Relationship Connection: My husband cashed out his retirement without telling me

Question

My husband of almost 25 years recently cashed out his retirement funds for the third time in 17 years. I was willing to let the first two times go, but he knows how I feel about this and he went ahead and did it again.

I am 61 and my husband is 55. He has time to work for at least another 10 years, but I am coming close to retiring. We both have very good salaries, so I don’t understand why he would continue to do this. I am very good with finances, but obviously he is not.

We have lived in separate states for the last six years because he lost his job and is now finally in a very good, secure job with a great salary. The plan was for me to move to where he is in early 2017.

After this third time of cashing in his retirement for no apparent reason, I don’t know if I can forgive this again. I am certain that he is not gambling or doing something inappropriate. He is not that type of man. I fear that he has some kind of “martyr” syndrome where he thinks that he needs to save everyone. He is very generous, but I cannot see why he would need to keep cashing in the retirement funds. I have retirement funds, but it won’t be enough to support us.

I feel betrayed, but he doesn’t think he did anything wrong. In my opinion, this is just irresponsible behavior, and I cannot understand why he cannot see that this is wrong. Am I wrong?

Answer

Cashing out retirement funds early, while not a smart decision, isn’t the biggest issue here. The biggest issue is that you were left out of the decision-making process. That is the biggest wound that has left you so devastated.

You won’t get anywhere with this discussion if you keep it focused on the money. Each of you could build a case for saving or spending the funds. This isn’t about money. This is about trust. Making consequential decisions around retirement without consulting you weakens your ability to trust him.

You have a few things you need to discuss with him. First, you need to address the impact his unilateral decisions have on your trust and security. Speak clearly with him about the affect this has on you and what has changed for you as a result. You don’t have to criticize or belittle him. Simply speak clearly about the natural consequences that arise from his actions.

Part of rebuilding trust is for you to know where the money is going. Even though you think he doesn’t have a gambling problem, he has some type of spending problems. Otherwise, he’d be able to live off of his salary. There are plenty of irresponsible ways to waste money that are just as problematic as gambling. Ask him to show you receipts of where the money has gone. You deserve to know the truth, especially if you’re going to trust him again.

If he’s serious about rebuilding trust with you, he won’t hesitate to do these things. He’ll be anxious to prove to you that he’s safe and can be trusted. If he fights you on these things and wants to stay secretive, then this is important information for you to notice. There may be more going on than you realize. Living apart for six years allows for lower accountability, which is a natural part of living together. You may not know as much as you think you do.

These kinds of injuries can be repaired in a marriage. However, it takes tremendous humility, accountability and honesty from your husband. You have to be clear about how this has affected you and set some healthy boundaries around finances.

Recognize that if his behavior doesn’t change and he continues to drain your resources, you may need to take more drastic measures to protect yourself so you aren’t broke when it’s time for you to retire.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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3 Comments

  • Mary February 24, 2016 at 7:36 am

    I recently read several guest posts on the site Retirement And Good Living about communications by couples about retirement issues. The site provides information about many retirement topics including planning, finances, health, retirement locations and more

  • Hataalii February 24, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    I’m sorry, but I believe this needs to be view with the “three stikes, your out!” Point of view. Frankly, it doesn’t matter what led up to this, it is three times that he has shown you that your opinion not only does not matter, but that you and your opinion are not even worth consulting with.
    There are many different ways that married couples have of handling their money, particularly when both have a good income. But the fact is, that whatever both or either of you earn, should belong to the marriage. You have lived apart for six years, and your husband is only 55. That means he was 49 when he first moved away. I would not be at all surprised to find that he has another family where he is now.
    Keep your money, and whatever you can get in a divorce settlement, and get on with your life. At 61, you still have a long and hopefully very full life to live!
    Whether you go it alone, or find another life partner, I believe you will be better off without him.

  • .... February 24, 2016 at 8:04 pm

    LOL ! Everybody thinks they’re a keyboard Dr Phil !

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