Hiding Money From A Spouse (Your Advice) – Finances & Simplicity – The Pay Gap

Financial wake-up callI received this email over the weekend and was actually quite surprised by the circumstances. While I believe it is the opposite of what usually occurs 90% of the time, it’s a valid question no matter who is hiding money from the other. What advice, if any, would you pass along to this reader?

I found out due to a sloppy mistake by my wife’s secretary that she has a hidden securities account with quite a bit of money and it that I was not aware of. We have never discussed it and since I’m in charge of the everyday purchases, I believed we were on a tight budget where every cent counted. The account is in her name only and is worth six figures. I’m wondering how I should approach her to let her know that I know about the account and if there are any other steps that I should pay.

I may need to explain that we are not what most people would consider a “typical family.” My wife works full time and I stay at home with the kids so we are the opposite of what you would probably imagine. It concerns me a great deal that she is hiding money from me and keeping the account in her name only.

We have two beautiful kids and although we do have the normal marital squabbles, we have never discussed divorce. I’m wondering why she would have such an account and what reason she would have to never tell me about it.

What are the financial steps that I should take and is there a certain way that I should approach this entire incident?

A few articles I came across that are worth a look:

Simple Pleasures Include Financial Security: One of the great results of keeping life simple is financial security. The sooner that you can learn this (and that simple living doesn’t mean depriving yourself) you will find your finances in much better condition.

Time Banks: How about a different type of currency – as in time? The Time Bank and Time Dollars is a system where you exchange services with other members. it goes a step beyond charity or volunteering; you both give and you get. For every hour you spend helping others, you accrue one Time Dollar that can be spent receiving a service from someone else.

The Truth About the Pay Gap: A look at some of the causes of inequality of pay between men and women other than discrimination.

And for those who need some more reading:

Festival of Frugality

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14 Responses to Hiding Money From A Spouse (Your Advice) – Finances & Simplicity – The Pay Gap

  1. Teri Newton says:

    Gosh, I am not sure I would have any advice – I don’t know. But I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. Common wisdom is that married people should keep some money separate just in case of bad times. I know a few remarried divorces and they ALL keep a secret account from their husbands – they just know all to well that bad things happen and want to be prepared the second time around. Not because they necessarily expect to leave.

    However, as a working wife who supports my family entirely I have never seen the point of this advice for 2 reasons. Since I am not home depending on someone else’s wage it is of less concern to me. I have plenty of financial independence without a bank account of my own. I think this is more important if you are relying on someone’s wage. Secondly, I live in a community property state. I know you can keep money separate, but it gets really sticky. Wages are considered shared, and the second you put your wages into a separate account OR withdraw a few dollars to pay a household bill, that’s it, the whole account is community property. I am not even sure it can be considered separate property unless you accumulate it before marriage and then don’t touch it after marriage. What I do know is it is very complicated and since I am not a heiress I just don’t see the point of going through the acrobatics to keep separate property in this state with the husband I have been with since 18 (all of our wealth has been built together). If I remarried in my later years yes I might keep separate property though.

    So my question is, does he live in a community property state and where did the money come from? If it did came to divorce it might be just as much his.

    mostly though my advice would be to talk to his wife and see what is going on? I can’t imagine saving up a six figure account and not touching it in tough times unless I thought I REALLY might need it for something else. He won’t know until he asks. I would just say approach it with an open mind though because you never know. Maybe her mother suffered a divorce and wasn’t financially prepared, and she just wants some peace of mind that the same will never happen to her.

  2. mitchell says:

    there’s only really three scenarios here:
    1) she doesn’t still actively use it and therefore forgot about mentioning it.
    2) she does or doesn’t actively use it and thought that she did mention it to you, but in reality didn’t.
    3) she does or doesn’t actively use it but purposefully doesn’t tell you.

    scenario 1 and 2 are fine, though you should probably have a talk and try to improve communication. scenario 3 is bad, and it has undertones of serious trust issues or worse.

    to me, no matter which option is true, you should probably have a talk. expect the best but brace for the worst. i don’t think there is anything that can be done financially about this at this stage.

  3. ben says:

    A talk is definitely in order. I don’t believe there is any reason that justifies not telling the other spouse about money. I hope that it is something that was just a miscommunication, but with such a big amount of money, I have a hard time believing that.

  4. Jason says:

    When confronting this kind of situation opening a line of communication is important, but more important is how you open that line of communication. Several studies (Kubany, 1992 and Winer & Minor, 1981 to name two) show that using what we in the communication field call “I” Lanuguage reduces the provovative nature of a message that could easily become accusatory. This opens a communication channel that is less likely to lead to a conflict escalation spiral.

    [Excerpt from “Interplay” by Adler, Rosenfeld, and Proctor (2001) that I use when teaching conflict resolution to college freshmen]

    “I” language shows that the speaker is taking responsibility for the accusation by describing his/her reaction to the other’s behavior without making judgements about the behavior. A complete “I” statement (1) describes the other person’s behavior, (2) your feelings, and (3) the consequences the other’s behavior has for you.

    [Example from “Interplay”]
    “I get embarrassed [feeling] when you talk about my bad grades in front of our friends [behavior]. I’m afraid they’ll think I’m stupid [consequence].”

    While that example might not exactly seem relevant, the ideas behind the use of “I” language in creating a positive communication environment (especially when addressing sensative topics) is concrete.

  5. Nev says:

    You need to aproach her about it. She is lying to you by hiding this. Who knows what else she is hiding. The cool thing is that because she is supporting you if it turns bad she will have to keep up your standard of living. Also you would be intitled to half of anything she has. That is unless this was inheritied directly to her, in that case you need to get your name on the account. By having her change it to a joint account she effectively gets rid of that inheritance rule.

