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Do you consider it “Financial Infidelity” when you hide financial information from your spouse?

Recently, I was interviewed for an article in Fortune Magazine about a survey on “financial infidelity”, and they said this, “One in twenty people in the U.S. admit to having started secret bank accounts or credit cards without their partner’s knowledge.”

Another headline on the topic in The Guardian observed: “Cheating isn’t always sexual – many admit to hiding financial information from their partners, and a frank discussion may be the best way to approach the issue.”  I don’t do this very often, but I agree with the media on this one!

When the Bible says that two become one in marriage, it acknowledges something that many of us understand painfully well – coming together is a process. Merging finances is one of the hardest things a couple does together. And in counseling couples, I have found that there does come a point at which couples can undermine their marriage with financial secrets.

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Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About

Originally posted at Christian Post May 20, 2016.

To learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.

Dear Chuck,

My spouse and I find that talking about our finances is so stressful, we would rather just avoid the topic altogether. We sort of go our separate ways, but try to avoid things like debt, and we agree on tithing. But I wonder if we would be doing better as a couple if we could really talk about money. How can we tackle an uncomfortable topic?

Married and Mum on Money Talks

 

Dear Married,

You are certainly not alone as millions of couples find talking about their finances a very difficult and painful topic. But it is a topic that cannot be avoided. You’ve heard the phrase “talk is cheap,” but the truth is NOT talking about money decisions can be very expensive when you’re married and trying to live happily ever after.

In fact, a study from Kansas State University found that arguments about money were the best indicator of divorce – more than conflicts over child rearing, sex, in-laws or any traditional areas of tension. I believe that being on the same page with your spouse on financial issues is one of the keys to a strong marriage.

Harmonious communication is key because your financial future depends on working together toward mutual goals. Since we all bring different beliefs, methodologies and goals into our marriage, a helpful first step is to seek to understand where your spouse stands on these issues.

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The value of an apology is priceless.

Just recently I counseled a couple regarding their troubled marriage. After 14 years, they were on the verge of a divorce. They owned a large and thriving business and had worked together to build it into a financially successful enterprise. But little by little, each had offended the other, communication was non-existent and Satan had built an invisible wall between them.

After listening to all their shared hurts as each pointed out the other’s fault, I asked a simple question. “When was the last time one of you apologized to the other?”  There was dead silence. Finally, the wife spoke up in almost a whisper. “Never”.  We never apologize over anything.”   I had identified the root issue so I pressed in.

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Are you Financially Unfaithful?

Chuck Bentley on 2/26/16 8:00 AM

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Friday's Handwriting on the Wall posts will feature Chuck's new ChristianPost.com column, Ask Chuck. Chuck will be answering questions about what the the Bible has to say about money. Please share on #financialfridays and submit your own questions here. @AskCrown

Originally posted at Christian Post February 26, 2016.

Dear Chuck,

I saw you quoted in an interesting article in Fortune Magazine about a survey on “financial infidelity”, and they said this, “One in twenty people in the U.S. admit to having started secret bank accounts or credit cards without their partner’s knowledge.” You talked about how financial secrets were not good for a marriage, and I was wondering whether you think it is ever acceptable to set money aside that your spouse does not know about, or does that make someone financially unfaithful?

Curious about Joint Checking

 

Dear Curious,

When the Bible says that two become one in marriage, it acknowledges something that those of us in who are part of a couple understand painfully well -- a unifying process is taking place. We are becoming one, rather than magically melding together, and that takes work. Merging finances is one of the hardest things a couple does together, and it takes some time, patience and sincere conversations. And in counseling couples over the years, I have found that there does come a point at which couples can undermine their marriage with financial secrets.

A headline on the topic in The Guardian recently made an excellent point: “Cheating isn’t always sexual – many admit to hiding financial information from their partners, and a frank discussion may be the best way to approach the issue.”  While not very often, I agree with the media on this one!

To be clear, there is no Bible verse that says a couple has to have joint checking or that the bills have to be written out by either the wife or the husband. But the ninth commandment, the one that tells people not to lie, is direct.

Lying to your spouse about your money is a problem – and a rather common one. The National Endowment for Financial Education found in a poll that 31 percent of Americans admitted to lying about their finances to their partners, while many others try to say nothing at all, remaining secretive.

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There is a correlation between your credit score and your intimate relationships. Don’t miss this one.

First, a CitiGroup Survey found that 78% of Americans say they prefer a partner that is good with money over one that is physically attractive.  In another study that I read, a matchmaking website allows customers to post their credit scores. Those with high credit scores received more interest from the opposite sex than those with low credit scores. 

Another study by the Federal Reserve Bank found that people tend to form committed relationships with people whose credit scores are in the same range. And couples with high credit scores tend to stay together longer. For every additional 100 points or so in a couple’s average credit score at the beginning of their relationship, their odds of separating during the second year of the relationship drop by 30%. Also, if the difference between a couple’s individual credit scores is greater than 66 points at the start of the relationship, the couple is 24% more likely to split up within the second, third, or fourth year of the relationship. The link between credit scores and relationship longevity probably has to do with creditworthiness being a proxy for “an individual’s general trustworthiness and commitment to non-debt obligations,” the study notes.

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Today here is a practical tip to help you get unified with your spouse.

My wife and I are writing a book to help married couples get united as couples. It will help end the fighting, the arguments, the hurt and more importantly, the frustration of not making any progress towards your financial goals.

To minimize arguing and debates over financial decisions, we came up with a Red Light, Yellow Light, Green Light process. Red means No. Yellow means Wait and Pray or learn more and Green means Yes! Let’s go. It takes two green lights for us to move forward with a major financial decision.  If either of us uses the Red or Yellow Light, we honor the one who thinks we should not make the purchase at this time and avoid arguments. 

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