The Moneyist: ‘Am I heartless?’ My husband’s business collapsed and we sold our house. He left home to sell real estate, but failed. Should I bail him out?

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Dear Quentin,

My husband lost his business many years ago, and we had to sell our house to pay off his debt. I had a part-time job then because I needed to take care of our two young children. My husband stopped bringing in any income. A few times, he gave me money, but the source was unknown. 

After a couple of years, he was still not working so he stayed at home, and I started working full time. I have tried to talk to him a few times about his plans, but he did not seem to have any. That was eight years ago. In November 2021, he suddenly decided to pursue real estate overseas. So he left me and my kids, just like that. 

‘In November 2021, he suddenly decided to pursue real estate overseas. So he left me and my kids, just like that.’

His big brothers and sisters gave him some money, which I believe was enough to last for a year. My kids and I actually felt so much more relaxed and happier since he left. He got his real-estate license quite quickly but after a year and half, he has had no luck earning any commissions. He told me he had no interest in working part time.

I am really disappointed. I know he doesn’t really have much money left. I am making a decent amount of money at my current job, but I don’t want to offer him any because I am paying for all the expenses for my kids and myself, and I don’t want to take any money out of our savings because that is for our children’s education. 

Am I being heartless? Or am I doing the right thing? I need some advice and I’d really appreciate it if you can offer any.

Mother & Wife

Dear Mother & Wife,

The clue is in the question and, in this case, the pull quote (see above). You’re not heartless. He left you and your kids. You don’t owe him your savings.

You supported your husband, you stood by him, you lost your home, and you worked full-time to get back on your feet and support your family. And after all of that he took off to pursue his dreams as a real-estate agent, and he failed at that too. I’m sorry his business went under, and I wish he had made a success of his second chance at financial stability, but it was not to be. 

You are one of many women who have taken the reins. The number of female breadwinners tripled from 5% in 1972 to 16% in 2022, according to the latest research on the subject released last month from the Pew Research Center. And 29% of couples earn the same, up from 11% in 1972, while men earn more in 55% of opposite-sex marriages, down from 85% in 2022.

But here’s the rub: “Even as financial contributions have become more equal in marriages, the way couples divide their time between paid work and home life remains unbalanced,” the Pew researchers wrote in their report. “Women pick up a heavier load when it comes to household chores and caregiving responsibilities, while men spend more time on work and leisure.”

‘Your contributions are as valuable as those of your husband, and you should protect and cherish all of them.’

Your contributions are as valuable as those of your husband, and you should protect and cherish all of them. Women who have more formal education than their husbands are, perhaps unsurprisingly, more likely to become breadwinners. You have bucked the trend on working mothers: Pew found that wives without children are more likely to out-earn their husband. 

Your loyalty is to your children, their future and your retirement. You gave your husband several chances, and it’s clear that he will continue to shoot for the stars on other people’s dime, if you allow it. You did not have the luxury of taking off — leaving all of your responsibilities behind — to fulfill a dream. Nor have you leveraged your family’s future for a bright (or not-so-bright) idea.

Perhaps your husband is a charismatic figure who can sell his dreams (if not his properties) or a person who convinces other people he’s got it all taken care of (until he doesn’t). It’s hard to get a sense of his character or personality from your letter. He should have taken that part-time job. But we all have ups and downs in life, and it’s best to face them with levity and humility.

Keep living your life, and putting you and your children first.

Yocan email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write to me with all sorts of dilemmas. 

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More from Quentin Fottrell:

‘I feel used’: My partner stays with me 5 nights a week, even though he owns his own home. Should he pay for utilities and food? 

Should I invest $20,000 in cash or stocks? The stock market is volatile, and the Fed hiked rates (again).

‘Poor people are not stupid’: I grew up in poverty, earned $14 an hour, and inherited $150,000. Here’s what I have learned from my windfall.

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