Why were the Watts Family Finances in Ruins?

While researching TWO FACE ANNIHILATION it’s become more and more obvious what’s missing from the Second Confession. The word “finances” appears just once, on page 17 of the CBI Report.

Ever since he sold his 4-wheeler for less than what he owed on it, Shan’ann wouldn’t let him do anything with their finances.

The word “debt” appears on the same page which deals with the cops quizzing Watts directly about the business of selling the house. Also a single instance of that word.

Most of the bankruptcy dealt with credit card debt from their wedding.

The word “money” also appears only one time on page 21.

His mother initially believed his father was having an affair because he couldn’t account for missing money.

Many are uncomfortable assigning blame – one way or another – for why these horrific murders took place. Are we less uncomfortable assigning blame for the financial mess they were in?

Although it’s clear Watts didn’t take much if any responsibility for his own finances [and only he is to blame for that], the fact that Shan’ann took control didn’t make matters any better. It also seems having gone bankrupt once before hadn’t been much of a check on whatever was going wrong behind-the-scenes.

Personally I don’t think it’s helpful taking sides in the financial equation either, as regards the Watts. Whether we say it was all Shan’ann’s fault, or all his fault, or that they were both at fault, the fact remains that a financial malaise appeared to hang over them – like a dark cloud – from as early as the beginning of their marriage. Why?

What seems to me to be more helpful is to understand how human psychology, with all its flaws and idiosyncrasies, plays into a pattern that adds up either to financial gain or ruin. It also seems reductionist to simply blame MLM. How is it to blame?

Today on a television show dealing with budgeting advice, I caught a clip by Maya Fisher-French, an award-winning financial journalist, that I thought really resonated with the Watts story.

Fisher-French was making a simple but profound observation about how human psychology plays into our approach to money through our sense of fulfillment, and overall gratification.

Her point was that when we try to save, we tend to focus on denying ourselves small things. We may scrimp on a latte, or hold ourselves back from buying a candy bar. We may – like Shan’ann – elect to choose a cheaper meal at a cheaper restaurant.

Fisher-French’s point is that when we reward ourselves, we do so disproportionately, spending thousands on a holiday, or hundreds on new outfits.

We can see how the Watts household was geared towards making small savings in certain areas [order your free Thrive pack today, at a discount], while splurging in other areas: a really big house, an expensive car, one exotic holiday after another.

The damaging thing about MLM is that it encourages exactly these enormous extravagances, and links them to the idea of “Thriving”, and having a better sense of self.

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It even reverses the idea of saving in small doses by overpricing their products, and then simultaneously offering “unbeatable” bargains and discounts.

MLM’s message is you can live in a castle! You can have the luxury car! You can travel to your heart’s content! Don’t let anything [like not being able to afford it] stop you because you deserve it!

Fisher-French’s advice is to make a list of those things we deny ourselves on a daily basis that “hurt”, like that extra spoon of sugar in our coffee, or a dessert at a restaurant, and swap that around with our unworkable and unaffordable reward system.

She recommends saving on the big things rather than scrimping on the little ones as a more effective way of staying financially safe and sound. The idea is to connect our sense-of-self to daily, ordinary things, rather than to attach ourselves to bigger, unrealistic extravagances. In other words, financially we need to occupy and live in the real world.

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Guest Post: The Second Confession has a gigantic gaping hole in one particular area

In his Second Confession Watts himself seems to have found closure. Now he loves his kids and wife again [apparently in that order], and daydreams of reading them bedtime stories and sitting with his months-old baby boy on his lap.

But isn’t this spiel missing something?

There was a giant volcano of debt hemorrhaging just beneath the surface of their marriage at the time of the murders. If Watts is a liar about the scale and scope of his crime, it stands to reason he’d lie about the scale and scope of debt rumbling in the background. And if the proceeds from the sale of the house [present day] will be swallowed up by all this debt, how are the Rzuceks lawyers going to get paid for their efforts in the civil suit?

