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Don’t commit financial infidelity

By Marcie Geffner ·
Monday, October 10, 2011
Posted: 12 pm ET

Withholding financial information from your spouse can be a sign that your marriage is unhealthy, even if the deception is well-intended.

That's according to Gail Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or NFCC, in Washington, D.C.

The organization recently conducted an online poll of 1,400 people through its website and found that 76 percent said they'd inform their spouse of financial difficulties so they could work together to resolve the problem. But the other 24 percent said they wouldn't tell their spouse because the spouse was unaware of the debt, they feared the spouse would become worried or they believed disclosure would damage the relationship.

To facilitate positive conversations about financial issues, the NFCC offered the following recommendations:

  • Don't approach the subject in the heat of battle. Instead, set aside a time that's convenient and nonthreatening.
  • Make the conversation casual, respecting the fact that each spouse has valid opinions and concerns.
  • Be honest about your financial situation.
  • Be open to adjusting your lifestyle.
  • Don't commit financial infidelity by hiding income or debt.
  • Don't point the finger of blame.
  • Try to understand each spouse's long-held financial attitudes.
  • Acknowledge that one spouse may be a saver and the other a spender and that both mindsets have benefits.
  • Make a plan to deal with any skeletons that come out of the financial closet.
  • Make a budget that includes savings for emergencies.
  • Decide who will be responsible for paying monthly bills.
  • Give each spouse some financial independence, setting aside money to be spent at his or her discretion.
  • Agree on short-term and long-term individual and family goals.
  • Discuss whether lending money to family members and friends is OK or a no-no.
  • Talk about caring for your parents as they age and appropriately planning for their financial needs, if necessary.
  • Don't delay or procrastinate.

"Court records show that financial stress is one of the main causes of divorce," Cunningham warns. "Taking action now could prevent a disaster later."

Follow me on Twitter: @marciegeff

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