would have had another choice if I wanted to consider other options.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
And that was why you felt trapped because you really kind of were in a lot of ways.
Speaker:
Yes, I definitely was trapped. I mean, I think that that’s a common thing for many people in that situation. When you plan a life with somebody and then you find out that there’s this big part of life that you had no idea existed. You then have to be adjusted everything that you know.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Tell us how things progressed during that year in fellowship. That first year after you found out.

Speaker:
Sure. Actually, the first year that I found out I was still finishing my residency and actually I think that that year went pretty well. He was open, communicative. He was essentially on his best behavior because I hadn’t kicked him out. And we had a good support system in the city that we lived in. It was a low cost of living area. Daycare came easily, saving money came easily. We paid off a lot of the debt that we have had, but I think that a lot of the changes happened when we moved cities and things became immensely more difficult. You talk about like that list of life changes that makes your life more stressful than it should be. Like we moved. We found out about the addiction. We had a kid. I mean, all of the large changes that we could have experienced, we did during that year.

Speaker:
I suppose I didn’t get married during that year, but I don’t know, the gambling addiction in our relationship I feel like is probably worse than a new marriage. But moving cities really was part of the trigger that made things start to get worse. We couldn’t get into a daycare because there were too many children in the city for the number of daycare spots. We ended up doing a nanny share for our events less than one-year-old daughter. We managed. We got a lot of the things that we needed in the new city. But I think that just in general, our stress increased, our budget went up significantly. And when stress increases, people who have addictions deal with their uncomfortable emotions and that increased stress, mostly by doing sad addictive behavior, whether it’s gambling, drinking, drugs, I don’t know, whatever else you could be addicted to.

Speaker:
It’s a mental illness. If the underlying reasons for our said mental illness or said addiction isn’t addressed the emotions, the past trauma of the neglect, whatever it might be, that’s leading to that addiction. If that underlying thing isn’t addressed, the person still wants to do those addictive behaviors to fix whatever they’re feeling. A lot of my recovery happened when my ex-husband started drinking. A lot of the words that I know are words that I’ve learned from Al – Anon, which is another 12-step program that helps people who love alcoholics.
Speaker:
But anyway, there’s a term called “dry drunk” – When you don’t address the underlying issues, but you’re maintaining sobriety. You’re basically just angry at the world for not letting you drink. That anger gets expressed, especially if the people who are closest to them because they’re not allowed to do the thing that they want to do the most, either drink or gamble or whatever it is. And that stress that leads to some of this anger and rage, it’s like what starts the cycle that leads to relapses. And ultimately that’s what happened when we had moved to a new city.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Now your spouse turned from a gambling addiction to an alcohol addiction. Do you think that’s common?

Speaker:
Unfortunately, yes, it is totally common. Again, if those underlying reasons aren’t addressed, the addictive behaviors don’t go anywhere. Sometimes they just change. Sometimes it leads to like healthy addictions. Some people who have gambling or alcohol addictions then turn to exercise addictions or dieting addictions or whatever it might be that our society considers more “healthy”, but sometimes it doesn’t.
Speaker:
Actually, I’ve met a significant number of people who either have addictions or care for those who have addictions through this. And one person that I met ended up going from a gambling addiction to an addiction buying secondhand photo frames. Like, just at Goodwill or yard sales, he would buy old used picture frames. And he had an entire garage full of them not being used. I mean, just an example of like, if you don’t actually address why there’s that addiction to begin with, something else is going to replace it. Unfortunately, in my ex-husband’s case, it was alcohol.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
From the day you found out about the gambling, did he actually stop gambling or were there a few times he fell off the wagon in the next year or two?

Speaker:
Yeah, he actually did stop gambling at the beginning. He went for about two years from the time that he told me to the time of his first relapse, but then he had several relapses after that. But yeah, no, he did do a reasonable job and that’s part of why I tried to make our relationship work. I got him help. He did a reasonable job at the beginning. Unfortunately, it didn’t last forever. And at some point, I needed to decide if this was something, I was willing to live with or not.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Now presumably you put some steps in place to try to protect yourself financially from his gambling behavior. And after a couple of years, he was able to at least get around that in some way. How was it that he got around that?

