Financial Secrets Among Skeletons in the Closet

Skeleton hand

Who’s Monitoring the Money? Skeletons in the financial closet?
Photo:  Dreamstime Stock Photos: © Phil Date

Have you ever lied to your partner about spending or saving money? If so, you’re not alone. Financial infidelity is rampant, based on reports released by CreditCards.com, Huffington Post, Time.com, and CNBC, among others.

A staggering seven million (6 percent of) the United States population admits to hiding financial assets or debt from spouses and partners in otherwise committed relationships.

And that’s not all. A recent study from the National Endowment for Financial Education (conducted with Harris Interactive) reports that 35 percent of respondents say they have been victims of their spouses’ financial deceptions.

Financial infidelity—as evidenced by hidden bank accounts, excessive spending, borrowing, lending or withdrawals from retirement accounts without the other partner’s knowledge—can erode trust in a relationship, especially when one partner starts to feel left out of decisions, betrayed or disgruntled. In addition, financial subterfuge makes budgeting difficult and may lead to late payments, bankruptcy and divorce.

Uncovering Financial Subterfuge

If you believe your spouse or partner is hiding assets or concealing spending habits, here are a few ways to verify or allay your concerns:

  • Pay attention to household finances. Watch for consistency between income and outflow. If you see a problem, don’t jump to conclusions. But do ask for information so you will understand what’s happening.
  • Monitor money signals in your life. Have you noticed letters in the mail from financial institutions you know nothing about? Were you turned down for a new credit card when you thought your own credit was good? Have you noticed that bills you were expecting to see arrive in the mail didn’t come? Are you missing cash?
  • Stay alert to your spouse/partner’s patterns and moods, especially if you believe gambling or addiction may be a problem. Financial problems can elevate moodiness and depression, which could signal a problem.
  • Don’t take unexpectedly generous or extravagant spending as a sign that all is well. Sometimes guilt leads to excessive gestures.
  • Choose the right time and place for financial discussions so you can air your concerns when the other person is able to hear and understand them.
  • Get in the habit of reviewing financial documents and credit reports together at least once a year. This process can alert you to debt problems and/or reveal financial assets of which you are unaware.

If you discover problems with debt management or feel a need to protect your assets, consult an experienced attorney who can help with debt restructuring, loan modification, bankruptcy or mortgage mediation, as needed. It’s important to know your options so you can make informed decisions. Daley Law concentrates on helping families use appropriate legal remedies in times of financial crisis.

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