By Amar Pandit
Although not much is spoken about financial infidelity, in today’s fast-moving times, it is becoming more and more common. Financial infidelity basically means not being completely honest about money matters with your spouse. These money secrets could be as small as stashing up some savings on the side, splurging on unnecessary luxuries or as big as taking on personal debt or mortgaging your assets.
When money matters are not actively discussed between partners, it leads to a communication gap in the relationship. This is because the way you spend and take financial decisions may not be in tune with your spouse’s money habits. For example, a person’s priority goal may be spending on an extravagant annual vacation, whereas the spouse would prefer taking a simpler vacation and spending on other materialistic things like buying a luxury car or jewellery. Hence, it is very important to be aware of your partner’s ‘Money Values’ and understanding the things that bring them Happiness. By doing this, the couple can align their spending habits in a way that it makes the entire family happy.
In the long run, financial infidelity may lead to distrust, arguments and in extreme cases may be even land up in a divorce. Apart from the emotional stress, the financial impact of the same could also be disastrous, as one may land up losing a sizable portion of one’s wealth in a legal tussle of separation.
Below are a few basic guidelines that couples can follow to avoid landing up in such a situation:
# Be completely truthful and transparent about money matters with your spouse. Understand and respect each other’s financial lifestyles and spending habits. Everyone has a different personality. Some may be savers, while some may be spendthrifts. When such different personalities are not known and acknowledged by the spouse, it paves the way for financial infidelity in the long run. So, even if you gave in to your temptation and bought those expensive pair of shoes that your partner would possibly disapprove of, do not hide it. Even though this may lead to a temporary disagreement, but being honest and transparent with each other will help your relationship in the long run.
# Communicate and Educate: Make it a point to discuss money-related matters actively with your spouse. Communication is very important for a healthy financial relationship. There are many couples, wherein one partner is more financially literate than the other. In such cases, regular communication and equal involvement of both the partners becomes even more critical. Let’s take the example of Saurabh and Ekta, a couple in their mid-30s. Saurabh is a banker while Ekta is a manager at a PR firm. Saurabh is financially more aware and takes all the investment decisions for the family, to the extent that Ekta is not even aware of where her hard-earned money is getting invested. All she knows is that on a fixed date in the month Rs 1 lakh gets debited from her account. While Saurabh’s intentions are right, the fact that he has not involved Ekta at all in this process, could lead to her feeling insecure and could eventually lead to distrust. Hence, even if a partner is not very financially literate, it is the duty of the spouse to educate and involve them, or at least make sure they are well informed of the financial decisions taken.
# Jointly Set Family Goals: It is very important for partners to jointly set financial goals for the family. They should set and prioritise goals together, like children’s education, marriage, retirement goal, buying a bigger house, buying a luxury car etc. Sometimes saving for long-term goals like retirement are a priority for someone, whereas their spouse might believe in living for the moment and want to save for shorter term goals that bring immediate gratification like buying a luxury car or buying a bigger house in the near future.
# Consult a financial planner: A good financial planner will understand both the partners’ perspectives and values about money, before giving any advice. After taking a holistic view of the financial situation, personalities and priorities, he can then help you set financial goals, do proper planning and make financially sound decisions, as a family.
# Share your investment details and financial position with your spouse: It is very important for your spouse, in fact the entire family, to be aware about the overall financial situation like all the investments held, loans taken and given, where all investment documents are kept, all account and locker details etc. This is important as in case of an unfortunate eventuality, the family is aware of their financial position.
Values such as trust, honesty and communication will lay the foundation to long-term financial wellness in any relationship.
(The author is CFA as well as Founder & Chief Happiness Officer at HappynessFactory.in)