Is Your Marriage at Risk of Financial Infidelity?

financial infidelity

More and more marriages are ending in divorce due to financial infidelity. Although the phrase is new, the problem isn’t. Couples have always fought about finances. Money issues are one of the leading reasons for divorce. It’s just the language that’s new. However, this new language is powerful. Could your marriage be at risk?

What is Financial Infidelity?

Of course, infidelity means that you are cheating on your spouse. Therefore, financial infidelity means that you’re cheating on your spouse with money. Of course, you aren’t having an affair with money. So then what is financial infidelity? Put simply, it means that you’re lying to partner about something related to your shared finances.

Examples of Financial Infidelity

Right now I’m reading Kathy Curto’s memoir Not for Nothing. She shares little vignettes about her mid-century childhood. Her father worked. Her mother was a housewife. Their relationship was tumultuous. In one vignette, Curto shares several ways that her mother squirrels money away. For example, she writes a check at the grocery store for more than the amount of groceries. She tells her husband she spent it all on groceries but keeps the cash back for herself.

Likewise, I know many women in the crafting community who don’t tell their husbands when they buy more craft supplies. It would cause a fight. They don’t want to deal with the fight. So they spend the money, hide their “stash” and never mention it to their spouse. These types of things are common. And yet, they are examples of financial infidelity.

What’s the Line? Do You Have to Tell Your Spouse Everything?

As with the other kind of infidelity, just what falls into the category of financial infidelity depends upon the boundaries of your relationship. Think of it this way: some couples think it’s okay to kiss someone else but not to go any further whereas other couples would consider this cheating. Likewise, what a couple considers a lie about money varies from relationship to relationship.

There’s also the issue of an outright lie vs. a lie of omission. You get an expensive new haircut. Your partner never asks about it. Is it financial cheating for you never to bring it up? That depends upon the unique agreements in your own marriage. These agreements may vary depending on all types of factors including:

  • Whether or not you both have jobs
  • If there’s a significant pay difference between your jobs
  • Whether all of your accounts are joint accounts or you keep some money separate
  • If you both do financial paperwork or only one of you handles it

Ultimately, it’s not the specific details that matter. Instead, what matters is that you and your partner set financial boundaries. You have to discuss them. You have to get on the same page. Then, you have to stick to the agreements that you’ve made. Otherwise, you’re at risk of committing financial infidelity.

Problematic Types of Financial Infidelity

Although each couple must set their own boundaries around financial infidelity, there are some common types that tend to wreak havoc in a marriage. First of all, if you agree to certain boundaries then lie about behavior that crosses those boundaries, you’re committing financial infidelity.

Additionally, if you place your partner at financial risk without their knowledge, then you’re committing financial infidelity. What this looks like can vary from relationship to relationship. For example, if you have agreed to each have your own separate credit cards, then it’s not infidelity to run your debt up without telling your partner. That’s what you’ve agreed to. However, if you’ve agreed to limit your debt then you run up credit card loans without their knowledge, that’s financial infidelity.

Broadly speaking, if you’re lying about or hiding any of your earning, spending, or saving then you’re marriage is at risk of financial infidelity.

Signs of Financial Infidelity

Perhaps you’re worried that your partner is committing financial infidelity. Here are some common warning signs:

  • They shut down any conversation about money.
  • You frequently see credit card expenses they won’t explain. Alternatively, their explanations don’t make sense.
  • When you go to use a credit card, it gets declined. It’s over limit or you have been removed from a joint account without your permission.
  • Your partner has changed their passwords to online financial accounts. They won’t share the new password.
  • It’s baffling to you where your partner has gotten the money to afford large new expenses.

If you are worried about financial infidelity, then you might want to seek help. There are therapists who are trained to help couples with money matters. Or you might just start with an open, honest conversation about setting some financial boundaries and see where that takes you.

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Financial Freedom: Step-By-Step Stages for Goal Setting

financial freedom

I definitely dream of financial freedom. I would love to just have so much money that I don’t have to think about money ever again. Of course, that’s not going to be realistic for most of us. However, we can start small and then go step-by-step to increase how close we can get to financial freedom. A recent Forbes article laid out the 8 levels of financial freedom, which provide a good guide for setting personal finance goals.

Start By Earning More Than You Need

If you’re living paycheck to paycheck then the first step is to get out of that rut. Cut back drastically on spending. Do all that you can to increase income. If you can’t save money then you definitely can’t ever reach financial freedom.

Save Enough Money to Take a Work Break

Most people want financial freedom because they don’t want to work so much. When you’re in that paycheck-to-paycheck phase, it feels like you’ll never be able to stop working. Therefore, the next step is try to save enough money to give yourself a small taste of that life.