Going back to the timeline of that fateful Monday morning in mid-August, we know the first non-work-related calls Watts made after the murders were to the school and the realtor to contain the financial plague gnawing at his future happiness. We also know on the same day Watts seemed reluctant to make calls to find out where Shan’ann was, and only called a few hospitals at around 18:00.

In his confession he dismisses the calls to the school as “a mistake”, but in fact part of what he communicated in that call was that they were selling the house and moving out of town. In almost every conversation Watts had, he repeated the same spiel. He told Nickol Atkinson, Cassie and others that Shan’ann was gone, and by the way, they were selling their house and moving. This also became part and parcel of Watts first version of events to law enforcement. But as early as his call to school at 09:00 Watts first move was to get the house sold. That same morning on his way back to the crime scene he went to look at another property suggested by the realtor.

Quite a huge shift in the circumstances and it happened immediately after the bodies were taken care of, didn’t it?

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The screengrabs above are all from the afternoon of August 13th, 2018.

In a rare moment of insight, Nichol Kessinger admitted to the CBI that her being in Watts’ life “accelerated the process” [referring to the murders], but added that she thought money was the “biggest catalyst for this event happening”.

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TCRS also maintains that money was the biggest catalyst, along with Shan’ann’s stranglehold over the finances, and her fatal infatuation with MLM.

The trio of investigators glossed over the finances in their five-hour interview, but there were a few exceptions. For example Watts claimed they had been sending checks to the homeowners association – just to the wrong address – for over a year.

I’m assuming because Shan’ann did that and she’s gone, those checks are in some financial purgatory, some limbo, an unknown abyss where they can never be found and confirmed. If that’s the case that’s one thing, but one would imagine if the checks  weren’t cashed “for an entire year” amounting to several hundred dollars, someone like Shan’ann ought to have noticed.

Thanks to Maura for your contribution on this subject:

10 Reasons the Watts Finances Were A Factor

This second “confession” doesn’t bring up their poor financial situation at all including:

1. Behind on their mortgage several months and being sued by HOA for non payment of fees
2. Credit credit cards maxed out/debts owed—paying minimum amounts monthly
3. Medical bills from SW and the kids
4. Large house expenses
5. Thrive MLM costs vs. income remaining after coststhrive-level-review
6. Private preschool costs of $25,000 per year
7. Niko’s upcoming birth, medical expenses and SW’s taking time off from work for maternity leave, and having another mouth to feed.
8. Cost of wining, dining and traveling with NK who expected CW to pay for their dates.Visa-Exe.Black-Univ-rel
9. If divorced, CW would need security deposit and income to pay for a separate apartment plus a home for his ex-wife and 3 kids. SW would have been on maternity leave Jan. to ?? and not able to work FT with a newborn.
10. If SW took a leave after Niko’s birth and could not meet lease payments on the Lexus or earn $800 Thrive bonus, she and the kids wouldn’t have a car either especially if CW lived elsewhere. Would they have moved to another area like NC where her family could help?alimony-guage-pic-opti

Chris decided that he was going to be the only one to benefit from the sale of their only asset, the house, which would enable him to have a fresh start with Nichol. Premeditated the murders were his solution to fix things.

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Would Nichol have stayed with him if his wife and kids truly disappeared? Or, if he was going through a bitter divorce and had 3 small children including a newborn? If she knew the extent of his finances? If their infatuation cooled and she got to know the real Chris?

If police had given him another lie detector test I don’t think he’d pass it with his new story either.

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NOTE: Watts does mention exorbitant wedding costs playing a drag on their finances six years after they got married in Charlotte, North Carolina. The bankruptcy/financial problems of the Rzuceks is not referenced.

 

“It’s just as much his fault as hers that their finances are in a shambles…”

A lot of mystery and intrigue surrounds the Watts family finances, particularly on Shan’ann’s side. Although we don’t know the numbers, Shan’ann’s Facebook provides an almost infinite portrait of Shan’ann’s work ethic, lifestyle choices and product choices.

