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What is Financial Infidelity? and How Can You Get on the Same Page with your Spouse?

Updated: Jan 31, 2023

Hello! I'm sharing my Session that I shared at the Women's Collection financial literacy event called Learning for Impact on Nov 17, 2021.

This is based on a blogpost that I wrote last February for Valentine's day but with a few updates.


Fast forward to November 2021 and some of you may know that my family and I are currently living on the Africa Mercy which is temporarily docked in the Canary Islands. You might be wondering how this Canadian family ended up in the Canary Islands especially during a worldwide pandemic. How we ended up here, has to do with my husband and I being on the same page financially and I'll get into that a little more later on.

Has anybody heard of the term Financial Infidelity?

When I think of Financial Infidelity, the stories that immediately come to mind, are the Shopaholic series of books. I love reading them, and they seem ridiculous and of course a little over the top but the main character Becky Brandon nee Bloomwood is guilty of committing Financial Infidelity! Not being truthful with her husband or herself about her spending habits. She’s always buying something and usually has high hopes that it will provide a high ROI (Return of investment). Unfortunately, her purchases usually end up being junk or she hoards the many purchases in a cupboard and forgets what she has bought until her husband accidentally discovers the hidden cupboard and starts questioning her. She always has some sort of weird justification for her actions.

How Becky and Luke are not divorced I don’t know. However, I realize that these are fictional characters and not real life.

How many of us know people in our lives who are guilty of Financial Infidelity? Friends? Family members? maybe even yourself?

The definition of Financial Infidelity is hiding your purchases or your debts from your significant other. It can take plenty of forms including the more extreme side of gambling or keeping secret bank accounts on the side. But for the majority, financial infidelity shows up in smaller transgressions like using savings money to spend on a guilty pleasure or stashing away paychecks without telling the other person.

According FP Canada and Credit Canada: 1/3 of Canadians have been a victim of financial infidelity, 34% have kept financial secrets and 36% have lied about a financial matter.




Within this study, they also concluded that younger adults who are not married, aged 18-54, tended to be victims of financial unfaithfulness. And both women and men were equally likely to become the victims of financial infidelity.



Call it Financial Infidelity or whatever term you want but when one party in a relationship feels that their trust has been violated, the consequences can be severe.

According to a study by the National Endowment for Financial Education:

"Of those couples who experienced Financial Infidelity, 76% reported that it harmed their relationship and 10% said that it resulted in divorce"

Now I want you to ask yourself, am I a victim of Financial Infidelity or a perpetrator of it? Am I keeping financial secrets or purchases or have I ever lied to my significant other about how much I really spent? and be honest, has it impacted your relationship negatively?



Money is a very personal topic. How we earn and spend our money can be wrapped up in our pride, ego and sometimes shame, depending on the situation. Most people would rather talk about their sex lives than discuss their finances. It's considered one of the most uncomfortable and invasive topics to discuss even with our significant others.

Why do people overspend and hide it? Is social media to blame?



"According to a recent study by survey group Nonfiction Research, 28% of 18-24 year-olds admit to posting Instagram photos that make themselves appear wealthier than they really are."

"Keeping up appearances" is not a new concept but is it perhaps becoming more commonly practiced than before?


When you think about financial infidelity, Personal Finance expert Kelley Keehn has it right when she says,

“you’re just cheating yourself by not being honest about personal finances.”

Eventually everything will come to light and you will only hurt your goals as a couple.


Professor of family studies, Sonya Britt said, "Arguments about money are by far the top predictor of divorce. It's not children, sex, in-laws or anything else. It's money for both men and women.

(https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130712102438.htm)


According to Ramsey Solutions, besides divorce, money fights can become a major roadblock and the negative effects of fighting over money trickles down to all areas of your life.



Lack of shared dreams and lack of satisfaction in never achieving those financial goals and dreams. Poor health due to the stress of money issues leading to higher blood pressure, muscle pain and mental health decline. Not to mention, the lack of trust and satisfaction in your relationship too.

(https://www.ramseysolutions.com/relationships/how-to-put-an-end-to-money-arguments)


With this in mind,

Did you know that some spouses don’t even know how much their spouse makes?

“Decades ago there were employment contracts that you should keep your salary confidential not just from coworkers but also from your spouse!”

(Talk Money To Me by Kelly Keehn).

A recent survey revealed that we are perhaps still in the dark because,




Why is it that we can get naked in front of someone but yet not show them a dollar amount?


Besides the lack of transparency and honest in relationships, how is it possible to make a budget or set goals together without knowing the dollar amount that your spouse is making and without knowing how much you have to work with for your budget or your goals?


So today, the million dollar question is: how do you get on the same page with your spouse?

The Key is Intentional communication with honesty and transparency



How do you make that happen?...


My solution is first setting up a lovely romantic financial date night to start your journey of "getting on the same page" with a few questions to better understand each other.



Sounds simple right?

However before you go on this Intentional financial date, there are a few parameters that you must put in place.


Number one: make sure that you set up the date and ensure that you are alone and undistracted by kids and uninterrupted by life to really connect, be vulnerable and have a wonderful discussion together.


Also, mentally prepare yourself and your spouse for this discussion.



Don't just ambush them!


Then have fun and get creative! It doesn't have to be an expensive date night. It can even be just wine and cheese at home.


For my husband and I, once we sat down and discovered that we needed to have intentional discussions about our dreams, finances and plans around those finances that's when our dreams really started coming true. Uninterrupted time together to plan and dream together. And remember, it's a continuous conversation and journey.



