Financial Infidelity

The Consumerist had a great article yesterday talking about Financial Infidelity that mentioned the results of a Forbes study that was done. Some highlights:

An online poll commissioned by ForbesWoman and the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) and conducted by Harris Interactive, surveyed 2,019 U.S. adults from December 17 to 21 and found that 31% of those who combined finances had admitted to lying to spouses about money.

This is of course disturbing to me in a number of ways. Why were they being dishonest? What is it they were trying to hide? Some of the comments on The Consumerist alluded to the tie between sexual infidelity and financial infidelity.

But honestly, I think the more strict the relationship is on money rules, the easier it is to being financially unfaithful.

There are a lot of PF bloggers that are engaged and getting married soon. Blonde and Balanced has been exceptionally open about how her and G are combining everything 100%.

Honestly, I don’t think I could do it. I don’t think I could pool everything together. I think such blanket honesty about every little purchase would drive me nuts. “Why did you spend $45 at Best Buy last week?” “Excuse me, we’re trying to save for a trip to Tahiti, why did you spend $5 at Starbucks yesterday?”

I’d rather know they have their own set of money and they can do with it what they want and that’s it. They can save if they want, they can spend it on video games if they want, they can splurge on a nice gift for me if they want. πŸ˜‰

Some would say that it takes greater trust to combine all the finances as one. Where there is one checking account with two names. While I understand the logic of this I also think there is a lot of trust that is placed in someone by knowing they’ll do the right thing with their own money – no questions asked.

BF and I hadn’t discussed details of how we would combine finances, but we both believe in a “yours, mine and ours” approach. Maybe part of that is we’re both “older” (I’m 30 and he’s 31) so we’ve both been in charge of our own finances for a long time. We’re used to being the only one’s who have say over where our free spending money goes and we’d like to maintain that freedom. (However, he has said that he is fully willing to give over all bill paying, saving and retirement duties to me if I wanted… how kind…)

I can definitely see if I was in a relationship where I had a 100% combined finances opening a little side account that my spouse didn’t know about – especially if marital times were tough. It is completely dishonest to the relationship, but in the same way one might sneak phone interviews in our cars during our lunch break – when you’re not in a stable place relationship-wise – financial infidelity is sure to follow.

Is there a right way to “combine” finances?

I doubt it. I’m sure the right way is whatever way the two people feel comfortable with. I’m less comfortable with complete combination (I’d prefer an 80-90% combined and then we get $100-200/month to doΒ  with what we please). Others would feel that part of marriage is a 100% combination of money. Others might live with a roommate type partnership where each just split everything 50% and keep their accounts 100% separate. I don’t think any way is better than one over the other – but somehow I get the feeling that the more combined the finances are the more likely it is that financial infidelity will occur. I have no hard facts to back that up – just a gut feeling. The more access the person has to every little purchase you make – the more likely it is to lead to an argument – and thus I can see that leading to hiding purchases to avoid fights.

The Forbes article includes those who have combined finances, but of course doesn’t specify HOW the finances were combined.

What do you think? How related do you think financial infidelity and how finances are combined are? Or do you think they are?

22 thoughts on “Financial Infidelity

  1. I don’t think it has anything to do with combining finances. I think that if a person lies about where they are spending their money, it is not the only thing that they are lying about. Lying in a relationship is setting yourself one step closer to that relationship ending. Honesty is the key to successful relationships including money management within that relationship. I think that regardless of whether or not your combine finances, you should be honest with each other as to what you are spending your money on. Why would you not be able to trust and be comfortable about sharing with your partner?

    1. My point is that the more the person knows about every little purchase the more likely that the little purchases are likely to end in fights.

      Hiding a small purchase is more likely to occur if you want to avoid conflict with your spouse.

  2. For me, it’s hard to hear people say that there IS a right way to handle your finances when you’re married. One of my coworkers started an argument with me one day because he claimed combining your finances when you’re married means you trust one another more than if you don’t combine. I thought that was funny, considering two weeks later he stopped his direct deposit because he wanted to keep his bonus a secret from his wife.

