| May 4, 2012

Working together to overcome financial infidelity

Infidelity can take its toll on relationships, but many couples fail to realize there are different types of this transgression. Financial infidelity is a common, but often overlooked, scenario in marriages and couples that are living together. Several studies have shown that many couples admit to hiding some element of their finances from the other, ranging from additional income and secret accounts to the amount of credit card debt they currently carry.

A recent study conducted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants reveals three in 10 individuals admit to committing some form of financial infidelity, CNNMoney reports. The survey results also show that 7 percent have not told their spouse about work bonuses or other additional sources of income, and 4 percent have withdrawn large amounts of money from a joint fund in secret. In addition, another 4 percent admit to maintaining a secret savings or retirement account.

These types of transgressions can not only cause fissures in a couple's relationship, but also significantly damage their financial future. Many individuals report that financial infidelities often occur as a result of differences in spending and saving habits, or disagreements about financial priorities. There are several ways couples can become more open with each other about their financial situations and work together to set and accomplish mutual goals.

First, it's important for individuals to discuss what they want to achieve, and to decide which goals will take priority. For example, one spouse may want to bolster their retirement savings, while the other wants to plan a family vacation. Finding a compromise that will satisfy each individual can be a good first step in rethinking spending and savings habits. For example, they may decide to allocate a certain percentage of their income toward retirement, and place another fixed amount in a separate savings fund for vacation planning.

It's also important for couples to talk about their respective spending habits and come up with a budget that allows each individual to feel fulfilled. For example, savers can negotiate that a certain percentage of their paychecks go toward a savings account, while spenders may carve out a certain amount of their income to go toward their own goals.

Lastly, working with a professional, such as a credit counselor, can be an effective way for couples to discuss their money issues, set mutual goals and find new ways of managing their finances that leave them both content.  

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