Without knowing the numbers exactly, we can be pretty clear what was going on behind the scenes in the Watts family.

I expect this to be a controversial post, with many dismissing whatever is written here with the “Victim Blaming” label, simply because as far as the finances were concerned, Watts was clearly the true breadwinner of the couple.

There’s a caveat to this, but before dealing with that aspect, let’s examine a few undisputed facts, all of which are anchored in the legal realities of the Discovery Documents:

  1. In August 2018, whatever the circumstances were prior, the loan on 2825 Saratoga Trail was in the name of Chris Watts. We know this because Shan’ann herself said so in a text on August 8th. This suggests Shan’ann’s credit was curtailed in some significant way. Fullscreen capture 20190206 131230
  2. The credit cards of the entire household were also curtailed. When a transaction went off on the morning of the murder, irrespective of who authorized it, it bounced.Fullscreen capture 20190206 132009
  3. Watts seemed to function largely without credit cards, certainly in terms of his affair with Kessinger. Although one reason was likely to keep the relationship secret, another may have been that they simply didn’t have any credit, or if they did, they had very little. He mostly used prepaid gift cards to pay for Kessinger but on Saturday night, August 11, Watts broke his own rule regarding this and used Shan’ann’s Baby Blue Credit card, which alerted Shan’ann to the expense. This may have been because by then Watts had burned through his last gift card.Fullscreen capture 20190206 134811
  4. Neither Chris Watts nor Shan’ann actually owned a vehicle. The truck was a work vehicle [which Watts wasn’t allowed to drive on personal errands] and the Lexus was a lease.Fullscreen capture 20190206 132126
  5. There is no doubt that Shan’ann wore the pants in the household, and this included maintaining absolute control over the finances.Fullscreen capture 20190206 132854

These are the facts, but the bottom line is the Watts couple were in serious financial difficulty by August 2018, and for the second time in three years. This time, the difficulties were compounded by a third pregnancy, an affair, and the imminent threat of the family losing their home because of a debt spiral they would not acknowledge, and this time, could not escape.

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So how did this financial disaster double act actually happen?

Because of a kind of “tunnel vision” regarding the Watts case, many are disinclined to acknowledge any flaw or failure on Shan’ann’s part. It’s disrespectful to criticize her in any shape or form [so the argument goes] because she’d dead, didn’t deserve to die no matter what, and can’t defend herself from beyond the grave.

But the question here is what was the true state of the finances? There is none better than Shan’ann to tell us about this, and she does. She can; even from beyond the grave.

We have her own texts and behaviors to work from in the final days.

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When Watts spent $62 at a restaurant on Saturday night, August 11, Shan’ann’s phone alerted to the purchase and Shan’ann freaked out. She went into emergency mode, battening down the hatches, Googling menus, checking prices, and giving her husband instructions to keep the receipt for the meal. Fullscreen capture 20181213 175839Although this was a symptom of Shan’ann checking on her husband’s fidelity [and her suspicions were valid] we shouldn’t miss the mechanism that this takes – the finances. Shan’ann’s surveillance of her husband is done via financial vigilance. And if this meticulous financial oversight of a restaurant bill [while she was on a trip in Arizona, also eating at restaurants and Thrivin’] wasn’t a sign to her friends and companions that the Watts family were stressed financially, what would be?

Nickole Atkinson was aware that Shan’ann was careful about expenditures, choosing cheaper restaurants,  while at the same time, sending her children to a school Nickole herself considered unaffordable for Shan’ann.

We know that at the same time the girls were going to be back at $500-a-week Primrose school, Watts [not his wife, not him and Shan’ann, just him] was facing a mortgage payment of $1700 that he simply could not meet, and he was already three months behind.Fullscreen capture 20190206 133128

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Someone else’s debts are easily dismissed.  It’s easy to treat someone else’s mortgage and credit card impairment as passé. When it’s yours, it’s less easy to be that laissez faire about it, isn’t it?

