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Financial Infidelity – How to Spot it and How to Avoid it

November 29, 2022

A few years ago, ironically just a couple of days before the Hallmark holiday that is Valentine’s Day, Credit Canada hosted a social media contest asking Canadians to share their stories of financial infidelity. And Canadians were forthcoming.

“A woman asked me on a date to a very expensive restaurant. She asked me to dinner, so I at least thought we would be going Dutch. She ordered a few bottles of expensive wine. Her meal cost a fortune. Then she got up to go to the bathroom and never came back. She left me with a $500 bill!”

“An ex secretly used my credit card to make online purchases shortly before a breakup. He even used my computer to make the purchases. Because I did not know and he accepted the deliveries and hid the items, I was on the hook for the payments.”

“My ex-husband left me with a lot of debt. He drained the bank accounts and maxed out the credit cards before we separated. It was a hard road to get out of debt, but I am well on my way!”

As is evident from the examples above, financial infidelity can vary drastically in scope and size.

“Financial infidelity, simply put, is keeping money secrets from your partner,” WealthCo President, Sophie Blais, explains. “Financial infidelity can occur when a couple is still together, or it can also occur during a separation and divorce.”

Types of Financial Infidelity

Financial infidelity may involve opening secret bank accounts, hiding income or assets, or engaging in financial transactions without the knowledge or consent of a partner. Financial infidelity erodes trust and can have serious consequences for relationships – potentially even separation or divorce.

According to Leger’s 2018 Financial Infidelity Report, 36% of survey respondents had been victims of financial infidelity from a current or former partner. The leading types of financial infidelity include:

·       Running up a credit card balance without disclosure to their partner (14%)

·       Contributing less than they should based on their income (13%)

·       Lying about their income (8%)

·       Making a major purchase without consulting their partner (7%)

According to the report, the age demographic that is most likely to engage in financial infidelity is 35 – 44, and neither gender nor household income seem to play a role in whether someone is more or less likely to lie about financial matters.


Common signs of financial infidelity

As Blais points out, “financial infidelity shouldn’t be mistaken with a couple making a mutual decision at the beginning of their relationship to keep their finances separate and are very clear on how to best manage their financial matters together.”

This scenario aside, there are several red flags that could be an indicator of financial infidelity in a relationship.

“Some common signs include hiding debts, excessive spending without consulting your partner, and lying about what money is being used for,” Blais shares.

Additional signs to be on the lookout for include:

  • Denying or avoiding conversations about spending
  • Missing or ‘misplaced’ important financial documents
  • Bills or statements being redirected from a joint or commonly used address/email to a new one
  • Hiding income or gifts
  • Doctored statements
  • Secret shopping or hiding shopping purchases
  • Irrational behavior or acting out of character

 Anything that gets the old spidey senses tingling may well warrant further investigation.


How to best avoid financial infidelity

“As with most things,” Blais shares, “’an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Blais outlines five key proactive steps that couples can take to avoid getting into a financial infidelity situation.

1.       Communication – avoid making assumptions. Couples should review and discuss their finances on a regular basis. Figure out a cadence that works for your unique situation (if finances are tight a more regular check-in may be required). Work with your financial planner to build a net worth statement that both spouses review and understand.

2.       Education – don’t leave all the financial and money management up to one spouse. Both individuals should have access to and involvement with all financial accounts and understand your financial situation.

3.       Cooperation – work as a team. If money is tight, or some unexpected expenses materialize, work together to identify where you can make adjustments to positively impact your finances.

4.       Support – if you are struggling with financial infidelity or suspect this may be taking place, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Consider counseling and engage your accountant and trusted advisors.

5.       Pay attention – be diligent about reviewing documents before signing them and take an interest in the state of your family’s financial health

The bottom line is that, the clearest and most direct step to ensuring proper financial health as a couple or a family, is by working with your financial planner to ensure all parties are on the same page and working collectively towards the same goals.

Could you or your relationship benefit from a financial plan review? Reach out to your Integrated Advisory team today!


As President, Sophie Blais drives WealthCo’s ‘WOW’ client experience, ensuring that our CPA partner firms get best-in-class service at every level. Sophie provides inspired leadership and sound management that establishes credibility and promotes an entrepreneurial team culture. Sophie lives and breathes WealthCo’s core values of respect, teamwork, leadership, accountability, and passion.

The Integrated Advisory Community consists of a network of progressive CPA firms, along with best-in-class professional advisors, service, and product specialists, who work together to deliver an elevated and holistic client experience. One that optimizes both their personal and professional lives with an integrated financial strategy designed to help clients reach their goals.