Speaker:
Okay. So, things that I did, I just want to make sure that people can hear some of the things that you can do to protect yourself if someone is doing this. I think that the only real way to do it, the only real protection from a spouse that spends too much money on whatever they’re spending it on is to not be married. I feel like that has to be said because in a lot of states, you’re just going to be on the hook for whatever it is, even if it’s irresponsible. There are basics. I take these for granted. Making sure the bills are getting paid, locking my credit so that way he couldn’t take any loans out in my name. We actually locked his credit too, at some point, so that he couldn’t take loans out either additionally, and I don’t know how healthy these are.

Speaker:
I took away his access from our savings account because I didn’t want him to be able to spend any of it without talking to me about it first. Unfortunately, I think that that probably didn’t help things the way that I hoped that it would, it didn’t really help him in his recovery from his addiction. And so, it was necessary for our finances, but maybe it didn’t help in the long run. Additionally, we changed some of the funnels for where money went, like direct deposit type accounts. Those were things that we did.
Speaker:
I also considered at some point doing a postnuptial agreement. I know that you’ve talked on your website and hear about prenuptial agreements from time to time. I got married young and so I definitely didn’t have anything. The idea of a prenuptial agreement when I was “never going to get divorced”, it didn’t even cross my mind.

Speaker:
We considered a postnuptial agreement at one point. And I think it’s been a situation where the person is generally working on an addiction. That might be a viable option. Saying that maybe I was waived from his debt. He forfeits certain things. Should he gamble again, like a share of a retirement account, alimony, etc. But I don’t think he was ever really in a solid enough place that he would sign this. There was always some underlying anger and resentment of having been caught, unfortunately.
Speaker:
But the way that he was able to kind of circumvent these things was eventually, it had been about two years, we had paid off most of his debt, his credit improved. He was able to qualify for credit cards. And so that was what happened. He opened up two credit cards. I did know about one of them. He had said that it was just so that he could build his credit and he wasn’t actually going to spend any money on it. The second one I did not know about. Ultimately, I found out that he had maxed out both of them over the period of about three days. He managed to get around it. It was unfortunate.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Was it online or would he go to a casino?

Speaker:
He actually did a lot of online gambling. He never went to a casino. Actually, once before I knew that he gambled, we went to a casino together and he put like a penny and a penny slot and was like, “Look, I gambled”. So, it was unfortunate. He was very good at hiding it.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Yeah, clearly. You tried to make this work for a period of years after finding out. What was the straw that broke the camel’s back?

Speaker:
Well, unfortunately, I decided to seek divorce after safety was a concern. Gambling, I mean, he would get preoccupied when he was gambling. Maybe you could argue that’s not safe to be caring for a child, but if you’re drinking, when you’re caring for a child, that is a problem. And so, it was. When he switched over to being addicted to alcohol and my daughter and I had safety concerns that was when I decided that it was not going to work.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
But you had talked to a divorce attorney long before then. When was the first time you consulted with the divorce attorney?

Speaker:
It was actually right around the time that he had his first relapse that I called a divorce attorney. He had taken out those two credit cards. He was hiding about $15,000 in debt from me. And I managed to figure it out without him telling me. He eventually came clean. But I had already scheduled that appointment. He had started drinking around the same time. I think my first in-person consultation was actually just a couple of weeks after I found out about the alcohol that it was starting to get out of control. And our nanny was the one who helped me figure that out because I was, unfortunately, spending a lot of time at the hospital at that time.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Now, you did a few things to protect yourself financially, at least the first time you met with the divorce attorney. Can you tell us about those things and particularly how it made you feel to do them while you were still married?

