Skip to Content

Are You Completely Honest About Money With Your Spouse or Significant Other?

Do you have credit card debt that your spouse doesn’t know about? Do you hide new purchases in the trunk of your car or the back of your closet? Do you tell your husband an outfit is old even though you just purchased it? Do you gamble or spend money in ways your spouse doesn’t know about? When you fight with your spouse do you go shopping or splurge on a big item to get back at him or her? Do you control the finances in your household so your spouse won’t find out you are in debt? Do you dislike your spouses purchases but fail to speak up about them?

If so, according to Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil you may be committing financial infidelity. According to her book, Financial Infidelity, Seven Steps to Conquering the #1 Relationship Wrecker over 40% of all adults admitted to lying about their spending habits and 82% said they hide purchases from their partners.

Dr. Weil’s defines financial infidelity as any falsification or omission about money with your partner. Her book helps you explore the level of honesty about finances in your own relationship and offers seven steps to help you come to terms with and overcome the issues you face. These steps include:

  • Step 1: Calculate the Cost — Calculate your net worth by honestly listing all of your assets and liabilities as well as discussing your future goals together.
  • Step 2: Examine Your Power Dynamic — Discuss the relationship between power and money. If one partner makes more does that partner feel more powerful? If a woman stays home to raise her children does she feel less powerful and less able to discuss or manage the finances? The goal is to discuss these feelings openly and honestly so that you both feel a sense of equality in your relationship with money.
  • Step 3: Divest Yourself of the Past — A lot of your own issues with money may stem from your parents or grandparents. Before you can delve into a relationship with someone else you must begin to understand your own thoughts and feelings on money and put to rest the ghosts of those old memories and experiences.
  • Step 4: Break Up with Your Money — Learn to discuss money openly and honestly by scheduling meetings where you can discuss the most pressing financial topics and concerns on your mind.
  • Step 5: Define the Currency of Your Relationship — Understand the importance of money in a relationship, but remember that money isn’t the only factor. Remember to focus on the qualities you enjoy in one another and have fun experiences together that don’t involve spending money at all.
  • Step 6: Refinance Your Relationship — Fall in love with your partner all over again.
  • Step 7: Invest in Your Future — Make conversations about money a regular part of your routine. Continue to discuss your thoughts and feelings as your relationship evolves.

Thankfully, financial mistrust has never been an issue in my household. Shortly after we were married my husband suggested replacing all of our personal bank accounts with joint ones. I wasn’t particularly fond of the idea at first. After all, I didn’t think my husband needed to be in the loop every time I bought a new shirt or a new pair of shoes. I thought we should keep separate accounts, but my husband assured me he wasn’t combining accounts to cut down on my spending, he simply wanted to combine the accounts to make the general accounting of our household easier to maintain.

As soon as the joint accounts were open we made certain we could both log in to each bank account, including retirement accounts (which are still owned individually due to IRS rules), and credit card websites. Interestingly, rather than feeling like my husband was watching over my shoulder or that I was watching over his, I began to see that this glimpse into our finances provided us both with a higher level of trust in one another.

Each month our paychecks are deposited into our joint checking account. Whether we are paying bills, moving money into savings or buying mutual funds we can both track every transaction that stems from that account. In other words, if we so desire, either one of us can track every penny that enters and exists our household. I once joked that my husband could never have an affair without me knowing, because I’d immediately see the ATM withdrawals, credit card charges or cash moving out of our account. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t trust my husband or that he doesn’t trust me, but this glimpse into our joint accounts ensures that we have little reason to doubt one another.

Since opening our joint accounts my husband and I talk openly and honestly about financial matters quite often. We hold regular meetings to discuss our short-term and long-term goals and make certain to enjoy our time together even when no money is involved.

Whether we like it or not money is often the #1 reason couples divorce and I am happy to say that I never worry that financial matters will come between my husband and I. However, if you find yourself fibbing about money or think your spouse or significant other may be lying, you should read Financial Infidelity. It will definitely open your eyes to the ways that money impacts your relationships.

One Frugal Girl

Tuesday 24th of March 2009

Nathan -- We avoid looking at the credit card bill around the holidays, so we don't ruin surprises. I suppose if you have a very curious spouse or partner you could go the cash route, but it wouldn't be my first choice. I prefer to use a credit card for two reasons. First, you can dispute a credit card purchase much easier than a purchase paid with cash. Second, we earn cash rewards with every purchase.

I'm not a big fan of mixing joint and personal accounts for 'allowance' reasons. I know a couple who handles their finances this way and it always seems to get them in trouble. Sometimes the wife saves her 'allowance', but the husband spends his. On a number of occasions he's gone into debt when an unexpected bill arises because the joint account and his account are empty. In the mean time the wife has a bunch of money sitting idle in her account that could have been used to pay the bills.

You can still have an 'allowance' with a joint account. Let's say you can both spend $50 each month on whatever you want. That's fine, it just means you have to keep watch over your spending and you have to agree not to be upset with whatever that $50 is spent on.

Honestly, I just don't see the need to maintain a separate account as long as you set the ground rules for 'personal' expenses.

Jolie

Monday 23rd of March 2009

We each have our own accounts. We each have a portion of the bills we are responsible for. The balance of the money is ours to do with what we choose. While he doesn't get a play by play on what I spend, all my information is there, in a file, on the dresser, for him to look at if he should wish to.

Nathan

Monday 23rd of March 2009

Thanks for sharing both your thoughts on Financial Infidelity, and your own experiences with financial openness and honesty in your own relationship.

I've been thinking about the whole 'joint checking account' thing recently, and was wondering how you manage to keep anything secret from each other (i.e. gifts and presents). Avoid looking at the statements around birthday/Christmas time, or just pay in cash? I feel like this is the one thing that prevents some couples from switching to a joint-account only system.

What are your thoughts on this, or couples who keep a joint account (for household/family/joint expesnses) along with their own separate accounts for personal expenses, giving themselves an "allowance" that's transferred from the joint account?