Opinion: Financial infidelity

Infidelity can wreck a marriage, but so can financial infidelity.

Imagine this, you are reconciling your credit cards, bank accounts and all transactions at the end of the month and you begin to see payments you don’t recognize…$500 at Nordstrom, $300 dress at Saks Fifth Avenue, or several hundred dollars from Best Buy. Your husband/wife didn’t tell you about these purchases and it put you over your monthly budget. You’ve held your part of the bargain to not splurge and to not have spontaneous purchases so you can jointly achieve financial freedom but the effort is not reciprocated.

This can be extremely frustrating, disrespectful and it can diminish trust and communication in a relationship. These poor decisions will lead to turbulence in your marriage and this is exactly what financial infidelity is.

I wrote an article back in June 2017 about why you should have a joint bank account with your significant other. But it’s more than just having that joint bank account, it’s about having a shared vision, shared goals, expectations, and having 100% clear communication and transparency about your money. Without this proper foundation, the risk for financial infidelity can increase.

Here are some signs of financial infidelity

There could be dozens of signs of sketchy money behaviors, but here are some to give you food for thought. They may seem obvious until you’ve read them and think to yourself, dammit!

  • Addictions can drive some serious bad money behaviors.
  • Unknown transactions on the credit card statements are obvious ones to catch.
  • Missing cash…it’s like com’on, where are the $20 bills that were in my home office?
  • Unwillingness to combine bank accounts.
  • Avoiding talks about the household finances can be a red flag.
  • Has their own personal stash of cash; why do they need to have their own cash?
  • Lying about their spending.
  • Getting new credit cards without your knowledge. So, what’s the need for new credit?
  • Not being honest about all of your personal debts.

How do you overcome it?

Alright, you’ve pinned down your significant other and have found them to be guilty of these sneaky money acts. Here are some suggestions to handle the situation and to set the rules straight once and for all…that’s if you decide to give them a second chance.

Equal control. Both you and your partner need to have equal say and control with the household finances. All money decisions have to be bi-lateral agreements. Meaning, no dollar is spent without having a chat about it prior to the actual transaction.

Unified goals. Reestablish the family goals and the vision for your finances. Make sure to make the goals realistic and both of you should contribute to what you believe the goals should be.

Joint bank accounts. To create a proper checks and balances system, joining your finances in one singular checking account and a savings account is a great way to start. This is my personal testimony when my wife and I merged our finances. 

Create a budget. The budget is the written contract. Stick to it by all means.

Communication & transparency. There needs to be 100% communication and transparency. You both need to be aware of the current state of your finances at all times. Not one should have more knowledge of the financial position over the other. Create a system where both can have access to the information, like a personal finance app.

Trust. Let’s call it what it is…you need to reestablish trust and be able to hold each other accountable equally. If you can’t achieve this, then I’d recommend a marriage counselor.

My final thought is to set 1 day a week to discuss your finances. This can be a brief 30 minutes to discuss your weekly spending, bills, and the income that has been received and how this is trending against your budget. This will allow for both of your to make any adjustments necessary and to set short term goals to support the larger mission. The last thing you want is for your marriage to be destroyed, so do everything possible to nip the problem in the butt and institute new control measures.


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