by Steven W. Harley, M.S.
Scott and Susan sat anxiously in the waiting room of Anderman Financial Group. You see, Scott and Susan just got married and they were meeting with Rick Anderman, the nations leading financial planner. The new couple wanted to make sure that they established their financial plan early in their marriage so that they could feel more secure about their future together.
Rick Anderman poked his head into the room and said, "Scott and Susan?"
They jumped to their feet and simultaneously said, "Here!" turned to each other and smiled, then the three of them proceeded to walk down the hall to Rickﾒs office.
As they entered his office, Rick turned to them and said, "So, do you have the forms?"
Scott thumbed through the stack of papers he had brought and found the financial forms that Rick had asked them to fill out at home, then placed them on Rickﾒs desk. Rick immediately began busily sorting through the information.
As Scott and Susan watched Rick processing the information, they noticed a look of growing concern on Rickﾒs face. Not wanting to interrupt him, they didnﾒt say anything.
After a few minutes of shuffling papers, Rick paused with a look of deep concentration. Then, he looked up at the young couple and began asking a series of questions regarding their financial history and spending habits. After the last question, he continued with the paper shuffling combined with a bit of note making here and there.
After a few more minutes had passed, he stopped, put his hands to his face, then froze. With the level of anticipation becoming too great, Susan said "What!?"
Gradually, Rickﾒs hands parted from his face and fell to the arm rests of the chair. He looked deeply into the eyes of the couple sitting in his office and said, ﾓIﾒm sorry. I can't help you."
As you can expect, there was a deafening silence in the room.
Rick continued. "I've taken a very close look at your financial information, and to be quite honest with you, I predict that you will be filing for bankruptcy very soon. Iﾒm sure this comes to you as quite a surprise, but based on my extensive research and personal experience in this field, everything here points to the fact that you both will end in financial ruin."
Scott and Susan were simply beside themselves. They didn't know if they should be furious with him for even saying such a thing, or depressed about the mere thought of the possibility.
With a tone of deep concern and a bit of frustration, Scott asked, "What makes you think that we are destined for financial ruin?"
Rick leaned back in his chair, and with a wide-eyed look of condescension said, "You are both spenders! You both like to spend money! And a lot of it! At the rate youﾒve been going, I'm surprised that you still have money left to spend. There's no way around it. You are headed for bankruptcy."
"Now wait just a minute, Mr. Anderman!" Susan said with an irritated bite to her voice. ﾓDonﾒt you believe in change? Don't you think that Scott and I can change our spending habits? My goodness. That's part of the reason why we are here. For a plan. We want to make sure that we're going to be financially OK down the road. So, we came to you to find out how we can do that. And what do we get from you!? A death sentence with no chance of parole!"
By this time, Susan was furious. Scott had to put his arm around her because he knew that she was about to lose control. But, at that same moment, Rick jumped in for his own defense. "I'm only telling you these things based on what I've experienced and what the years of extensive research tells me. It all spells out the fact that this type of behavior leads to bankruptcy. That's all Iﾒm saying. It's nothing personal. Really! It's not!
"But we can change the way we spend our money." Scott said. "We can learn how to do things differently. Why can't you teach us how to do things better?"
Rick looked at them both with a surprised look on his face. "Change? Change!? You both have been spending like this for years. See?" Rick was pointing to their Financial History Form. "Even before you were married you were spending more than you made. You can't help it. Itﾒs just the way you are."
Rick paused for a moment and then leaned over to his Rolodex and thumbed through the list of phone numbers. "Now, if I remember correctly, I know of a bankruptcy attorney who can help you with the whole filing process. In fact, I believe that he even helps you file AND keep your creditors as friends."
Sounds kind of silly doesn't it? I hope so. However, this kind of meeting happens all too often with couples looking for a way to plan for the future of love in their marriage. The "Expert" on the other side of the desk basically says "There is no hope here." And then proceeds to help you dissolve the relationship by helping you become more independent or by directly walking you through the divorce process. When instead you should be discussing how to make a specific plan to fall in love with each other and to be encoraged by your counselor.
Is it any wonder why the typical success rate of a marriage counselor is about 25%?
Food for thought...
Steven W. Harley, M.S. is the Director of the Marriage Builders® Counseling Center.