    You can have “financial infidelity” whether you combine your finances or not. Mr. Red and I aren’t combined at all, and we don’t tell each other about every little purchase we make. Having a conversation about every expense would drive me insane. As long as we’re on the same page about what we’re saving for and/or what financial goals we’re working toward, I don’t see how combining accounts would help us.

    1. Oh absolutely, I do believe there is no “right way” to do it! I’m so with you though, telling my partner about every little purchase would drive me nuts. I wouldn’t want to know about their pack of M&Ms at lunch any more than they would want to know I grabbed a Rockstar on my way home from work.

      As long as we’re onboard with the major stuff (bills, savings, ect) then they can spend their “little stuff” money however they please. (Well, assuming it isn’t on hookers or blow)

  3. I think if someone is a liar, they are a liar and it doesn’t matter if the finances are combined or not….

    Jordan and I have a mine, his, ours approach but our allowances are only $25/week. It’s for things like coffee with the girls or whatever – but most things are still joint.

  4. So, I was just writing a post about this about how I see three models of combining finances – the Jessie and Jordan approach (combined with allowances), the Red and Mr. Red approach (splitting everything 50%), and the Purse and Cobb approach (combined 100%). So funny that we are three of the people to reply to this post – obviously something we have all thought about with our partners, which is excellent! πŸ™‚

    Honestly, the only thing I would add is that different modes of splitting might work for different moon phases of the relationship. In other words, the only reason the 100% combining works for us right now is that we are kind of in survival mode trying to learn budgeting, learn how to track spending, learn each other’s habits, make sure our bills are paid, get me out of debt, and save for a bunch of joint goals. When we are in a more comfortable place, I can see us moving to a more Jessie-Jordan approach because you’re right, I hate dealing with receipts where Cobb bought a pack of gum and a magazine, and I hate when I slip up and spend $2 on a soda and know that he’ll realize it. πŸ˜›

    1. LoL That is funny that you guys are the ones to reply to this post. =)

      You make a really excellent point! How the finances are combined should probably be something that evolves as the relationship and the financial learning evolves. I mean, everything in the relationship will change over time – so why NOT change how you handle your finances during that time as well.

      I can’t wait to read your post on the matter!

  5. thanks for the shout out. πŸ™‚ combining finances is almost as controversial as politics, huh? πŸ™‚ i could see where it would cause fights but if you already stick to a budget and you already know how the other person spends, then i think it’ll work.

    some other things that help G and I’s situation: we make almost exactly the same amount of money and we’re both debt-free. neither of us are very “spendy”. we have some things that we spend on, but it’s really not much.

    i plan to work only part time when we have kids (or maybe not at all if we have like 4. ouch). i could see us having more arguments at that time.

    did your parents combine money? i wonder if that sort of habit trickles down? my parents combined and so did G’s, so i think we’re both just sort of used to it.

    interesting stuff!

    1. Yanno, I have NO IDEA if my parents combined money. My parents divorced when I was 7 and my mom remarried when I was 14 and then passed away when I was 19. So I’m not sure how the money was handled in EITHER marriage. I know that for her second marriage they had a joint account – but I don’t know if there were outside accounts or not. I do know that when she was diagnosed with cancer they made sure that his name was on all of her accounts so there would be no legal issue upon her passing.

      Maybe when you have kids you’ll be just so used to sharing everything 100% that you won’t have any arguments. I think there can be resentment on both sides of the person who makes the money feeling like they have “say” over it and the person who doesn’t feeling like they’re trapped by the person who is making the money. But that goes back again to honesty and equality in the relationship – no matter how the finances are split!

  6. oh and as far as financial infedelity, i think it occurs when you’re in a stressful financial situation or your partner is batshit crazy. i could see where G would start to lie if I was like “WTF?? you spent $100 on sports gambling???” every time he did that. he could just as easily say “WTF?? you spent $100 on bare minerals makeup that is just POWDER?” ha ha.

