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Financial Infidelity



What is Financial Infidelity?

When both partners in a relationship are aware of your financial circumstances, you can work together, find solutions to the problems, and plan ahead for a healthy future. To help facilitate a positive conversation about financial issues, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) recommends the following Do’s and Don’ts of a successful discussion:

  • Don’t approach the subject in the heat of battle. Instead, set aside a time that is convenient and non-threatening for both parties.
  • Do make it a casual conversation about a serious subject, respecting the fact that each person has valid opinions and concerns.
  • Do be honest about your current financial situation. If things have gone south, continuing the same lifestyle that was possible before the change in income is simply unrealistic.
  • Do be open to adjusting your lifestyle. If spending cutbacks or second jobs are necessary, resist whining. It’s likely that your situation will be temporary, and you could end up regretting the pity party you hosted.
  • Don’t hide income or debt. This is known as financial infidelity. Instead, bring financial documents, including a recent credit report, pay stubs, bank statements, insurance policies, debts and investments to the table.
  • Don’t point the finger of blame. That’s a real conversation stopper.
  • Do probe to understand long-held financial attitudes, often present since childhood and ingrained by observing how parents addressed money issues.
  • Do acknowledge that one may be a saver and one a spender, understanding that there are benefits to both mindsets and agreeing to learn from each other’s tendencies.

Once all of the facts are out in the open, it is time to make decisions about how to handle your finances in the future:

  • Do make a plan to deal with any skeletons that came out of the financial closet. Such surprises can greatly compromise your ability to obtain future credit opportunities. Now is the time to deal with them.
  • Do construct a new joint budget that includes savings. Emergency situations drop into your life at the most inopportune times.  Without a rainy day fund, the financial hole becomes even deeper.
  • Do decide which person will be responsible for paying the monthly bills. It is likely that one person will be a good fit for this task, while the other finds it burdensome.
  • Do allow each person to have independence by setting aside money to be spent at his or her discretion.
  • Do decide upon short-term and long-term goals. It’s ok to have individual goals, but you should have family goals, too.
  • Do talk about loaning money to family members and friends. Decide if it’s something you’re each comfortable with, or should be taboo.
  • Do talk about caring for your parents as they age, and how to appropriately plan for their financial needs, if necessary.

Talking about your family finances can be difficult. However, making the effort to ensure that you and your spouse are fully aware of your circumstances will allow you to address bad financial habits, make corrections and feel good about working together on your family’s economic health.

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