Financial infidelity is a major problem in marriages. Today I’m seeing more and more couples with separate bank accounts and keeping their finances completely separate. There are a few reasons you might want to do this, but most couples should be combining finances.
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First, I’ll share which couples qualify for keeping finances separate.
Reasons for Married Couples to Keep Finances Separate
I wrote a case for keeping separate bank accounts on Rockstar Finance last year. In the article, I shared six reasons that couples might want to have individual bank accounts and split the bills.
1. You have a blended family
If you’re remarried and have children from a previous marriage, chances are you’re responsible for carrying a term life insurance policy in a specified amount with your ex as the beneficiary (for the benefit of your children). This can get tricky when you have more kids with your new spouse splitting beneficiaries. You might want to have separate policies for each.
2. You’ve been through a nasty divorce (or more than one)
Both my husband and I have parents who have collectively been married (and divorced) 15 times. 5 marriages for my mom, 2 marriages for my dad, 3 marriages for his mom, and 5 marriages for his dad. Sometimes, you’ve just gotta protect yourself in case of financial infidelity or other issues.
In this case, I recommend having a joint bank account for bills and keeping separate bank accounts for the rest of your expenses. If you’re looking for a great high yield savings account that’ll earn you more interest than a local bank, here’s my favorite high interest savings account!
3. One spouse is a major spender
If your spouse has a tendency to empty the bank account every payday, you might want to keep finances separate and offer him or her a weekly “allowance” or fun money (and no debit card). Why no debit card, you ask? Because emotionally, plastic is easier to swipe and spend than handing over a $50 bill.
4. You or your spouse has an addictive personality
Do you keep cash out of your paycheck every week to play slots or buy scratch offs? Are you an alcoholic? What about a recovering alcoholic or addict? Who here likes to shop more than he or she should? By keeping separate bank accounts, you’re protecting your bill money. Again, you can still have a joint account where the bills are paid (with no debit cards) and have a separate account for your fun money. But when it’s gone, it’s gone. No dipping into the bill account for your bad habits!
5. You’ve received an inheritance or are a self-made millionaire
A prenup is always a good idea when you are entering a marriage with a good amount of money. You might want to consider having separate finances if this is the case. I’ve seen too many couples where one spouse emptied the bank accounts and opened new accounts before filing for divorce with no recourse. Joint accounts are joint ownership. This means that all parties technically “own” the money in the account. Consult an attorney if you have questions.
6. You have any reason not to trust your spouse
Infidelity comes in several different forms. If your spouse is a cheater by nature, keep your finances separate. You’ve got to protect yourself financially in case of a divorce.
You can open a high-yield savings account with $100 to start. Out of sight, out of mind!
Now that we’ve discussed why you might want to keep your finances separate, let’s address the issue of hiding money from your spouse in marriage.
8 signs of financial infidelity:
1. You don’t know how much your spouse really earns
You think you know how much your spouse makes? Do you see his or her paycheck stub? Do they communicate with you about raises and bonuses? Do you know the exact amount of net income each pay period? What about how much they’re contributing to retirement? These are all important questions to ask. If you can’t answer these, it’s time to sit down with your spouse.
2. He keeps a large portion out of his paychecks and you have no idea where it goes
My ex-husband used to do this. He’d take his paycheck to the bank every week and keep a large portion (we’re talking hundreds) out for himself. He ate fast food, drank a lot of beer, and smoked a lot of cigarettes. Notice I said this was my ex-husband. Financial infidelity can destroy marriages.
3. You’ve recently found a credit card statement for an account you didn’t know existed
Does your spouse have credit cards that you don’t know about? Why so secretive with the purchases? Many cheating spouses open additional credit cards so that they can hide money spent on “the other woman” (or man).
4. Money has gone missing
If you’ve noticed money missing from your savings accounts (or checking account), your spouse might be unfaithfully hiding something from you. Take inventory of your accounts at least once a month. Make sure everything is accounted for, and if it’s not, address it immediately. Communication is key.
5. You’ve been removed from joint credit card accounts
Credit cards give the option of adding authorized signers. If you’ve been alerted that you recently closed an account or your credit utilization ratio increased, your spouse may have dropped you. You can get a copy of your credit report from Experian or Transunion. You can get all three for free once per year at annualcreditreport.com.
6. You remove tags from clothing to make it look like it’s always been in the closet
Have you ever done this? Be honest! If you’re removing tags from clothing so you don’t get caught, you’re committing financial infidelity. It’s okay to treat yourself once in awhile, but when you start having to hide it, you’ve got deeper issues.
7. Your spouse gets defensive when you bring up money
Do the walls go up when you start asking questions about money? When you bring up specific purchases, does he try to change the subject or make jokes? These are major red flags!
8. You can’t have the passwords to his computer, let alone his online banking
Listen, when you got married, you gave all of yourself to another person. That means you each get unrestricted access (at least visibly) to the bank accounts. If you don’t have this ability, it’s time for a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting.
Financial infidelity in marriage is a scary topic. No one wants to face the fact that their spouse could be lying by omission, spending on things he or she shouldn’t, and keeping secrets. But if you see signs above and are wondering if there are things you don’t know about your financial situation, sit down with your spouse and talk about it. Here’s how:
Talking about money with a defensive spouse
If money talks always end in fights, there’s a gentle way to ease into the conversation. Start out by saying, “Honey, I am so tired of being broke all the time. And I know you must be, too. Maybe we should sit down together and combine forces to see where we really stand so we can tackle this thing head-on!”
By coming from a collaborative standpoint instead of an accusatory one, your spouse is likely to be more receptive to talk. He may be itching to come clean about some of the issues that have been plaguing him.
Money and marriage: next steps
Money used to be a taboo subject. So many people didn’t discuss money, income, finances, etc and now a simple google search for income reports yields actual income earned. When you decide to have your first money and marriage meeting, discuss the following:
- Bring paycheck stubs. You show me yours and I’ll show you mine!
- Bring all the bills and expenses to the table. Nothing goes unnoticed!
- Bring bank statements and a highlighter. Highlight fast food and convenience store purchases. How much money is each of you throwing away every week?
- List debts owed, smallest balance to largest and make a plan to pay it all off using the debt snowball or debt avalanche method.
- Remember your vows. Honor one another and the promise you made to care for one another, ’til death do we part.
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