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Money and Marriage: Do You Hide Money from Your Spouse?

The following is a guest post from Victoria at Lend Not Borrow.  Thanks for the contribution!

I’m not married but I’ve been involved in conversations with married men and women who claim they hide money from their spouse. In the beginning I thought this level of “infidelity” was a rare and unusual thing, but the more I observe the more I see it is a common thing.

As a matter of fact, many married individuals who hide money from their spouse don’t see it as an issue, just as a way to secure a financial cushion for themselves. I think we’ve all heard women laugh at hiding purchases from their husbands and it seems like the stakes have gotten higher. So the question is, do YOU hide money from your spouse? And if so, why?

Do You Hide Money?

I went around and began asking married individuals (some I knew and some were strangers) if they had money hidden from their spouse. I believe I got the most truthful information from the strangers and not so truthful from those I knew. One coworker I asked stated he doesn’t hide money and if he DID he would still say he didn’t. Most of the people who stated they didn’t hide money also included that they know someone who does. My observation concluded that there are more people who hide money in some form than not.

Reasons to Hide Money

Once I asked the question of “do you hide money?” I then asked “why”. I got various answers but the most common were “because he/she spends so much money I need a cushion they don’t know about” or “the money I had prior to us getting married is mine only- they have no rights to that.”

Now I know Dave Ramsey would cringe at these responses. If you have ever listened to the Dave Ramsey show, you would know that his response to “financial infidelity” (his words, not mine) is forbidden and leads to divorce. As I speak to these individuals, however, I find that some have been married for 20+ years and don’t hide the funds to be malicious, but to create a savings and a cushion from their spending fanatic spouse.

Where is the Money?

Of course I had to ask where the secret stash of money is located! Many people have separate accounts their spouse don’t know about. Others stash the money the old fashioned way in a cookie jar or under a mattress somewhere. I asked what would happen if something happened that the spouse would need to access the funds. Many just shrugged their shoulder or gave me the I-never-thought-of-that-before look.

As I do research on the subject I see the concept of hiding money is parallel to hiding assets and divorce (so maybe Dave Ramsey has a point). I personally don’t agree about hiding money from a spouse BUT I also know that every situation is personal and unique. People respond based off of the reality and perception of their situation.

I am always interested to see how people view this topic- so please share your thoughts. When do you think it is ok to hide money from a spouse?

Crystal’s Comments:  I completely understand protecting yourself, but my opinion is that it is hard to stay married to anyone you have to protect yourself from.  So no, I do not hide money from Mr. BFS.  If I ever felt like I had to, I would be supremely worried about our future together period.

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32 comments to Money and Marriage: Do You Hide Money from Your Spouse?

  • No, I don’t hide money from my wife. I agree with your comments at the end Crystal. “Truth in marital finances” is just a best practice for long term happiness.

  • No I don’t hind money. I don’t know how long someone can keep up with hiding money. I feel like it get tiring! Plus of course there’s the trust issue…

  • No, I don’t hide money from my spouse. I think it can be a bad sign if you hide money – because it’s clear you’re not on the same page financially, and it may be impossible to get there.

  • Yeah I agree, I don’t think you should hide money from your spouse…you are basically saying that you don’t trust them and trust is one of the cornerstones of marriage. I think this sort of thing can lead to other problems down the road. Great post though….very thought provoking.

  • My wife and I don’t hide money from each other. But we have assets that are able to be liquified quickly if we ever needed a ‘secret’ stash of cash to pay an unexpected expense.

  • I think the real issue with folks who say they hide money because their spouse spends too much is that they are clearly financially incompatible. If a saver and a spender get married they have to work out a compromise or a system that works for them; ignoring it leads to situations like this and possibly a divorce.

    In my marriage we never hid assets or money from each other and we were both good savers and fairly frugal. I will admit to being a bit devious when we filed for divorce 11 years later, however.

    My state is a community property state, which means that any assets acquired during the marriage are shared 50/50. However, any assets a person had before the marriage are retained by that person and not counted as part of the asset pool as long as the person can prove they had the assets before the marriage.

    My ex-husband was able to present bank statements showing he had a certain amount of cash before the marriage. I was able to do the same, but I only had a bit over $1,000 in the bank when we got married. (Not because I was a shopaholic or anything, but I had been paying down student loans and working at non-profits for years.) I didn’t want to sell the house and he was more than happy to take cash instead of real estate. As we calculated the split of the marital assets it became clear that I would be left with only that $1,000 in cash at the time of the divorce. So he got all the cash and I got the house, a new mortgage, and only that $1,000 as an EF.

    But, here’s the devious part: I also was the one covering his medical expenses through my insurance plan, and this included a medical flexible spending account. Any out of pocket medical expenses not covered by insurance would get submitted to the FSA for reimbursement. I switched the account to stop direct deposits to our joint checking and instead to be sent me to as checks in the mail. So I collected all these checks for several months in an envelope that I carried around. After the divorce was final, I deposited them in my personal checking account. They amounted to about $5,000, which gave me a greater EF and cushion immediately after the divorce.

