Sunday, March 13, 2016

Why Your Spouse Hides Money?

In a previous post I mentioned I’ve had a few requests over the years from employees who wanted to hide money (commissions, bonuses and pay increases) from their soon to be ex-spouse during a divorce. Divorce, though, is not the only situation where I’ve received requests from employees wishing to hide money.

When the company where I work was in the process of transitioning payroll processing to an outside provider our owners decided to make direct deposit mandatory.  Check distribution had become a nightmare for our in-house payroll staff.  One week an employee would want their check mailed to their work location, the next to their home, sometimes they changed their request more than once for the same paycheck. If a payroll clerk made a mistake or didn’t get the latest message she was verbally abused and complaints were made to the owners.

Not everyone was in favor of direct deposit:

When the mandatory direct deposit announcement was made, several employees at one of our locations threatened to contact the department of labor.  They felt their rights were being violated. These employees were paid via commission and were using a portion of their check, unbeknownst to their spouse, to fund their weekly poker game. Since commissions fluctuated, their spouse didn’t miss what she wasn’t aware of.  Mandatory direct deposit is not legal in all states, but is in the state of Wisconsin, so our owners went with their mandatory direct deposit plan. Pay-stubs were mailed to the employee’s home.

After the transition to direct deposit, complaints stopped and conflict over paycheck whereabouts subsided.  That is until we announced we were issuing separate bonus checks this year. The same group of employees from above requested these checks be mailed to their work location rather than their home. They didn’t want their spouse to know they had earned a bonus. They actually made the comment, “If we screw this up heads will roll.”

The above employees were all male, but I also know a wife who hid money.  When my male co-worker’s spouse changed jobs a few years ago she failed to tell him she had neglected to roll over her 401(k) distribution money into another qualified plan.  He discovered this upon receiving an unusual 1099 the following year.  When he asked where the money had gone, she confided she used it to pay down credit card debt. Debt that currently had a balance of over $20,000. This debt also came as a surprise.  Her credit card statements had been mailed to her sister’s house. What had the credit cards been used for? Nothing in particular; clothes, shoes, purses, and expensive beauty products.

This marriage survived, but just barely. My co-worker took over the management of their finances, he cut up her credit cards, she took a side job cleaning offices to help pay down her debt, he opened a checking account in his name and gives her a monthly allowance.   He has tried to teach her about money, but thinks she’s not listening.  She spends her entire allowance each month without saving a single penny. He confided he has a hard time trusting her and occasionally checks her vehicle’s trunk for hidden purchases. 

I suggested perhaps he is not the best person to teach her about money:

I am sure it is hard for him to not let his anger surface during these money lessons making it easy for her to shut him out.  I’ve heard good things about NFCC and Dave Ramsey’s classes which are commonly held at local churches.  I recommended they attend a class or financial counseling session together. He vehemently disagreed. She needs financial training not him and refuses to go with her.

I had a conversation with her recently when she stopped by our office, she tells me they don’t have cable or internet at home and she finds this burdensome.  She was also on her way to buy some Aveda shampoo because it made her hair smell so nice.

They need help setting joint goals:

He wants to move to a bigger home, to save for their son’s education and to save for their retirement.  I’d be surprised if she doesn’t want these things too. A counselor could help them prepare a budget they both could live with. She also needs to learn how to spend less than she earns and the importance of an emergency fund.

Why do spouses hide money?

A spouse may feel since they are the one who earned the money they get to determine how it is spent, their goals aren’t in alignment, they are covering up a bad habit or they are competitive with each other.

Why do you think spouses hide money?

  *Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich, Disease Called Debt and DIY Jahn*


  1. This is such a complicated topic! Unfortunately, it seems like one of those things that is inherited from our parents - either we follow in their paths or we rebel and do the exact opposite. My husband used to be a spender - always with a couple of hundred in his pocket and plenty more to spend. I am a saver. When we married, he asked me to take over the "house" money. We have always deposited most of our checks into the house account, and then he keeps a separate small account for his "walking around" money. I know that he also has a small savings account into which he squirrels a bit of extra, but he mostly spends it on gifts for me, so i cannot complain. I have never felt the need for a separate account, altho he has encouraged me to have one. I am miserly on clothing and stuff for myself, preferring to save whatever is extra each month for bit ticket items. We paid off our 30-year mortgage in 12 years, paid off all our credit cards and saved enough for a new car ... and then i retired. Fortunately, we are facing retirement on a pretty much cash basis, but it meant being very honest with each other about how to save (for me it's easy, and for him it's having his own account and not touching the house money). But, we had to work it out very early in our marriage. Your friend, above, needs to understand WHY his wife needs to spend money before they can really move forward together. A counselor might help with that part.

    Good post.

    1. I enjoyed your money story. It is similar to mine - I am miserly in spending on myself too. DH spends on things he enjoys a bit more than me, but then he has more free time as well. It is great you are both on the same page money-wise. Agreed my friend and his wife should see a counselor.

  2. Such a complicated issue! I imagine everyone has their own reasons for hiding money...

    1. You are right. Everyone is different, was raised differently etc. Perhaps I will rewrite this post someday from a different angle.

  3. Ugh. I remember dating a guy I nearly married in school and he had so much trouble talking about money with me - it made me incredibly nervous. It was just one of many reasons it was probably for the best when our engagement fell though.

    1. It probably was for the best. If you aren't on the same page about money before you are married or early on in your marriage, I imagine money will always cause conflict.

  4. If you ask me, this is never a money issue. It's a relationship issue.

    In my experience, if a relationship reaches the stage where money is being hidden from partners for any reason, that's a red flag for its overall health, and a sign that one or both partners need to face some harsh decisions about the future of it. Anyone who feels the need to hide money form their spouse clearly isn't being improved by the relationship. If they make excuses as to why they don't want to help their partner become better with money, thus avoiding the need to hide it, then that in itself is them effectively throwing in the towel and saying "there's no hope".