Dear Quentin,

I have been with my wife since 2008. We got married in 2015. We have one child together, and she has two children from two previous relationships.

Since we got married, my wife has been drinking heavily and gambling away all of our money, and my adult stepchildren are deadbeats who do drugs and sit around playing video games literally all day and night. Meanwhile, I go to work every day trying to keep us from drowning financially.

We literally have nothing in savings and no plan for retirement, due to the fact that no one but me seems to care. At this rate, I am going to have to work until I’m 150. Please help! I love them, but they are destroying everything.



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Dear Desperate,

Love is an investment. It should be reciprocated.

You work, you pay the mortgage and the bills, you want to have a good life and/or a better life. But if no one in your household is there to help you achieve that goal, you need to ask yourself what you can do differently, not only what they can do differently.

You wouldn’t pour your time and money into a job or a stock or a joint venture if the other partners in that venture were actively trying to squander what you had earned. This is no exception. Your life is your own. And your stepchildren need to buck up, and move out.

If you are pulling your weight at home, they should too. The decision to marry is probably one of the most important financial decisions we make in our lifetime. Divorce is oftentimes as bad as, if not worse than, a recession. But staying in an unhappy marriage can be far more costly.

You are supporting a partner and her/your children, in addition to your own, while working and trying to have money set aside for an emergency, in addition to retirement — while all and sundry sit in their skivvies and watch you go out to work every day. And so: What price, love?

‘You wouldn’t pour your time and money into a job or a stock or a joint venture if the other partners in that venture were actively trying to squander what you had earned. This is no exception.’

Do not be a hostage to other people, and don’t become a lifelong prisoner to other people’s willful neglect of your needs. They will watch you scrimp and save while they play video games and gamble, as long as you allow that to happen. We are all responsible for the life we choose.

I advise against joint bank accounts, as you need to keep a tight rein on your income and expenditure, and make it crystal clear to your family that you have a budget. You need to stick to this, and resist being blamed for other people’s demands not being met.

As for your wife’s gambling debts, debts accumulated during a marriage are typically deemed community property in a community-property state. There are nine community property states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

Check the law in your state regarding such debts. As New Mexico-based attorney Dorene A. Kuffer points out: “When certain losses or debts are the sole responsibility of a spouse — as with gambling — the court may take a different approach to property division.”

“Any time one spouse spends, gives away or disposes of money without the knowledge or consent of the other spouse, this can be considered ‘wasting assets,’ and gambling is an example of this type of spending,” Kuffer adds.

In an equitable-distribution state, such as New York, a judge will take into account money wasted for non-marital interests. That includes gambling and alcohol use, lavish purchases and money spent on extramarital affairs, etc. I tell you this because it’s important to know.

If your wife is not willing or ready to accept that she has an alcohol and gambling problem, and is unwilling to seek the help she needs, you cannot help her. She needs to want to help herself. You also have a child who needs a financially and emotionally stable home.

Your child should be your No. 1 priority now.

The Moneyist: ‘I feel un-American’: I was broke in my 20s, and live in fear of debt. My wife wants to upgrade our home and life. What do I do?

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at qfottrell@marketwatch.com.

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