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Do You Have a Secret Bank Account?

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Danielle Hoston: Late last week, a woman filed a lawsuit against Chase Manhattan Bank for contacting her husband regarding a bank account that she had kept secret from him ... a bank account that contained approximately $800,000 obtained prior to their marriage. For obvious reasons, marital strife ensued and "in an effort to save her marriage," the wife gave her husband $155,000. Now she wants Chase to pay.

Shoe box filled with money

Without a doubt, the bank has violated her privacy by revealing the contents of her bank account to a third party, regardless of the fact that it was her husband. On one hand, the business-minded side of me can find justification for keeping assets such as these private under the right set of circumstances. On the other hand, the romantic side of me (yes it does exist!) imagines that I would be furious if I found out that my spouse was keeping an $800K secret.

"The man who has no secrets from his wife either has no secrets or no wife." -- Gilbert Wells

Don't get me wrong ... I'm a firm believer in community property ... as long as community property refers to assets obtained during the marriage. I also believe that prenuptial agreements should firmly protect all assets (and the fruits they reap) obtained prior to the marriage.

Many marriages operate successfully with separate bank accounts that allow for individual, unmonitored spending while other marriages are built on full and complete disclosure when it comes to finances. But haven't we all heard the horror stories of divorce? Tales of emptied bank accounts, transferred or missing assets, and frozen credit cards are enough to motivate the most die-hard romantic to tuck away some measure of "mad money." And how do we handle our lovable yet financially irresponsible spouses? Gambling addicts? Perpetual shoppers? In-laws and other family members who always seem to have a hand out that our spouse can't help but oblige? We hope that we are able to agree with our spouse on how the money should or shouldn't be spent in these circumstances, but if we can't ... Is there something wrong with saving a little more on the side in the event of a rainy day?

Do you have a secret bank account? Does it help or hurt your marriage?



next: Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner
34 comments so far | Post a comment now
Dana M May 4, 2009, 4:50 PM

I am interested to find out the details of this particular situation, as we are clearly not getting the whole story from the news sources. How old were they when they got married, what was each party’s net worth coming into the marriage (unlikely, but maybe $800k was a drop in the bucket), was the money earned or inherited, if they had a prenup, etc. I’d love to hear her side…and if she would hide the money again if she could do it over.

tanya EVANS May 4, 2009, 4:56 PM

When I get married I will have a secret bank account!!! I don’t think it will hurt… The man I marry will most likely be happy that I had it! I mean If he ever needed it I would have it:) In these times I think women would be wise to have a little stash. Recall waiting to exhale?

Tanya

Ps. I love Money Mondays!

Jerwayne E May 4, 2009, 5:36 PM

I’m all for having a secret account, especially if the relationship is not hurting for money. Now if you all are falling behind on bills or can not make a mortgage payment then yeah it is time to dip into the stash. But even though I am a romantic at heart I understand that s**t happens and it is always smart to have that fall back money.

And yes if she had that money before the marriage then yes I would definitely keep it hidden because some partners are financially irresponsible. So no need letting them ruin what you have worked so hard to earn and hold back.

Dana M May 4, 2009, 6:39 PM

But if you were financially responsible and had your own money, why would you want to marry someone who you knew was financially IRresponsible??????

Maya May 4, 2009, 7:03 PM

That’s a good point, why would you marry someone you knew was financially irresponsible. I’m interested to see what happens…having a secret bank account isn’t such a bad idea especially if your saving up for a rainy day or retirement that both you and your spouse can idulge in. I quess as long as it’s done with good intentions. Bad habits to develop overtime so it is a good thing to protect the family. In this case it seems like the wife is upset she hast to share with her spouse which seem a little odd…

TLC May 4, 2009, 7:24 PM

Next time? Sure will!
But the thing is,it won’t be a secret. If you’re a grown woman (or man) earning your own money, or have some saved from before the marriage, you have every right to set some aside.
It isn’t a reflection on your love, or lack there of for your spouse. Hopefully, your other half will understand, agree and then, perhaps, you can mutually decide how much you want to put away. Just don’t be sneaky about it. Be real with yours. Talk it out.
Keeping secrets is a terrible way to start, live or keep a marriage. And besides, isn’t it exhausting? Don’t we all want just one person we can completely be ourselves with? No secrets? No guards up? I do!!!

Terry Tyson May 4, 2009, 7:42 PM

Million dollar question is how long have they been married and was she planning to take the money to the grave!!!!!!