    1. Yup, I think berating about a single issue can start lying. Even over small things. If every time I bought a soda I had to hear about it from my significant other – well given enough time I would just either hide it from him or go NUTS.

  7. I agree with Miss T, regardless of how you combine finances, you can have lying and hiding stuff. DH and I combine 100%, and we each have a weekly allowance so we can avoid that “you bought lunch again” type of discussion. I have to say that I’ve had the experience of being “cheated on” financially, and it was brutal. I’ve never actually been cheated on (thank goodness) so I can’t imagine how that would feel, but I did feel betrayed and very hurt by the financial infidelity. That said, we worked through it and are still together, and have much better communication about money now than we did at the time. Come to think of it, communication is probably the key to avoiding both types of infidelity…

    1. I’m so sorry you’ve been on the receiving end of financial infidelity. You’re right, good communication probably is the key to preventing both types of infidelity.

  8. I agree with you in that there’s no one “right way” to combine finances. However, for myself, having financial independence, especially independence from any man, is really important. I’d say it’s almost as important as having my overall dignity. So I’d never be OK with 100% combining.

    That being said, I’d be ok wit, the bf and I contribute equally into an account that’s for our “general operating expenses” such as rent, groceries, pet vet bills etc, and then have the rest of the funds to ourselves.

    I have a really hard time imagining how two people could combine their hard-earned funds 100% without doing a bit of mental policing of the other one’s spending, and how people can avoid feeling resentment if there’s continued discrepancies between the two’s spending patterns. But if people could truly do so, then all the power to them, but it’s definitely not for me πŸ™‚

  9. Money was thie easiest area to give trust in a relationship for me, because money is fungible. If my husband blows all our money on beer and electronic toys, I can always get more money. Compared to physical infidelity, with the possibility of incurable STDs, emotional infidelity doesn’t worry me at all. I agree with the above posters that communication is the solution to both types of infidelity.

    We are 100% combined, but we each have a toy money fund, replenished every month, that we can use for anything that we like. Occasionally, we have emergencies that are not serious enough for the EF but can’t be covered by regular monthly budget, like extra dental work for our cat, which we split out of our toy budgets. Our individual toy budgets are significant (about 20% of our take home pay), and we each pay for individual things like clothing, haircuts, makeup (me), and circuit boards (him). So there’s no carping at each other over a stick of gum or anything like that.

  10. I’ve been giving thought to what JZ and I will do once we’re married. I would like to combine finances, but really only because I always figured that’s what you do when you’re married (like Amber was wondering, I’m looking at my parents’ model!). It seems complicated for us though, where we have bank accounts in different countries. I guess we’ll use each others’ accounts depending on what country we live in??

  11. I’m going to admit it right now… I’d likely commit financial infidelity by keeping a secret personal account. Or my guy would both have one personal account and one shared. I can’t imagine merging completely. That’s crazy talk. Love and respect yes. Financial dependence no.

  12. I have been married for almost 8 years- and we have been 100% combined since we got married for a number of reasons. (I hated it at first but now it’s what I’m used to).
    I just received a raise at work- and after a long complicated story of pay cuts I just found out what I’ll be bringing home- it is more than I thought. My husband knows I got a raise and the $ amount of that raise in December- but has no idea what I bring home because my check goes into a separate account.
    We just discussed that I am NOT going to tell him how much is on that check. I am going to increase the amount of money in our House Account and the ‘extra’ we are going to save (in my account – out of his sight, out of his mind to spend) for a nice vacation with the kids.
    Am I being dishonest? Well, not if we talked about it. He isn’t the greatest with money, and I’m a lot more responsible.

  13. I’m not there yet in my relationship, but I dread the thought of combining finances. Not that he’s bad with money, but I can be a bit…um, controlling, when it comes to money. Like a lot of PF bloggers, I assume. He’s had joint checking accounts in relationships twice before and says he’s never fought about money, but I think the other ladies were more hands-off than I am. But, I do agree that there isn’t one right way to handle finances-together or on your own, as long as there is honesty with each other and with yourself. Interesting post. πŸ™‚

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