Thursday, 7 May 2015
Do you spend in secret, or stash cash your spouse doesn't know about? You're not alone.
About 20 percent of Americans keep financial secrets such as hidden accounts, not being honest about credit card balances, or being elusive about large purchases, according to a CreditCards.com survey.
The January, 2015 poll of 843 American adults living with a spouse or partner revealed, among other findings, that one in five Americans admit they've spent $500 or more without their partner's knowledge and 6% percent keep a hidden checking or savings account, or use secret credit cards.
Keeping financial secrets "is almost never a good sign" and usually signals other, unresolved relationship problems, says Eric Dammann, PhD, a New York-based clinical psychologist and financial coach. While hiding money isn't necessarily indicative of infidelity, he says, it usually is "a way of avoiding" deeper problems in the relationship.
For example, if you have a husband who gambles, you may avoid discussing that issue by squirreling money away in a secret account. That "may feel like a reasonable solution," Dammann says, but it "probably keeps the gambling going for longer. In fact, it even enables it."
Is it ever okay to have separate accounts? Under what circumstances? Dammann offers some dos and don'ts:
Do tell your spouse about your separate account. There are many good reasons to maintain separate accounts. It might give you a sense of autonomy, or perhaps you came to the relationship with other financial obligations, such as alimony. The key is to openly discuss with your spouse why you want to have a separate account. "There's nothing wrong with couples having separate accounts," says Dammann. "There's a lot wrong when people have separate accounts that people don't know about."
The only possible time that it could be wise to keep a secret account, Dammann says, is if the relationship is coming to an end and you're dealing with a vindictive, irrational partner; or if your safety is at stake in an abusive relationship.
Do watch for signs that your spouse is keeping financial secrets. If there are missing bills or financial statements, sudden big purchases without explanation, or lots of big withdrawals, your spouse may have financial secrets, Bottomline Personal, a financial website, notes.
Do have the hard conversations if you suspect your spouse has been "cheating" financially. "The best way is have an open dialogue about what happened, and why," Dammann says. "If the couple is able to do this, they can address whatever issues were behind the financial infidelity head on."
Some couples find it helpful to have regular meetings about their finances, with a financial planner. Even if you don't, the two of you can sort out some basic ground rules, such as purchases over a $100 require a check in with the other partner.
Finances are one of the trickiest subjects for a couple to navigate. But when you work hard, tell the truth, decide together on ground rules and have each others' best interests at heart, you'll have a better shot at being able to get through the rough patches.
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