Now imagine you do care about your debt, and you do care about losing your house, and losing everything, but someone else is in control of your money [your salary, the bank account, even the actual state of your financial situation]. And no matter how much you try to address it, nothing changes. Someone else remains in control and the situation simply continues to unravel. Well, that was the situation in the Watts family.

In any scenario where a couple have no money and there is a pregnancy, there is an automatic crisis. We see it with teenagers and unplanned pregnancies all the time. The difference was that the financial side of Watts fairy tale appeared to be there when in reality, in 2018, it was little more than a facade. Now why might this be?

Shan’ann’s approach to the finances seemed to be not 100% grounded in reality, just as Thrive and MLMs in general are not 100% grounded in reality [to put it mildly].

Perhaps Shan’ann’s attachment to MLM had a lot to do with a delusion about the true state of her marriage and their finances. People who sell for a living, and marketers, are incentivized to make believers out of their buyers. To sell they must be confident and convincing, and the best way to do that is to believe their own bullshit. When it comes to MLM, this stereotype of brain addled huns drunk on the same Kool-Aid is so common it’s cliche.

But making the sale is one thing, believing you’re sitting on a pot of gold when it’s actually a pile of shit is another situation altogether. In the Watts household, it didn’t just happen. It took two-and-a-half years for the debt bubble to balloon into a debt mountain of steaming dung. Sometimes debt can be like a nightmare. Sometimes one’s own debts can just feel like someone else’s, or simply hypothetical, especially when one’s escaped or wriggled out of a tight financial impasse before.

Typically, phantom money exists around fake people.

In this fakery, both Watts and his wife appeared to be complicit. Neither really told their friends about their financial problems, and yet their friends and colleagues seemed to know there were financial problems regardless.

What their friends said:

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In all the text messages during the weeks prior to the murders, the issue of financial strain seems to be the one thing Watts and his wife never brought up, and never argued about. Unless this aspect has been selectively excised from both their phones.

More likely though, neither were particularly focused on the finances until it was too late. Watts may or may not have been misled or kept in the dark about their money, something that may have been an error, a weakness, a misrepresentation or a manipulation [or a combination of all of these] from his wife.

There appears to be some evidence not only of financial mismanagement in Shan’ann’s past, but possible dishonesty and criminality.

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The same can also be said about Watts, who, if Trent Bolte’s accusations are true, Watts was spending money on male hookers and buying him botox treatments. Even if Bolte’s allegations aren’t true, we know Watts was conducting an affair when – financially if not otherwise – he could least afford it.

Probably the best insight we get into the Watts finances is from a source almost everyone dismisses as either unreliable or just plain evil. Nichol Kessinger. By judging her in this manner, an entire line of evidence is simply lost. In terms of finances, and narcissism, Kessinger is one of very few characters in this true crime story that had no debt and wasn’t pitching herself across the suburbs and rooftops of social media.

From Kessinger we find:

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In sum we can see that both Chris and Shan’ann Watts hid the true nature of their finances from the rest of the world. They both seemed to be actively hiding other things too, for various reasons [for him the affair, for her the Thriving fakery and the true nature of her marriage].

Isn’t it ironic that both were arguing about when to “reveal” the gender of the third baby at the time of the murders? Forget about the fact that it was about the baby, or the baby’s gender, it was a conflict about when to make known something…

If Shan’ann’s side of the income equation was shaky, and I believe it was, that doesn’t make her completely and utterly responsible for the financial mess they were in, but it sure did aggravate it. Unfortunately, because the Watts case never made it to trial, we’ll never know just how much “aggravation” Shan’ann’s MLM addiction caused the marriage, and sadly, millions of Americans caught up in MLM will have to learn their lessons firsthand – the hard way.

