Do you have any secret funds or debts that your spouse doesn’t know about? I’m referring here to a hidden bank account or an unknown credit card or debt that you have never told anyone about.
If you do, then you are definitely not alone, as a recent Prudential Insurance company survey showed. When the British newspaper The Telegraph published the results of the survey at the end of November, it revealed that around 20 percent of British citizens have debts that they have not disclosed to their partners. Additionally, a slightly smaller number of people admitted that they had hidden investments and savings that were totally unknown to their spouses.
Those asked gave several reasons for concealing their debts. Many times, the underlying cause was a combination of bad monetary habits and embarrassment – over borrowing money to cover everyday living costs, or needing to pay off debts that shouldn’t have arisen. Some said their overspending had been caused by emotional distress, leading to financial problems. In many cases (22 percent), the reason for hiding savings was the fear of a breakup and making sure that there would be some money if this would occur. Eight percent even said that they hide these funds because they simply don’t trust the way their spouse handles money.
As a financial adviser, I often work with couples who argue with each other about money or who don’t trust each other when it comes to financial matters. Indeed, I noticed that attitudes to money are a huge cause of domestic disharmony. The statistics above definitely bear this out; they certainly don’t provide a very positive view of money or relationships.
The best way to combat these difficulties is to meet them head-on and prevent them from happening right from the beginning. If you have a son or daughter who is about to get married, sit down with the young couple and discuss financial habits, such as budgeting and saving. At the same time, emphasize openness and good communication in marriage. Trust and honesty are not only good values with regard to money, but also for marriage in general.
I recently discussed these issues with Sherrie Miller, co-founder of Choice of the Heart, an organization that prepares couples for marriage. And even if you have been married for twenty-five years, it certainly does no harm to review your financial habits with your spouse and to listen to some good and useful advice. Watch the video of my interview with Sherrie to learn more about financial fidelity and other tips for creating (and improving) a strong marriage.Doug Goldstein, CFP®