8 Signs You're Committing Financial Infidelity

By Tim Lemke on 1 July 2016 0 comments

It's often said that honesty is the key to a good relationship. But are you totally honest with your spouse or partner when it comes to money?

Lies about finances can be some of the most damaging in any relationship, but they are surprisingly common. Two out of every five Americans have admitted to committing financial infidelity in the past, according to a February survey from the National Endowment for Financial Education. That's up from one-third just a couple of years ago, even though 75% of survey respondents admitted the dishonesty had a negative impact on their relationship.

Here are some clear ways you are being dishonest about your finances with your partners — and tips on how to get back on the right track.

1. You Have Secret Bank Accounts/Credit Cards

There are different trains of thought about whether couples should combine their finances or keep separate accounts. But one thing that's definitely not okay is having bank accounts or credit cards that your partner isn't aware of. Depending on where you live, your spouse could be held liable for debts you incur during your marriage, even if they are only in your name.

It's best to be honest about the accounts and credit cards that you have. Literally lay them out on the table for your partner to see. Come up with a plan to pay off those with the highest interest rates. Then, together, decide on which credit cards you plan to use.

2. You're Using Cash and Not Recording the Purchases

I will admit to being guilty of this. Cash has its advantages, but when you use cash to pay for things, there's no easy way to track your spending. Your partner may know you withdrew cash from an ATM, but is probably not going to interrogate you on how you plan to spend the cash. So you're more or less free to buy lunch, drinks, or any other sundry items you wish.

To break this habit, use a debit card or credit card for most purchases, so it's easy for you and your partner to track your spending, budget appropriately, and keep each other in line. As long as you're honest about what is being spent, it's even okay to give each other a small amount of "fun money" on a monthly basis that you can spend on anything you want.

3. You Have a Gambling Problem

It may have started with a couple of horse races, or a fantasy baseball league or two. Then it expanded to big bucks bets on games, with money in offshore accounts and bookies calling your cell phone. Soon, checks are bouncing and your spouse can't figure out why.

Time to 'fess up. Your partner will want to know about your gambling problem, but more importantly, they'll want to know that you have a plan to stop. Gamblers Anonymous is one major resource that's been proven to help people stop. It may also be worth talking to a mental health professional to learn how to deal with compulsive behavior.

4. You're Investing Without Talking It Over With Your Partner

Your partner may be vaguely aware that you have an investment account, but do they know what you are invested in? If you are buying and selling stocks frequently, is it part of an overall strategy that you discussed together? If not, this is a form of financial infidelity. While it may be common for one spouse to be more investment-savvy than the other, it's not wise to place money in the markets without discussing your goals.

Are you saving for retirement, or for something in the nearer future? Are you placing money in a college savings account? Do you have the same tolerance for risk? All of these questions should be answered and discussed with your partner before you invest.

5. You're Hiding a Job Loss

It's understandable. You're hurt, maybe even humiliated, that you've found yourself unemployed. But continuing to act as if you still have a job is not going to make things better. For one thing, your partner will eventually wonder where all of your income went. And they'll be furious when they learn that you've lied.

If you find yourself jobless, remember that even the best of people lose their jobs for reasons beyond their control. And any respectful partner will understand this, and will want to play a role in ensuring your family remains financially stable while you look for a new job.

To keep this situation from occurring, establish a pattern of talking to your partner about your career. If your company is in trouble, or if you are at risk of being downsized, that's information you should share. This communication will make it less of a shock when the hammer drops.

6. You've Kept Outstanding Debt a Secret

This can really be a relationship killer. Imagine entering a relationship believing that your finances are in good order, only to find that your partner has thousands of dollars in debt you didn't know about. This could impact everything from your ability to pay for a mortgage, get a decent rate on an auto loan, and invest and save for the future.

If you're guilty of this, it's time to 'fess up. It's also time to recognize that your partner can play a supportive role, both financially and emotionally, in helping you pay off the debt. Having debt doesn't make you a bad person, so there's no reason to hide it.

7. You're Not Being Honest When You Rationalize Purchases

You say you bought tickets to the basketball game to "entertain clients" when that client is really just an old buddy of yours. You convince your partner that your smartphone desperately needs to be replaced, when it fact it's working perfectly fine and you just felt like buying the newest version. Even if you aren't hiding purchases from the ones you love, you're committing financial infidelity if you're making up reasons to buy things you don't need.

To remedy this problem, start being more honest with yourself when you have the urge to buy things. Before any purchase, ask yourself: Do I need this item? More often than not, the answer will be no.

8. Your Partner Has No Idea What You Earn

You may like the idea of having separate accounts, but when one person in a household doesn't know what the other is earning, it makes budgeting impossible. What if your spouse assumes you earn more than you do and then makes a big purchase? If you are planning for things like buying a home or cars, financing children's education or your own retirement, it's imperative that both partners know what the net household income is.

The easiest way to avoid this problem is to operate using joint accounts. But if you decide to keep money separate, at least share account statements, paystubs, and tax information.

Have you ever been victimized by these — or other — acts of financial infidelity?

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