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Eighty percent of Americans surveyed confessed to hiding purchases from a spouse or spending money their spouse didn’t know about, according to a study commissioned by CESI Debt Solutions.
The good news? A new survey released in January 2011 from CESI Debt Solutions shows that this secret spending is down in the new year: 77 % of women say they have cut back on the amount of purchases they are hiding from their spouse; 54% of men have cut back.
CESI Debt Solutions calls this behavior “financial infidelity,” and notes that 30% of the survey respondents think financial infidelity is just as bad as sexual infidelity. CESI has dubbed the result “Sexually Transmitted Debt.”
While it may not drive down your credit score, having a spouse in debt can adversely affect your qualify of life in a number of ways: especially if you are buying a house or making another joint purchase. A lower credit score — the result of missing payments or having a high debt-to-available credit ratio — can mean higher homeowner’s insurance and car insurance rates, too.
Additionally, if your spouse dies, in certain states you could be saddled with paying off their credit card debt — even if it’s not part of a joint account.
Stress, Health Problems and Marital Problems
If you are one of the 80 % of Americans hiding debt from your spouse, it’s creating added stress in your life, which can lead to health problems, depression and other issues that won’t help your debt go away — but could even make the situation worse.
At the very least, not being open about your issues could prevent you from finding a solution to the problem. It’s not so much the amount of spending you’re hiding, either. Telling white lies about even the smallest purchases could be a problem, according to experts at CESI Debt Solutions.
“Couples that won’t honestly talk to their partners about spending will open up to us because they feel safe. So, we often find that the people who keep even small purchases hidden from their spouse are suffering from bigger debt problems,” says Neil Ellington, executive vice president of CESI Debt Solutions. “This inherited debt can be quite problematic on the health of a relationship. That’s why honesty and open communication about money has to be a priority in the relationship.”
By coming clean about money problems and purchases, you can work as a team with your partner to fix the problem. Maybe it means re-structuring your budget so your spouse takes on more of the household bills and you can afford to pay more toward credit cards each month, or transferring balances to a lower interest credit card — and then freezing or cutting up the paid off credit cards.
In the case of serious problems, it could help to speak with a marriage counselor specializing in money issues, as well as a not-for-profit debt counselor like CESI Debt Solutions or another firm you can find through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
Why Don’t More Married Couples Talk About Money?
On the surface, married people have good justification for hiding their secret spending; 60% say they won’t talk about it to avoid problems at home. Additionally:
- 46% say they are paying off the debt and their spouse “doesn’t need to know.”
- 43% want to avoid an argument
- 19.9% are worried it could end the relationship
- Only 11 % are planning to tell their spouse, but “aren’t ready yet”
An alarming 27% say they will never tell their spouse about their spending habits and credit card debt. But spending spouses’ fears that coming clean will ruin their relationship seem to be unfounded. According to the survey, 60% of married couples say they would forgive their partner for secret spending — and would buy their spouse a gift for Valentine’s Day or another holiday.