Financial infidelity, like romantic infidelity, is rooted in deception, lying, and secrecy. Instead of holding your cards close to your chest when it comes to your relationship with another person, financial infidelity surfaces when you purposely mislead and withhold information about money and money matters.
In December 2010, Harris Interactive fielded the Financial Deception with Partners study on behalf of National Endowment for Financial Education. The study found that most American adults had combined their finances with their current and/or past spouse or partner (65%) and nearly 1 out of 3 adults (31%) have committed some form of financial deception.
Studies like these show that the majority of us want to create a collaborative financial foundation with our partners and that the majority have been financially faithful to our spouses and partners. But since nearly 1 out of 3 marriages that have combined finances engaged in some form of the following financial deceptions, this means that there is still room to engage in conversations about money, relationships, and trust. Here are some examples of what some couples might consider financial infidelity:
- Opening secret bank accounts here or abroad
- Opening up secret credit cards
- Keeping quiet about large amounts of extra income
Making big tickets purchases without getting the buy-in of the spouse
- Making minor purchases without notifying your spouse
- Lying about the cost of items
- Intercepting mail to hide debt on a bill or statement
- Lying about having paid bills when you have not
- Giving money to friends and family members without informing spouse
- Keeping a “mad stash” (for women)
- Hiding purchases (literally— i.e. pantries, basements, car trunks, closets, neighbor’s/friends homes) to avoid conversation about spending money.
The key to safeguarding your marriage from financial infidelity is the same tool that you need to increase your marriage’s financial intimacy: honest, solution-driven communication. As a team facing the world of emergency funds, retirement, college funds, home ownership, investments, it is crucial that you take the following into account to avoid financial disconnect and suspicion:
Play to Your Strengths but Keep Communication Open
In some marriages, there may be a “point-person” designated to manage the household finances because they are good at it and enjoy doing it. In instances like these, it is important that partners meet regularly to keep each other in the loop on the location of important documents (i.e. policies, bills, contracts, deeds) balances of bills, mortgages, and the acquisition of property and elicit their input about all money matters in the home.
Make Your Own Rules
I am a firm believer in doing what works for your marriage. No one lives your lives. My husband and I created the $75 rule for us based on our own beliefs and values about spending and freedom, despite what others may view as financial infidelity. We also decided to have both shared and joint accounts and create a separate “homeownership fund.” In the same spirit, you may want to create
your relationship’s “Laws of Financial Infidelity” based on your shared wants and desires for the financial integrity of your marriage and follow them accordingly.
If both partners have access to all accounts, there is a greater chance that financial infidelity will decrease since it’s harder to hide secrets.
Use Technology to Fight against Financial Infidelity
Here is a beginning list of different online tools and resources for you to use to build a healthy and intimate financial future for yourself. Take advantage of these resources to monitor and track spending, debt elimination, savings, and other money-related goals.
- YouNeedABudget.com is personal home budget software built with help you quickly gain control of your money, get out of debt, and reach your financial goals. The tool encourages you to decide where every dollar earned is going on a monthly basis, and then helps you make adjustments if you spend too much.
- Mint.com pulls all your financial accounts into one place. Mint allows you to set a budget, track your goals and reduce the chance of financial infidelity.
- CreditKarma.com allows you to access your free credit score with no hidden costs or obligations. Based on your score, you gain access to exclusive offers from companies that value your creditworthiness.
Keep Nosy Folk Out Of Your Money Matters
Allowing uninformed third parties to influence how you financially relate to your mate is sure to create problems in the marriage, in general, and how you communicate and act with money, in particular. If your friends encourage financial infidelity in your marriage, then they probably are not the best models for financial intimacy in your lives.
The journey toward financial intimacy begins with a shared commitment to understanding, communication, and solutions. And as with all journeys, there will be highs and lows, but remember, stay steadfast and anchor yourselves in the love that you have for one another and in the shared financial vision that you have for yourselves…and you will be alright.
BMWK, are you ready to kick financial infidelity out of your marriage?