🎙 This week, I’m giving you a ton of food for thought. We’re talking about financial infidelity — what it is, when it happens, why it’s so bad and why A LOT of people think it’s worse than cheating. But we’re also going to take a good look at the concept of financial infidelity and discuss whether it’s really that bad. 🤔
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Hey there, friends! And welcome back to Girl on FIRE, the financial independence podcast for independent women.
My name is Priya, I’m a Chartered Accountant, an analyst and the creator of Paper Money Co.
I’m also a fierce financial feminist and the host of this podcast. I believe that a woman who is in control of her money, is in control of her life.
On this weeks’ episode, I wanted to talk about financial infidelity. I came across an article on Bustle titled “15 Million People Are Hiding This Secret From Their Partner”.
I’ll leave it linked for you in the show notes if you want to check it out. But it’s about financial infidelity and how it can affect our relationships.
This is going to be a pretty quick episode. And it’s not going to be super heavy on content for you to learn. But I wanted to give you some food for thought.
Because we’re doing both life and money here on this show. And we’re doing that because we know that life doesn’t exist without money and money is shaped by your life.
And while this episode isn’t exactly about teaching you content, I really wanted to get your brain juices flowing thinking about an important topic.
I really want to open up a can of worms here and talk about a moral dilemma. Is financial infidelity really as bad as it sounds? Is it ever okay? And where exactly do you cross that line?
Towards the end of this episode, I’ve also got some housekeeping to go through as well, so stay tuned for that.
But before we get started, I want to remind you to head to my website — papermoneyco.com/startinvesting to download your free copy of my Investing Starter guide
It’s totally free, you just need to enter in your email address and I’ll send it straight to your inbox.
It gives you a step by step plan to follow to get your finances ready to start investing, including working with a budget, building an emergency fund and paying off debt.
The sooner you can get your foundation set and get those good money management practices in place, the sooner you can start investing and building your wealth.
If you’re really serious about learning to master your money, then it’s the perfect guide for you, and I’d hate for you to miss out on it.
As always, Girl on FIRE is about learning, so whip out your favourite notebook or journal and get ready to take some notes.
Okay, let’s dive in!
What is financial infidelity and why is it so bad?
So, let’s start with a definition of what financial infidelity is. Financial infidelity is actively hiding things like credit cards and bank accounts from your partner.
Basically, keeping financial secrets. Like in the movies where the husband keeps his wealth in offshore accounts so that his wife can’t get to it.
Or in other movies where the husband has a secret credit card or bank account so that he can buy his mistress presents without his wife finding out.
Or maybe she takes money out of their savings account to lend it to her no-good brother without telling her partner.
It’s things like that, it’s keeping finances secret from each other. And experts say that financial infidelity can ruin a relationship just like any other form of cheating can.
Because it’s a breakdown in trust, betrayal, guilt, shame, humiliation and disrespect.
Now, what I found so interesting was that CreditCards.com did a survey, and according to that survey 31% of people said that keeping a credit card or bank account secret from your partner is worse than physical cheating.
That absolutely blew me away. Because I’ve been in that position. I’ve had credit card debt hidden from me and honestly it made me really angry because I try to be very financially responsible.
But I decided that I didn’t want it to be a big deal. It clearly highlighted that there were communication problems in that relationship. And I wanted to focus my energy on fixing that.
Now, I’ve also had to deal with ex-boyfriends physically cheating. And that’s not something I got over easily. In fact, I probably haven’t gotten over it all that much.
That incident made it hard to trust a lot. And I’d much rather my husband tell me that he has a secret bank account with all this money he as keeping aside than to tell me that he had an affair.
That’s just me, and I know that this is going to be different for everyone. But the statistics really shocked me.
Financial infidelity and relationships
Not only that, but apparently 15 million people who live with their partners say that they do it — they keep financial secrets from their partners. And another 9 million said that they’ve done it in the past.
The article also points out that financial infidelity is a lot more common in relationships where people aren’t able to talk about money with their partners.
And this just goes to show that talking about money is seriously still such a taboo topic. Why is it so hard to talk about money?
