Have you ever asked yourself, “Where did that paycheck go?” or “Where did that new handbag/table saw/[insert expensive purchase] come from?” Do you see your checking account balance dwindling, but don’t know why? More puzzling is when your account balances are stable, but new possessions suddenly appear around the house. And when you ask your spouse or partner if they've noticed these things, something just doesn't seem right in their responses?
If you've had these questions or experiences, you aren’t alone. Your loved one may be committing financial infidelity, which is the act of intentionally hiding financial behavior from a partner in a relationship.
According to a 2019 poll conducted by CreditCards.com, 44% of respondents admitted to concealing purchases, debt, or even entire accounts from their significant others.
Financial infidelity often stems from a lack of unity in terms of the financial goals, plans, and styles of the couple. One partner may start hiding financial behaviors they believe will upset the other, which may result in serious consequences to their long term savings, retirement, credit scores, or ability to pay monthly bills. The effect on the trust they've placed in each other can be devastating, not just financially, but emotionally.
Some signs of financial infidelity in a partner include:
- Seeing new belongings but having no record on account statements to match them;
- Missing cash and/or assets;
- Closed accounts you believed were still open;
- Finding statements for accounts you didn't know existed;
- Avoidance of conversations about money;
- Sudden anxiety about finances/financial goals; and/or
- Insistence about getting and opening the mail first.
What should I do if I think I’m the victim of financial infidelity?
- One of the first things to do is check your credit report and audit your finances, including reviewing statements from all your financial institutions. This way you can determine if there’s a problem and if so, how deep it goes. You'll also want to check any accounts that belong to your minor children; unfortunately, it's not unheard of for a cheating partner to raid college savings accounts or even a child's own savings.
- Talk to your partner about what you've noticed. The problem may or may not be manageable financially, but bringing the problem out into the open is the first step toward a solution. This is usually a very sensitive conversation to have, so you may want to get some advice first from a financial advisor or counselor who has experience helping clients through financial infidelity.
- Consider seeing a couple’s counselor. Financial infidelity can affect more than just your checking account. In fact, 20% of those polled by CreditCards.com claim that hiding a bank account is worse than physically cheating.
- Make sure that talking about your finances is a priority in your relationship. Specifics come down to individual preferences, but transparency is a must. Even if that transparency means that you both agree that not one cent be intermingled. If your financial goals are intertwined, then you should be in agreement on each other’s money plans. If you do combine funds, then make your plan together.
One good way to prevent financial infidelity from occurring in the first place is to talk regularly about finances. My husband and I had long discussions before we got married about what compromises would be necessary so that we both would be happy while also having a solid plan for paying bills, saving for a house, and saving for retirement. I’m very fortunate that though my husband and I have very different money personalities, our plan is harmonious, which would have been impossible without taking the first step of talking to each other about our money.
As a Hanscom Federal Credit Union member, you can access your credit score and report at no cost. You can request your score and report review here.
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