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Current Page: Opinion | Friday, February 26, 2016
Ask Chuck: Is a Secret Bank Account Like Cheating With My Spouse?

Ask Chuck: Is a Secret Bank Account Like Cheating With My Spouse?


Click here to ask Chuck your money question

To learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.

Dear Chuck,

I saw you quoted in an interesting article in Fortune Magazine about a survey on "financial infidelity", and they said this, "One in twenty people in the U.S. admit to having started secret bank accounts or credit cards without their partner's knowledge."

You talked about how financial secrets were not good for a marriage, and I was wondering whether you think it is ever acceptable to set money aside that your spouse does not know about, or does that make someone financially unfaithful?

Curious about Joint Checking

Chuck Bentley is the CEO of Crown, the largest Christian financial ministry in the world, founded by the late, Larry Burkett.

Dear Curious,

When the Bible says that two become one in marriage, it acknowledges something that those of us in who are part of a couple understand painfully well — a unifying process is taking place. We are becoming one, rather than magically melding together, and that takes work.

Merging finances is one of the hardest things a couple does together, and it takes some time, patience and sincere conversations. And in counseling couples over the years, I have found that there does come a point at which couples can undermine their marriage with financial secrets.

A headline on the topic in The Guardian recently made an excellent point: "Cheating isn't always sexual — many admit to hiding financial information from their partners, and a frank discussion may be the best way to approach the issue."

While not very often, I agree with the media on this one!

To be clear, there is no Bible verse that says a couple has to have joint checking or that the bills have to be written out by either the wife or the husband. But the ninth commandment, the one that tells people not to lie, is direct.

Lying to your spouse about your money is a problem –— and a rather common one. The National Endowment for Financial Education found in a poll that 31 percent of Americans admitted to lying about their finances to their partners, while many others try to say nothing at all, remaining secretive.

The article that I participated in made some interesting observations: Men were more likely than women to have spent more than $500 without saying anything; Millennials were the most likely to hide their spending; while seniors — people who have been married longer than the rest of us — were LEAST likely to hide their finances from a spouse.

There's a lesson in there for the rest of us!

The couples that had been married the longest (and by definition were in marriages that had weathered some storms) had learned best how to share their financial information. They had learned to work together.

In counseling families, I've found that people who are hiding their finances are not usually trying to hide criminal activity or an affair. Often they are embarrassed with the status of their finances and are trying to fix a problem before they tell their spouse. Sometimes men in particular feel like they should be doing better than they are, and they try to keep up a strong front when what they really need to do is stop and share their struggle with a spouse who is committed to working together toward joint goals.

I highly recommend that a couple shares a financial Bible study, to learn what God has to say about money. Crown also offers a free MoneyLife Indicator survey that can help a couple see how they value money and prioritize its use. It provides a way for them to compare notes about goals, beliefs and behaviors. But I also strongly recommend that every couple sits down and goes through a budget, where all accounts, debts and responsibilities are discussed.

Secrets are bad for a marriage, and if you hide too long, you'll find "financial infidelity" separates you from the person you claim to love above all others, the person you are supposed to be willing to sacrifice for, like Christ sacrificed for his bride, the Church.

In Ephesians 5, Paul urges couples to work together, writing, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."

You don't have to have joint checking to know the status of your accounts. But you do need to be honest about your family's finances. If you have hidden an account or financial information from your spouse, apologize and seek to reestablish trust. Trust is the currency of greater value than any amount of money in a marriage.

Don't be afraid to become one with your spouse, to share your financial secrets, unify and work together.

To #Ask Chuck @AskCrown your own question, click here.

Chuck Bentley is the CEO of Crown, the largest Christian financial ministry in the world, founded by the late, Larry Burkett. He is an author, host of My MoneyLife- a daily radio feature and a frequent speaker on the topic of Biblical financial principles. Follow him on Twitter @chuckbentley and visit Crown.org for more help.

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