Being taken advantage of hurts, but being taken advantage of by someone you trust can be especially difficult to recover from, both emotionally and financially. Most of us at some point have probably been a victim—or perpetrator—of financial infidelity, which can range from not telling your significant other how much you earn to using a partner’s credit card without their knowledge or consent. Unfortunately, the damage caused by such a betrayal can often take years to resolve and recover from.
Financial infidelity in Canada
We all know romance scams are running rampant across Canada, but when it comes to financial infidelity, it’s actually more common than we think. In partnership with the Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC), Credit Canada sponsored a financial infidelity study that looked at the issue in more depth specifically in Canada, and what we found, while not surprising was shocking.
Nearly four-in-ten (36 per cent) Canadians have been a victim of financial infidelity from a current or former partner. This includes running up their credit card, not contributing what they should based on their income, lying about their income, making a major purchase without their knowledge, having a secret stash of money, or just taking off with all of their money. The study also discovered that three-in-ten (34 per cent) Canadians in a relationship are keeping financial secrets from their current romantic partner, while nearly four-in-ten (36%) Canadians have lied about a financial matter to a partner.
Financial fallout of financial infidelity
Sometimes financial infidelity can lead to very positive outcomes, like surprising your partner by paying off the mortgage early or a vacation-for-two using extra income they didn’t know about. But in most cases, financial infidelity doesn’t lead to very happy endings at all, and instead leaves its victims with a pile of debt, unpaid bills, and a damaged credit rating. (And anyone who has ever had to rebuild credit and improve their credit score knows just how long it can take.)
Any breach of trust between partners can be very upsetting, but when it crosses the line into the world of finances, including credit and debt, it can impact your ability to acquire credit or a mortgage in the future, rent an apartment, get a job, or sponsor someone from out of the country—not to mention it can take years to pay off any debt accrued in your name. They might say all is fair in love and war, but after reading true tales of financial infidelity, you’re often better off separating your personal life from your financial life.
How to prevent financial infidelity
The key to preventing financial infidelity, as with anything, is communication and the basis for any healthy relationship is honesty, so it’s important to have a “no surprises” policy—whether good or bad—with your partner. That means having regular discussions with your partner about money, including your individual assets and debts, which we know isn’t very romantic but you know what’s less romantic? Finding out your partner has over $20,000 in credit card debt after you get married.
You’ll also want to keep a detailed budget and spending plan, especially if you’re living together. And no matter how much you love and trust your partner—or anyone for that matter—never ever sign any document without reading it first. Another good practice is to maintain separate bank accounts, and just have one joint account you both contribute to for shared expenses, like housing costs, pets and children. It’s also good to have individual credit cards in your own names, that way you can maintain control over your own credit rating (and hence, future options and possibilities, too). Plus, two good credit scores are always better than one.
Financial infidelity red flags
If you are in a relationship and you suspect something is “off” which might be impacting your finances, it’s always best to be safe than sorry. There are definitely a few things you’ll want to watch out for in your relationship in order to stop financial infidelity in its tracks and minimize the damage. This includes:
- Regular cash withdrawals
- Unexplained or unaccounted purchases
- A change in your partner’s behaviour or spending habits
- Spending more on themselves or others
- Increased interest in the mail, not letting you see it first
- Less frequent mail from your regular financial services and creditors (this could mean they are beating you to the mailbox and hiding mail they don’t want you to see)
Avoid Financial Infidelity and Ask for Help if You’re in Debt
If you ever need some unbiased, free expert advice, you can always speak with one of our certified credit counsellors. As a non-profit credit counselling agency, we can also do a free soft inquiry on your credit report to check for any inconsistencies (so you’ll know if any past relationships left their mark on your credit score). You can also see a credit counsellor as a couple for advice on managing money together and setting future goals. Just call 1.800.267.2272 to book, it’s free!
Financial infidelity is more common than you think! It’s important to be open and honest with your partner about your finances, not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day.