Gail Cooke May 4, 2009, 8:01 PM

Hard call. I’ve had a bad experience, which while I didn’t lose any money (because of him we never had any), but completely encouraged me to maintain separate bank accounts and maybe hide some money away in case something happened. I think it makes sense for women to have money stashed away. Life doesn’t usually go as planned.

ame i. May 4, 2009, 11:43 PM

If it were the other way around & they divorced, I’m sure she would insist on a nice big chunk of his secret account in the settlement.

aerialla May 5, 2009, 7:34 AM

I have a secret stash, granted it is not $800k. Before I went back to work part time I was a stay at home mom and even though we struggled I would save up money in secret here and there. I would take $10 from the grocery budget or not fill up my car, little things like that. Over the years it has really added up. Now that I have a part time job I add more to it. My hubby doesn’t know about it and he is my best friend. There have been times when we really could have used it but I found other ways. It is my nest egg and some day it just might pay for a year or two of college for my daughter or allow us to travel in retirement years. I think every woman having a secret stash is a good thing. If my hubby ever found out about it I would tell him the truth. It’s not about secrecy it’s about having security. I do agree with this woman suing the bank though for providing information to a third party, things like that can lead to identity theft even from a spouse.

kris May 5, 2009, 9:11 AM

I have a seperate account from the joint account I have with my husband but he and I both know the amount of money in the account with just my name on. He insisted that it have only my name on it and has monthly alllotments sent to that account along with me. And should he have a bank account with undisclosed amount of money it you know what its his business. I don’t need to know every aspect of his doings. My own dad had no has a seperate account from my mom and she has no problem with it, no matter the amount I personally think that a spouse should have some things seperate from each whether it be money or friends you never know what’s in the future and with todays divorce rates or unforeseen expenses I think its a smart idea to have that seperate account as a safety net. i say this guy should get over it and if it takes giving him money to shut him up and make things right again I would seriously wonder about the foundation of my marriage and why the money and he not having a piece of it was so important that he let it strain your marriage to the breaking point in the first place. Kinda makes you wonder what would happen if heaven forbade one or both lost their jibs would he seek a divorce then?

Gerald Buckingham III May 5, 2009, 10:31 AM

How do i get this “secret bank account”. How much does it cost and can i buy my wife one for mothers day? Also, do you think this Oprah keep one from Stedman? Any good pakistani restaurants in the valley?


RRX May 5, 2009, 12:05 PM

Secret accounts… I have a few of them. I fund them after all the bills have been paid, my 401K and the kids college funds have been provided for and all other necessities have been addressed. My wife and I have never shared bank accounts and I like having money. You should have seen the look on her face when I showed her the stash of cash I had at the house just incase of an emergency. She’s a spender and I’m a saver, it works about perfectly. If the family needs or want something and I think it is legitimate the money some how appears.

Rachel May 5, 2009, 6:51 PM

I don’t have a separate account and would be furious to know that my husband had one that he kept secret! If it wasn’t a secret, I would probably be okay with that. Why couldn’t she just be upfront with her husband and say “I have this account, you’re not going to be on it”?? Or how about signing a prenup and living your life and marriage without the secret!

Barbara May 6, 2009, 9:28 AM

Secrets in marriages are bad. Period. So she gave him $155K and shut him up…for now. I can guarantee you this man goes to sleep every night asking himself what other secrets she’s keeping. His trust in his wife is gone. I hope their marriage can withstand that…only time will tell.

As a divorced mother, I have to say I think it is a good idea for both parties to have their own money separate from the family accounts. Keeping it a secret is not a good idea. Whether the account is secret or not, if the worst happens and you wind up in a divorce, you will be asked to disclose all of your accounts anyway. If you have money before you marry, it is a good idea to keep that separate from “your” money that you acquire during the marriage. And keep proof of what you had before the marriage and what you earned during the marriage. If she had $800K in this account before the marriage, and added another $100K to it during the marriage, her husband’s attorney could argue that the entire account is marital property.

I think second marriages are a little different than first marriages. You can be as romantic as you like but the second time around you have to be a little more realistic as well. Right now, I have a “legal fund” that is my emergency money to hire a lawyer if my Ex husband decides to do something stupid. If I ever get married again, I will maintain my legal fund in addition to a personal savings account for me and a separate family emergency fund. Any man who wants to marry me will have to endure some pretty intense discussions about money beforehand. It may not protect me legally in the event of another divorce (God forbid!) but it will set the ground rules for the marriage. I wish I had had those discussions with my first husband before we married!

Danielle Hoston May 6, 2009, 11:41 AM

Great advice, Barbara… I agree wholeheartedly! Some people decide to keep their personal accounts secret for their own reasons related to the nature of their relationship and I don’t judge that. Personally, I believe that full disclosure of the accounts before the marriage is the best way to go. NO CONFUSION! If you do get married again, why not bring up the idea of a pre-nuptial marriage during one of those “intense discussions about money?” That would definitely help with your legal protection and help to lay things out the way you want from the beginning… Hmmm… I’m thinking this could be my next topic! ;-)

Thank you all for your comments!!

Danielle Hoston May 6, 2009, 11:46 AM

*pre-nuptial agreement NOT marriage… oops!

Dollar May 31, 2009, 12:32 AM

how did she avoid the taxes that was reported to the IRS from the Bank? how did she avoid reporting it on her taxes?
if they were married im sure they filed taxes together, so did she avoid that?

i would have stashed away as much as i count too if all of this was possible

tamoo June 3, 2009, 3:37 PM

I do have an account ,which i have not disclosed to my wife.couple of hundreds from my pay goes to that account and i support my mom,dad and my siblings. my dad is now retired and they need support. I am the eldest son and my wife did’nt like the idea to support my family when we were married for 3 months so i had to do this . I do not feel any guilt for this act because i have to support my family , no one other then me can do it and my wife just want to grab all my pay check and want to monitor all transactions.
any comments will be appreciated.

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