It’s February — a time to celebrate love and commitment. But many couples face a hidden challenge that could harm their relationships.
It’s financial infidelity.
Two in five Americans who have commingled their finances in a current or past relationship admit to committing financial infidelity against their partner, according to a 2016 Harris Poll conducted on behalf of the National Endowment for Financial Education.
And remember, that’s just the percentage who admit it.
Financial Cheating is Increasing
The problem is growing: It is 42 percent today, up from 33 percent of U.S. adults two years ago. It’s not a trivial issue, because the survey found that when financial deceptions occur, 75 percent of couples say it harms the relationship.
“Financial infidelity hurts regardless of its scale,” says Ted Beck, president and CEO of NEFE. “Hiding or lying about small amounts of money can damage a relationship just as effectively as high-dollar deceit. … It causes arguments, erosion of trust, separation or even divorce.”
Of those surveyed, 39 percent admit to hiding a purchase, bank account, bill or cash from their spouse or partner. And 16 percent say they have been guilty of bigger deceptions, such as lying about the amount of their debts or how much they earn.
Common Signs of Financial Deception
What are the signs that your partner might have engaged in some form of financial deception? Here are three common ones:
» You come across a bill or receipt for a purchase you don’t recognize.
» You no longer see copies of every bill each month as you did before.
» Your partner or spouse becomes defensive or withdrawn when the topic of money is raised.
Before confronting your partner with a deception issue, accept that it likely will be stressful. Decide what you want out of the conversation before starting it, and choose the time and setting carefully. It’s best to talk when you’re both relaxed, but be careful not to sabotage your partner by arranging a special dinner or date night and then hitting him or her with the subject by surprise.
Be Honest to Rebuild Trust
If you’re the guilty party, rebuilding trust starts by admitting you’ve done some spending your partner doesn’t know about, sincerely apologizing and asking your partner to work with you to create some common goals you’ll both stick to. Then accept that rebuilding trust will require a sustained period of transparency in all your financial dealings, along with improved communication.
Bring in your trusted, impartial financial advisor. We can facilitate ongoing conversations about the best way to achieve the financial goals the two of you have set for yourselves.