Speaker:
Oh, well, I mentioned that I considered a postnuptial agreement. It never ended up working out. I manage the finances starting around the time I found out about his gambling addiction. I started to take care of all the finances that was revolutionary for me because I did not, I probably was not in charge of them enough beforehand, otherwise, I would have found out about this earlier.
Speaker:
But I think the real protections came when I started planning for divorce. When I was considering divorce, I was actually almost finished with my fellowship training and I had already signed a contract in another state for my first faculty position. So, I started consulting with lawyers, both where I lived and where I was moving in six months. And then I decided to wait to file for divorce until I moved. That was really a hard period. I was still married. I was essentially planning on divorce, but also trying to get him help and trying to get myself help. So that way we could live together and survive that time period. It made me feel a little dishonest, but I feel like I probably would do everything the same again, just because I know that I needed to do that to protect my daughter, to protect me.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
You just felt dishonest because you were pretty sure you knew where this was going, but you delayed it on purpose.

Speaker:
Yeah, I did basically.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Can you tell us about your own recovery? How did you get your own recovery started?

Speaker:
I actually think that my recovery started… Well, parts of it started when I started learning about personal finance. Especially with the debt that he accrued. I grew up very debt averse. I actually paid off my medical school loans while I was a resident and finish around the time that I found out about his gambling addiction. I felt like it just set me back that much further. I started learning about taxes. I started learning about investing. I really started learning about personal finance then. That definitely started my recovery.

Speaker:
What happened exactly was kind of twofold. I started getting hooked into support groups. I think I posted anonymously in one of the women physicians personal finance Facebook groups about the situation that we had had and somebody who was in a similar situation sent me a private message and said, “Hey, there are others of us that have these problems. Are you doing this, this and this?”
Speaker:
So, that was a huge help to get some in person support for this kind of thing. At that point, I had told my family, I had started getting support from local people, but being able to talk about it and not being isolated anymore was probably about the time that my recovery started.
Speaker:
Additionally, I had gone to GA meetings with him when I first found out. Additionally, there’s an organization called Gam-Anon. That’s another 12-step program meant for people who love those who gamble. That was somewhat helpful to me at the beginning, but it was fairly poorly attended. And I didn’t have a lot in common with the other couple of people that attended it in the city where we lived. So, it was spotty. I think that my recovery really started when he started drinking, because then it was like, “Oh, I’m going to go to Al- Anon. I know that this is the thing. I know that there are a lot of Al-Anon meetings. I know that I would be welcomed there”. And so, I started going to Al-Anon. That was probably the start of this for me.
Speaker:
I realized that there was literature that addressed addictions. There were support groups out there. There were people who got it. And I went from feeling like “I had to keep this a secret” to all of a sudden “there are hundreds of thousands, more people than that, that deal with similar issues and my situation is not unique”. Then I was able to find the support that I needed

Dr. Jim Dahle:
In some ways, sunlight is the best disinfectant, isn’t it? You get it out in the open, it’s a lot easier to deal with. You mentioned gamblers anonymous, you mentioned Gam-Anon, Al-Anon, Facebook groups, particularly the women physician financial groups. What other sources of support have you found out there?

Speaker:
When I moved to the city that I currently live in for my first faculty position out of training, in addition to all of those other resources and starting to going to Al-Anon meetings here, one of the things that I realized is that there are divorce and crappy relationships support groups in almost every city you go to. I’ve made friends through some of the online sources, through Al-Anon, through some of those support type group meetings. And I think that between that, and I now live a lot closer to my family. I have grandparents’ support and my siblings are close within a few hours’ drive. Being able to have that extra support, I am in a great place now compared to where I was during parts of my training.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Now, as you’ve interacted with others with similar stories, what parallels have you noticed between your story and that of others? What I’m really getting at is, how unique was your situation?

