We don’t like discovering dirty secrets, and they don’t come much dirtier than lying about money.
Money worries are one of the biggest causes of relationship strain, but the damage can become irreparable if one partner becomes secretive and begins lying about their finances to keep the arguments at bay.
A live interactive web TV bulletin took place this week to help people spot the signs and think about ways to solve the problem.
A Widespread Problem
The issue of secret finances is hardly new. Brits have hidden financial habits from their partners for years now. More than one in ten people have a secret savings stash, while over a million own a secret credit card to hide their spending habits.
But the consequences of surreptitious behaviour are now beginning to rise to the surface in tragic fashion.
A 2013 report revealed that as many as one in ten have separated from a partner or spouse as a result of secret credit card spending. A further 10% have argued with their partner over uncovered secret spending habits, while around 15% said they had lied about their spending because they feared the repercussions.
It’s become a widespread problem, and so ingrained in our culture that millions of us now suspect our partners to be cheating on us financially.
Law firm Slater & Gordon concurs that millions are lying to their partners about how much they spend, how much they owe, and how they are managing joint accounts.
And as a result, it’s becoming necessary for people to learn how to spot the signs of secretive behaviour and how to protect themselves if everything turns sour.
Live Webinar: Is Your Partner Cheating on You – Financially?
When it comes down to it, there’s an awful lot to think about.
- How at risk are you from financial meltdown that you know little about?
- How much damage can be done to a relationship by lying about finances?
- How can you spot the signs?
- What debts are you liable for in a partnership?
- What can happen from a legal standpoint if a relationship or marriage ends?
- And, if you are just starting in your relationship, how can you safeguard your money?
Three experts in the field of relationships, debt, and legal matters addressed some of these issues and answered viewers’ queries.
Anastasia de Waal (Family Lives) said that people had developed a real sense of shame and failure about financial issues, which are increasingly likely to arise within partnerships. It was not simply a case of overspending, she said, but of making ends meet as living standards are squeezed by higher costs.
Overcoming these problems is more likely with openness and honesty, she said. Though we enter relationships nowadays with seperate finances and may be inclined to keep things that way, matters become shared when it comes to more serious arrangements such as loans and mortgages, and at this point they become a joint responsibility.
Paul Crayston (National Debtline) advised people to seek free impartial advice from the National Debtline or Citizens’ Advice if they were concerned about debt issues. Basic budgeting techniques – totalling up income and outgoings – helps to determines what is possible. Those who are struggling financially may well be able to increase income, he said, as huge sums of benefits and tax credits go unclaimed every year.
Debt advice services cover a spectrum of issues, he added, and are required to retain confidentiality in front of those not authorised to know details. It is important for people to admit to themselves that they have a problem, he said, rather than adopting an ‘ostrich scenario’ and burying their heads in the sand.
Caroline Watson (Slater & Gordon) said that, by and large, people are not aware of their responsibilities when it comes to finances. It is important for individuals to be aware whether they are jointly or separately liable for credit, she said, as a joint credit agreement will target the partner most likely to be able to repay in the event of a separation. Equally, in a divorce, one partner can be made responsible for a debt.
She reiterated that it was important to communicate and to try and work issues through before they become out of control. In a stark message, she said it was far better to own up to issues than to be found out – as being discovered was far more likely to lead to a divorce than resolution.
Check out the bulletin for more details and to hear some interesting case studies involving secretive finances.