You have worked hard, planned and saved to have a comfortable retirement together. Then, one day, something happens that makes you question whether your spouse is being honest with you about money. There might be a perfectly innocent explanation, or your spouse might be leading a double life that poses a threat to your financial future. Here are some suggestions about what to do when your spouse hides money from you.
Reasons That Spouses Hide Money from Each Other
Many different factors can motivate a person to hide money from a spouse, such as:
- Planning to separate from the spouse and building up a nest egg to fund the new path in life,
- Paying for activities, like gambling or drugs,
- Lack of trust because of an experience with a previous spouse,
- Has not paid taxes or other bills, and is stockpiling money instead,
- Is having an affair, or
- The current relationship is dysfunctional and the “hiding” spouse feels the other spouse is a control freak about the finances.
How Spouses Hide Money from Each Other
There is no end to the ways people can take money right under the noses of their significant others. Here are a few examples:
- Selecting the “cash back” option, when paying at the grocery store, gas station or other places,
- Taking money that is supposed to pay for other things, but keeping it,
- Not telling a spouse about a raise or bonus, scratch-off ticket winnings and other unexpected money,
- Hoarding cash, gold coins, or other valuables and hiding them in the garage, attic, office or a storage unit, and
- Selling items online and not telling one’s spouse.
How to Avoid Financial Infidelity
Many people have an underlying communication problem, and money can be a particularly uncomfortable topic. Ignoring this situation will not make it go away. Experts offer these tips to make sure that you and your spouse are honest with each other about money:
- Both parties should handle the financial management tasks. When one person controls all the finances and the other person merely signs papers without reading them, you have a recipe for disaster. No matter how much you might dislike dealing with the bills and other financial matters, you have to protect your future, so that you will not be destitute when you retire. Alternate the bill-paying chores monthly or quarterly.
- Give your financial picture a check-up twice a year. You should both pull your credit reports twice a year and go through them together. Doing this prevents your spouse from having secret bank accounts or investments. Contact an experienced estate planning attorney to update documents.
- Agree on a budget and retirement plan together.
- Get copies of the tax returns and statements from the retirement accounts, investments, and bank accounts right away, if you suspect that something shady is happening.
- Know the signs of financial infidelity. If your spouse is over-controlling or is unwilling to talk about money, you need to get to the bottom of the situation. If the accounts are lower than you thought they should be, or your spouse has changed her wardrobe, lost weight, or has new expensive hobbies, you need to ask questions.
An experienced elder law attorney can help you protect yourself financially.
AARP. “When Your Spouse Cheats on You – Financially.” (accessed April 11, 2019) https://www.thegirlfriend.com/money/spouse-cheats-financially/