smart spending

Signs your spouse may be ripping you off

The case of the home equity termite
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The sneak: Lynette secretly drained the $100,000 maximum from her home equity line of credit to support her gambling habit. Lynette handles their finances, so husband George had no clue she was eating through their equity like a termite until the lender tipped him off.

The reason: When couples don't communicate about money, mischief often follows. Lynette's gambling was out of control, but George shares some of the blame for being oblivious to her equity mining.

"It's not illegal if the title is in both names," Hayden says. "You can't open or raise a line of credit without both signatures, but you're free to run it up to the max."

The fix: Happy ending time. Lynette entered treatment for her gambling problem, and she's only allowed a small amount of personal money for three months at a time. They're repaying their equity loan.

"It was rough for about a year just to get the trust back, but their marriage has never been better," says Hayden. "She made a commitment to health and the relationship, and he made a commitment to say, 'I'm still here. If you'll do these things, I'll stay.'"




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