    I don’t feel bad about this, especially since much of the FSA reimbursements were for counseling services I needed to get through the divorce. I don’t hate him and we’re still on good terms, but the last three years of that marriage were awful.

  • My husband and I do not hide money from one another. We keep everything TOTALLY joint, no personal spending money. While I don’t know if hiding money should rise to the level of “infidelity,” especially in the case of it being for the spouse’s own good, it definitely counts as lying, which I don’t do. I think hiding money indicates a major communication and trust problem and I would encourage anyone doing it to seek counseling.

    I think it’s cool you went around asking people about this. I did that a couple weeks ago with joint vs. separate money within a marriage and it sparked several really interesting conversations. I’ve never talked with anyone who admitted to hiding money from his/her spouse.

  • I do not hide money from my spouse. I manage the finances, so there is no way my husband can spend money without me knowing it. HOWEVER, we did go through a period where we tried to do the “fun money” account thing. After a month, I found out he was using an old credit card and racking up debt, thinking that he could just pay it off with this account. That did NOT go over well with me. I am very strict about being open and honest about everything. Since then, I’ve made an effort to give him more leeway with expenses so that he doesn’t feel he has to hide anything from me and he has become SO much better with money. I think he likes seeing how far we’ve come and how much debt we’ve paid off and how we can live better without our debt holding us back.

  • One of my good friends never told his wife how much he earned. He would gamble and did not want her to know. When he died, he left her with debt and very little money. He did leave her with a pension. A spouse should take some interest in this and be suspicious if the other is untruthful.

    In an intimate relationship, there should be no secrets.

  • I don’t believe in hiding money. If the thought were to cross my mind, it would mean we have a relationship problem. Most likely if we fixed the problem there wouldn’t be a need to hide money.

  • I agree- honesty really is the best policy! It amazed me how many people found ways to rationalize hiding money and/or even hiding purchases from their spouse.

    Much thanks to Crystal for posting this!

  • Hmm, I don’t really see a problem with having your own personal slush fund and I don’t think it’s necessarily a sign that your marriage is in trouble. But I’m single. And I still hide money from myself!

  • I’m always curious how married people surprise their spouses if they share finances. I know we always focus on the bad things that can happen, but what about the fun, good stuff?

  • weirdfish

    I have been secretly hiding money from my spouse now for about 8 months, every paycheque I move a certain amount into a sub-account in my ING account that he never asks about. But…. it is for a surprise vacation I want to take him on when he is finished school. I know he will be sooo excited when I just randomly say, “hey we’re going to the airport tomorrow, better start packing!” I think this type of “hiding” money will actually help our marriage!

  • ODWO

    My wife and I share everything … checking/savings accounts, and all retirement accounts, Roth(s), etc. etc. etc…..

    In my opinion only, IF .. if one of the parties are a Rockefeller, and the other one a Trump (you get the picture) … then they have their own money already. It’s already their money before the pre-numpt! Otherwise, anything made between both parties during their marriage is considered “their combined incomes.” Again, IMHO only, it is hard to have trust, and equality if one or both parties are taking measures to have their own money (secretly), and/or hide/keep it away from the other spouse (we are talking about married couples). Not the best recipe for love, future wealth and success either. (and no wonder some people are not married – no offense to those who may not be married, I’m talking about the distrust, can’t commit for all the right reasons, all about “me” type of thinking)

    Now, Weirdfish (post above) does have an interesting story … but other than that, if the money is deposited into a joint account, then there are no (real) secrets. Both parties have access to “the details” and they work out their budget and plans for their future. No matter how it is divvied up from there.

    We both spend with thrift in mind. We BOTH know what we have and any “higher than normal” expenses are talked about together. No hidden purchases, splurges, secret accounts, etc. Heck, I have to trick her into going out and buying things. She’s not a miser, but she isn’t one to shop (Go figure. A woman) :) . In the world of finance and “savings,” we do well. There’s nothing we want that the other person wouldn’t be a part of anyway, barring any surprises for each other. But speaking of that, we both can’t keep any secrets anyway :) and any surprises are usually talked about ahead of time (the expenses). You know what they say … There is no “I” in Team. Having said all this, there are those few couples who have what it takes to be married. The hard part is just finding each other. The rest seems to take care of itself.

  • My girlfriend and I don’t hide money. Since we aren’t married yet we don’t have combined finances but if she has a question about money I’ll be more than happy to tell her and vice versa.

  • We don’t hide money from each other – but that may be a result of us having started dating at 15 and 18 years old – neither of us had any money when we started dating! Now, we do have joint and separate accounts, but we’re an open book (with each other). We keep track of our accounts and I take on the task of paying ALL of the bills… whether it’s from my bank account or his.

  • So I am not married and don’t have a significant other to hide assets from. Like you said in the article I can see why people might do that but I can’t see that it is efficient. You are not only carrying more stress but you aren’t getting the most bang out of those hidden bucks – especially if it’s in a lock box somewhere.

  • NO! That’s my response to hiding money from a spouse.

    I really think it’s important for a couple to be a team, and be able to be honest with each other (and themselves), while having the ability to compromise.