Speaker:
Oh, it’s not at all. I’m like in my mid-thirties now. I grew up in the 80s and everyone is special. That’s basically what I had heard for most of my childhood. But as I’ve gotten older and started to get to know people who have some of these similar situations, I just think that’s so much of our human experiences like shared between all of us. I don’t think my situation is really that unique at all. I know it’s hard to believe, especially considering where I was seven or eight years ago, I didn’t know that addictions were really a thing. I knew peripherally that there are alcoholics. I think that my dad worked with an alcoholic when I was a kid. And I remember him making ridiculous drunk dials to my dad. But like, that was the extent of my experience with people with addictions. When he told me that he had a gambling addiction, it was like, “What do you mean?” I knew logically that those existed, but just practically, I had no idea that this was a thing.
Speaker:
And maybe that’s one of the reasons why I feel like somebody needs to say this kind of stuff out in a public arena. Because there are so many of us that share this situation. People that share my profession, my age, my background, my family status. I jokingly call somebody that I know my twin because we have so much in common. And I just think that so much of what has happened to me is not rare. That’s one of the reasons why I probably feel strongly about. Somebody needs to talk about this.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
It’s interesting you mentioned that. I just got an email in the last couple of days from a doc who played hockey at my high school and whose father was also bush pilot. And we got to talking by email and he lived no more than a mile from me in Anchorage, when I grew up. And so, it really is true. There’s a lot of shared experience out there for sure.

Speaker:
Yeah, it definitely is a small world.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Let’s talk about you a little bit more personally. How has this affected your career to deal with all these, especially right at the beginning in those formative years for career? The end of residency, fellowship, your first year out. These are such formative time periods for developing and establishing yourself as a quality physician and really getting your career going where you want it to go. How is dealing with all this at the same time affected your career?

Speaker:
Well, I think I’ve done a reasonable job of separating out my work and my personal life. I think that a lot of us as physicians get good at doing that, otherwise we’d end up, I don’t know, emotional brick walls by the age of 40 given all the pain that our patients feel and trying not to feel it ourselves. I think that there’s some degree of, I’ve been able to separate things out well. Especially now, that I am going on a well, listen to podcast to talk about this topic. I recognize that some of the people that I’ve worked with over the years are going to recognize parts of my story, are going to recognize my voice even. I’ve done my due diligence and talk to a lot of them about what’s gone on. If I had not already told them beforehand. And most of them were surprised. Most of them were shocked that this had happened. It’s just because I left my personal life at home.
Speaker:
So relatively speaking, I think I’m very fortunate that this has not significantly affected my career, but I do think it has in a couple different ways. So, I chose my sub specialty. I’m a relatively sub-specialized physician based on the fact that my now ex-husband said “You better not be gone all the time”. Which I recognize that a lot of us do that but a lot of us probably don’t actually say that out loud. I’m not sure that if he had not had that strong opinion, that I would have chosen a different profession because I absolutely love where I’m at. But I do think that probably indirectly, my marriage effected my subspecialty. Additionally, I did choose to stay for residency in the same location that I did my medical school in.

Speaker:
At the time I did not know he had a gambling addiction, but he had some kind of unexplained debt that made moving very difficult. I chose my residency location because of his debt as well. Relatively speaking, those two things, I got great residency training and I love my subspecialty. So, I don’t know that it really has affected that much. And I think that mostly it’s because I basically chose to deal with, for lack of a better term “misery” in order to have what I needed for my career. I recognized that I needed to be married and to have two incomes and to have an extra parent in order for me to get through my fellowship. I just sucked it up and dealt with it, even though that might not have been the best thing to do.

Speaker:
And then I also sucked it up and dealt with it in order to be able to move for my first faculty position, which again was very difficult at the time. But I generally separated both out and put my career choices a little bit over my personal choices so that they worked together. All things considered, I kind of feel like I’ve come out on top. The people who know about this career wise, I don’t tell everybody about this, but several of my colleagues do know kind of what’s gone on. They are very supportive. I do feel like I’m in a very fortunate place. In that, relatively speaking, this has not affected my career, like it definitely could have. Like it definitely has other people.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Yeah. It’s kind of the classic physician mentality. Your career didn’t suffer because you sacrifice so much else for it.