Why is it so hard to talk about money with your partner, not just your friends? Someone you share your life with.
The article answers that question for us. I’m going to read a quote here from Shira Galston, who is a marriage and family therapist.
She says: “Purposefully hiding your financial information from your partner is probably symptomatic of deeper problems between you such as issues related to trust, control, power, shame, communication, and/or commitment.”
And that makes sense, right? I’m always telling you that your budget is like a diary. Because it reflects who you are and what you value so clearly.
Your money reflects your choices. And sometimes the choices we make can make us feel ashamed. Or we feel like our partners will judge us for those choices.
What does financial infidelity mean for you?
Now, why am I telling you all of this? What’s the point of this episode? I wanted to talk about financial infidelity today because it’s something that takes away your control.
In every single episode I start off by saying that a woman who is in control of her money is in control of her life.
And financial infidelity is something that takes away that control. Now, I want to make something clear here.
I believe that we should be able to talk about money openly amongst friends. Especially as women, we’re all in this together.
It shouldn’t make us anxious or uncomfortable to have to say: “that’s not in my budget right now.”
We shouldn’t have to be afraid to say: “I’m trying to save money” or “I’d rather invest that” or “I can’t afford that right now”.
But I’m not saying that you need to tell your friends everything about your finances. If you want to, then you do you, but I’m not saying you have to.
You know me, I never tell you what to do. I tell you how to figure out what you should do for yourself.
What I am saying is that you should be able to talk about money with your partner. You shouldn’t have to hide things and you shouldn’t have to put up with things being hidden from you.
Because when that happens, things start to get out of your control. But most importantly, I want you to remember that sharing your financial life with your partner doesn’t automatically mean you’re giving up control.
And that’s something I think a lot of women need to hear. Women have been economically controlled for centuries, and the fact that we can earn and invest our own money, without permission from our husbands is something really new to the world.
There was a time when getting married would automatically make you like chattel to your husband. You stopped being a legal person and any money you had became the legal property of your husband.
And I saw that in action when we lived in Germany in 2019. I was sent over there with my work. I had a workers permit, a German contract, a German bank account.
I was working and getting paid for my work and that’s the income we used to support ourselves and travel around Europe. And my husband took care of our household.
But when I filed my taxes, everything was in my husbands name. All my income was stated under my husbands name. Income I earned from my job.
Oh I was listed on the document. But not by name. Because my name didn’t matter in the eyes of the German tax authorities. And the fact that this was my money they were assessing tax on didn’t matter either.
I was listed as “the wife”. My husbands’ name was on all the paperwork. And I was just “the wife”.
Sharing finances with your partner
Okay, so that’s the end of that little story, but I want to keep talking about communicating about money in relationships a little bit. And I’m going to use myself as an example here.
My parents, my siblings and my friends don’t know how much I make. They don’t know about my plans for FIRE, they don’t really know how much I have invested or how I like to invest.
You actually know a lot more details about my finances and even my personal life than a lot of the people I spend time with in real life do.
I would love to share some of that information with them, especially about FIRE and how much I detest working for the man. But they don’t really care. Which is why I tell you about it every week.
But other than that, I don’t tell them anything about my finances like that because I’m a private person. I don’t tell them a lot of stuff about my life. It’s just who I am.
On the other hand, though, my husband knows all that information. We talk about it regularly. We talk about how we’re going to budget for the next month.
I tell him when the market is doing well and I’m making money. Or when it’s not doing so well. I tell him how my FIRE number changes.
Now, keep in mind here, I’m not talking about joint bank accounts and investments in both your names.
I’m not talking about combining finances. That’s something we’ll talk about in another episode.
I’m just talking about communicating. I’m just talking about talking about money. My husband and I, we consult each other and communicate with each other.
Even though I’m the one who sets and closes the budget every month. I’m the one who plans for FIRE and makes the investments.
But we’re talking about it every step of the way.
And that’s something that’s super important to me. It hasn’t always been easy. And we haven’t always been able to communicate the way we do now.
But we work at it. Because everyone knows the statistics about divorce and how often financial problems lead you down that path.
