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Are You and Your Spouse Talking About Money Enough?



When Elle from finance blog Couple Money and her husband got engaged, she thought managing money would be a “piece of cake.” [1] But nothing about finances is ever easy.

“Very quickly we discovered we had different ideas on money!” she says. “I came from a background where if you can afford the payments, you were good. My husband was much more conservative and cautious with money.”

They cobbled together a plan to manage their finances despite these differences, and even had enough extra money to develop an emergency fund. But while they’ve made peace with their finances through communication, most other couples haven’t.

Being married gives you a leg up financially (two incomes are better than one, after all). New research from the Journal of Consumer Research reveals that couples who combine finances actually benefit from extra security that helps prevent and protect against future relationship problems, financial or otherwise. [2]

But the truth is that managing money as a couple comes with problems of its own, such as a lack of dialogue on money, financial infidelity, and even divorce. But the good news is that we have some tips on how to avoid all three.

Miscommunication harms your financial future together

It all starts going downhill when you avoid talking about the elephant in the room – how is money going to work in your marriage?

Six in 10 millennials and Gen Z’ers have “withheld at least one piece of key personal financial information from their partners,” reports financial services company Bread Financial. [3] Over half of couples said they have rifts about shopping and purchase habits when they combine their money.

And the less you have your finances together, the less you’re prepared for life’s random and financially disastrous nature.

We don’t like to think about losing a loved one, but the fact remains that couples aren’t ready to handle the costs of divorce or the death of a spouse. In fact, found that a startling number of people aren’t financially prepared for death, and 55% of family members are willing to take on debt to pay for their loved one’s funeral. Those that took on this type of debt felt anxious about being unable to pay other bills to cover funeral costs.

“We want to teach Americans how to plan so they aren’t stuck with high-interest debt after the casket gets lowered into the ground,” says President Don Silvestri. “Planning ahead for the possibility of death, divorce, or other major life events may not sound like fun, but it’s necessary to avoid financial catastrophe.”

Financial infidelity damages trust

Nearly 2 in 5 married Americans are lying to their partners about how they’re spending their money – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. [4] Of those that are keeping secrets, 12% have a secret credit card, while 10% have hidden debt. Fifteen percent keep either a savings account or checking account that their spouse doesn’t know exists.

Financial infidelity covers many things, but it boils down to knowingly withholding important financial information from your partner. That can take a lot of different forms:

  • Keeping your full income a secret
  • Hiding a bank account from a spouse when you have a joint account together
  • Opening a credit card your significant other doesn’t know about
  • Hiding money before divorce so it’s not included in the settlement
  • Using a partner’s credit card or credit identity without their knowledge
  • Secretly saving money from your spouse so they don’t spend it

Here’s what a few financial experts have to say about it…

Video Transcript

David Auten from The topic of money is not a sexy topic or an endearing topic. Especially when you hold on to or have some inhibitions or fears, or you’re actually hiding something.

Shani Curry, What I see more than the infidelity is probably more financial divorce. So you’ll have people that are inside of a marriage that is operating very separately with their money. So you don’t even have the opportunity to cheat, because they have already got a feel for your habits, how you relate to money, and decided to have a financial separation.

Bethany Bayless, So we do a lot of work with the military especially, and there are times when military members are on deployment and it’s a really difficult time for spouses back at home. And one of the biggest ways they can cope with that is with retail therapy.

Tracie Fobes, It’s that stay-at-home-mom standpoint that she’s filling a void. She doesn’t have that social interaction. She’s looking for and she’s trying to fill something that’s missing on a personal level with stuff.

Financial infidelity creates a divide in your relationship. No matter what form it takes, it breeds mistrust between you and your partner, which is probably going to turn into a pretty ugly fight when they find out.

And yes – that’s a when, not an if.

“Any time you get into these kinds of things where you are operating behind the scenes, it usually comes out at some point,” says Dallas-based marriage and family therapist Corey Allan. “We can’t keep things hidden, especially in today’s technological world. Any spouse who has any kind of suspicion can become a detective and find it.”

Either way, neither party likes it when financial matters aren’t transparent. If you suspect your partner is hiding money from you, there are a few ways to spot financial infidelity.

If you can’t get into bank accounts or look at statements, tax returns, or other financial documents, you may want to check with your spouse first to see if the blame falls to the banking institution or them.

Has a random credit card bill appeared? Did you get a notice for something you don’t recall buying and you know your partner didn’t mention? It could be a sign.

Is your budget a mess? Go over every line item and compare it to your accounts. Something could be missing.


Looking for a better, faster, easier way to budget? has partnered with Tiller to bring you easy-to-use budgeting spreadsheets.

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Money problems can cause divorce

Almost 40% of Americans confirm money management issues are the main reason behind their divorce, according to a 2023 survey from That same amount also claimed that “disagreements on big purchases” were a specific factor.

Don Silvestri explains that although divorce rarely boils down to one simple component, money can definitely lead to marital troubles. And the blame isn’t always on personal spending – economic factors also play a role.

“It’s quite apparent from these results that a sour economy has also soured some marriages. While it’s impossible to attribute divorce specifically to inflation and other economic factors, it’s clear they’re being cited more often as primary causes,” he said.

Across the board, divorced couples knew less about their spouse’s salary, student loan debt, bill payment history, long-term financial goals, retirement savings, and credit score.’s poll reveals that thirty-six percent of divorcees hide debt from their spouse.

How to manage your finances in marriage

Conversations about money should happen at the beginning of a relationship, not towards the end when problems become too big to handle. In Northwestern Mutual’s 2023 Planning & Progress Study, nearly a third of Americans agree these conversations should happen before things get serious. Couples can start small by discussing financial goals and spending habits, then talks can build into future savings plans as the relationship progresses. [5] founder and CPA Howard Dvorkin also believes that earlier is always better when it comes to having the money talk.

“You need to know that your partner’s goals are aligned with your own or it will eventually create friction in your relationship,” Dvorkin explains. “If one person is a saver and the other is a spender, it doesn’t mean the relationship is doomed. However, you need to be open and honest so you can figure out how to move forward together as a couple.”

Thankfully, communication with your spouse is at least partially in your control. Here are a few tips on how to blend your finances effectively:

Appoint a treasurer

Who is the person who’s going to pay the bills and control spending? This isn’t necessarily the person who earns the most money. It should be the one who spends it. For example, if your wife pays the bills, it’s wise to appoint her as the treasurer.

This doesn’t mean that you have no say in your finances. On the contrary, a couple should make decisions together. But for regular expenses, someone needs to manage the bank account.

Assign a spending limit

Going into credit card debt is one of the biggest problems for couples. And it nearly always happens because of miscommunication. If you want to stay debt free, you should assign a spending limit. Any expenditure that goes above should require authorization from both parties.

This spending limit can be as high or as low as you please. But make sure you’re both happy with it. You don’t want it to be too high or you could be like many Americans with tons of credit card debt.

Frequently review finances

Some people don’t like to talk about money, even if they’re firmly in the black. You need to get past this nervousness and review your finances like a mature adult. Every month or so you should sit down with your spouse to discuss your current financial situation, including your bills, income, and future plans.

For example, if you’re looking to get rid of debt, you should discuss whether you’re on-target to getting debt free. You may also discuss how to cut spending and increase income. It might be difficult to talk about money, but it’s a necessary discussion to have on a regular basis.

Is credit card debt keeping you from success? Learn how to get your debt under control.

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