According to a new study, a third of couples who combine their finances have been deceptive when it comes to money. Jean Chatzky on how to avoid this scenario — and chart your own financial ethics
Recently, I appeared on the Today show with psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz and Ann Curry about financial infidelity. A new study from the National Endowment of Financial Education revealed:
- 65 percent of Americans combined finances with their spouse/partner
- Of that 65 percent, one in three has committed some sort of financial deception specifically hiding a bill/bank account/purchase/or cash or lying about how much they earn/owe/or have in the bank.
- Of that 65 percent, a similar one in three had the same sort of financial infidelities committed against them.
My take on the problem was to solve it before it happens by not mixing all of your money. I truly believe that each person in a relationship – man or women, earner or not — needs some financial independence. Being able to go out and make a purchase that is truly within your means (whether it’s a cup of coffee or a pair of shoes) without asking permission is important. If you constantly have to check (or even if you don’t, but feel that your spouse is looking a little too closely) the relationship starts to feel too parental. And from there, it’s just a short hop to the land of the financial lie, whether it’s (surreptitiously) cutting tags off a garment and claiming to have had it forever (and I have – full disclosure – done this, but not lately) or supplementing a charge card purchase with not-so-traceable cash from the ATM.
Gail, whose opinion I value, disagreed with me. She wants couples to learn how to be honest, fine-tuning their negotiating skills, and getting to the heart of the issues so that they don’t fester long-term.
But looking at the NEFE survey – and thinking more about my post last week on how pitcher Gil Meche turned down $12 million because, being injured, he didn’t feel right taking the money — made me wonder just how ethical (and – a close cousin – crazy) most of us are when it comes to money.
The web is a good place to at least start to find an answer to that question. I found a post on wisebread.com – read at your own peril, there are some disgusting and a few offensive ideas in there – that asked the question: What would you do for money? One woman in her 60s said she’d skydive for $3000. A guy volunteered to have his chest waxed for $2000. A lot of the respondents said: “I’ve thought about this for ages!”
Even better was a quiz on the CNNMoney site on money and ethics. It asked questions like:
You’re remodeling a bathroom and the tile guy offers a 20% discount if you pay in cash. It is clear to you that he will not report cash payments. Would you most likely:
a) Pay in full by check
b) Take the discount and pay cash
c) Refuse to do business with the guy
I took the whole thing and am feeling pretty good about my financial ethics (at least as they compare to the rest of the quiz-takers) as a result. But have at it. And then weigh in on the financial infidelity question – as well as the whole money and ethics ball of wax here. Looking forward to your comments!