‘It’s toxic to any relationship’: Financial infidelity can split up couples, wreak economic havoc

WESTWOOD, Mass. — Many marriages and committed relationships have a problem with fidelity and it has nothing to do with what might first come to mind.

It’s financial infidelity which means one partner is keeping secrets about money from their significant other.

These might start as innocent omissions or white lies, but they can quickly snowball into serious problems.

Chuck Zodda, the managing partner and a financial advisor at the Armstrong Advisory Group in Needham, said “It’s something that comes up more frequently than you think.”

We talked to patrons of the Muffin House Café in Westwood about financial infidelity and one man said he keeps a secret bank account.

A woman told us, “It’s toxic to any relationship to have secrets, regardless of what it is, let alone if it’s financial.”

Financial infidelity could be an undercover credit card, a love of gambling, undisclosed college debt, or an insatiable shopping appetite.

A survey by www.bankrate.com found that 39% of adults who are married, in a civil partnership, or living together admit to having kept a financial secret from their partner.

52% of the respondents say financial cheating is just as bad as physical cheating.

12% say it’s actually worse.

Zodda says a little lie can cause a big problem down the line.

“When you talk about trying to buy a house and one spouse thinks everything is free and clear and ready to go and they get to the credit check, and they find out their spouse hasn’t paid a credit card in 10 years and their credit is shot.”

He says good communication is key.

“I think a very good way to start is simply by having a conversation and saying look, ‘I think we need to be financially transparent with each other,’ and taking the lead and saying, ‘Here’s where I’m coming from, here are my assets, here are my liabilities’.”

Charlotte Frazier, an associate professor of psychology at Lasell University in Newton, said financial infidelity “calls the whole relationship into question.”

She says that figuring out the finances is only part of the equation.

“For some partners, the assumption might be that if you were dishonest about this, what else might you be dishonest about?”

She says couples need to talk about what initiated this behavior. Why did one partner feel they didn’t want to talk about their desire to spend money on something?

Financial experts suggest couples set a limit for purchases for each partner.

For example, anything under $100 can be done without consent. Anything over that amount requires both members to give the OK.

The www.bankrate.com survey found Gen Z couples are more than twice as likely to keep a financial secret from their partner as their Boomer counterparts.

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