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Although every relationship is different, all couples benefit from talking openly about handling finances in their partnership.
Some couples decide to combine their finances. Others choose to keep their money separate. Both are healthy ways to manage money in a relationship – if you and your partner agree.
It’s one thing if you and your partner settle on handling your finances separately. But putting away money your partner doesn't know about is another issue entirely.
Whether it’s stashing cash, opening a bank account, borrowing, or secretly spending money – if you’re hiding it, you could be heading to trouble.
While someone in a relationship might cite independence as a reason to hide money from their spouse or partner, it’s a slippery slope. Hiding money often affects more than finances; it leads to a breakdown of trust and communication.
That said, there are particular situations when it is okay to hide money from your spouse or partner. But before you go and stash some cash, read on.
The situations in which it's okay to hide money from your significant other are challenging life circumstances, typically when the relationship is crashing on the rocks.
When is it Okay to Hide Money From Your Spouse or Partner?
The answer is – it depends. For most couples, hiding money from a spouse or partner can cause more serious relationship problems.
Yet, some tough life situations can necessitate hiding money away.
It's acceptable when:
You’re planning to escape an abusive relationship.
Escaping from a physically or emotionally abusive relationship takes a ton of courage. If you’re devising plans to leave an abusive relationship, you'll need money to help you (and your children) escape the situation.
Setting aside money for food, shelter, and transportation can help you leave a scary and dangerous situation.
You may need to set up a new email address, change passwords, and open a new bank account and credit card. Or you might need to ask a family member or friend for help if you don’t want to put accounts in your name.
Unfortunately, abusers often use money to control and manipulate. They may withhold cash, limit access to financial accounts, and make their partner reliant on them for money. This makes putting cash aside for an escape challenging at the very least.
No matter the situation, you'll need a trustworthy person or organization to help you make your escape safely.
You’re going to break up and will need money (be cautious here).
You know your relationship is ending – and ending soon. You might want to hide money to make the transition easier, especially if you think you could lose access to bank accounts or credit cards.
But if you decide to save money secretly, proceed cautiously. If you’re married and want money set aside, consult a lawyer before you start stashing cash. You will be legally obligated to disclose this money during divorce proceedings.
If the money you save is income from either spouse, the courts consider it marital property. In some states, your partner is entitled to up to half of the money you save.
It’s understandable to want a financial safety net in the case of a breakup. But if you decide to open a secret bank account, credit card, or hide some cash, make sure you understand the potential downside.
Perhaps an alternative is to speak to friends or family that could help you out during your transition.
Also, keep documentation of the source of your savings. In some cases, if the money you hide is a gift to you by a friend or relative, your partner might not have any legal claim to it.
If you aren’t married to your partner, you have no legal responsibility to inform your partner about hidden money or separate accounts.
What if you’re planning a sweet surprise for your partner?
First, consider if your significant other enjoys surprises! You know your partner well enough to know how they'll feel about the secrecy around a surprise.
It might be okay if it’s not a large sum of money. Trust your gut and do what you think is in the best interest of your relationship.
What if your partner is reckless with money?
Is your partner spending too much on gambling, drinking, or impulse shopping?
If they have expensive vices or spend irresponsibly, it doesn’t mean you need to hide money from them. But it could mean that you need help.
In a severe and ongoing problem that you cannot discuss in an open, honest conversation with your significant other, seek professional assistance. If it’s less severe and your partner recognizes the issue, you might work together on strategies that can help.
Maybe having a bank account your partner cannot access helps keep their spending under control. Perhaps they've agreed to let you take the reigns of the finances proactively.
Having money set aside, that's inaccessible to your partner might be okay as long as everyone is transparent.
Often, hiding money = financial infidelity
Above, we discussed the unique situations when it might be okay to hide money from your partner. But often, hiding money, bank accounts, or spending from your partner is a form of cheating.
And it can have as devastating effects as being physically unfaithful.
Hiding money from your spouse or partner is financial infidelity. And it’s more common than you might think.
In a poll by Creditcards.com, 44% of respondents reported having some money secrets from their partners. The implications of financial infidelity can be devastating, creating a sense of distrust and signaling more significant relationship problems.
It can also spill over into other areas creating an aura of suspicion and animosity that’s difficult to overcome.
Though some situations warrant a degree of financial secrecy, each case is unique. It would be best if you considered any consequences of hiding money ahead of time.
The consequences of hiding money from your spouse or partner
Some people keep money secrets in their desire to have control over their finances. Others hide money because they’re embarrassed over the way they handle it. But when partners have financial secrets, it’s a sign of deeper relationship concerns.
It’s never just about the money; money can represent feelings of shame, fear, mistrust, and more. And these intense feelings make it hard to talk about for many.
If you feel compelled to keep money secrets from your partner or spouse, take a closer look at why. If it’s not a safety issue, explore why you aren’t comfortable sharing and discussing it with your partner.
Most couples will benefit from being transparent about money. But this is often easier said than done. It requires vulnerability and honesty.
In a healthy relationship, there should be no need to have money secrets.
Successful couples create a safe environment for each to discuss their values, dreams, and difficulties. And developing shared goals and financial plans, along with each partner's aspirations, is beneficial.
Protect Yourself: Take part in your finances.
One way to be proactive and help protect yourself when it comes to money in your relationship is to participate in your family’s finances. Even if your partner handles the day-to-day financial tasks, you can still be involved.
To take a more active role in your household finances, make sure you:
- Have access to all joint accounts (online and off)
- Know how, where, and the amount of money invested – and take part in the decision making
- Know how much your partner makes (and share your wages too)
- Understand all assets owned together and separately
- Keep tabs on your credit report
By being involved and knowing partnership/family finances, you put yourself at an advantage.
You'll understand your finances and take part in decision-making and discussions with your partner. Not only that, but it will protect you if your relationship deteriorates.
The decision to hide money is situational. And it would be best if you weighed the consequences before taking any action.
In most situations, hiding money from your partner or spouse is a bad idea and can perpetuate relationship problems. But tough situations can warrant some secrecy, such as abuse and the end of a relationship. In those circumstances, be cautious and protect yourself first.