Basics, Parenthood, Wellness

Financial Infidelity: How to Confess your Money Secrets

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Would you end a relationship if you found out your partner was keeping a financial secret? 1 in 3 Millenials would.

A TD survey polled 1,753 individuals (they were American, but we think the results are still applicable). All of them were married, in a committed relationship, or divorced.

The good news? 55% of those 1 in 3 Millenials claim they intend to come clean about their money secrets to their partners within the next year.

So what are the money secrets that they’re keeping?

Most people are quite private about money, so it’s natural to not know somebody’s full financial story early on in a relationship. In fact, it would probably be considered “oversharing”. It’s also common for two people to have different opinions on what a financial secret even is. There are some obvious secrets, and some that seem more innocent, but they can be just as damaging.

A financial secret is any dishonesty about the state of your finances that can impact your partner.

There are a lot more secrets that can impact your partner than you might realize. Check out this list:

  1. Ownership of assets: If you own any significant assets, including real estate, investment accounts, vehicles or ownership in any business.

  2. Costs: The amount you are spending on consumer and lifestyle purchases like rent, food, transport, gifts and more. This category is most commonly associated with spending habits and budget, a major area of financial infidelity.

  3. Hidden accounts: Investment or savings accounts, credit cards, retirement or pension accounts, and any other financial vehicle for spending, saving or investing.

  4. Debt: This includes the common areas like credit card debt, student loans or personal lines of credit. We also like to include liabilities like leases for cars or other large purchases, layaway purchases, personal loans or support from family or friends. For example, if you lead your partner to believe you own a house, but your family member has co-signed the mortgage for you – that is misleading. This also includes your credit score. Did you know that you could be liable for your spouse’s debt in the event of a separation?

  5. Income: Lying about how much you are making, whether it is higher or lower than what you have led your partner to believe, or if you have any alternative sources of income.

  6. Investments or loans:  Loans to a business or a person, including personal guarantees, loans to friends, family, and businesses and co-signing loans for someone else. This is important because co-signing or personally guaranteeing contracts or loans means they count toward your debt.

  7. Financial disorders: This includes any gambling, bad spending habits, hoarding, dependencies and addictions.

  8. Insurance: Insurance policies or your lack of insurability. This often comes up if one partner is dishonest about smoking, health issues or drug use.

  9. Dependents: These can include ex-spouses, partners, children and parents of children. In certain cases, this could include other dependent members of a family.

  10. Legal Plans: If you have done any legal estate planning including a will, personal directives or powers of attorneys, trusts or set beneficiaries in any registered financial accounts.

  11. Tax: All of the items above can affect your taxes, and not filing your taxes can affect all of the above. If you are behind in your taxes, this can be a very damaging secret to keep from a spouse or partner.

This list might seem excessive, but the consequences of keeping details like these from a partner can be very damaging. You partner could be at risk without realizing it. For instance, not knowing about a beneficiary on your RRSP account could lead your partner to pay unexpected tax if you were to pass suddenly. Alternatively, hiding assets you own could lead your partner to accuse you of hiding a growth in assets in the event of a separation agreement negotiation.

The instability and risk created with secrets can cause a breakdown in trust and, ultimately, a breakdown in relationships.

Keeping a small detail secret may seem innocent, but it can cause the foundation to crumble. We are tempted to keep secrets because they protect the image of ourselves we are trying to project. The problem here is that you eventually have to come clean. Of course, the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be. You are forcing your partner to rewrite the story of who they thought you were. They need to re-evaluate if they should trust you with information and with future decisions you will make together.

A little white lie about money may not seem critical, but the data shows that it’s the number one reason for divorce, and we think it’s totally preventable. In fact, 68% of Canadians say they would be more likely to divorce over money issues compared to 60% who stated infidelity would be their top reason for divorce.

This survey suggests that most Canadians today think lying about money is worse than cheating on a partner.

So if you find yourself with some financial secrets, what’s the best way to come clean? Make plans to do it soon, and follow our guidelines below to do it the right way.

How to come clean:

  1. Start with why: Ask yourself why you’re keeping the secret. Are you worried your partner will think less of you? Do you feel guilty about the nature of the secret? Do you not trust your partner with the information? Be honest and get to the bottom of this question, because it may cause you to face some truths about your partner, your relationship or yourself that you were hiding from.

  2. Come clean: Now it’s time to come clean. In a calm way with full honesty, include the reasoning you’ve identified in the previous step. During this conversation, take responsibility and show that you have created a plan to solve the problem or prevent future financial infidelities. This will show your partner that you are committed to improving your relationship and earning their trust.

  3. Be open and ask for help: Your secret, by nature, excluded your partner. In order to resolve the issue, you will need to include your partner. Be open about your plans, the sacrifices you’re making and the steps you’re taking. Involve your partner, ask them for help, set goals and achieve them in order to show your partner you are committed to changing. Be accountable to your partner.

  4. Your money story: If your financial secret has to do with a habit or financial dependency/addiction, try to identify the root causes of your issue. Which of your past experiences do you think have contributed to your behaviour? It will be helpful for both you and your partner to be aware of the backstory and triggers of the behaviour you are trying to change. Try this assessment to learn more about your financial behaviour.

  5. Avoid future secrets: Use this article to make sure you avoid relationship money mistakes.

Financial trust requires a lot of vulnerability, it’s one of the great frontiers on the road to intimacy. Ensuring you and your partner on the same path with open eyes is the best way to build a strong foundation.

”Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.”

-Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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