Are You Keeping Financial Secrets from Your Partner?

by Miranda Marquit

One of the issues that has received quite a bit of play lately is that of “financial infidelity.” This is when you keep secrets from your significant other about what is going on with your finances. In this day, when many of us have separate financial lives even after marriage, financial infidelity is a fairly easy trap to fall into.

If Our Finances are Separate, Why Does It Matter?

Financial Secrets

Are you committing financial infidelity?

When you have joint accounts, it is obvious that you need to be completely honest with your partner about your finances. However, what about if you have separate accounts? While some spending might not be your partner’s business, the fact of the matter is that there are still joint expenses that need to be taken care of. Besides, if you feel you have to hide something from your partner, that is an indication that there is something missing from your relationship, whether it is trust, or just the ability to openly communicate about money.

While you don’t have to report every little expenditure to your partner, regular, big purchases that affect your ability to contribute as agreed to the household finances can cause problems. Is your secret spending jeopardizing your ability to buy needed groceries or make the mortgage payment on time? If so, it’s a problem — no matter how separate your accounts are.

Besides, if you are in a community property state, your poor credit score could drag your spouse down, and, in some cases, your separate accounts don’t matter. When you realize that some states’ laws make your finances your spouse’s finances, financial infidelity matters a lot more.

Hiding Your Money Stash

Another form of financial infidelity that doesn’t get a lot of attention is your growing money stash. Since my husband takes absolutely no interest in managing our finances, it’s all up to me. He is so averse to being “bothered” with our financial management that he wouldn’t even open a joint savings account with me for our emergency fund. It’s in my name. It could be really easy for me to divert some of the household income (since he doesn’t know exactly what that is anyway) to the savings account that is completely mine.

However, squirreling away money without telling my husband would be an act of financial infidelity. I give him periodic updates on where we’re at, and how much is in there (not that he can access it). That way, two or three times a year when he does show interest, we are both better equipped to make decisions together.

In the end, that’s what financial fidelity is all about: Making decisions together. Setting common goals, deciding on major purchases together, and being up front about financial habits and desires are all important parts of successful finances in a committed relationship. It can be painful to share information about past debts and current financial indiscretions, but in the end it’s necessary. You and your partner need to be adequately equipped for what’s next, and you need to be able to address financial problems head on. Together.

Photo credit: katerha.

Published or updated July 5, 2011.
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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Newlywed Bliss

I think hiding money from your spouse is a recipe for divorce. Despite if you keep your finances separate, more likely than not, you’re going to be coming together for conjoined bills like rent. If you’re spending money and you don’t have enough to cover things like that, it’s going to ultimately become a problem.


2 Kris

If you have separate accounts, can you even call spending your money as you want without telling your partner a “secret”? Aren’t you encouraging each other to do as you please with your money? Nothing wrong with this, but if you wanted to share your money habits wouldn’t you use joint accounts?

Just wondering…


3 K.C.

Rosa and I allow each other personal money to spend as we please but it is a small, monthly allowance. All other spending is discussed, but we rarely exercise a veto over one another’s desire to spend. That’s probably because we share a common outlook on value and spending, in general. We have absolute trust in each other.

Your point about common goals and shared decisions is on the mark. That’s how Rosa and I have been doing it for thirty years. This avoids the blame game if an investment or a purchase doesn’t work out. It is much easier to realize financial goals if both partners are on board. Otherwise, one partner may intentionally or unintentionally sabotage the effort.

In my first marriage, we didn’t discuss finances at all. I was really bad at making unilateral decisions about employment, spending, and debt, many of which adversely affected the family finances. That is one of the reasons, among many, that the marriage failed after four years. I might mention that I got married at age twenty the first time. Too young!!


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