'Financial Infidelity' Can Cost You

Many spouses would never cheat on each other, yet many questioned in recent surveys admit to a different kind of misstep, one financial adviser and radio host Dave Ramsey and others call "financial infidelity."

And Ramsey says it's not sound financial practice.

"When you're lying about your money, whether it's spending, debt or saving, when it's a secret from your spouse, that's financial infidelity," Ramsey says. "I don't mind anyone having savings, but I mind people hiding it.

"Anytime you have deception in a relationship, whether it's with a spouse or a boss, you're a liar. It breaks the relationship down.

"Unless your spouse has some type of actual disorder, like they are a compulsive gambler, there is no reason to ever hide money or debt from your spouse. It never works out for the best.

"It's OK to have some squirrel money. That's what we call it. My wife squirrels money away, but I know it's there. We call it the decorating fund, because that's what she's going to spend it on."

Ramsey adds, "Unfortunately, I see financial infidelity all the time. Sometimes they say they hide money because they're afraid their spouse will spend it. Sometimes they're afraid their spouse won't give them money when they want it. Sometimes they're afraid to talk to their spouse about money."

What can couples do to come together in this regard?

Among Ramsey's suggestions:

  • Change your pronouns: Don't say "mine" and "yours" anymore. Say "ours": our money, our income, our debt, our future, our mistakes.
  • Have no secrets and no lies. Ever.
  • Write a budget together. When you sit to do it, you're agreeing on your goals. The nerd in the family who likes to do the details can draft the budget. The nerd is usually the one who pays the bills and usually the one who can prepare the plan, but the free spirit of the two has to go over it and add adult input. There should be no hiding or enabling.
  • Allocate some "blow money." Neither spouse should have the attitude that he or she needs a lot of money to spend because it's their right. When you're looking at your whole plan, you know your family needs to eat and your children need to go to college. Obviously, a couple who makes $100,000 is going to have more to spend than a couple who makes $30,000.

    To come up with a clothing budget, for instance, agree on a set amount for clothing to put in an envelope. You can't spend it on anything but clothing, but you can spend it guilt-free and shame-free.

  • Use envelopes to guarantee you stay on the budget. Put the cash that you agree on for categories such as clothing and blow money in the envelopes and stop spending when the envelopes are empty.