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Mar 12, 2018

Love and Money Nightmares: It Happened to Them

By Sarah Netter

All too real! Tales of romantic financial disaster.

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Blood-curdling screams! Mystery pet illnesses! The phone that won’t stop ringing! No, they’re not scenes from the latest horror movie blockbuster. They’re scenes from real life romantic financial nightmares.

So strap in for tales of love and money gone horribly wrong… if you dare!

The Bad Tenant

Steve Robb was 23-year-old marine corporal with a wife and 2-year-old son who had just returned home from a 6-month deployment when the couple decided to buy a mobile home of their own.

“It was a very nice mobile home,” he said. “My guy told me not to, but she earnestly wanted it. She eventually wore me down and I gave in and made the purchase. It was moved to a rural trailer park close to work, and life for awhile was bliss.”

The young family lived in the mobile home in Jacksonville, North Carolina for about a year before Robb was promoted to sergeant and received orders for a three-year tour as a Marine recruiter. He opted for a recruiting station in Oklahoma and they decided to rent out the trailer during his tour.

“We rented it to some acquaintances, without the aid of a realtor or management agency. All worked well for about a 18 months then the rent checks started coming irregularly. Eventually they stopped coming all together. The tenants didn’t move out, they just stopped paying rent,” he said.

Robb said he continually tried to call the tenants but they eventually quit answering his calls.

“I did not want to lose my house with only 12 months to go until I returned,” he said. “So we tightened the belt and scraped by so I could make the house payment, in addition to our current rent.”

With no money left over for a lawyer to evict the tenants, Robb couldn’t keep up with both payments and the house was repossessed by the bank.

“I finished my tour of recruiting and we returned to Jacksonville. During the next year the bank continued with their collection efforts until we finally reached an agreement whereby the bank would settle for lesser amount,” he said.

“We paid the agreed upon amount, my credit was somewhat saved, but my wife and I separated shortly thereafter. “

In the end, Robb — now 49 and back living in Oklahoma — said he wished he would have listened to his gut and not bought the house despite his first wife’s pleas.

“In my situation I had the facts, pros, cons, and pitfalls. I knew what I was getting into and walked into with my eyes wide open,” he said.” I just didn’t listen to my instincts and instead followed my heart. Trust your instincts!”

Wretched refinancing

Hilary Gerber, 44, thought she and her then-husband were making the right choice when they agreed to let her mother invest in a home for them in Sunrise, Florida.

“She put down a substantial down payment, and considered to be a retirement investment that could be returned to her when we sold the house eventually,” Gerber said. “This was right before the real estate bubble burst, and real estate seemed like a great investment.”

But when Gerber became pregnant, her husband began itching to buy a minivan for their expanding family.

“He was feeling quite paternal,” she explained. “So, we borrowed against the new house and refinanced the loan immediately, at the advice of our quite unscrupulous mortgage brokers, because it literally shot up $70,000 in value just in the month or so it took to close.”

“We refinanced and bought him his brand new minivan that we could not afford,” she said. “Of course, the real estate market crashed immediately after, and the house was worth half of what we paid for it.”

A few years later, her marriage ended and she had to unload the home in a short sale.

“My mom got the minivan as a consolation prize, but it was much less than her down payment,” Gerber said.

The dog from heck!

Jennifer McDermott’s cautionary tale came with four legs and a tail. She and her boyfriend had been together for two years when they decided to get a dog together.

“I was unprepared for the financial impact of dog ownership,” said McDermott, a 34-year-old communications manager living in New York City. “Our beautiful puppy was unfortunately plagued with a number of ailments from sensitive skin to a tendency to swallow everything and anything which has led to three surgeries.”

As the couple forked over thousands in vet visits, medical treatment, monthly pet insurance premiums and all the other dog necessities, such as food, boarding and toys, McDermott was relieved she had a partner to split the cost with her.

When the couple broke up five years later, they made the decision that McDermott would keep the dog.

“My ex was gracious enough to offer to continue to make contributions but I declined and took the responsibility on myself,” she said.

But the cost of solo pet ownership quickly became daunting.

“I made some changes. I shopped around for pet insurance and switched providers to one that would give me a better deal,” she said. “ I also started cooking his meals myself which was cheaper and healthier for him which in turn reduced the number of vet visits. When I had to travel, I asked friends or family to mind him and would treat them to a bottle of wine instead of paying expensive boarding fees.”

Even though it didn’t work out with her ex, McDermott is thrilled to have her dog’s companionship.

“The return on investment I get from him is priceless,” she said.

A chance for a happy ending?

The key to a solid financial footing in a relationship is to carefully consider all the options and all the possibilities before plunging into a commitment that could cost you down the road.

Honest conversation now could protect your relationship, your wallet, and your credit score in the future.

Written by

Sarah Netter

Sarah Netter is a is a freelance contributor for Stash Learn, based in New Orleans. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and ABC News.


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