Gamble Away Savings

Dear Jeff,

I recently found out that my husband has secretly gambled away a chunk of our savings. He came clean a few weeks ago and has been receiving treatment to help address his addiction. But the problem is that we are nearing retirement age and I’m worried we won’t have enough to live on. My husband always took care of the finances in our house and, to be honest, I was naïve. I always assumed everything would be okay and we didn’t talk about money. But now I am kicking myself for not being more on top of things. How can we rebound from the loss of half of our retirement savings?

Charlene P.
Lethbridge, Alberta


It must have been shocking to learn of your husband’s activities and to now have to deal with the financial consequences. You are not the first spouse to be in the dark about their loved one’s gambling problem, and you won’t be the last. However, you should not be blaming yourself. Instead you should be focusing on a solution to this problem.

When you are faced with an unexpected financial event, it can wreak havoc on all your careful financial planning and budgeting. In an instant, you can go from having confidence in your financial future to having doubts about being able to afford your basic wants and needs. Your age, health, family responsibilities, and remaining savings will all affect the severity of your situation, but here are a few things you should be doing –

  • Identify the Situation – You need to know exactly what your financial situation is. You should get your credit report to see if you are falling behind with any of your payments. Call your bank and get up-to-date information on your savings and chequing accounts. It is much better to deal with the devil you know, than the devil you don’t know.
  • “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” – Ok, you sense that some mistakes have been made, but now it’s time to deal with what you’ve been dealt. Your retirement plans are still the same; you just need to do more to get there. The next step is to determine where you are now, and what you need to do to get back on track. Once you have completed this step, use the tools below to get there.
  • Budget, Budget, Budget – Now that you know the extent of trouble you are in, you need to start budgeting. Figure out exactly how much money you are earning and what you are spending each month on things like your rent or mortgage, food, entertainment, etc. Look at that list and figure out where you can cut back – which leads us to…
  • Save, Save, Save – We all have things that we buy that could best be described as unnecessary. It may be getting your weekly manicure, your husband’s morning coffee, or your landscaping service. Find the areas you can cut back on and begin to save money.
  • Educate Yourself – Charlene, you willingly took the backseat when it came to your family’s finances. You sound like you regret it so let’s make sure it doesn’t happen again. A lack of financial literacy gets a lot of people in trouble. Luckily, Consolidated Credit offers a library of booklets that deal with such issues as taxes, vacation budgeting, avoiding foreclosure, retirement and more. It’s time for you to learn about your finances, so you can enjoy the rest of your life.

Everybody hits a rough financial patch in their life at some point. The key is to respond effectively to the situation. Take this piece of simple advice – if there is less money to spend, spend less money! By understanding your situation and making the necessary changes to your life, you and your husband will be able to head into retirement financially healthy.

Jeffrey Schwartz
Executive Director

Jeffrey Schwartz is the Executive Director of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada and President of the Credit Association of Greater Toronto (CAGT).

If you have a question about a debt management program or just about finance in general, Jeff is here to help. Send us an email with your question to [email protected]. You’ll get the expert advice you need and your question may be featured here on our website.