And, frankly, I don’t want to be one of those statistics. My parents are divorced. I grew up in a broken home and one of my earliest memories is of my parents fighting about money in the middle of their bitter divorce.
Finances in your relationship
So, what I want you to do is this: if you’re partnered up, examine the role that finances play in your relationship.
Do you communicate about money? How do you feel talking about money with each other? Is it easy or does it lead to fighting?
Do you tell each other everything or do either of you feel the need to hide finances from each other? Or do you feel like something is being hidden from you?
And if you’re riding solo, think about what you would want in a relationship in terms of dealing with finances.
Do you feel comfortable sharing your finances openly with a significant other? Is that something you’d even want?
But also, what do you think about financial infidelity? Is it okay or is it not okay? Is it worse than cheating?
FIRE & investment calculator spreadsheet
Before we move on, I want to ask my Girls on FIRE for a favour. If you’ve listened this far into the episode then you’re probably enjoying it, right?
So, here’s what I’d like you to do next. Pause this episode for a few seconds and head on over to papermoneyco.com/podcastreview.
I want you to leave a rating and review for Girl on FIRE because it helps me provide better content based on what you’re enjoying the most.
It helps other women out in the internet wilderness come and find us as well.
And it’s also a great way to support this show for free, and for that I’d love to send you a little something to say thank you.
So, once you’ve done that, take a screenshot of your submitted review and email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you do that, I’ll send you a copy of my FIRE and investment calculator. Which, if I do say so myself, is pretty damn amazing.
It’s how I plan for my early retirement and my wealth. It shows me how my wealth is going to grow, when I can retire and how long my money will last.
And it also has a separate tab that takes Australia’s superannuation into account as well.
And you can use it to analyse companies and different investment options when you’re picking stocks too.
I’ve never actually seen anything like it before, so it’s pretty special. And I’m currently not offering that spreadsheet anywhere else except for Camp FIRE members.
Not in my shop, not to my email list — it’s a ghost. So, this is kind of a money-can’t-buy type deal.
The only way to get your hot little hands on that spreadsheet is by submitting a rating and a review, taking a screenshot and emailing it to me.
That URL again is papermoneyco.com/podcastreview. I’ve made it nice and easy for you.
So, go hit pause and do that right now. It’s okay, I’ll wait.
Okay, that concludes my little ad-break, so let’s get back to it.
So, the point of this episode was to give you some food for thought. We’ve gone through what financial infidelity is and how it happens.
And we’ve talked a bit about being able to communicate about money and I’ve shared my own personal experience there, too.
What I want to do now is pose some questions to you. Some moral dilemmas about the concept of financial infidelity and what it means.
When does financial infidelity cross the line?
Firstly, what does financial infidelity really look like? Where’s the line? I know we started off this episode by defining it.
But it’s not just a dictionary definition, right? Anything that has anything to do with human behaviour and relationships and emotions is never a straightforward answer like that.
So, my question to you is where do you draw the line? Just like any form of infidelity in a relationship, what constitutes crossing the line depends on the people in that relationship.
For example, some couples consider flirting with someone else crossing a line. For another couple, the line isn’t crossed until there’s some physical contact.
Well, that same fluidity applies to financial infidelity, too. It’s defined by you. For one couple, having your own bank accounts that you don’t need to consult your partner on are fine.
For other couples, that’s financial infidelity. So, the question I’m trying to pose to you here is where’s the line for you?
Do you have to share everything?
Not only that, but do you have to share everything? Or is it just implied that if you’re partnered up, money should be shared?
Not being able to communicate with each other when your shared goals are at stake is one thing.
But is it really so bad to have a credit card for yourself? One that you spend money on and you pay off and you carry no debt.
These questions I’m asking don’t come with a right or wrong answer. It’s up to you and how you want to live your life. And what’s right for one person doesn’t have to be right for someone else.
For me personally, it becomes a problem when the secret accounts and credit cards start impacting the relationship. Or they impact the other person.
Can women share finances with their partner and still be independent?
Not only that, but where does the moral obligation to tell your partner come from?
And when does this argument change from “share your finances with you partner” to “maybe women shouldn’t have their own money”.