Don't expect it to be over and done with after one conversation.


You might think that you don't need to ask your spouse or significant other questions about money because you've been together for such a long time. However, when I coached a couple who had been married for over a decade and I asked them about their financial goals, they discovered new things about each other!


Now, back to how we ended up in the Canary Islands aboard the Africa Mercy, which is a floating hospital ship that provides free surgeries to West Africans. Well, once we started having Intentional financial date night discussions, I discovered that my husband was actually interested in planning this journey to come aboard the Africa Mercy and we started planning from there on. If we had never had this discussion, we might not have had this wonderful opportunity to fulfil our dreams.



Sometimes the questions just never get asked...


Next, what kind of Intentional Questions should you ask your significant other?


Start with some questions about their history and upbringing with finances to understand where they are coming from and then go onto the dreaming stage.


I have created 10 Date Night question cards for you to print out and use: Click Here



Here are some questions to get you started:


1. What are your thoughts and feelings around money?

Does it provide a sense of safety and security or instead a sense of confusion, judgement and shame? This might help you discover if they are a nerd or a free spirit when it comes to money. Do they feel totally lost or have no interest about finances?




2. What were you taught about money growing up?

Maybe they weren’t taught anything and they merely observed that only one parent was in charge of their family's money and that parent wasn’t their gender and they just assumed they wouldn’t take any responsibility for their finances when they got married.

What are your earliest money memories? Did you remember ever running out of money? Going hungry? Did you have to drop out of school to help your parents pay bills?



Next you could learn about your significant other's hopes and dreams...


3. What’s your 1 year goal or what would you like your 1 year financial goal to be?

Many people have never even thought about their goals or thought to write them down but when you write them down, it suddenly becomes more of a reality. Like an item on a list that has to be checked off or a reminder that you didn’t achieve something yet. Sometimes you discover that you have a different goal than your spouse.




4. What is your 5 year Financial Goal?

Your 1 year and 5 years goals might even be connected to each other. Maybe it’s a discussion of what might be a more realistic goal or a family goal instead of an individual goal. Or even something that you never thought was possible!




5. What’s one thing you wished you’d of known as a young adult?

Maybe you or your spouse have regrets about something stupid that you did and you never want your kids to have to experience that pain. Maybe it’s more than one thing. And maybe you need to work together to have a discussion with your children about how those unfortunate decisions impacted your life.




6. What do you value spending money on?

What do you really enjoy spending money on and if you had unlimited money, what would you spend it on? Maybe it’s books or vehicles or vacations. Maybe this love can be integrated into your 1 or 5 year goals.




7. What kind of retirement do you want?

Do you want to be a snowbird? Do you want to move to Europe or move in with your adult children? These are nice things to dream about sooner rather than later because there are usually expectations that go with retirement and unmet expectations and disappointment usually lead to conflict.



8. What kind of Legacy do you want to leave?

This is a question that I think the average person doesn’t usually think about. Sometimes, people think this question is reserved for the wealthy or those who possess large inheritances, large farms or estates to divide up. Maybe your spouse wants to leave a large inheritance.



9. What are you willing to sacrifice to achieve these goals?

Maybe nobody has ever thought about how short term pain can to lead to long term gain. What are small things that you are willing to give up that could lead to large wins together?



10. And finally what’s one step that we could take together to reach our dreams together?

This is where you develop an action plan together. Maybe you decide to learn about money together if you are both lacking knowledge in this area. Maybe you decide to take classes together or watch videos to gain financial knowledge together. Maybe you hire a Financial coach to help you achieve your goals.



Again, remember that this isn’t a one time event or date. It’s a continuous discussion and continuous journey towards your goals TOGETHER!


Also, in the beginning of your discussion, decide what you could use to measure your success of "getting on the same page." Maybe it might be that both of you are really looking forward to your date night discussions or perhaps your budget is on par after 3 months.



Our family dream included desiring to serve the poor and improve health care for those in Africa and Mercy Ships provided that opportunity to fulfil that dream. When we decided together in 2014 that this was our dream, then we started putting the steps into motion. It was not an instantaneous goal that was met. We had many steps along the way. First my husband went to university to get his teaching degree in 2015 and we did this without any student loan debt, then we paid off our mortgage in January 2020 with the intention to start saving up to come aboard the Africa Mercy. We needed to save up a significant amount because Mercy Ships required a two year commitment of paying crew fees and not receiving an income from our regular jobs for these two years. This dream required a lot of intentional financial planning and budgeting.



Remember:

Give each other room to grow and make mistakes, especially if finances are not your spouse's "thing" or it's a difficult topic for them to discuss.


And don't sweat the small stuff! Just ask yourself, what direction are we headed?

As long as you are heading in the right direction together, it doesn't matter if someone made a mistake such as having a late fee on a credit card for example. Just as long as improvements and improved communication and transparency are happening.

Don't chastise your spouse if they spent money on a pop at a gas station and then retaliate by getting a specialty coffee or latte. True story, I've done this myself.

You are going to make mistakes!



Stephen Covey says, begin with the "End in Mind", meaning start with your bigger goals and work backwards until you have a day to day, month to month and year to year plan.


If you are still struggling to meet your goals and struggling to have these discussions with your significant other, don't be ashamed! You are normal! You might need an outside party to give you some extra tools, resources and knowledge. Someone like a Financial coach could help guide you towards accomplishing your goals and dreams together!




Now Go and Be Intentional and print out the 10 Date Night Question cards and get started on your journey toward Intentional Date night Discussions!

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