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Most households have changed since the 1950s in terms of finances, but women still may not be as up on household economics as we think (or hope). A recent survey by T. Rowe Price found that 34 per cent of parents have at least one secret financial account that their spouse or partner does not know about, and according to the findings the money hoarder tended to be male.

What’s clear, says senior financial planner at T. Rowe Price is that “regardless of whether or not accounts are kept secret, families need to prioritize having financial conversations,” in the response to the surprising (and unsavoury) findings, which included that men were more likely to have secret accounts than women at a ratio of 42 to 25 percent.

The types of hidden accounts the 2015 Parents, Kids and Money Survey uncovered varied, and hidden retirement and investment accounts were less common:

  • 25% of parents surveyed had a secret chequing account
  • 25% had a secret savings account

Now, what to do about it:

Talk about It

“I recommend that both partners be well aware of the finances of the finances in a relationship,” says Dr. Donna Tonrey, a marriage and family therapist at Le Salle University. “One person may take on the responsibility of the physical act of paying the bills, but both people in the relationship should be fully aware of the finances, the budget, the income and the expenses.”

Make Major Purchases Together

Dr. Tonrey further advises couples that decisions on major purchases be made together (with each deciding what dollar amount “major” equates to), and each partner in the couple have access to their own money for personal spending.

Look for Warning Signs

As for warning signs that something covert is cooking, “If a spouse is not willing to share the financial information, and be transparent in all aspects of the finances, this typically means something is being hidden,” says Dr. Tonrey.

Schedule a Date Night In

The couples therapist also recommends couples put a monthly “date in” where they go through all the finances, and stick to it (a few cancellations without rescheduling can make the date seems less important, setting a tone of the financial “date night in” be taken less seriously).

Nurture the Trust and Communicate

Sadly, Dr. Tonrey has worked with couples where financial infidelity has occurred. “I have seen a spouse use all the funds a couple has saved, both savings and retirement, until there was no money left. “When this travesty of trust occurs, she says, not only has trust been shattered and destroyed, but even worse, these deceitful actions leave the unknowing spouse with an insecure financial reality in the present and future.

“The best way to prevent financial infidelity is for couples to communicate openly from the get-go about all aspects of the relationship, and each partner needs to be willing to protect the trust that the couple has worked hard to establish and build.” Still, it’s never too late to open the floodgates of communication with your life partner.

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