According to the CreditCards.com latest financial infidelity poll, 19 percent of U.S. adults who are in live-in relationships – which equates to 29 million people – are hiding a checking, savings or credit card account from their partner.
And 20 percent of all survey respondents feel that a partner hiding a secret bank account from them would be worse than physically cheating. Forty-five percent disagree that it is worse, and 35 percent say it’s about the same.
But only 2 percent of the adults in relationships we surveyed would break up with their significant others if they discovered their lovers had $5,000 in secret credit card debt.
Withholding financial information from a partner can be extremely damaging to your relationship, so how can you find the red flags to determine whether or not your spouse or partner is financially cheating on you? Here are five tips that can help you begin your forensic work on this matter:
- 1. Swap Credit
- The first step if your partner is open to it is to take a deep dive of their credit report and find what credit cards exist out there today. The credit report will show you all of the open (and closed) debt positions, and alert you to the fact that your partner might have opened a credit card on their own that they have now racked up a ton of debt. This will help you avoid a major black cloud of debt down the road.
- 2. Unusual Levels Of Cash Activity
- We have become largely an electronic payment mentality in society. With debit cards, credit cards, Venmo, and other payment apps, there is hardly any reason to carry cash anymore unless it makes you feel good to have a wad of cash in your pocket. Usually, if someone is using the ATM often, this could mean that they are using cash for some type of irregular behavior whether it be gambling or some type of extracurricular activity. If your spouse or partner can’t quickly explain the cash withdrawals, then you should have your tentacles up that something odd is happening with the money.
- 3. Read Your Tax Return
- People can lie about their taxes, but the tax return doesn’t lie. It never lies. If you want to know whether there are interest bearing or dividend bearing accounts that you are unaware of right now, you need to look no further than Schedule B of your tax return. Schedule B is the sub section of your tax return that lists all of the interest-bearing accounts at the top of the schedule and the dividend paying accounts at the bottom of the schedule. If your spouse or partner has an account that isn’t reported on here than it either earns no interest or dividends or they just plain didn’t report it.
- 4. Your partner won’t ever discuss money
- Do you constantly walk on eggshells every time you have the thought about engaging in a financial conversation with your spouse or partner? If you feel stifled because your spouse won’t discuss your financial future or the kid’s college education or even doing a small repair to the house, it’s very possible that your spouse doesn’t want you to know what’s behind door number three with your family finances. The couples that stay together the longest typically have financial dreams they share together and have regular conversations about their finances even if one person in the family is the dominant CFO of the household finances.
- 5. You can’t get the user name and passwords to your family accounts
- The challenge today is that accounts such as Bitcoin can easily be opened up through an app like Coinbase. Let’s say your spouse decides to transfer $10,000 out of your joint checking into a Bitcoin account. Weeks later, they could easily sell the Bitcoin and set up a new link to a new checking account and you would have a hard time knowing whether this happened or not if you don’t have access to the account. If you are constantly stonewalled when you ask for access to certain accounts, this could be a final warning sign that financial infidelity could be happening in your home.
What should you do if you think that financial cheating is going on in your household? We have all made mistakes in our lives, so the first step is to have your partner or spouse come clean- that way the truth can get on the table. It’s impossible to make progress without the truth. Then, see if you can get to the why behind it. Why did this happen in the first place? Was your spouse embarrassed or ashamed for a bad financial decision they made? Or did they blow money on something and felt guilty, so they didn’t bring it up to you? It is crucial to understand if the behavior was more innocent or something that may even need counseling or treatment. Most importantly, once you find out these first two steps, jointly decide on how you will hold each other accountable in the future. If you treat your family like a business and get all of the information and goals on the table, you will have a much better chance of avoiding financial infidelity in your relationships.
Ted Jenkin, CFP®, AAMS®, AWMA®, CRPC®, CMFC®, CRPS®
CEO and Founder oXYGen Financial, Inc.