And I know that sounds a little bit extreme, but it’s really not. The idea of your grandma keeping cash in a coffee can under the sink — that’s financial infidelity.
It’s secret money. And that used to be a very common thing. Women needed to have money like that because they legally couldn’t open bank accounts without their husbands.
And they needed that money for their own purposes, sometimes to be able to leave abusive relationships, or sometimes in order to maintain some kind of control over their own lives that didn’t involve the explicit approval of their husbands.
And if we look at secret bank accounts in that context, I ask you again — is it so wrong to have your own accounts that your partner doesn’t know about or have any say in?
I find this a really fascinating topic because to me, it’s one of those areas that puts feminism and female independence in our modern age under a microscope.
And for us millennials it seems like the line between being independent and being partnered up, especially in a heterosexual relationship is constantly shifting.
That’s something I really want to talk about more in future episodes and definitely really dig into with my Campers.
Because I’ve been told before that I’m not really married since I didn’t change my name and we don’t 100% share finances.
I’ve also been told that I’m not really a feminist or an independent woman because I married a man.
And that brings up another really interesting question here. How does financial infidelity look in non-heterosexual relationships?
Those statistics I shared with you at the beginning of this episode — I don’t even know what demographics they surveyed.
Is financial infidelity just as prevalent in same sex relationships? Does it matter less because those old school gender roles of the breadwinning husband and homemaking wife don’t apply?
Does marriage create the breading ground for financial infidelity?
And another way of looking at this is it seems that financial infidelity really only becomes a problem when two people are married or living together in a committed long term relationship.
But a girlfriend who’s not living with her boyfriend and is keeping a credit card secret from her him seems like no big deal.
She’s an independent woman, she doesn’t need to answer to anyone, including the man she’s been dating for 5 years.
But it seems that the moment a couple like that moves in together or gets married, that credit card needs to be out in the open. And yes, you could argue that there should be no secrets in a committed relationship.
Or maybe even that all their finances should be combined.
But what I find interesting, and where I think the moral dilemma lies, is that the idea of a woman having her own independent financial life in a committed relationship is almost taboo.
Because what if you have a wife who gets a new credit card that she uses for her personal fun shopping.
She pays it off with the money she earns and she doesn’t carry any debt. And she actually uses it very responsibly.
Is she under obligation to tell her spouse about that card? And does her spouse have any say in how she uses it?
To me, the concept of financial infidelity is a debate that’s very much tied to the argument of whether or not couples should combine finances or not.
And that’s a discussion we’re going to tackle in another episode.
I’m hoping this episode has given you some interesting things to think about. If it has, email me and share your thoughts, I’d love to hear them.
I love it when you Girls on FIRE write back to me. It makes me so happy. I feel like someone is actually listening instead of me just sitting here talking to myself like a nut job.
The last thing I want you to do is just turn a blind eye to anything that’s going on. Because you’re only in control of what you know, right?
And when we sit here every week we’re not just talking about money. It’s never just about money. It’s not really even about money at all.
It’s about living the life of your dreams. A life you love. Living on your terms. Because at the end of the day, we just want to be happy. And our money is just a tool to help us build a life that makes us happy.
This has been a huge topic and there’s honestly so much to say about it and discuss which is why I really wanted to make this episode.
But for my Campers, I have an extra special treat for you. You’re going to be getting an exclusive members-only Backstage episode where I discuss and debate this topic openly with a super special guest, my husband.
I think the perfect compliment to a female feminist voice, honestly, is her feminist husband. It’s going to be super engaging and so interesting. And we’re going to have a ton of fun as well.
These exclusives are called Backstage because Potty Mouth Priya comes out, I’m not going to be writing an episode, I’m not going to be holding back my profanities.
It’s just like getting a glass of wine and hanging out with friends, you’re really going to love it.
Before I sign off for this episode, I have a few housekeeping items I wanted to go through. First, I wanted to share a quick update about Camp FIRE and also my Patreon.
Patreon tip jar
So, all the membership perks from Patreon are going to be shifted to Camp FIRE, which is hosted through my own website and not a membership platform.
Now, the reason I did that is because it allows me to really tailor the membership experience for you and give a super premium experience that you can’t get anywhere else.
