Hiding Money From Your Spouse

by Elizabeth on October 8, 2012

Full disclosure: I have a bank account my husband doesn’t know about. Now, to be fair, he did know about it… at one time… before we were married. I think he assumed I closed it after our wedding, or at the very least, when we moved out of state. What he doesn’t know forgot is that I never actually closed the account; rather, I keep it open, solely for the purpose of paying my student loan bills every month.

In fact, that was the original purpose of the account – a place for my parents to deposit money, which would be automatically sent every month to my student loan provider. These days, my parents and I make those payments jointly (again to be fair, they do most of the paying), and my husband is none the wiser. Sure, I’d tell him about the account… if he ever asked… which he never has.

The Facts on Hidden Accounts

I had to tell you my own history with keeping money secret from my husband before I launched into the meat of this post. For one, I didn’t want to feel like a great big hypocrit; but the larger reason is because, while my so-called “hidden money” is there to pay off a debt that I – and I alone – incurred, I’m always astonished by married couples who intentionally hide money from each other for far more duplicitous reasons.

A 2012 survey by CreditCards.com found that I’m not the only one hiding money. A full 7% of those surveyed said they have a secret account of some kind – 66% of those reported it was a secret credit card, while another 45% said it was a secret savings account. Another survey, this one by the National Endowment for Financial Education, upped the ante, finding that nearly a third of individuals who have combined assets with a spouse or partner have been “deceptive” about money; of that group, nearly six in ten report hiding cash from their significant other.

Why They’re Hiding It

Fox Business quotes therapist and relationship expert Dr. Karen Ruskin on the five main reasons why partners hide money from one another:

  1. They’re committing adultery.
  2. They don’t trust their partner.
  3. It’s a form of conflict avoidance.
  4. Planning to leave the relationship.
  5. Afraid their partner might leave the relationship.

In my case, none of the above criteria is a good fit. The only adultery I’m committing is with my student loan lender, and while the amount of money I owe them is a sin, there’s no way on God’s green earth that I would leave my marriage and run into the arms of all that debt. No thanks. Of course, not every case of a secret bank account or credit card is going to fall into one of those five categories, but you can see what they point to: a lack of faith and commitment to the partner and the relationship overall.

Coming Clean

So, what if you’re my husband – or another duped spouse – and you’re looking for evidence to bring your money-hoarding lover down? The answer boils down to keeping your eyes open.

Rachel Hartman at Yahoo! Finance suggests following the paper trail. Start with your mail – is your spouse receiving mail from a bank or credit card company you didn’t know about? While you can’t legally open someone else’s mail, just seeing the envelop may give you the information necessary to ask the right questions. You’ll also want to take a more active approach in managing – or at least monitoring – your family’s existing finances. Notice large payments to your credit card, even though you didn’t make any big purchases? Even small but frequent withdrawals from your bank account could spell trouble.

What If You Find A Red Flag?

Maybe all that snooping results in a credit card statement with a few discrepancies – what then?

Take heart and don’t jump to conclusions. Just because your spouse or partner isn’t being completely transparent with you about money matters doesn’t necessarily mean that something’s wrong. Take me, for example – I’ve got a bank account he doesn’t know about (doesn’t remember!! I promise, he knew about it… once…), which I use only for the most mundane of tasks: paying down student debt I incurred long before we married.

Reader, have you ever hidden money from your spouse? Why? Did you ever come clean?

Likewise, do you think I’m doing my spouse an injustice by keeping my account from him? Am I lying by omission?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Eschewing Debt October 15, 2012 at 1:48 pm

I have a question: Why do you think it is YOUR debt? Yes, you incurred it before you were married- possibly before you knew him- but now that you are married should it not be both of your debt? Even if your parents are paying most of it off, you are still paying some of it (if I read that correctly), which takes money away from both he and you, so I think it does concern him. If he knew about it, you could work together to tackle it and get rid of it.

After seeing some friends go through nasty divorces, I now see why people should have a “secret” stash. However, I also think having an exit strategy- even if you never intend to use it- can lead to divorce. It’s a catch 22.

Personally, I don’t have any secret money- and if I ever discovered that my husband did…well, let’s just say it would NOT go over well! We have very open communication about all money matters.

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