Ultimately, whether he was pushed, misinformed, stupid, or simply not paying attention, Watts was responsible for allowing things to get as out of hand – financially – as they got. Lest we forget, Watts was a participant in the Thrive thing as well, albeit a rather lackluster extra in his own Thrive spiel.shanann-watts-51

He ought to have taken control of the MLM train wreck sooner. He would have had he been more hands-on and informed about the practical financial realities they faced. Had he been more hands on he would have learned from the first financial disaster and not pursued a third pregnancy.

The purchase of the big house was the main millstone around their necks. Simultaneously, thanks to the health of the housing market, disposing of the house was their potential salvation. Watts may have felt justified in only saving himself financially, since Shan’ann couldn’t be saved [in his mind], but he conflated financial ruin and resurrection with murder and death.

While all of this is true, it should be noted that things spun out of control [financially] in the final few months before the murders. While Shan’ann was in North Carolina, Watts was falling in love. It’s possible the debt monster when it hit seemed to come out of left field.

An aspect almost everyone seems to have missed is that Kessinger likely made Watts not only aware of the true state of his deleterious financial situation, but pushed him to be responsive to it.

Neither saw it coming when the financial tsunami hit, but when it did, Watts panicked. He didn’t panic in a vacuum – probably he blamed Shan’ann [and possible the children too] for “ruining” his life. Financially, that is.

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Nichol Kessinger asked Watts: “Is your lifestyle sustainable?”

My impression, both on this site and the social media I’ve seen, is that folks are so busy trashing Nichol Kessinger, they’re no longer trying to figure out what insight she provides into Watts and Shan’ann.

Just prior to the two minute mark in the clip below, Kessinger covers a particularly murky area in the Watts case – the family finances. The mistress was privy to the Watts’ financial set up, but like everyone else, she was only provided a limited view.

Eventually [not knowing about their bankruptcy in 2015], Kessinger asked Watts:

“Is your lifestyle sustainable?”

If Shan’ann had been asked the same question [by anyone], how would she have answered?

At 01:14 Kessinger is asked she ever saw Watts’ bedroom basement setup.

KESSINGER: Yeah, I went down there and saw his little…work out equipment, and there’s a bed down there…all set up. It’s all clean and organized. Um…like a decent bed setup. 

Chris Watts told the Thayers on Monday – the morning of the murders – of “financial trouble”

At 11:06 in the clip below, the reporter asks about financial problems. Did Shan’ann or Chris Watts ever talk to them about their finances? The reporter mentions the Wattses filing for bankruptcy protection in 2015. Did they knowing anything about that?

Nick Thayer furrows his brow, purses his lips, pulls a face and shakes his head slightly in response.

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But the reporter pushes back on the same point.

REPORTER: Did you guys ever talk about financial stuff?

NICK: I mean, I was never a part of anything. Um-

AMANDA [Interrupting]: Shan’ann and I…Shan’ann and I had discussed it but [shakes head] it was so long ago…that…it was like, you know she would…like bring it up that, you know, ‘We had to file bankruptceeee’, and all of that other stuff, but it was…it kinda ended there.

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How likely is it, if Amanda and Shan’ann were business partners, that Amanda wouldn’t bring up Shana’nn’s seriously compromised finances with her husband?

I mean, I was never a part of anything. Um-

In another, harder to come by interview, the story shifts slightly.

AMANDA: We had no idea they were financialleee….until we spoke with Chris on Monday. Um…

NICK [Nods while looking at the ground]: He mentioned putting the house up for sale. [Wipes his nose]. 

REPORTER [Narrating]: And then…last week [the week prior to the murders], Amanda says Shan’ann confided suspicions of infidelity.

AMANDA: She…said that…it came to her mind…that possibly…he…could be cheating…but at the same time,  she was like [laughs], ‘He has no game.’

Interestingly, the Thayers noticed on Tuesday afternoon that Chris Watts wasn’t doing the easy things to find out where Shan’ann was.

NICK: He didn’t seem all that eager to…look into it.

REPORTER: They called detectives that night to report it [Chris Watts’ suspicious behavior].