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The Moneyist: ‘I’m being taken advantage of by my own husband’: I pay all the bills and gave the down payment for our home, and all he does is buy stuff and contribute to his 401(k)

Dear Quentin,

I’m being taken advantage of by my own husband.

I have been married for almost 10 years. When my husband and I were first married, he convinced me to stop working after the first year or so, which I regret.

A couple of years ago my mom died, leaving me a very small inheritance of around $60,000. We decided to use some of this money to purchase a house. 

My husband and I both had negative lines on our credit reports, so I paid off everything. I told him to build credit, we’d likely need a few credit cards to make small purchases and payments on. He ignored me until a lender gave him the same advice, stating that I should be added to two of his cards as an authorized user so both of us could build credit. He did not follow this advice. 

We found a home that we loved, but he would not put me on the mortgage, saying my credit wasn’t good enough. Yet I made the down payment, paid closing costs, paid for the actual move, paid the final bills at the old house, bought furniture for the new house, and supported us for the first two months. 

“‘I made the down payment, paid closing costs, paid for the actual move, paid the final bills at the old house, bought furniture for the new house, and supported us for the first two months.’”

I also started working again and I make almost as much as he does per year being self-employed. I continue to make the mortgage payments even though I am not on the loan, although I am on the title deed. 

As luck would have it, our home value has increased dramatically, so we decided to take out a small home-equity loan for a couple of repairs.

I went through my bank because they offer a fixed rate. They also refinanced my car and gave me a credit card with a $5,000 limit. 

I suggested that my husband ask about refinancing his truck, and he also got a great rate. But he was given a credit card with a $15,000 limit because his credit is better (thanks to me). 

I have to put him on the home-equity loan because his credit is better.

“‘I’ve told him that I feel there is a serious lack of balance. He says he put a down payment on my car, so I can’t complain. But that is worlds less than what I pay.’”

I’m angry because I pay all the bills, aside from his personal truck and credit cards. He contributes 11% to his 401(k). I also have to pay $10,000 a year in income tax because of being self-employed, and he will only contribute $2,000 to that amount. 

I feel like I’m doing all the work and he’s getting all the benefits. I asked him to pay the $180 electric bill. He refused because he “only” had $600. Then he spent $100 on frivolous things for himself. 

I’ve told him that I feel there is a serious lack of balance. He says he put a down payment on my car, so I can’t complain. But that is worlds less than what I pay.

Am I in the wrong here? At 52, I feel like I should be able to have my own financial profile and benefit from my hard work instead of just boosting his credit and finances. He thinks I’m being ridiculous. What do you think? 

Thanks so much.

The Wife, Feeling Exploited in Wisconsin

Dear Wife,

You need a ledger and a lawyer. In that order.

The ledger will outline all of your expenditure and savings, and clearly state how much you both contribute to your marriage. Marriage is a romantic promise to love and honor and respect each other for as long as you live — divorce notwithstanding — but it is first and foremost a financial and legal commitment. Your husband needs to uphold his end of that bargain. Set up a joint account for household expenses. No more tit-for-tat. Otherwise, you will be having the same argument for 20 years.

If he does not uphold his end? You have a choice to make about whether you want to be in a relationship where one party is not respecting the other and/or pulling their weight. That’s where the lawyer comes in. Asking you to give up work is an attempt — intentional or not — to rob you of your financial agency and power in this relationship. You need to know your options and where your “red lines” lie — that is, what is up for negotiation and what is unacceptable.

It’s unusual for one person to be on the mortgage while both parties are on the title deed. But that’s the good news. The mortgage is legally his responsibility to pay. However, it’s in both your interests to make sure you don’t default, both for your credit scores and obviously to avoid the bank foreclosing on your home. You want to avoid being on the mortgage and not being on the title deed. That would mean you would be responsible for the mortgage, but not have an ownership stake in your house.

Wisconsin is a community-property state, meaning that everything you earn during the marriage is divided equally should you divorce. Inheritance is typically not included in marital/community property, even if you receive that inheritance during your marriages. In the event that you have another inheritance, it’s best to keep that money separate. I’m guessing your husband would do just that. But you did what you believed to be the right decision for both of you at that time. You are a team, after all.

From what you say, your husband appears to appreciate the advice of experts and it takes a push for him to see things from a different perspective. For that reason, you could also enlist a mediator or financial counselor to go through your finances and your differences of opinion to help you reach an agreement so you are not having the same conversation about who pays for what over cars, homes, furniture, utilities and groceries.

You both bring in the same salary, and you should be able to meet each other halfway.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

By emailing your questions, you agree to having them published anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Co., the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.

Also read:

‘I’m really upset’: I borrowed $10,000 from my brother with a $200-a-month payment plan. We fell out, and now he wants the money back in full

‘I am a 53-year-old single man with very little savings’: I want to take out a 30-year mortgage, but pay it off in 7 years. Is that possible?

I received a $130,000 inheritance from my mother. My husband says it’s mine to spend. What should I do with it — and why do I feel so guilty?

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