Speaker:
I don’t know if I was like that before I went to medical school or if that was just kind of the “This is what you have to do” to survive in this environment. And you figured out what you have to do when you do it.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Yeah. It’s hard to tell whether medical school selects for that type of person or whether we’re trained to do that while we’re in school. But certainly, that is the way a lot of doctors are. There’s no doubt about it.
Speaker:
Probably a little bit of both.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
Now a classic phrase that is used out there in situations like this is “Trust but verify.” Can you talk a little bit more about what that means in relationship to a spouse’s financial dealings? How does one trust but verify their spouse’s financial dealings? And I’m not just talking after you find out they have a gambling addiction. I’m just talking in general.

Speaker:
Yeah. I think that this is something that I didn’t do enough of before I found out about this addiction. And I think that really to somebody who doesn’t know a lot about the finances of their significant other, I think that the start of this is just, you have to ask questions. Even if at the time I didn’t know a ton about personal finance. Even if I didn’t know the answers showing interest is the first step. If my spouse had been honest and trustworthy about these things, he would’ve pulled out our finances and showed me statements and business tax returns. He would’ve given me access to logins. And I think that that’s probably how it’s done trusting, but verifying in a normal relationship. I would have probably asked to be at accountant meetings. And if something felt off, I would have noticed this sooner.

Speaker:
And I think that the red flags that went on in my particular situation were things like resistance to explain expenses where the money was going and I didn’t put enough emphasis on those at the beginning. I also think that like in the whole “trusting, but verifying”, I mean, we’re talking about financial infidelity, right? So, I think that like other things that might seem a little off that could have clued me in where that he sometimes had, like what I would call irrational, like money tendencies. Some days he was really cheap – “We definitely don’t have money for that. Where are you thinking?” But other days it’s like, “Yeah, let’s go on a $10,000 vacation”. Kind of the swaying back and forth between being super stingy and surprisingly generous. I think that that is something that I should have thought was weirder than I did.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
I feel like you’re describing me. I wonder how many other listeners out there feel like that could apply to them certainly.

Speaker:
Yeah, that’s unfortunate. But at the same time, that went with like he was losing money or he was winning money and his tendencies towards what he would want to do with it would sway based on where he was at. Additionally, he changed his bank account passwords all the time and would get like debit cards replaced. And I don’t know exactly why that was, but I think that it probably had to do with using credit card numbers on sketchy foreign websites and then changing the credit card number. I don’t know.
Speaker:
I think that those kinds of weird habits should have been red flags to me. And also I think that a lot of people, my ex-husband didn’t really do this, but I think a lot of people hide addictions that would have a significant spending component by lending a lot of money to relatives or friends and saying, “Oh, that’s why, that’s where that money went. I lent it to so and so. They were doing this. He’ll pay me back soon.” And that happened like once or twice with us, he would say that he lent money to his brother or to a friend that he had. But I think that in some of these situations that happens a lot more than it did to me.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
I wonder if one way to verify would be actually talked to those people that he supposedly lent money to. I wonder if maybe you could have found out six months sooner, a year sooner or something if you’d asked on some of those questions. I wonder what other situations people get into where there’s financial infidelity. I suppose maybe if one spouse has just a spending problem, they just do retail therapy. I guess that might be one scenario of financial infidelity. What other scenarios have you run into financial infidelity?

