If you are like most married people, you have told your spouse a little white lie (or four) about money
— “No, honey! That shirt was on sale” or “Yes, dear, I got that bonus
this year.” We all have different reasons for doing it, but the fact is
most of us have been dishonest in some way, from the tiniest of fudges
to the biggest of whoppers. When it comes to marriage, George Washington
would be ever so disappointed.
But why do we do it?
“[People] feel guilty about their spending and debt and try to hide
it from their spouse,” says Sandy Arons, a certified divorce financial
analyst. The problem, of course, is that it almost never works.
“Typically the spouse finds out about it at some point and feels
betrayed. The trust in the relationship is compromised.”
Still, some lies are worse than others and not every lie will land you
in an attorney’s office. But what ARE the lies we tell? We asked experts
and married couples alike to give us seven of the most common financial secrets couples keep from one another.
1.) The little purchases. “I hide all my pop culture
weeklies like they’re porn magazines,” says Hilary Chandler of
Colorado. “He doesn’t get why I would waste money on gossip. He’d freak
if he knew how many I bought religiously every week. I’m sure I could
save on subscriptions, but I don’t want them coming in the mail or him
seeing them on the credit card.”
2.) How much we shop. “I’m a shoe girl and they are
my vice,” says Wanda Sealy of Atlanta. “I would openly tell my husband
first that there was this pair of shoes I saw and I just had to have and
he would always give me that responsible look like ‘you know we’re
trying to save,’ and I would feel guilty that I wasn’t doing the right
thing. But that damn shoe always won.” So true. I relate.
3.) A secret stash of savings. I have known many
couples who have divorced and the wife was left with nothing. That
didn’t happen to my friend who had been secretly stashing cash. Was it
honest? Nope. Was it smart? Heck yes!
4.) Loans to relatives. Remember in the movie This Is 40
how Paul Rudd’s character was loaning money to his father daily (to the
tune of tens of thousands of dollars)? It almost ruined their marriage.
With good reason. Marry a person who has parents who make bad financial
decisions, and you marry those decisions as well.
5.) Purchases for children.
A man I know tells the story of the time his mother bought him the new
Nike Airs when he was 10. She knew what it felt like to not have the
latest and coolest thing all the other kids had because it was too
expensive. But she also knew enough to tell him not to tell his father.
Was it right? Not really. But it probably happens more than we know.
6.) Spending on vanity items.
My husband sees the charges from my hair appointment, so he has a rough
idea of the fact that I spend $250 a month on my cut/color, but he
doesn’t really know how much the other beauty items — manicures,
pedicures, waxing — cost. But it’s all for him!
7.) Credit card debt. Who wants to
admit that they have run up a ton in credit card debt? This is a HUGE
secret, though. It could financially ruin the other person. And it
happens all the time. “I have had people reveal to their spouses in my
office that they have additional credit cards that they have been hiding
(in one case over $30,000),” says financial planner Michael Gauthier.
“What is the most interesting to me is that the couples that seem the
happiest to me are those that share openly their finances.”
We all keep little secrets. But all the experts agree that financial
secrets can ruin marriages. So maybe we need to stop. Maybe we need to
learn how to have open conversations and listen to the other person’s
opinion. We might spend less, it’s true. But we’d get so much more.
Do you keep financial secrets from your spouse?
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