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How can I avoid 'financial faithlessness'? | Eyewitness Wants to Know

Infidelity can end a relationship, but there is another type of cheating that is also breaking up couples: financial infidelity.

SAN ANTONIO — Fights about finances are one of the top arguments couples have.

“In fact, it’s the number one or number two thing that they do argue about,” said James Royal, a senior analyst at  BankRate.com.

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) found 73 percent of married or cohabitating Americans say financial decisions are a source of tension in their relationship and financial infidelity is enough to end 40 percent of relationships. BankRate.com found 40 percent of partners keep big financial secrets, the biggest being secret spending.

Financial infidelity is where one partner lies to the other about money. It can take place in two ways. One can be keeping a secret stash of cash.

“This freedom fund, it you will, and it’s kind of their own pot of money to start over if the relationship fails,” said Ted Rossman, also a senior analyst at BankRate.com

Or maybe it is undisclosed debt.

“You owe student loans or have some other credit card debt, outstanding credit card debt, you haven’t informed your partner about,” said Royal.

Here are a few red flags you should watch for:

“You might notice unexplained withdrawals or expenses on your accounts,” said Megan Horner, a credit card and banking expert for Finder.com. “You might see statements for cards or bank accounts that you don’t know about. Maybe your partner is rushing out to get the mail before you do to get these bank statements, so you don’t see them. Another thing is perhaps your partner has a lot of new fancy things.”

“If you’re trying to work together to build out some sort of short-term or long-term financial plan, you need all the information that you have,” said David Almonte, a CPA and AICPA member. “If someone is concealing something, it makes it really difficult to plan for your future when you don’t have all the information.”

Traditionally, couples combine finances. Yet, you might consider trying something different. Think of about accounts as yours, mine and our accounts.

“You can have a joint account where you pay for joint expenses,” Royal said. “Each member of the couple contributes a certain amount to that each month, for example. Then you pay joint expenses out of that and maintain separate account where some other money goes.”

“Everybody gets their own money to spend as they wish, no questions asked,” Rossman said. “But the key is that you have to agree on that ahead of time.”

However, you choose to manage your finances as a couple, be sure you are making decisions together.

“Don’t divide and conquer when it comes to your finances,” Horner said. “Handle them together as a team. Be transparent with each other. Even if you have different bank accounts and credit card accounts, give each other your logins and have this expectation that you can log in and look around any time freely.”

Some believe chats about cash kill the romance, others think it can bring couples closer.

“What’s not sexy is having arguments all the time,” said Almonte. “Get comfortable being uncomfortable. No one likes to talk about money and a lot of other topics, but if you just put that stuff off, it’s going to cause massive relationship issues down the road.”

The most tension tends to be between couples where one partner is a spender and the other is a saver. Here is how to begin to navigate those discussions:

“Let your partner know about purchases before you make them,” Almonte said. “It’s really about having an open and honest conversation with each other, especially needs versus wants because what one person sees as a need, the other person might see as a want.”

Then decide how to fit your needs and wants as a couple into a budget.

“You just got to understand that one thing goes in the budget, something else has to come out, usually,” Almonte said.

Set up regular money meetings.

“My wife and I have tons of conversations like: “Baby, I love you, so let’s make sure that at the end of this it doesn’t come in between us,'" said Almonte. 

“You can discuss how we’re going to spend our money for the upcoming year,” said Royal. “Are we going to take trips or are we going to buy a house?”

Set time aside to have those conversations.

“Have financial date nights,” Horner said. “Sit together once or twice a month and talk about your spending and your financial goals as a couple.”

Almonte suggested this tactic to make sure money conversations do not turn heated:

“If you’re going to have a discussion about a hot topic like money, do it a really nice restaurant because you’re less likely to get into an argument in front of other people.”

Get a professional to help you get the conversation started if you struggle with communicating about cash. Or learn more about how to strengthen your financial compatibility.

If you have a question for Eyewitness Wants To Know, email us at EWTK@kens5.com or call us as 210-377-8647.