Speaker:
Well, I think that there’s a lot of different addiction problems that can lead to it. I think that that’s unfortunately more common than we’d like to admit, but a number of different addictions from, like you said, shopping to pornography to gambling to drugs. I think that that’s probably the worst-case scenario of financial infidelity, but I think that a lot of people probably lie about spending.
Speaker:
And actually, I think I’ve heard numbers that like one in four, one in three people keep secrets from their partner. And I think most of them probably have to do with like costs of items. I think that sending money to family is a frequent one. I think that people disagree on like, how much you should support your parents or your siblings if they need things. And then, so that’s a common thing that people might lie about.
Speaker:
I’ve also heard of people like lying about business type loans or taking money out for other reasons, like, maybe a business wasn’t doing as well, and they didn’t want to admit it to their spouse because they wanted to seem successful. And I do know one scenario where that happened. I think that those things are unfortunate, but I think a lot of them have good intentions.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
As addictions go, do you think gambling is the most expensive one?

Speaker:
I think that gambling can be very expensive. It’s kind of hard. In my experience, gambling was more expensive than alcohol. But I think you probably could spend more money on cocaine than you can do on gambling. I don’t know that from personal experience. I mean, probably people could buy expensive purses and shoes too, but like that’s unfathomable to me. I don’t have a lot of expensive purses or shoes. I think it just depends on a lot of variables. How much money people have access to, penny slots versus five or six figure sports bets, it’s probably hard to compare apples to apples between addictions.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Do you think this is something a couple can overcome? And if so, what percentage of couples do you think can successfully overcome something like this?

Speaker:
Well, I think there’s two different conversations there. I think that some financial infidelity is a different conversation. If you’re talking about keeping smaller secrets, like “How much an item cost?” A small loan that they took out to cover a business expense that they didn’t want to admit to their spouse. Sending money to parents. I think that some of those things probably can be worked out. I don’t know, therapy, accepting the other person wants to support their parents, etc.
Speaker:
But I think that the realm of crazy financial instability because of an addiction, I think that that’s much more difficult. You used the word successfully overcome. It probably depends on what your definition of successfully overcome is. I think that there are a lot of couples that can and do stay together with situations like this. But, are they ever rich if one of them has a gambling addiction? Do they ever award off every possible recurrence? I have not met a couple with one that has an addiction, even if they’re sober or recovered in some regards that I feel like is completely normal. But are there some prior alcoholics that are sober that have healthier relationships? Yeah. And I mean, I do think that people stay together, but I think that successfully overcome is a difficult thing to call it.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
I liked the way you view that to put success on a continuum. Because just staying together isn’t necessarily success.
Speaker:
Yeah. Well, I mean, there are people who do that. There are people who have situations where they can’t leave. Where they have different values or maybe it’s financially just not possible. Everybody has different reasons.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Do you think it’s mostly dependent on the spouse with the addiction? Is there really much the spouse without the addiction can do?

Speaker:
Oh, well that is a loaded question. I think it requires both. If you’re going to say that you want to successfully overcome an addiction, it definitely requires the spouse with the addiction to address the emotional and whatever issues it is that leads to that addiction. But I also think that it’s probably overlooked how much work and I don’t know, therapy is required of the non-addicted spouse. Especially if they’re going to stay together because things like expectations, resentment, a number of things have to be addressed in order for that not to be a toxic home. But even with divorce, I’ve done so much work to get where I’m at. You have to heal after any large relationship ends. And even more so if it’s somewhat traumatic as addictions can be, but there are certain things that happen to the people who love those with addictions.

Speaker:
Oftentimes in psychological literature, it’s called codependency. I basically thought when I was married to a person with an addiction that if his addiction were controlled or gotten rid of, that all of my problems would be gone. But that’s not the case. There are still so much more beyond that. Even if the addiction disappears, there’s the control, there’s the trust. There are a lot of things that go on. And even now I still see a therapist regularly to hash out, said trust issues, to try to convince myself of the truth where I might have been experiencing gaslighting in the past. Co-parenting is a problem.
Speaker:
And I think that whether the couple stays together after financial infidelity or an addiction or not, I think that recovery for the person with the addiction requires a lot of work. Recovery for the person who loves said person with addiction requires a lot of work. But I don’t think that there’s any way of getting out of that.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
You have some experience with divorce. Having met with divorce attorneys in a couple of different states, anyway. Let’s talk both in general, how spousal support is determined and how that might change in the case of an addiction like this?

