Married? Watch Out for STDs
By Ric Edelman
I'm talking about wealth, not health
A threat to married couples has been revealed by some studies — a threat the financial literacy movement is calling Sexually Transmitted Debt.
The point is this: You can suffer adverse consequences due to your spouse’s financial infidelity.
Your spouse could be amassing a pile of credit card debt, student loans, even a second mortgage, about which you know nothing. Indeed, according to a December survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education, three in 10 admit that they lie to their spouses about their finances — and more than half say they hide cash from their spouses.
That’s not all. The survey also found that:
- 30% have hidden a bill,
- 15% keep a secret bank account, and
- 11% lie about how much they earn.
Are you one of those who lie to their spouses? If not, then the statistics suggest that your spouse might be lying to you. NEFE’s data show that financial deception occurs evenly across all income levels and both sexes.
Undisclosed financial vices can have egregious effects on a relationship. In NEFE’s survey, 68% said a relationship had been negatively affected by financial behavior. Indeed:
- 42% experienced erosion of trust,
- 20% stopped commingling their finances, and
- 16% ended up divorced.
To help you avoid such problems, NEFE offers a six-point strategy.
Tip #1: Establish joint goals.
It’s all about communication. Together, list your short-term and longer-term needs and wants. Check your progress regularly and make sure your goals remain relevant.
Tip #2: Compromise.
We all need to realize the importance of what Mick Jagger sang: You can’t always get what you want. It’s often difficult for newlyweds to realize that they can’t continue handling their money the way they did before the wedding. A willingness to be compassionate about the other’s viewpoint is essential. So, that might mean you don’t get that new car this year, but it could mean you save for a vacation together.
Tip #3: Set limits.
How much money do you spend before you discuss the purchase in advance with your spouse? Nearly three-fourths of those surveyed believe that spending more than $100 without telling your spouse is unacceptable, according to CESI Debt Solutions. So when you’re considering a purchase, make sure your spouse supports the idea beforehand.
Tip #4: Make a date.
Set a specific time and place to discuss finances with your spouse. It’s okay if you feel uncomfortable or shy. The conversation certainly isn’t romantic, but addressing these issues could be the best way to strengthen your relationship.
Tip #5: Resist the temptation to fib.
Be honest. Remember, in some states, spouses are legally responsible for the other’s debt, whether it was incurred before or during the marriage. If you have a good credit history, you don’t want your assets to be seized because of your partner’s financial mistakes.
Tip #6: Be positive.
It’s easy to blame your spouse if money is a problem. Instead of casting blame, stay focused and positive so you can move toward your joint goals.
I’ll add a 7th tip: Talk with a financial advisor.
An experienced advisor can be a great mediator for you both. Because advisors are disinterested (the money isn’t theirs) they can help you view the situation unemotionally.
If bills aren’t being paid on time, if you’re not reducing your debt or saving money regularly, or if one of you feels resentment over any aspect of the family finances, then you should talk with an advisor. Your marriage might depend on it.
Originally published in Inside Personal Finance June 2011