How To Tell Your Wife You Are $40,000 in Debt

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Ron Hynson carried a secret for years. It kept him up at night and soured his happy personality, but he wouldn’t share it with anyone.

Hynson had done something millions of Americans can relate to. He was drowning in debt and didn’t know how to get out of it. The harder he tried to escape, the more debt sucked him in.

Finally, it got to be too much. After almost 10 years, he sat down and told his wife.

“She could have picked up and said, ‘You created this mess, I’m out of here!’” Hynson said. “I tried to figure out ways to pay it off, but nothing worked.”

Hynson’s despair was understandable. But, as he would discover, there was a way out. For most of those struggling with debt, there are several strategies to bring you back from the brink. We’ll tell you want they are in a bit. But first, back to his story.

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Hynson doesn’t seem like the type that would rack up $40,000 in credit card debt. He lives in Newnan, Ga., a small, affordable city near Atlanta. He has a good, steady job in the printing industry. His wife, Natalie, is a teacher.

But debt sneaks up on people regardless of age, income, nationality, or zip code. The root of the problem is making bad financial choices, and Hynson was good at that.

He took his family on extravagant cruises. He gladly bankrolled his son’s athletic pursuits, and if you have a kid who plays baseball or is into gymnastics, you know how expensive that can be.

He’d pick up the tab when groups would go out for dinner. He encouraged Natalie to buy things she wanted.

He wanted to make everybody happy. But the more he gave, the less happy he became. That’s because he didn’t tell Natalie that he was giving more than they could afford. He handled all the family finances and told her everything was just fine.

She didn’t see the credit card bills, and how Ron was just making minimum monthly payments. The balance grew to $30,000 at one point and he transferred all that to a low-interest card.

Instead of getting rid of the old cards, he kept them and just piled up more quicksand. Some months he couldn’t even pay the minimums.

Basically, Ron fell into the same consumer trap that has made Las Vegas casinos rich. Like poker chips, those little plastic credit cards don’t feel like real money.

A $100 bill is tough to part with. But a $100 charge on a credit card is painless. At least until the bill comes due.

“Credit cards,” Hynson said, “are evil.”

The truth really dawns on people when they start getting calls from collection agencies. They hounded Hynson, who tried to maintain his happy face. But underneath, he was starting to boil.

An underappreciated aspect of debt is the damage it can do to a person’s mental and physical health. A study by the American Psychological Association found that debt was the No. 1 cause of stress in America, higher than work, health concerns and even relationships.

Stress leads to ulcers, heart attacks, migraines, and sleepless nights. With Hynson, it led to depression and a short fuse.

He was moody and would snap at people. Natalie suspected something was going on.

“I don’t know who you are anymore,” she told him.

Hynson denied there was anything wrong, but he knew he had to do something. Things changed when he found InCharge Debt Solutions and its debt management program.

At the time, he was $40,000 in the hole and his credit score had plummeted below 500. InCharge felt like a lifeline to a drowning man.

“It sounded like a great plan,” Hynson said.

Then came the hard part – telling Natalie that he’d just about run them into bankruptcy.

“She knew something was going on and that answered all the questions,” Hynson said. “It made total sense and explained why I was such a mean person and depressed all the time.”

Then he explained InCharge’s debt management program to Natalie.

“Hey, whatever we’ve got to do, let’s do it,” she said.

The debt management program would have eliminated their debt in four years. They paid it off three months early and have seen their credit score jump to 750. Hynson cherishes the letter stating they have a zero balance on their credit cards.

“I got it framed and it’s in my office,” he said.

Debt management worked for the Hynsons, but it’s not the only debt-relief option available. Here’s a look at other ways to eliminate however much debt you accumulate.

Options For Paying Off Substantial Credit Card Debt

There are a number of strategies to pay off large amounts of credit card debt. They include personal loans, 0% APR balance transfer cards, debt settlement, bankruptcy, credit counseling and debt management plans. You may be able to use more than one of these options.

Personal Loans

Using personal loans to consolidate multiple, high-interest debts into a single payment with a lower interest rate is a viable strategy for many whose credit card payments are burdensome. It works for those who have a credit score high enough to take advantage of good interest rates.

However, if your credit card debts are in the $40,000 neighborhood, your credit score may have taken a beating, especially if you haven’t been making payments on time. You may face upfront origination or balance transfer fees, and if you get a secured loan – which may be necessary to get the interest rate you need – you’re putting your assets at risk if you default. Also, getting the loan doesn’t solve the spending problem that got you in trouble in the first place.

0% APR Balance Transfer Cards

The advantage of 0% APR balance transfer credit cards, which allow you to transfer debts from other cards without paying interest for a limited time, is that they provide a time window of 12-20 months to pay down your debts.

However, a balance transfer fee, typically 3% of the amount you transfer, gets tacked on. And that 0% rate will pass quickly, so you must be disciplined to pay down as much as you can before the regular interest rate kicks in. The credit card company is counting on you not being able to do that, which is why they offer the introductory rate.

Debt Settlement

For those whose debt is overwhelming, debt settlement can look like a good deal – and sometimes it is. Debt settlement companies negotiate with lenders to agree to take less than what is owed in a lump sum payment instead of monthly installments.

It can take two to three years before the debt settlement company reaches an agreement, during which you’re being assessed late fees, interest is building, and your credit score takes a huge hit. Some creditors refuse to work with settlement companies. Some debtors end up owing more than when they started.


Bankruptcy is the nuclear option for getting out of debt. You ask a federal court to release you from what you owe and start your financial life over. The most often-used form of bankruptcy is Chapter 7, which gets rid of most of your debts like credit cards, personal loans, and medical bills by liquidating your assets. Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires you to create a plan to repay your creditors in 3-5 years, during which you can’t take out any loans, but your property isn’t liquidated. If you don’t make your payments, you’ll probably return to court and still be in debt.

Credit Counseling

Before you settle on a strategy, what you may need more than anything else are information and perspective. That’s what credit counseling provides. Working with a certified counselor from a nonprofit credit counseling agency will show you exactly where you stand financially and provide you with solid information on creating and maintaining a budget, managing spending and, if needed, can direct you toward a solution for your problems.

Debt Management Plan

A debt management plan creates a payment schedule so you can pay off credit card debt by lowering interest rates and creating an affordable monthly budget that includes paying down debt. It’s not a plan for the unserious. Those in a debt management program must get rid of their credit cards to prevent running up more debt. Advantages include simple, affordable payments at lower interest rates, with a timetable to eliminate debt in 3-5 years. After several months in the program, your credit score should improve.

Help Is Available If You Have Large Amounts of Credit Card Debt

Ron Hynson is an example of how those who owe significant amounts to credit card companies – yes, even as much as $40,000 – can find their way out of debt. Credit counseling could be the answer. The first step to finding out is to contact a nonprofit credit counselor like InCharge Debt Solutions to explore your best debt-relief options.

About The Author

George Morris

In his 40-plus-year newspaper career, George Morris has written about just about everything -- Super Bowls, evangelists, World War II veterans and ordinary people with extraordinary tales. His work has received multiple honors from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press and the Louisiana Press Association. He avoids debt when he can and pays it off quickly when he can't, and he's only too happy to suggest how you might do the same.