One of the quirks of my financial relationship with my husband was the fact that he wasn’t very interested in what was happening with our money. For the most part, he was just interested in whether or not he can make a purchase. If he wants to make a large purchase, he let me know in advance, so that I have time to put together a plan to make it happen.
I even had accounts in just my own name, because he didn’t want to be bothered with paperwork and signatures. However, these were accounts that he knew about, and that he could get information on if he wanted. I like to think our situation was different from the more than seven million Americans who have bank accounts or credit cards that their live-in partners know nothing about.
Secret Financial Accounts and Financial Infidelity
According to a recent report from CreditCards.com, 4.4 million men and around 2.8 million women have either a bank account or credit card that they keep secret from a partner. In many cases, this can be considered a form of financial infidelity since if you are hiding money from your life partner, you aren’t being honest. If you are hiding money in a secret bank account, or spending money on a secret credit card, chances are, you know that you are doing something that doesn’t fit with the joint money goals you have with your life partner.
These types of accounts can cause problems in your marriage or partnership. First of all, if you are spending a great deal of money on a secret credit card, it makes it difficult for your joint finances to stay up to snuff. You might have to divert some of your joint income to make payments on your credit card. Eventually, that can strain your relationship as your partner wonders where all the money is going.
It can also be stressful if you each have an allowance, and you are constantly using yours to pay off your secret credit card spending. Eventually, you become resentful because of your lack of spending freedom, but there isn’t a whole lot you can do to change things without coming clean and asking for help — a situation that provides a whole other level of discomfort and concern.
Building up cash in a secret bank account can also be damaging. Unless you are using your bank account as a way to build assets in preparation for a divorce, it’s problematic when you don’t share your plans with your life partner. In fact, it can be problematic even when you’re planning for a divorce. Eventually, in a divorce, you are supposed to disclose your assets, and that includes those you’ve been diverting to a secret bank account.
Creating your own secret stash also has other implications. When you build up money in a secret account, it means that you don’t plan on working with your significant other to create a better financial future. While you might have your own account for discretionary spending, these types of arrangements should be something you and your spouse both agree on, so you know about each other’s accounts. A secret account indicates that something might not be right. Since a partnership should be about working toward similar goals, it’s a red flag when you are keeping these types of secrets from the person you claim to love.
Financial Openness in Your Relationship
It’s important to practice financial openness in your relationship with your partner. If you have a live-in partner or spouse, you should periodically talk about money, and make it a point to touch base about different accounts and credit cards. It is also a good idea to talk about major purchases. If you aren’t sharing information about spending, it’s easy to overdraw your bank account because your partner doesn’t know what’s going on.
Discuss what purchase amount should trigger a discussion about spending. Generally, my husband and I don’t worry about discussing purchases ahead of time if they amount to less than $100. However, no matter the size of the purchase, receipts are always turned in after the fact, so that the amount can be entered into the personal finance software.
Take a look at your financial habits and partnership. If you have been hiding things from your partner, now might be the time to come clean — before the secrets become too much to keep.