Can you say, with certainty, that you are as confident of your partner’s actions in the financial faithfulness department?
According to a recent study conducted by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), as many as one third of adults who’ve combined their finances with a partner have committed some form of “financial infidelity” against that person.
Of course, you could argue that some white lies about money are benign—like “forgetting” to mention that $5 latte you bought after making a pact to scale back on such everyday splurges—but financial dishonesty can have a negative impact on your relationship, creating distrust and resentment on top of any monetary consequences.
In fact, 76% of people surveyed by NEFE said that the money deception in their relationship affected them in some way. Nearly half of the couples acknowledged that it caused an argument, and one third said it reduced trust in the relationship. And that’s not even the worst of it.
“Sadly, financial infidelity can lead to more severe outcomes—for 10%, the infidelity ultimately led to divorce,” says Paul Golden, a spokesman for NEFE. “It’s a little like sexual infidelity—even something that seems benign can become a gateway to larger deceptions, like lying about debt.”
The good news is that lies about money don’t necessarily have to ruin your relationship—if you know how to deal with them effectively. “Financial infidelity can be a tipping point when couples start to communicate more openly and frequently about money issues,” Golden says. “In the survey, 8% of couples said the infidelity actually caused them to grow closer together.”
Not sure if there’s been financial infidelity in your own life? Connect the dots by reading up on these six common money secrets people keep from their partners—and take the experts’ advice to heart if any scenario sounds a little too familiar.
Money Lie #1: He Has a Secret Stash
Hiding funds in a separate bank account is one of the most common financial infidelities, says Nancy Butler, a Certified Financial Planner®, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst and author of “Above All Else: Success in Life and Business.”
One telltale sign that your significant other is possibly guilty of this offense is if you unearth a wad of cash stuffed in a book or buried in a sock drawer, Butler says. There’s also the very real possibility of coming across a bank statement for an account you didn’t even know existed.
What to Do If You Suspect Your Partner Is Guilty… While many couples in healthy relationships manage their own discretionary income, it’s important to ask your partner about the money if it appears to have been hidden on purpose from you, Butler says.
Of course, you may learn that it’s nothing to be alarmed about—maybe he was saving up for a surprise anniversary gift or even innocently pooling the loose cash from his pocket at the end of each day. But if he fesses up to squirreling the money away for a larger purchase you weren’t aware of, it’s grounds for initiating a bigger conversation about your joint financial goals and priorities.