    There is a friend I have who told me that he hides some money from his wife, but he does it for the reason of saving it for their retirement. He loves her very much, but she spends and spends emotionally without thinking of retirement or the future. His motives are good, in that he’s protecting her (and them) from her. That said, I still think it’s better to deal with the underlying issues head on rather than hide.

  • I don’t hide money from my wife even though I easily could since she shows no interest at all in our finances! In fact I try to keep her informed of where our money is rather than hiding it.

  • Michelle

    We have a joint checking and seperate checking accounts but we don’t hide anything from each other. If anything I try to hide money from myself in savings accounts (my husband takes care of all the money transfers to savings accounts)and in our piggy bank (which is our hurricane evacuation fund).

  • My fiance and I don’t hide money from each other. We haven’t quite combined our finances yet (though it’s coming) but we’ve made a commitment to be very open about how we stand. Any given day I can have access to how his investments and credit card debts are standing, and he has the ability to know what’s in my bank account, where it goes, and how my student loans stand.

    If either of us ever felt the need to hide money from each other I’d be very, very concerned.

  • I’m by no means a relationship expert, but it always seemed to me that “trust” was the key, and any kind of lying or hiding from a spouse just seems like a flat out bad idea to me. If your other half is really bad with money and goes off on spending sprees with your joint accounts, shouldn’t there be a serious conversation had about your finances? I think taking steps to help them in their money management, rather than just going and opening an account to keep money in so they don’t spend it, would be a better idea and would make everything better. What if he/she finds out about this secret money wouldn’t that cause even more problems later on down the road?

  • Absolutely! When I got married, (more than 20 years ago), I didn’t quit being me. Women, especially, need, that’s NEED, the ability to be independent. More women are, indeed, independent nowadays, but I grew up in the sixties.

    Now the funny thing is that over the years, hubby and I have “agreed” to just look the other way about our personal money (and I am not talking about $25/month like Dave Ramsey does….I am talking more on the level that I bought myself a car this year and paid cash for it, from my savings.) So, I know he has money and he knows I have money, but after some years, we came to a mutual agreement not to meddle in the others’ money. Eventually, last year, I decided to go ahead and name him as a co-owner on my personal accounts SO THAT if I die, he won’t have to work so hard to get to the money.

    Now, this is where trust really comes in. I trust him to stay out of my money (that used to be hidden) and he does the same with me. And we both honor that trust.

    But it all came about as the result of me reading a book: How to Hide Money from Your Husband! :-) And I still stand by my original statement: women, for their own safety, need to have money that they can get to in an emergency.

    We do still have our joint account that we use to pay the mortgage, utilities, etc., and it has worked very well for us.

  • @gharkness, it sounds like you two have separate finances other than the main bills, not hidden money exactly. Am I missing something?

    As for protecting oneself, wouldn’t joint accounts be available in case of the need for emergency money? And if you are protecting yourself from a man/woman that would withdraw it all to leave you penniless, I think I would want to reevaluate my relationship decision. Plus, at least some money is usually only very easily accessible by one party – like the Roth IRA in my name or Mr. BFS’s pension. And we could always use our credit line if we had to. Overall, I do not think separate finances would be my key to happiness.

  • Well, yes, we have separate finances, but it started out differently than that, and then morphed into separate finances, and even still, we have separate cash reserves. We just keep them in the safe now – his “stash” and my “stash” which we do not share. That’s because I am lucky to have a husband who understands and encourages such things; not all people do. If he didn’t, though, then I would have hidden money. Not as much hidden money, but I would always have something set aside.

    If you ever run across an old copy of the book I mentioned, you should get it. Not necessarily to adopt it yourself, but to understand better why someone would want to do that. She explains the reasoning much better than I, and I only have a few lines to type in…she took up the whole book.

    While it’s wonderful that we all have wonderful marriages in which we trust our husbands and they trust us, when we discover we need cash for an emergency (NOW, not in a week when the IRA disbursement would arrive) that we didn’t anticipate under circumstances we also didn’t anticipate, it’s too late then.

    The good thing, though, is that it’s a choice. If you don’t choose to do that…then that’s fine!

  • I found $5 in the dryer once and didn’t put it into the “found money” jar because I wanted some Starbucks.

    Beyond that, no, no hidden money. We each get spending money to do with as we please, and if he were to be saving it for an emergency exit fund, that’s his choice. Though I might ask why he feels he NEEDS an emergency exit fund.

  • Though to add to that, he is a boy scout and we are both on the “be prepared” bandwagon. Life does crazy things and we may have integrated our DVDs, but books and CDs are kept separate, and even the DVDs have sticker denoting whose is whose in the case of separation. I wouldn’t take it personally if he had a stash of emergency exit money, but then once we’re making more than $5 more a month than we NEED, it would be great if we each had one.

  • Renee Balla

    Yes, I hide money from my husband. My husband cheated on me about a year ago. I have given him another chance, but this time I am hiding money Just incase he does it again- then I am gone & I have some money to start over with. Only problem with hiding the money is I have to keep moving it. I need to find a place where it wont be found. I cant put it in a savings account because if we ever were to get divorced he would get 50% of it. Any ideas where to hide money??

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