A few weeks back, a reader named Randy sent me a tip about an article dealing with money and (in)fidelity. While the concept of infidelity is typically used in the context of adultery, infidelity is more generally defined as disloyalty. The article then goes on to discuss the concept of financial infidelity — that is, keeping financial secrets from your spouse.
Financial infidelity comes in a variety of shapes an sizes, ranging from lying about how much something cost or hiding a purchase to maintaining a secret credit card or bank account. Of course, marital infidelity and financial infidelity often go hand-in-hand (consider Elliot Spitzer and his $5k call girls), but that’s not always the case.
While many instances of financial infidelity are relatively inconsequential, the article details some whoppers. Consider, for example, the woman in a rocky marriage took extra cash back every week when she bought groceries — after 25 years, she ended up with $250k in a bank account in her sister’s name. Or the guy who ran up $20k in credit card debt in the span of 18 months using four cards that his wife didn’t know he had.
How much is too much?
According to a recent survey, 48% of respondents in a serious relationship admitted to some sort of financial infidelity. The survey further found that spending between $100-$500 without telling their partner was okay, and 3% said that spending up to $5k without consulting their significant other was okay.
My wife and I are actually very open about our spending decisions. I think that a big part of this has been that we’ve had joint finances since we got engaged close to 13 years ago. Since we’re almost always on the same page spending-wise, we don’t typically consult each other about minor purchases. That being said, we’ve never really defined where the minor vs. major cutoff lies. The article suggests that an “average” couple should draw the minor vs. major line somewhere around $200, though the optimal cutoff is likely to vary with your financial circumstances.
What about you?
What are your spending policies? And have you ever committed financial infidelity?