Are You Committing Financial Infidelity?

It’s a real issue in a lot of relationships. Often times you hear the old joke about the wives hiding new clothes and shoes from their husbands. Their husbands hiding new tools or electronics from their wives… but should this be downplayed so much? Is it a joke? A harmless little white lie? A recent study by SunTrust Bank found that 35% of respondents said that finances were the primary cause of stress on their relationships.

We can attest to this very finding. Doing what we do every day and meeting with so many couples, we can assure you, there is often an unsuspecting party who was not aware of how bad things actually are and they certainly are not assumed.

3 Reasons for Financial Infidelity

1. Shame

Shame is a major reason why someone doesn’t tell their spouse about certain spending or debts they have. Sometimes finances can just spiral out of control. If you’ve always been the one to manage the household money and suddenly your account is showing red because you accidentally paid your mortgage twice. You may be embarrassed and think you can fix it before anyone notices. The problem is that sometimes one small mistake with the finances can create a snowball effect and send it spiraling out of control. Those $30 bank fees for bounced checks on top of the fees from the creditor for the same bounced check can suddenly be in the hundreds. That’s a lot of money that some people just don’t have.

Perhaps your spouse had far more debt from before you started dating that they just can’t seem to tame. There are plenty of reasons that shame would factor into play.

2. Impulsive and Compulsive Habits

We all know at least one person in our lives that buy things without thinking about it. They are impulsive and just have to have it, for that fleeting moment in time. We have a hard rule, if it’s a luxury and you just have to have it, give yourself a waiting period. If it’s something you still wait after three days, talk to your spouse and make sure it’s something you agree to purchase.

Also, if you are living within a budget, definitely make sure that it is something you can actually afford. Like we mentioned earlier, sometimes things spiral out of control rather quickly. If this is something that is going to hurt your household budget, try saving up for it first.

3. Social Media

Back before social media was a thing, we would have called this bullet point, “Keeping up with the Jones’”. It’s essentially the same thing, now just presented in picture format on Instagram or Snapchat. For some, well-staged photos can bring the deception of wealth that they are striving for but for others, it really is about the spending.

Even if your spouse is just posting pictures of someone else’s fancy car, those elaborate vacations you’ve been taking aren’t going to pay for themselves. Before the days of social media, family vacations to Disney were already expensive and hard to plan for some families. But now! Now, to go to Disney, don’t forget the matching, customized shirts that had to be ordered for each family member, for each day you were there. Some people have no problem affording it, but for others, it can make or break a family trip if they are attempting to keep up with a social media persona. If you are your family have been living within a budget but have been taking “social media” trips, you may want to consider sitting down with your spouse to plan the next getaway. Talk about what the budget for the trip really is and how much you can afford. This applies to all aspects of social media life, but vacations are an easy example.

How Can Does One Get Caught Committing Financial Infidelity?

  • Debt collectors: They don’t care if your spouse doesn’t know. They are going to start calling looking for their money at some point. Let’s face it, few of us have home phones anymore so that means your cell phone will be ringing. It starts to look very suspicious if you are continually excusing yourself from the room to take a call or sending it to voicemail without an explanation. Your spouse may think you’re up to a different kind of infidelity and begin to question you.
  • Not being able to get financed for a purchase: Let’s paint a scenario: you just need a car to get from point A to point B. You go to the car dealership and apply for an auto loan. You and your spouse are sitting there when the sales rep comes over and tells you both that you aren’t approved. Low and behold, you can’t get a loan for the car because of the hidden debt that your spouse was unaware of. That’s going to be a long ride home.
  • Filing for bankruptcy: Let’s say you just can’t get this under control, try as you might. Your spouse is aware there are money issues and knows that something needs to happen to overcome this hurdle. You decide to file for bankruptcy and in the process, everything comes to light and your spouse learns that there are far more debts than lead to believe.
  • Death: This is definitely one of the saddest and most heartbreaking ways that we’ve seen people caught for financial infidelity. In my previous blog on this topic, Are You Committing Financial Infidelity, I spoke about a client who lost his wife. Not only did this gentleman have to learn to deal with the loss of his beloved wife, but he was also learning little by little all the debt that they were actually in.

Do you think your spouse might be committing Financial Infidelity? Take our quiz to find out.