Speaker:
Well, it definitely depends on the state. And as I’ve started to meet women and other people who have been divorced, I have seen the drastic differences in state laws on this. For example, the place where I was living when I first considered divorce, in that state, a 10-year marriage meant that the person who earned more had to pay the other lifetime alimony. And there was like a state calculation. That was fairly regular and used by most judges in the state. Other places, the higher earning spouse might have to pay about a year of alimony for every three to five years of marriage. And so, I moved to a state that had a much smaller alimony requirement than my initial state, which worked out very advantageous for me. But really, I think that it’s such an individualized decision. If somebody earns significantly more than the other, I feel like alimony is definitely on the table or spousal support is what I guess technically call it these days. But it can still be swayed.
Speaker:
In my particular case with an addiction, I might have gotten away without paying alimony. However, I did agree to pay alimony because I had different priorities in divorce. I wanted to be done quickly. I wanted peace of mind and a cooperative environment for our daughter so that she didn’t experience any more trauma than she had to. We actually did mediation and I agreed to pay him alimony. He was making a really significant amount of money that went down when his addictions got worse. No surprise. And I suppose that I could have spent a lot of money and a lot of time and taking him to court and not had to pay that. But that wasn’t worth it to me.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
So, a lot of people might kind of view this as a worst-case financial scenario. And one of the reasons you mentioned you wanted to come on is you wanted people to be able to see that it’s possible to survive worst case financial scenarios. What advice do you have for others who have lost it all financially due to whatever?

Speaker:
Well, I know that there are people who are mid-divorce or mid-addiction or mid-other worst-case financial scenario that feel like they’re drowning. I know that, especially having moved from a very high cost of living area where two households were not affordable and lawyer fees were usually six figures for a divorce. I know that this exists. I can’t imagine how hard that must be. I personally am a person who have been a long-term planner my whole life. I see things like a year ahead. I try not to live in the future too much, but the big picture is always there. And I think that like being able to look at that big picture is really the key to surviving these kinds of like worst case financial scenarios. Personally, I had the patients to move to a low cost of living area where I had support figures nearby, like family and friends and whatnot.

Speaker:
And I know that not everybody can do that. But people can make hard choices to decrease quality of life, put up with relationship difficulties for longer than maybe is ideal so that you can mediate instead of going through a very high conflict, expensive divorce. I think that there are things that can be done if you look at the big picture to mediate. I know that some people are in immediate danger. I don’t know that this will work for everybody, but I think stepping back and focusing on silver linings, big pictures, I think that those are really important for me.
Speaker:
I don’t think that like survival is necessarily, like I feel like when you say surviving worst case financial scenarios, it seems like we’re just hanging on. And that might be the case. Some days I feel like I’m just hanging on, but at the same time, I feel like some days I’m thriving. I might be paying alimony, but I am significantly better off in the long-term because I no longer have somebody at my house that I’m responsible for half of their gambling. I do feel like I’m better off. I would argue that it’s not just surviving. Like it’s better than that.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
It’s thriving. How to thrive after a worst-case financial scenario. Fair enough. Now approximately 30,000 people are going to listen to this podcast. Is there anything else we haven’t covered on this topic that you think the WCI listeners should be aware of?

