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, sound and video for hotel conferences, was eliminated because the hotel decided to move the services in-house. She had been a home-maker while the children were young and was now working part-time as a senior citizen personal aide. Her husband, let’s call him Dick, had always handled the finances and really enjoyed playing in the stock markets. He had experienced moderate success so he decided he would become a full-time options trader to earn money for the 10 years remaining to retirement. He took a course, bought a new computer with 3 monitors and spent 6-10 hours a day staring at charts and graphs.
Jane would ask daily how he did that day and his response was always the same, “not too bad”. This continued for the next 10 years. During those 10 years, they went on semi-annual trips to Europe, continued 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 began to deteriorate and she came to see me for a “just in case” analysis of her finances in the event they divorced. She snuck around the house and stashed 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 as I moved from one document to the next, the reality revealed itself to me. Then I had to break the bad news to her. Over the last 10 years, Dick had not made as much money as she had thought. In fact, he had made NOTHING!!!! 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.
Jane was devastated. The betrayal she felt over the extended dishonesty was 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 horror story 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 this nightmare happen to you.
Nancy Hetrick founded Smarter Divorce Solutions in 2012 and has over 16 years of experience in both investment management and financial planning. Nancy is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA™), a Master Analyst in Financial Forensics (MAFF) an Accredited Wealth Management Advisor (AWMA) and a trained mediator. Download her FREE e-book, "5 Things to Consider Before Devorce" HERE. She can be contacted at Nancy@SmarterDivorceSolutions.com