For example, create a savings account that will allow you to take a sabbatical from work. Even if you decide not to take it, having the money in that account will make you immediately feel like you have so much more financial freedom. Personally, I love my work, but when I feel like I have to do it just to get by then I start to resent it. That savings helps a lot.

Work Towards Small Luxuries and Extra Savings

Once you have enough in savings that you feel like you can breathe, it’s time to start thinking about your daily life. Financial freedom means that you’re able to buy the things that you want. Of course, I don’t think it’s useful to just splurge on a lot of unnecessary spending. However, I do think it’s good to recognize what small little luxuries will make your daily life better. The goal at this stage is to balance your income and spending so that you get to enjoy those luxuries regularly while still setting aside savings from every paycheck.

Financial Freedom: Money or Time

The Forbes article says that “freedom of time” is the next level. I actually think this is super important. I consider it to be one of the first steps, prioritizing it over a work sabbatical or those small luxuries. However, everyone has different needs and desires when it comes to financial freedom. For me, freedom of time means that even though I work a lot, I’m able to do so on my schedule. I’m also able to be location-independent. Those things make me feel like I have the freedom that I want.

Plan for Retirement

Once you are living comfortably, it’s definitely time to think about setting aside money for retirement. After all, that’s when you’re really going to need financial freedom. Forbes breaks this down into two levels. First, save enough for a decent basic retirement. Then, once you’ve achieved that, start saving for the type of retirement that you really want to have.

Of course, life happens, and we can’t always work through these steps in a linear fashion. Nevertheless, they provide a great guideline for some basic goal setting with financial freedom in mind.

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Do Smart Homes Save Money?

smart homes

I was thinking about adding some smart technology to my home. I had been visiting a friend who had Alexa set up to control all sorts of different things in the house. I got a kick out of saying, “Alexa, turn on …” and choosing the lights I wanted on and off, the music I wanted playing, and so forth. I’ve seen those commercials with the refrigerators and ovens that practically do everything themselves with just the sound of a voice. We’re all moving towards having some version of smart homes. However, when I looked into the costs of just a few of those things, I wasn’t so sure anymore.

Do Smart Homes Save Money?

I’ve always figured that smart homes generally cost money to set up but have the potential to save money in the long run. However, I think that type of thinking primarily comes from the type of smart technology that makes a home more energy-efficient. When it comes to all of the technology available today to make a home more convenient, it may not actually save money. In fact, setting up a smart home can probably cost a lot of money that you don’t recoup. So, I’m trying to figure it out; do smart homes save money? Or do they at least have the potential to pay for themselves?

Energy-Saving Technology Can Save Money

Doing my research confirmed what I expected. It is possible for smart homes to save money if you’re talking about smart technology that saves energy. In other words, if you update your house to reduce energy waste then over time you can save a lot of money on energy bills. I found a helpful infographic that showed how some of this technology pays for itself then saves you money over the long run.

In fact, that research reminded me that I can make small investments that could make a difference. For example, I never thought about getting smart power strips. I use tons of power strips in my home already. Smart power strips monitor energy usage and turn the power off when it’s not in use. That could be really convenient. It could save energy. I like the green aspect of saving energy in addition to the fact that it helps me save money.

A smart thermostat is another really popular device in smart homes. It seems to also pay for itself in terms of quickly offering cost-effective energy savings. Of course, one could argue that simply setting your own thermostat to appropriate temperatures would achieve the same effect. So it’s not that we need the technology to save energy, necessarily, but it might be a small investment to make doing so more convenient.

Convenient Technology Doesn’t Necessarily Save Money

Some of the other technology in smart homes doesn’t seem like it pays off, though. For example, that same infographic shows details about smart refrigerators. A smart refrigerator can actually show you when items are about to go bad. Arguably, you might then use more of your food in time, and not wasting it could save you money. But it doesn’t save you that much. According to the infographic, it takes thirty years for a smart refrigerator to pay for itself. That’s before you would even start saving money thanks to it. Technology often needs frequent updates and repairs so it’s unlikely you’d keep that refrigerator much longer than thirty years (if you even make it that long).

Will I Invest In Smart Home Technology?

So, here’s what it boils down to … it doesn’t make financial sense for me to buy most types of smart technology for my home. The things that are most fun and add convenience generally cost more than they save. However, there might be a few small changes (smart power strips, smarter lighting) that could actually save me money in the long run. I don’t need them. It’s not something I’m going to get at this time. But as the technology keeps changing, I’ll keep reviewing the costs and benefits. It may make sense for me to look at smart homes again in the future.

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