Woah. What a read. The blurb says, "How one family started keeping up with the neighbors and ended up living beyond their means. A true (scary) story of the perils of overspending."
What they don't mention is that it is a scary story about how your wife can spend you into bankruptcy.
Here's my synopsis:
Dan and Tammy grew up in working-class families and married shortly after graduation. He started out at a retail job earning minimum wage but eventually got promoted to manager; she was a secretary. They lived with relatives to save money. Dan remembers Tammy being so frugal that when he offered to take her to Olive Garden for dinner, she would turn him down and buy supper at Publix supermarket instead. But self-denial paid off: In their mid-20s, when most of their friends weren't even married yet, they became homeowners. Just a few years later, they had a three-bedroom house built in a relaxed southern Florida community. It was the nicest house on the block.
Dan got a call: You're being transferred to Orlando. He'd be managing a bigger store - but to relocate, they had to sell their brand-new house at a loss.
Shopping for a new home, they fell in love with a four-bedroom place in a 15-year-old suburban neighborhood. Buying there would be a reach-15 percent more than they'd planned to spend - but Tammy convinced Dan they could afford it. They were in good financial shape overall, thanks to their great credit.
In one move, the couple went from the nicest house around to living at the low end in a much fancier neighborhood, surrounded by people who, compared with Dan and Tammy, had done better, gotten farther, acquired more. Their new best friends lived in a house worth three times as much as Dan and Tammy's new nest.
Within a year of moving in, the couple yielded to peer pressure and joined the local country club. After their second child was born, Tammy signed up for a ladies' tennis league, which meant paying for court fees, cute white outfits, and hours of child care. Many afternoons, she went with her new friends to the mall, where she upgraded her wardrobe and outfitted her kids in matching ensembles. At the cash register, she got a discount on her purchases by opening store credit accounts, which only made buying easier the next time.
Although in the past the couple had always saved, now they began spending their entire income. To look her best, Tammy joined a top health club and started having her hair colored every few weeks. The couple bought a used SUV, financed through a home-equity line. On getaway weekends with other couples, they stayed at oceanfront hotels. When her friends started getting breast implants, Tammy decided to get them, too, putting the $5,000 cost on a credit card.
But no matter how much larger they lived, they could never catch up with their friends' more exciting lives. Other people always had more impressive cars, parties that were catered, expensive furniture made of rare woods they had never even heard of. Tammy started feeling anxious about their life. Was she dressing well enough? Shouldn't they move into a larger house? Why wasn't Dan more ambitious?
Dan started getting larger bonuses, but the amounts were unpredictable. Tammy, who had handled the finances since their wedding day, started making only minimum credit card payments, and the balances grew larger. Instead of reining in expenses when money was tight, she simply went to an ATM and transferred $1,000 from the home-equity credit line to the checking account. At the same time, the couple started projects like installing granite counters and hardwood floors, all designed to put their house on a par with everyone else's. My husband has a good job, Tammy told herself. We can afford it.
Then, one month, Tammy asked Dan to cash in some stock options to pay for basic monthly expenses. A few months later, she had to ask again. That's when Dan realized something was wrong. He knew that it had been a while since his regular paycheck had covered all their bills. But since Tammy handled the money, he didn't know the details. We should slow down, he told his wife. We can afford it, she insisted. You're about to get your bonus.
True, the annual bonus was coming. And it was huge. By far the largest bonus Dan had ever gotten, it totaled nearly $100,000 - much more than his annual salary. With this windfall, they could pay off everything and start over with a clean slate.
But to quell his anxiety, Dan wanted to review the details. For the first time, he asked his wife to hand over their account statements. One night, he took them into the home office, along with their credit reports, which he'd obtained on the Internet. Going down the list, he noted the current balance for each card. He felt sick. Overwhelmed. Deceived - not just by his wife, but by himself. Now he knew the truth, and it was almost like discovering that Tammy was having an affair. She had never told him how far behind they were falling, and he had just looked the other way. On credit cards alone, the couple owed nearly $100,000.
Dan took over the family finances. Nonetheless, their spending didn't slow down. They'd been relying on credit to support their lifestyle, and now it was difficult to stop.
Dan didn't understand how anyone with an income like his could be in such bad shape. He decided they should give up luxuries like the country club. Tammy negotiated: She'd cancel the membership only if they could have a backyard pool. He compared the monthly pool payments to what they spent on the club and discovered the pool would be cheaper. So he agreed to her terms and applied for an increase in the home-equity line to put in the pool. But somehow they never canceled the club membership.
Spending money was the only thing that seemed to make Tammy happy. Dan dreaded saying no to her; an argument would often follow, and he was afraid the children would overhear. Tammy blamed him for not earning enough. Why were the other husbands doing so much better? she'd ask. Dan couldn't figure out how they used to be happy on so little, when now she was never satisfied.
Dan's mind was racing. Sitting at his desk in tears, he prayed for help-then turned to the Internet to research his alternatives. The one that kept coming up was bankruptcy. Dan considered that to be the ultimate shame, but he couldn't find any other way out. He tried to show Tammy books on bankruptcy, but she wouldn't look at them. I don't want to deal with this, she told him. You handle it.
The deeper they got into the bankruptcy process, however, the more isolated Tammy became. With her spending cut off, she went through what Dan saw as withdrawal. She worried that the children would be forced to give up their activities and that they would see themselves as different from their friends.
When the lawyer told them that bankruptcy filings are in the public record and their names might be printed in the local newspaper, Tammy became petrified of being exposed. To keep their secret safe-and also because they had no money-she started making excuses whenever friends invited them out: They had other plans. Dan would be working late. They couldn't find a sitter.
While Tammy is still struggling to deal with life in bankruptcy, Dan says that he's actually thankful for the experience because it has given him a greater appreciation for what he has. "You realize that you can enjoy doing the simple things," says Dan. "When you spend thousands of dollars on a trip, and then it's over, you have this depression, like: ‘Well, that's done, and the money's gone.' But when you spend the day hiking or camping with your children and you haven't spent a dime, it's really a great feeling. And that stays with you for a while."
Wow. I told you it'd be a hell of a read. So this guy works himself to the bone, and all so his wife can say "I don't want to deal with our bankruptcy"? He spends his days away from his children, all so his wife can go shopping and leave them at the creche? All so she can get a boob job and put it on his credit card?
And make no mistake, every single red cent she spent was his. She played barely any part in it. Unlike what feminists love to say, a woman at home isn't the boon its considered to be. I'm 100% sure that if I had it in me to make a million dollars, it wouldn't be because I had a woman at home telling me to do my share of housework and pick up those socks and put them in that fancy laundry hamper that my blood, sweat and tears paid for.
And make no mistake, the modern woman knows exactly what her vagina buys - she will divorce you and "my boobs" will miraculously become "your debts" in divorce court. The marriage vows are privately considered unrealistic by a large segment of the female population you'll encounter, its just that they don't mention it to you - and the obligations heaped on you certainly don't appear unrealistic to the judge, who will heap more and more of them on you.
Just look at Tammy. She is so unwilling to compromise, even when the stark reality is facing them in the face and she's cowering behind her husband, telling him to make it go away or she'll shame and insult him some more. This sentence says it all really - "Tammy negotiated: She'd cancel the membership only if they could have a backyard pool." Keep in mind, this was after they had tallied up the total and arrived at the conclusion that they were in deep deep
This is what most (too many) American women are. Be vigilant, soldier.