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Hiding money from your spouse can ruin your marriage and finances. Learn how you two can instead sync up with your money and goals!

It's time for another reader question! As always, you can send yours in by filling out this form!

Hiding Vacation Bonus Money at Work

This weekend I received an email from M about a situation that he noticed at work.

Here's what M shared with me:

At work today, I thought of your blog when we received our vacation paychecks which is what my company pays us for any unused vacation time.  

Normally, the policy is that you use the vacation time or lose it, but this year, management wanted to reach a certain number of earned work hours and decided to pay workers for unused vacation time, thus providing an incentive working towards the earned hours goal versus taking vacation time.

So when we received our vacation checks today, some of my co-workers were like kids in the candy shop because this is money that their wives won't know about.  

Wives don't exactly know how much vacation time their husband has used or accrued during the year.  So when the vacation paychecks were received in hand, some of my co-workers were thinking about electronic gadgets to buy or planning to go out and have a good time.

Since your blog deals with building financial freedom together,  do you think this is alright when my co-workers splurge a bit with money that their significant other won't know about?  

Or do you think my co-workers should tell their significant others about their vacation checks and put it towards their financial goals?

Is This Financial Infidelity?

Quick take – secret money – whether it's a bank account, windfall, credit cards – is a form of financial infidelity.

Financial infidelity is more common than you think. 

A recent survey conducted for National Endowment for Financial Education® (NEFE®) revealed that two in five Americans admitted to committing financial infidelity

It's not only harmful financially, but it can ruin a relationship.

It’s a wide net and it can be scary both as the spouse in the dark and believe it or not, the one doing it.

Breaking trust is a huge issue that takes time to repair (if ever).

I suspect there's something deeper going on here, but we only have the information given, so here's my take on the situation based on what was shared.

Why Spouses Hide Money

Whenever there's an issue where one or both spouses are hiding money, there's usually something deeper going on beyond the finances.

A few of the most common reasons given are:

‘They'll Spend It All'

Instead of hiding the money, a more long term for both your marriage and finances is working with professional who specializes with

‘I'm Going to Just Put It Towards Our Goals'

Here's another situation where having a neytral third party can help.

You can work with a certified financial planner or financial therapist who can sit down with you two and help you craft a plan that you're both excited about.

‘It's My Money So I Should Spend It How I Want'

Every couple handles their money differently, but one trait I've seen with sucessful couples is that they work together on their goals.

Yes, some do have a mix of joint and separate accounts, but they still their money as a joint effort.

Overcoming Financial Infidelity

How can you move forward after one spouse (or both of you) has committed financial infidelity?

Tai and Talaat McNeely, the talented creators behind His and Her Money dealt with it early in their engagement and marriage.

You can listen to their story here on the podcast, but here are some of the key steps they took to rebuild that trust.

  • Sought outside help
  • Had regular conversations
  • Talaat owned up
  • Finances became transparent – maybe more so than they would have before, but regaining that trust was important to both of them
  • They decided to tackle the debts together. 

It was not an overnight process, but the two of them were able to tackle it together.

They're now completely debt free, including their house, and more importantly, they are closer and stronger as a marred couple.

A Better Way to Work Together with your Money and More!

We view our marriage as a team and when one wins, so does the other.

Now I do believe that there should be some fun money in the budget and when windfalls come in like bonuses, a little more should be allocated to celebrate.

It sounded like M and their co-worker put in some longer hours, so yes, that should be rewarded.

However, they need to work with their spouses and allocate that money towards the goals that matter most to them.

About Elle Martinez

Elle Martinez helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second..

5 comments add your comment

  1. I think that if I were in this situation (and debt free) I’d probably put the money in savings or use it to have some fun with my partner. Just because one of us got a bonus doenst mean that person should keep/spend it all to themselves. They were able to work more/harder because the other person may have been picking up extra duties around the house.
    Share it and do something fun with each other (like a staycation) You’ll both enjoy it more.

  2. I am a financial writer and personal money coach. One tool I commonly use with my coaching clients is the spending diary. No big deal really in that all that is required is that you log every instance of spending on a daily basis.

    More often than not, when working with couples, one or both of them try to veto the idea for one reason or another. There is no valid reason to not want to participate in this exercise, in my opinion. And what I have learned is the reluctance is because one of them or both are doing some spending on the sly that they do not want exposed.

    I won’t work with fudged numbers and if they hold-fast in their refusal then I always cease my relationship with them. And almost always the relationship between the couple ends, as well. If you are willing to cheat or lie about any one thing then you are willing to cheat and lie about anything…I’m just saying…

  3. In my opinion, hiding is never good. You could previously think about what to do with it and discuss it with the spouse. Chances you will exchange ideas and maybe even agree (yes, agreeing exists in a lot of couples)! But buying the new TV without your spouse knowing is simply stupid. She will ask where that money comes from, why did you buy this while we got this and that to pay, etc. It will end up in some battle and incomprehension. Talking is always better, and men, please, do you really fear your wife that much?!

  4. I must admit that since I handle the finances in our household and DH isn’t all that interested in doing more than (seemingly) spending whatever we have, when I won $1K in a sweepstakes not long ago, my initial response— well, okay, my initial response was to jump up and down and squeal, so my second response was to think briefly about not telling my husband about the windfall. Why? Because he’s already spent $4K this year on a shed and the landscaping for it because he thinks he needs it (not because it fits into our budget or financial situation anywhere). I was literally afraid his reaction would be something like, “Great! Now I can get the XYZ for the shed!” or another motorcycle or another guitar or whatever. After that brief thought flitted in and out, I *did* tell him about the prize money, and none of those concerns happened – he was simply very happy for me. But it’s possible that the husbands mentioned by the person asking the question may feel that their spouses take all the money for important stuff like food, paying bills, etc., and here’s their big chance to get some toys that they won’t be able to get if they have to cough up the money. OR, more like my situation, their spouses tend to spend a little recklessly and they didn’t want the newfound money disappearing like that.

    In the end, while I may understand and slightly empathize with keeping the money secret for whatever reason, I don’t think it’s a good idea at all. As you say, a small secret can come back later as a big honkin’ secret that causes a lot of trouble. Just my two cents.