Fast-spending fiancé leaves trail of $35K debt

By Aimee Bennett

Reviewed by Kimberly Rotter

Apr 17, 2024

Read time: 3 min

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Life was good for Caroline. She was happily progressing in her career with a government agency, preparing for her wedding, monitoring her spending and avoiding debt. 

“Financial freedom is big for me,” she said when I spoke with her. “I didn’t know how fast I could lose it.”

But losing that financial freedom is just what happened when she made the mistake of adding her fiancé as a secondary account holder on her credit and department store cards. As an authorized user, he had full use of the cards, while Caroline remained the primary cardholder and account owner.

She regularly used her cards, paying off the balances in full each month, and assumed that her fiancé would handle spending and debt as she did. She quickly learned, though, that he treated the cards as a license to spend. If he saw something he wanted for himself, he bought it—and saw no problem with making only the minimum payments each month. “I didn’t realize his inability to understand finances, and I couldn’t get him to stop spending,” she confided.

All of the charges he made were ultimately Caroline’s responsibility. At the same time, they were planning their wedding and making purchases for the event. The debt kept increasing, her credit score kept decreasing and she knew she had to act.


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There had to be a way…

Initially, she thought about taking out a large personal loan to consolidate and pay off the debt. But with her credit in decline, she didn’t qualify for a good interest rate. She briefly considered bankruptcy, but deemed it “too excessive, too extreme.” 

“I knew there had to be a better way,” she told me. “There had to be a way to deal with the debt.”

Then, she found Achieve online. She read reviews carefully and ultimately called and spoke with a debt consultant about debt resolution. When she made the decision to move forward with Achieve Resolution, she enrolled more than $35,000 of debt into the program

Throughout the program, Caroline relied on Achieve’s team of debt experts. “They were always really reassuring, giving me a sense of calm,” she explained. “They let me know things were proceeding normally and that they were making progress.”

As she became more familiar with the debt resolution process, she also used the online dashboard. “It’s a super-helpful visual of what you are accomplishing,” she said. “I wanted to see exactly what was happening at any point in time, and the dashboard gave me all of that information.”

The hardest part of Caroline’s debt resolution journey was legal action when one of her creditors filed a lawsuit. “It was terrifying,” she said. “But Achieve was wonderful in connecting me to attorneys who helped me immediately. They took care of everything, and I never had to worry about any legal action again.”

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Moving forward with confidence—and without debt

Today, rid of the debt, Caroline once again is in control of her finances. “I’ve bounced back,” she said—with both pride and relief. “My credit score is back up. I’ve purchased a house and a new car, and I have no other debt.” She does use credit cards, but if she makes a purchase with one, she is very conscientious about paying it off right away.

No longer married, she knows that she needs to protect her own assets and finances, no matter who she’s involved with in the future. “I have financial freedom again, and will safeguard that however I can.”

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3 tips to avoid debt pitfalls in your relationship:

  • Start the money talks early: If you’re dating, consider the right time to have the “debt talk.” If you’re engaged, start talking with your partner about finances—before you get married. Learn how much each of you earns, if you carry any debt, whether you both regularly contribute to savings, and what your total assets are. Discuss your philosophies on the use of credit so you can better understand spending and saving patterns.

  • Create a plan together: Decide how to handle day-to-day finances. Ideally, couples will agree on who will be responsible for what before they marry, but if you haven’t done so, there’s no time like the present. There are no right or wrong answers in these conversations. Some couples maintain a joint account as well as separate ones, paying regular household bills from the joint account to which they contribute an agreed-upon amount each month. Whatever system you choose, choose it together.

  • Set financial boundaries: When it comes to credit cards, the decision to get an account in your own name or be added to your partner’s account is one that each couple must decide. The key is to be aligned. Discuss and decide, together, how you will use credit within the context of a household budget you both agree to. It’s usually a good idea, though, to maintain any individual accounts, as the length of time an account is open can be an important factor in credit score calculations. If you decide not to use a particular card, you can store it safely rather than close the actual account.

Getting in the habit of openly discussing finances with each other will help you prioritize and focus on the goals you share and develop, and make sure both you and your intended maintain your financial freedom.



*Actual member of Achieve. Name changed for privacy. Member’s endorsement is a non-paid testimonial. Individual results are not typical and will vary.

Aimee Bennett

Aimee is a business writer covering personal finance. She’s passionate about making often-complex subjects easier to understand and put into action. Aimee owns and manages Fagan Business Communications, a business communications consulting firm.

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Kimberly is Achieve’s senior editor. She is a financial counselor accredited by the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education®, and a mortgage expert for The Motley Fool. She owns and manages a 350-writer content agency.

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