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Are You Committing Financial Infidelity?

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This morning, "Today" discussed financial infidelity:

We asked a financial expert about the topic.

"Money is a serious issue, because it's a basic means to survive as a couple," notes Jonathan Rich, Ph.D., author of "The Couple's Guide to Love and Money." "When one spouse plans for their financial goals in secret -- however minor they may be -- it creates suspicion and distrust."

But what about little purchases (like those jeans you saw on sale), or your "emergency" credit card? Are those really so bad? Well, sixty percent of people reportedly consider keeping a private credit card or hiding a purchase from a spouse a huge breach of trust, but not a deal breaker. Only six percent consider it a serious offense.

"People hide money for obvious reasons," Rich says. "Lots of times, a couple can't agree on how to spend their money, so in an effort not to create problems in the marriage, they hide their indulgences. But it's not only women who spend in secret. Men are just as guilty -- if not more."

According to Rich, women tend to be more conservative with their finances. (Chalk it up to us planning for the future, since we know we live longer than men. Or maybe it's because women move in and out of the work force more frequently, so we try to conserve.) Guys, on the other hand, are bigger risktakers. "Men often secretly spend money in the stock market," Rich says. "For women, it's usually material items, such as clothing or beauty treatments."

So how can you avoid financial infidelity?"It's crucial to know your partner's financial values and to plan mutual long-term goals, so there are no surprises," says Rich. But know this: People's spending habits are largely formed in childhood, and it's common to adopt your parents' attitudes about money. How you and your partner feel about money predates the relationship, so don't think you can suddenly change your priorities. It takes time to learn to work together.

"If you're going to share one main account, it's wise to keep separate -- but not secret -- accounts for each of you to spend on things just for you," Rich notes.

Here, confessions from three moms who cheat with their checkbooks:

• "I don't tell my husband how much I spend on gifts. I just buy them in spurts so that he doesn't notice. And sometimes I'll buy holiday presents in the summer and store them for later."

• "When I spend more than I feel I should, and I don't want my husband to know, I pay half in cash and half on credit. That way, there's no way to track how much I really spent."

• "I have a secret account that my husband doesn't know about. I put back $100 a week just in case."

Do you or your spouse commit financial infidelity?

next: What Will You Do With Your '168 Hours'?
3 comments so far | Post a comment now
Pharmd396 June 29, 2010, 4:38 PM

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Anonymous June 30, 2010, 10:26 AM

Why have a separate account? He earns more than you.

tennywyo July 13, 2010, 7:43 AM

Why have seprate accounts if money is the most important thing in your realtionship youve already got trouble cant agree on how much to spend on a gift or be honest about it what do you do when it comes to something that really means something how will you be honest then putting everything together and learning to have a transparent open realtionship helps to build your trust in one another

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