Financial infidelity is when one spouse is untruthful with the other spouse about money.
It can be when a spouse lies about having more money than what is truly available. This situation arises when a spouse loses his/her job and doesn’t tell the other spouse. The unemployed spouse continues spending money even though there is no income. As a result, the family begins accumulating debt.
It can be when a spouse lies about having less money than what is truly available. Hiding money occurs when a spouse is not upfront about income and bonuses. It can also result from a spouse inheriting money and not letting the other spouse know about the additional assets.
In either case, trust in a marriage is violated.
Unfortunately, some of my clients going through a divorce deal with financial infidelity. Some have been responsible for paying back taxes caused by their ex-spouse. Others have been surprised by the amount of assets they didn’t know about during marriage.
I’ve also had clients who find out about financial infidelity after their spouse dies. Some have been left with significant debts. Others have had to deal with businesses they didn’t even know existed.
Money tends to be a contentious discussion for most couples. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here are ways to prevent financial infidelity:
1- Have a comprehensive financial plan developed. This plan documents all assets and liabilities. It also shows how you and your spouse spend money. Part of the financial plan is to identify what you want to do with your money short-term, mid-term, and long-term. It begins the discussion you have with each other about financial priorities. Once each party has a clear understanding of priorities, spending becomes more controllable.
2- Develop a spending plan that includes fun stuff and saving for goals. Usually, when people develop a spending plan (a.k.a., budget), they make it too restrictive. It’s as ineffective as being on a restrictive diet. When there’s restriction, there’s a tendency to want what you can’t have. Create a spending plan that allows you to enjoy life and save for your future.
3- Strive for a spending plan that leaves some money for discretionary spending. In other words, reduce your expenses to give each person some money to spend freely.
4- Split expenses based on the percent of income each person contributes to the household. It’s frustrating to me when I see couples split expenses 50/50 when it’s clear one person contributes over 50% of the household income. By splitting 50/50, the person with the lower income is shortchanged and may become bitter having less money to spend.
5- Identify a spending amount that warrants a discussion before making a purchase. For example, it may be any purchases over $1,000 requires you and your spouse to discuss. You may decide to exclude discretionary spending from this rule. For example, a husband saves his discretionary money to purchase for his wife a diamond bracelet worth over $1,000.
6- Schedule at least twice a year to discuss money. During this discussion assess where you are with debt reduction and savings. Evaluate if you need to adjust your spending or change your goals.
Preventing financial infidelity means being upfront about money and sharing common goals. The more you make it a priority to be involved, the more knowledgeable you’ll become about your personal finances … and the more effort you’ll be making to prevent financial infidelity. You’re in your relationship for the long-term, make that effort.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Niv Persaud, CFP®, CDFA™, CRPC®, is the Founder of Transition Planning & Guidance, LLC. Life is more than money. It’s about living the lifestyle you want and can afford. For that reason, Niv consults with clients on money, life, and work. Her approach capitalizes on techniques she learned throughout her career, including as a management consultant, executive recruiter, and financial advisor. Her services include spending plan, financial plan, divorce financial review, life strategy, and professional progression. Niv actively gives back to her community through her volunteer efforts. She believes in living life to the fullest by cherishing friendships, enjoying the beauty of nature and laughing often — even at herself. Her favorite quote is by Erma Bombeck, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say ‘I used everything you gave me’.”