When Bruce McClary, director of media relations at ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions in Seattle, was a credit counselor in Virginia Beach, his scariest moment was when he counseled a husband who had kept $80,000 in credit card debt secret from his wife.
The husband had used the P.O. box trick, but when his debt became unsustainable he brought his wife along to a credit counseling session, ostensibly to "tweak their budget."
After going over a budget, the husband dumped a grocery bag of credit card bills on the desk. The husband told McClary that he had taken a significant cut in pay but didn't want his wife to know.
In order to keep up their lifestyle -- which included things like equestrian lessons for their kids -- he had taken cash advances from several credit cards to pay the bills on other maxed-out credit cards.
"Honestly, when this whole thing blew up at my desk it was pretty terrifying," says McClary. "From the wife's point of view, it wasn't just this incredible debt; it was the fact that he had a P.O. box that revealed the level of his deception. She expressed her concerns about a mistress or a whole other life that she didn't know about. This guy even lied to me at the beginning of our session about his income."
McClary says the financial counseling session went "off the rails," and he recommended marriage counseling and a return visit for credit counseling. The couple never returned. "It's pure speculation on my part, but I suspect they ended up in divorce court," says McClary.
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