Understanding Financial Cheating and What to Know
It can often start out innocently enough. One partner, who may be better with handling money and finances (or more willing to take on the responsibilities) offers to pay the bills and balance the checkbook every month.
However, with time, the spouse not paying the bills may begin to wonder how things are going: are the credit cards paid on time? How about the mortgage and car payments?
If you’re experiencing financial cheating or are dealing with an overspending spouse, first remember that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. A financial challenge like this one can have a positive outcome and set you on an even better path than the one you were on before.
It can be the one incident that may draw you closer as a couple (once the problem is confronted and on its way to being resolved).
Ultimately, confronting and dealing with financial cheating or an overspending spouse can be a turning point in your relationship and in your life.
Also, know that you are not alone. A recent survey found that 22% of respondents lied to a spouse about their finances, and the most common fib is about the reality of their spending habits.
Another hard truth found in the survey: the biggest financial deal breaker in a relationship concerns overspending. Eight percent of respondents admitted that they have lied to their partners about their debt.
Almost one-third of couples fight about finances at least once a month, according to an Ameriprise Financial study . That’s an uncomfortable 31%. The most common conflicts include financial decisions, investment choices, major purchases and, last but not least, a partner’s spending habits.
Here are a few warning signs to help spot when a partner isn’t being truthful about their money habits.
Spotting Financial Cheating
• Changing the subject when you try to discuss financial issues.
• Your spouse handles the bill paying and financial obligations, but won’t discuss them with you.
• Arguing about money is becoming more frequent.
• A sudden change in your spouse’s spending
• Your spouse has a history of lying, or specifically lying about money.
• Your gut is telling you.
So if you’re suspecting trouble, and you want to do a little sleuthing first, where do you begin? It might be best to run an initial credit check to keep tabs on your account balances, if payments are being made on time, and what new accounts are being opened.
It may also help to be aware of what’s in writing, and what should be yours to inspect anytime:
Reviewing Financial Documents Every Month
• Mortgage or rent payments
• Credit card payments
• Car loan and other loan payments
• Insurance premiums
• Savings and investment account statements
• Late notices, liens
• Credit scores
What brought on financial cheating? You were assuming that you had a marriage based on trust and a sense of teamwork. The reasons could be many, and highly complicated. It will take honest conversations to get to the bottom of what motivated your spouse to mess with your money, but more importantly, your trust.
Here’s one extreme example:
When Money is Used As Revenge
Did you do something—either intentionally or unintentionally—to make your spouse angry? And are they the kind of person who likes to get even, or make you suffer for what you’ve done? If their method of getting even is by aggressively tapping into your shared wealth, this is often called revenge spending.
Sharing your credit card with a spouse is an act of trust, but it can also become a point of contention if your relationship goes sour. Financial therapy expert Debra Kaplan says that shared credit cards can be used by a “scorned lover,” creating a debt that is unlikely to be paid back. Kaplan says that credit cards can also be used for “clandestine spending by the cheater in a marriage riven by infidelity.”
“The other individual in the relationship starts spending money as a way to level the powerlessness, or as retribution or retaliation,” Kaplan says.
Ultimately any debt on the credit card is the legal responsibility of the card holder, and that burden can be unresolvable if the relationship is heading toward irreconcilable differences.
Revenge spending can happen when you least expect it, but if you are keeping close tabs on your investments, savings, debts and other finances, the likelihood of it getting pretty far can be greatly reduced.
No matter what the reason for financial infidelity, take steps to correct the situation, stop the damage, and build back whatever trust you can. Start here:
Admitting that There’s a Problem
A marriage is an equal partnership, and both partners have the privilege to know about all assets, liabilities and cash flows associated with the marriage. If one spouse takes control of the financial responsibilities, that doesn’t mean you have to step aside and stay out of the picture.
When you’re in the dark, you’re not checking up on your spouse by reviewing what was done; you’re not keeping yourself informed or even checking to make sure that no unintentional mistakes are made. Yep, you’re keeping tabs on your spouse.
One great way to increase transparency related to your finances is by leveraging technology such as SoFi Relay. SoFi Relay makes it easy to know where you stand and what you spend in one easy-to-use app.
Sharing the Financial Responsibilities
Divide it up. One of you could be responsible for tracking and managing the investment accounts, while the other pays the bills. Next month, you could switch responsibilities. Each month, sit down together and go over each expense and transaction, how you handled them, and what remains to be done.
A great way to increase communication and share responsibilities is by scheduling regular “money dates.” Set up a time to talk about money with your partner once a month. It can include dinner, drinks, or anything else that makes the environment more relaxing and likely to facilitate open and honest conversations.
Hashing it Out
It’s been said many times that the key to a good marriage is open, clear, and constant communication. The same strategy goes for your financial relationship. Talking about money is often stressful, especially when there are problems, suspicions, debt, and more. Confronted spouses can get defensive and even confrontational.
Your financial discussions do not have to be long and painful, but you should walk away knowing the truth about what’s going on. Go over upcoming bills and payments, and any related issues. Try your best not to be judgmental, hostile or nasty. Keep your cool. Remind your spouse that this is not personal; the numbers on the page are what you are focusing on for now.
Consider Keeping Separate Accounts
Even if you decide to keep a joint account, start a separate checking account that you monitor yourself. Agree to the amount you will deposit into both the separate account and the joint account. Make sure your spouse knows and agrees that your separate account is for you only.
Owning it if You Engaged in Financial Cheating
Own it. It’s generally considered a good idea to admit you screwed up, and pledge (for real) to be honest going forward. Also promise (for real) to do whatever you can to fix any problems that resulted. Most importantly, apologize. Make that apology heartfelt.
Some Secrets Are Okay
Even in a relationship, partners have the right to some privacy and personal information that’s not shared. Part of your life being kept secret and allowing for personal space may be just as important as sharing a life together.
At the same time, honesty and trust are considered vital to a healthy marriage. If you are keeping a secret that may harm a partner, or if you are not being completely honest about important financial information that can affect both of you, that may bring on a sense of betrayal and a world of hurt.
Talking To Someone Who Understands and May Be Able to Help
As traumatic as financial cheating or an overspending spouse can be, know that it’s possible that it can be a temporary situation that can ultimately, with time and effort, be fixed.
Throughout life, your financial situation is likely going to change, toggling between good times and bad times. Of course, discovering financial infidelity is part of the bad; however, you can work to make your relationship and your financial relationship good again.
Sometimes, talking to a financial advisor can help. For instance, our financial planners can be an ear, listening to your situation, and then help you come up with a plan that can get you back on track and working toward your financial goals.
You can ask about SoFi Invest®, which may be a way to redirect those splurging impulses into a more solid and purposeful investment vehicle. Rerouting your money from splurging into investing could possibly deliver greater value over time; it could benefit both of you in the long run.
SoFi Invest allows you to invest without having to pay SoFi fees.
And by no fees, we really mean it. SoFi Invest has no hidden charges, and no transaction or management fees. You can invest in a way that makes the most sense to you: trading stocks and ETFs on your own with active investing, or meeting your long-term financial goals by setting it up with automated investing.
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