By Nancy A. Hetrick, ADFA™, MAFF™, AWMA®
Betrayals of trust from your spouse are always emotionally devastating but when the infidelity has to do with money, the results can crush a lot more than your feelings.
One of my clients, we’ll call her Jane, had been married 28 years when her husband’s business closed due to changes in the industry that made his products extinct. She had been a home-maker while the children were young and was now working part-time as a senior personal assistant. Her husband, let’s call him Dick, had always handled their investments and really enjoyed playing in the stock markets and had experienced moderate success. So he decided he would become a full-time options trader to carry them to retirement. He took a course, bought a new computer with 3 monitors and spent at least 6 hours a day starting at charts and graphs.
Jane would ask daily how he did that day and his response was always the same, “not too bad”. He continued this for the next 10 years. During those 10 years, they continued taking trips to Europe twice a year, doing improvements on their million dollar home, and living the lifestyle they had always enjoyed.
However, gradually Dick became more and more distant and would share less and less information with Jane about the results of his trading. Their relationship deteriorated and she came to see me for a “just in case” analysis of her finances in the event they divorced. She squirreled away all the documents she could get her hands on from tax returns to brokerage statements and brought a stack about a foot tall to her first appointment.
I spent some time reviewing everything and then had to break the bad news. Over the last 10 years, Dick had not made as much money as she had thought. In fact, he had made ZERO!!!! His total returns for the entire 10 year period were actually a slight loss. So what were they living on? How were they affording the trips to Europe? Dick had slowly been depleting their retirement savings to the tune of 1.5 million dollars. They were down to the last $150,000 in cash and their only other asset was the house.
Needless to say, Jane was devastated. The betrayal she felt over the extended dishonesty was perhaps even more difficult than if he had been having an affair. The trust was damaged so badly, that she immediately filed for divorce to protect herself from any further losses of his.
This is just one very sad example of Financial Infidelity at its worst. The most common scenario is the credit card that the other spouse knows nothing about that ends up being a $25,000 debt or the secret bank account that someone has been diverting money to without the knowledge of the other spouse. Regardless of the impact, size, or duration of the deception, this is marriage-destroying behavior.
Marriage is a partnership on all levels. The minute you set up an environment with secrets, you sow the seeds of mistrust and betrayal. Do yourselves a favor and INSIST on a monthly financial meeting where you and your spouse review ALL the family finances. Discuss your goals and look at your progress toward those goals and any changes in your spending habits that need to be made to reach them. When you work together toward a secure financial future, it will deepen your bond, build trust and cement your futures. Don’t let it happen to you.