Speaker:
Yeah. I think I recognize that a lot of us who are listening to your podcast are starting to be more financially savvy. We may be a little further on than the dating stage of our lives, but I imagine there are some probably single people out there. I think that money is such a huge part of relationships. It’s why over half of divorces happen. And I think that when dating and when in relationships, talking about this kind of stuff is important to do very quickly. And since I’ve started dating again, I learn about spending habits, retirement accounts, financial plans, financial goals by like date two or three. Maybe that’s because of the crappy situation that I’ve been in in the past. But I think that those kinds of things are really important.
Speaker:
We’re trained in medicine. We don’t get any financial education at most medical institutions, let alone those GME or like residency type programs. And we should. I think that just starting to talk about it, even though it’s overwhelming, even though we’re not trained with it. If we talk about it with each other, if we talk about it with our significant others, start doing that “Trust, but verify” thing. And I think it’s important if you’re just starting to learn about your finances, continue to do that. Make sure you understand. Make sure you ask questions, even if you’re the one who is not traditionally in charge of your family’s finances. Please, please, please just spend the time, take the effort out of your life to learn at least a little bit about where your accounts are.
Speaker:
I get multiple responses when I talk to people about this. I do think that there is a subset of people who think that “This could never happen to me”. I was like that. I grew up in a like wholesome suburb and I only knew peripherally about addictions. My siblings, my parents, nobody else has gotten a divorce. I swore that I was not going to have one ever when I got married, but yet here I am.
Speaker:
Even if you’re right and you might be one of the people who never get divorced, your spouse could get hit by a bus tomorrow or die of Covid tomorrow. I don’t know. That’s probably more likely at this point in the year. But you’ll be so much better off by knowing enough personal finance that this wouldn’t be a financial nightmare for you as well. If you had to like lose somebody or go through a divorce, it’s better that you don’t also have the stress of having to learn all of your finances at that point too.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Yeah. Excellent advice. Thank you so much for being willing to come on the podcast and to share your story and to be so vulnerable.

Speaker:
Thank you. Well, it was much easier to do because this is semi anonymous, but I do think it’s something that we have to talk about more often to make it less taboo.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
Absolutely. I appreciate you helping us remove that taboo and for being on the podcast.

Speaker:
Yeah. Thank you.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
I hope you enjoyed listening to that conversation as much as I enjoyed having it. I’ve talked for a long time about the importance of getting your spouse and you on the same page financially. If you’re not on the same page, at least be reading the same book. But it’s so important to be open between each other, as far as your finances go. If you are not doing this together, you’re almost surely not going to be successful. When one person is not engaged at all, it’s totally different when somebody else is actively shooting holes in the boat while you’re trying to bail it out.

Dr. Jim Dahle:
If you’re in this situation, get help. There’s help out there. There are people who’ve experienced this sort of a situation. If you’re not in this situation, give your spouse a big hug and a kiss and tell them, “Thank you so much for working together with me hand in hand so we can be financially successful and so we can be successful in the other aspects of our marriage”.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
All right, let’s wrap this up. I think we’re getting close to an hour here. As I mentioned at the beginning of the podcast, be sure to check out the online courses we’ve got available for you. This is a great time to be doing them. We’ve got a lot of interest in them right now and let us know what else you’d like to see as far as online courses go. I know those of you are still struggling with putting together a spending plan or a budget that Jimmy at the Physician Philosopher has a course out on it. So be sure to check that out.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
This particular episode was sponsored by Bob Bhayani at drdisabilityquotes.com. He is an independent provider of disability insurance to people in every state and a long time WCI sponsor. He specializes in working with residents and fellows early in their careers to set up sound insurance strategies and has been very, very responsive to me anytime there’s any sort of an issue. So, I get lots of good reviews about them. If you need to review your disability insurance coverage, to make sure it meets your needs, or if you just don’t have it yet, call Bob at (973) 771-9100 or email him at [email protected] or just go by the website at doctordisabilityquotes.com and leave your information there and he can get back to you with quotes.
Dr. Jim Dahle:
Thanks for those of you who are leaving us a five-star review and telling your friends about the podcast. Keep your head up, your shoulders back. You’ve got this and we can help. Please stay safe out there in the pandemic and take care of your finances and your family and your patients. Not necessarily in that order. We’ll see you next time on the White Coat Investor podcast.

Disclaimer:
My dad, your host, Dr. Dahle, is a practicing emergency physician, blogger, author, and podcaster. He’s not a licensed accountant, attorney or financial advisor. So, this podcast is for your entertainment and information only and should not be considered official personalized financial advice.