A Bankrate survey found that 39% of married adults have kept money secrets from a partner. Not only is this a violation of trust, but it can make it more challenging to know where you stand financially.
Financial infidelity can be difficult to spot if you're not the one handling most of the budget and bills in your relationship. Here are a few signs that your partner may be keeping financial secrets.
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Unexpected debt suddenly appears
It’s not uncommon to come into a relationship with debt. Many of us have student loans, credit cards, and other obligations.
However, hiding debt — old or new — is a problem. Not only doesn’t it create issues with financial transparency in a relationship, but it can also result in direct financial hardship for you and your partner.
So, ask your partner to tell you everything about such secret debts. Then, work together to crush your debt as quickly as possible.
You find secret credit card or bank accounts
Usually, when we hide things, we aren’t doing so for virtuous reasons. Sneaky behavior when opening new bank or credit accounts signals something is off.
When your partner is hiding accounts from you, it’s time to dig into why.
Secrets in other areas begin to pop up
Hidden addiction is a common source of financial infidelity. The addicted partner doesn’t want to reveal their problem, so they conceal the spending that fuels it.
A hidden affair also can lead to financial infidelity. If you learn about charges for restaurants, hotels, or vacation rentals you don’t recognize, you might be facing both a relationship problem and financial infidelity.
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You learn of large sums spent without prior discussion
Purchasing a car for a spouse’s birthday or Christmas makes for a great car commercial. Unfortunately, it doesn’t play out so perfectly in real life.
If your partner makes a large purchase without your input — even if it’s a gift for you —it isn’t romantic. Instead, it erodes trust and can blow up your budget.
You suspect lies about spending
Lies or half-truths about expenditures are key signs of financial infidelity.
Overspending usually comes to light when one partner empties or even overdraws an account. If this happens suddenly, your partner has likely been concealing their spending, even if they insist they haven't.
The household income fluctuates
When your family income goes up or down significantly without an explanation, it’s time to ask questions.
Has your spouse changed jobs or taken on extra work without informing you? Or worse, have they been fired and not told you yet?
Unless your partner’s salary is seasonal or normally variable — such as commission-based sales or freelance work — a change in income can signify financial infidelity.
Assets suddenly start to disappear
Even if an asset completely belongs to one partner — such as her handbag collection or his fishing boat — selling large assets without an agreement between both partners can be problematic.
Moreover, it begs the question as to why the seller needs the money and wants to hide it from their partner.
Money starts leaking out of family accounts
If you share finances with your partner, there’s a tacit understanding that the money will be used for the family’s needs.
Extracting money from the family finances for selfish purposes is an act of financial infidelity.
You notice large cash withdrawals
Cash isn't easily traced. If you and your partner typically use a cash system for budgeting, plan on saving receipts and communicating about your finances often.
That way, there won't be any questions about where the cash has gone.
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Your partner won’t share financial passwords
It’s a problem when one member of a couple won’t share passwords or other credentials with their partner.
Even partners who keep separate accounts should have access to the other person’s username and password in case of an emergency.
Your partner seizes sole control of finances
When one partner disallows the other to access family funds, it crosses a line. Even if you keep your finances separate, each partner must be in tune with what the other is doing.
Restricting a partner’s access to money is a huge red flag.
Financial conversations go nowhere
Few of us get excited about discussing the family budget. However, if one partner flat-out refuses to participate in any financial discussions, it should raise an eyebrow.
Partners who become stone walls at the mention of money may be hiding something.
The family budget is disregarded
Budgets are meant to be agreed-upon guidelines that a couple uses to achieve financial goals. Disregarding this agreement is bound to cause contention.
If your partner ignores your agreed-upon budget, it’s a form of financial infidelity.
The mailbox becomes the place to be
Has your partner suddenly taken a keen interest in the mail? This could be a sign that something fishy is going on.
Loan statements, new credit cards, collections notices, and other financial documents are often delivered by post. So, if your spouse is puppy-guarding the mailbox, it’s worth digging to find out why.
Private phone calls become routine
If your partner stops taking all phone calls in your presence or is extra protective of their phone, it certainly suggests the possibility of financial infidelity.
Retirement funds go AWOL
It’s easy to leave retirement accounts unmonitored for long periods. However, this means you might miss it if your partner withdraws funds early.
So, monitor your 401(k) and IRA balances regularly. This is imperative because some retirement withdrawals come with penalties and taxes if you pull out money prematurely.
You're asked to sign documents without reading them
If your partner tries to push you into signing a legal or financial document without letting you read it first, push back.
You’re responsible for whatever you sign, so make sure you understand a document before signing.
Financial infidelity is not widely discussed, but it can be just as much of a betrayal as a romantic affair.
Sometimes, shame and guilt can cause partners to hide financial missteps. So, keep both your eyes and the channels of communication open.
Creating a positive environment can help you and your significant other chart a better path forward to strengthen the bonds of trust and get ahead financially together.