You just got married? How nice for you! Your new husband is great; he’s smart and sweet, caring and good-looking. He’s good to your family and he’s good to your dog. All in all, he’s the total package…except for one thing: he didn’t exactly tell you how bad his debt was before you happily said, “I do.” Oh, and he also neglected to mention that he is addicted to buying expensive vintage toys (although his house should have told you that).
I don’t know why I’m surprised that there’s a proper name for this, but there is. It’s called “financial infidelity.” It’s rather self-explanatory, but this is when one partner is “making significant financial moves without the knowledge of the other” (Thesimpledollar.com). This includes everything from opening secret bank accounts, lying about paying bills to spending vast sums of money, while hiding the bills. According to NPR.org, “41% of American adults admit to” engaging in financial infidelity and it seems that the trend is on the rise.
According to an ABC7 news report, “Millennials are more likely than other age group to lie” to their significant others about their finances. These lies could be fairly harmless, such as telling partners that they have less money than they actually do. ABC7 suggests that this is because they want a “Freedom Fund,” in case the relationship fails. Obviously, it’s a lot worse when it goes the other way and there isn’t enough money in the bank to pay for a bagel, let alone pay the mortgage.
At this point, the divorce rate for financial infidelity is lower compared to the divorce rate for the more visceral type of infidelity. However, studies say that, for those affected, “76% reported that it harmed their relationship and 10% said that it resulted in divorce” (Investopedia.com). Even if the suffering spouse forgives, I would imagine it would always be a theme running through her/his head: What else don’t I know about?
Most of the literature advises that couples speak candidly with each other before their upcoming marriage regarding debt – there should only be a few surprises on the wedding night, and they should be fun ones. Logically, and in most states, “you are not legally responsible for bills racked up before getting married” (Badcredit.org). In “common law” states, “debts incurred by one spouse are usually that spouse’s debts alone” (Nolo.com). However, if you decide to open a joint account, no matter who blew the money, both spouses are liable (Incharge.org). Most experts agree that, although someone might get their feelings hurt, it’s probably for the best to maintain separate accounts and credit cards.
And since you’re already going to be hurting your intended’s feelings, Foxbusiness.com suggests a pre or postnuptial agreement to further protect yourself. It’s not very romantic, granted, but it might keep you afloat if your spouse develops a nasty gambling addiction.
Getting married is a big deal. Staying married is an even bigger deal. If you’re suffering from financial infidelity, why don’t you and your spouse meet with a Bourke Accounting pro? A Bourke Accounting specialist won’t take sides or encourage you to do weird marriage counsler-like exercises, but I wouldn’t be over-reaching when I say that a Bourke Accounting rep might be able to provide the tools to save your marriage.
Written by Sue H.