Are You Married to a Gold Digger?

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By Kimberly Palmer

When Valerie Rind got married, her husband suggested renting out the condo he owned while they moved into another place. "He said, 'Why don't we keep this as an investment and rent it out, and then when we're ready, we'll sell the condo,'" Rind recalls. Later, when the couple needed some extra cash flow, Rind suggested they put the condo on the market. Her husband resisted.

Eventually, Rind realized her now ex-husband had been lying to her from the start. He never owned the condo but had been just renting it. "That was a traumatic realization," she says, not just financially, but because her trust was irreparably betrayed. "It destroyed the relationship. Having someone lie about something so fundamental, I felt I couldn't trust him again," she recalls. They soon divorced.

She Suffered So You Don't Have To

Rind, who works for a software company in the District of Columbia, says she wants to help other people avoid the same mistakes she made. Her new book, "Gold Diggers and Deadbeat Dads," is filled with similar stories of financial dishonesty. What's heartbreaking is it often occurs between family members, spouses and close friends.

"I wanted to show other people that they weren't the only ones who had made some sort of financial mistake and to help other people from letting it happen to him," she says. The book covers common lies about debt and estate planning and even physical abuse in relationships.

People often find themselves in trouble, she says, not necessarily because they're naïve, but because they're not educated enough about personal finance to notice the warning signs that indicate a problem. As for Rind, she didn't have much of a chance to protect herself, given the degree of deceit that was going on. Short of asking to see real estate paperwork before she got married, she's not sure how she could have uncovered the truth about the condo earlier. "I don't think it could have been prevented," she says.

Many other situations, though, come with bright red flags. Here are five:

  • Secrecy around money. "You should know how much they earn, how much they save, do they live within their means, how much debt do they have, how do they run their finances day to day," Rind says. Even details like whether your spouse tends to pay off credit cards each month and earn rewards points are important, she adds. Having a sense of how someone runs their financial life gives you insight into who they are and what being with them for the long haul might be like.

  • Hiding credit histories. A quick review of each other credit histories can make sure you're aware of each other's general financial histories, including any prior bankruptcies. In fact, a close look at her ex-husband's credit history might even have revealed that he didn't have a mortgage on the condo, which could have helped Rind uncover the fact that he didn't own it, or at least might have led to more questions.

  • Not having an estate plan. Procrastinating on setting up a will and other estate planning documents is common, but it can lead to major problems down the road, especially if you have a complicated situation such as children from prior marriages or a family business. While it's a difficult task because it "forces you to think about your priorities," Rind says, failing to draft or update your will, especially if your circumstances change, can lead to unintended consequences.

  • Resisting a prenup. Especially when it comes to second marriages and older couples, Rind says, prenups can be an important way to protect the financial futures of any young children or make the division of pre-existing assets easier in the event of divorce.

  • Asking you to co-sign a loan. People without a strong credit score might ask a boyfriend or girlfriend to co-sign a loan, which can enable them to get a better interest rate on a loan. The problem is that the boyfriend or girlfriend with good credit is then liable for the loan, even if the couple breaks up. Rind dubs this problem "sexually transmitted debt," a term she trademarked. "It's especially nasty if you didn't realize you were signing up for it," Rind says.

If you do decide to lend a family member, partner or friend money, then she suggests taking care to put the loan in writing to make sure you both understand the terms of the deal, including if and when it will be paid back.

In all relationships, whether familial or romantic, Rind says there's often emotion involved, and that can cloud your judgement when it comes to lending money or offering up your name as a co-signer on a loan. "When you loan someone money, it changes the dynamic forever," she warns.

Like Sam Smith at the Grammys, when he thanked his ex-boyfriend who broke his heart for enabling him to write his hits, Rind dedicates the book to her ex-husband. "Without you, I never would have written this book," she writes. She's already working on her follow up, based on the outpouring of emails and questions from readers she's received.