  6. Joey says:

    In California this is a moot point. Doesn’t matter who’s name its in, if you are married its community prop. That being said, I have been doing the same thing for years. I have several accounts in my name that I sock away money that my wife has no idea exists. Now we are not hurting for money at all and by all accounts she would never miss the money. But the reason I have it is because its purely liquid earning interest and if there were ever a “true” emergency, I have the money. Plus I have cancer, and though not terminal, every few years I seem to get a new form. Because I got cancer rather young, life insurance is almost non-existent for me. (Should be another topic of discussion). So when I go, there will be plenty of money waiting for my wife and son. So why not just tell her about it now? Well because then everyone gets too comfortable. “Oh we can buy that $8000 couch, we have the money” or “How about the Range Rover now instead of the Audi?”. Thats the way she thinks, and that’s ok. I have no ulterior motives. I have NOOOOO plans on ever leaving her and boy do I hope she has no plans on leaving me 😉

  7. Joey says:

    By the way, after reading “She is lying to you by hiding this. Who knows what else she is hiding.” I felt sad. Somehow this person was really hurt by someone and the response automatically goes to worse case scenario. Wow.

  8. savvy says:

    Is is possible that this account exists from before they were married?

  9. I personally would go balistic if I found out about this.

    There are some comments about issues in the marriage.

    I would have to guess that there are serious relationship problems and the best way to handle this is:

    1. Think honestly about problems in the marriage and come up with ideas on how to resolve the problems and be prepared to take responsibility for your part in the problems

    2. Confront her

    3. Talk openly and honestly about the issues

    4. Remain calm and cool through this discussion. It’s going to be heated chat.

  10. Joey says:

    Jumping to conclusions and assuming the worst. Again…wow. I don’t want my wife knowing about the money. We aren’t suffering. The money is going to my wife and son regardless of divorce or death. I don’t see me being a bad husband because of it, sorry.

  11. Joey says:

    I was just listening to a piece on CNN about spouses lying about DEBT!!! This far outways lying about having extra money.

  12. Evelyn says:

    Gee. I have a friend who noticed her husband always had $100 bills cash in his wallet. She confronted him and he denies having it. One day she was in the garage looking for a screw driver and found an odd looking can. She opened it and found $9,000. cash. She suspects he got a bonus from his job and cashed it without telling her. He often gets bonuses at least once or twice a year, but she’s noticed he says he hasn’t gotten one for two years. Meanwhile, she is managing the finances. They just bought a new house with a much larger mortgage. Financially they are strapped and he isn’t saying anything. She is very angry and thought about just taking it and investing it in a secret account in their childs name. That would really throw him off. I always thought people wiht character always told the truth. This is lying. I don’t know what to tell my friend. Their marraige has other problems. I think it is very hurtful and I know she would not think of ever doing someting like this. It is a lie of ommission by not telling about the securities account. I believe it is wrong and I think the wife in this case should be confronted.

  13. Rick says:

    Anyone who thinks this is an oversight or miscommunication is kidding themselves. This isn’t pocket change. She’s hiding more than money. You probably need legal advice more than financial advice at this point. I wouldn’t let her know that you know. Just keep whatever documentation you already have.

  14. Marie says:

    I’m in my 2nd marriage. My “loving” husband had an affair that I discovered 8 months ago. (he never confessed…he was CAUGHT). He came back home and I’ve been trying to keep the marriage together. The only thing I asked of him for his part in the healing was to not lie to me. He hasn’t been able to do that.
    I even asked HE see a counselor to work on his own issues…but, he’s lying to HER too!!
    He’s currently on workers comp. for a knee injury. The man hadn’t brought a penny into the house in 4 weeks and we were living off of MY 3 part time jobs so we were both really looking forward to that $742.00 check.
    When it came in, he didn’t tell me. I just noticed a $400.00 deposit into the account. When I asked him how much the check was for he said $740.00. When I asked where the rest of the money was, he said…”in the house” but wouldn’t tell me where.
    For some reason the $400.00 deposit was taking days to clear.I called the bank and asked why? She told me that when there’s a check THAT large, it can take 72 hours for it to clear. I said, “LARGE?” It was only $742.00 of which 400.00 was deposited.
    She said, “Honey, the check amount your husband brought in was over $1300.00!!!!” 4 weeks…not one penny and he was hiding $800.00!!!
    I was livid. It’s my last straw and I’m going to file for divorce. I told my boss to take me off direct deposit so he will have NO idea how much my checks are.
    It’s been 5 months of saving and I only have about $1,700.00. With 3 children I need to make sure I can make it on my own. This is my 2nd marriage and I trusted this JERK with my life. LIVE AND LEARN!
    He doesn’t know that I’m filing. Oh, and not only is HE going to be served the divorce papers…but his little slut will also be served AT THEIR JOBS!!
    There’s all types of reasons that a spouse will hide money. But, for one thing I took him back AFTER he had a 3 month long affair with this hose beast and for 8 months I’ve been putting up with his lying. Lying about such stupid stuff like when I found out he was searching through my purse and when asked he said “no” without even hesitating. I pressed it and he finally admitted he did.
    He’s got issues and to be honest at 42 years old…I don’t need this in my life.
    Like Dr. Phil says…The only thing worse then staying in a bad marriage for 10 years is for staying for 10 years and 1 day.
    As soon as I know me and my kids will be OK…he’s GONE!!

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