And that’s something that’s really important to me. But the Patreon page won’t be disappearing completely.
If you’re not looking for a membership community but you still want to support this show, then Patreon will still be available for you as a tip jar.
Camp FIRE membership
So, that’s Patreon, but I also have an update for Camp FIRE.
Recently, after many months of waiting, I was finally able to get my first Pfizer shot. We had a lot of vaccine shortages here for a while and honestly the government really screwed up the rollout.
So, at first we weren’t able to get out vaccinations until November. But luckily, just last week, we were able to move up our vaccination bookings.
It was very quick and unexpected, but it has thrown off my plans a little bit, especially for launching Camp FIRE.
Because after I got that first shot, I got sick. Apparently, the vaccine doesn’t sit too well with my heart condition.
Even though my doctor said it was fine and the doctor on site at the vaccination hub said it was fine.
I guess that’s what happens when you have an incurable chronic heart condition with no known cause. There’s not always a clear picture of how your body will respond to something like a new vaccine.
But I was quite unwell for about a week and I’m slowly feeling better. Now, what does this have to do with the Camp FIRE launch?
For one, I can’t work when I’m that unwell. So, I’m behind. But also, my second vaccination is booked for late October.
And I don’t want to launch Camp FIRE and then immediately get sick for a few weeks. Or have to work while I’m that unwell to get something launched.
So, to be safe, the launch will be delayed until after I get that second vaccination, with a bit of buffer time in case I get knocked off my feet again.
So, with that, Camp FIRE will be officially launching at the beginning of January. So, from then, we’ll kick off our livestream schedule.
And of course, replays will be available if you can’t make it live. We’re spread all over the world, so it’s hard to find a time when everyone is available.
But you can also join and become a Camper from mid-December if you want to get started early. There’ll be some masterclasses up and ready for you to dig in and prepare for your new year’ resolutions.
You’ll also start getting access to your spreadsheet resources a little sooner, too, if you want to play around with them before we start using them in our livestream masterclasses.
I’m also really excited to start the Bonfire Bookclub for my Campers! We’ll be reading a book together every month.
I’ve got some great titles lined up to get us started but I’d love to have all titles selected by community vote once we’re up and running.
And also to get submissions for new titles to be considered from the community as well.
My vision is to have a panel of literati discuss the book together in livestreams. So, if you’re a reader and you don’t mind sharing your thoughts on camera then it’s the perfect place for you to get involved.
You can just send me an email and let me know that you’d like to join the panel.
But until we have a full panel, I guess it will be just me doing book club Oprah style so I can’t wait for you readers out there to join me.
I’m going to be sending out tons of details really soon via email and you can head to papermoneyco.com/campfire for more information and to sign up to become a Camper.
I can’t wait to see you on the inside, we’re going to have so much fun together.
And I can’t wait for you to see the members area as well. It was a labour of love, I think it looks gorgeous and I think you’re going to love it, too.
So, that URL again is papermoneyco.com/campfire.
Okay, so the last item on the housekeeping agenda is that we are approaching the end of the first season of Girl on FIRE.
So, we’re going to be taking a break from releasing new episodes in November and December.
And we’ll be back in the new year with a whole bunch of fresh and amazing new content. We’ll continue our weekly episodes right from January with season 2.
I’m going to be ending this season on a fun little high note at the end of October. I’ve got a couple of episodes that I’m really excited to share with you.
But, honestly, we just need a break. We’re just taking a time out to relax and unwind and spend the holidays together.
Making this show every week on top of a high pressure full time job and all the demands of life is pretty taxing. So, we’re looking forward to some time off over November and December.
But I promise I’ll give you a warning when we’re on our season finale episode. You know, in case you want to play it slow and make it last as long as possible.
Next weeks’ episode
And that’s all I have for you Girls on FIRE today!
My challenge for you this week is to think about those questions I posed to you throughout this episode.
On next weeks’ episode we’re going to talk about how to make a difference with your investing. If you want to save the planet, then this is the perfect episode for you.
It’s going to be a super interesting episode so you’re definitely not going to want to miss it.