What is required to make a romantic relationship work? I think most of us would agree that love, commitment, and trust are three key ingredients.

If your partner cheats on you with another person, this can be difficult or even impossible to overcome. Once trust is broken in a relationship, it’s hard to recover.

The same is true when it comes to money. If your partner commits financial infidelity and lies about where they’re spending money, the amount of credit debt they’ve racked up, or gambles your life savings away through delusional stock market prowess, it can be very difficult to move on.

 

What is financial infidelity?

Financial infidelity is when one partner keeps a secret or tells lies that affect the family’s shared finances. If your partner is hiding a secret credit card they’ve been racking up, have a compulsive online shopping habit they haven’t told you about, or stopped investing in their company retirement plan in defiance of your stated plans – you’ve been a victim of financial infidelity.

These are just a few examples.

And just as there are various levels of physical cheating, there are various levels of financial infidelity. Racking up tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt is different than “temporarily” stopping your retirement plan contributions. Nonetheless, they all possess the same characteristics: an inappropriate use of money without you knowing about it.

Financial infidelity can be just as devastating to a relationship as when someone physically cheats because both of these acts result in broken trust.

The partner who has been financially cheated on starts to think, “If he’s lied to me about this, what else is he hiding?”

“How long has this been going on?”

“Is this the first time he’s strayed or does this happen often?”

In addition to the lack of trust, taking away someone’s money is like taking away their freedom, their independence, and their dreams for the future. If enough money is taken, your life goals, dreams, and ambitions could be stripped away.

 

 

Why do people commit financial infidelity?

Financial infidelity is a common problem in the U.S. A 2018 survey conducted by Harris Poll found over 40% of Americans who had combined their finances admitted to financial infidelity. And it’s a growing problem.

In 2016, the number of adults who had committed financial infidelity was 33%. By 2018, it jumped to 40%. That’s a 21% increase in just 2 short years. This begs the question … why?

We know money is an emotional topic. People come into relationships with all sorts of financial baggage. This makes it difficult for partners to communicate about money or get on the same financial page. Here are some of the most common reasons people commit financial infidelity.

 

Traditional beliefs

Some people grow up thinking money is taboo and should not be discussed. Talking about money is considered classless and rude. Such beliefs make it difficult for partners to open up and have honest conversations about money. It also leads to the “I didn’t know” argument.

You know, the one where he says, “I had no idea you felt this way. I wouldn’t have done it had I known.”

But, if you’ve never had the conversation …

 

Gender roles

Others grow up believing in traditional gender roles. It’s not uncommon for men to believe they should be the primary breadwinner. If they can’t (or don’t) live up to this expectation, they feel they’ve failed as a man. This can lead to feelings of embarrassment and shame and an unwillingness to share with their partner.

In a similar vein, many women believe that finances are the man’s job and they should be in charge of it. This lack of engagement is fertile ground for bad financial behavior. Often, by the time she figures out what’s going on, real damage, sometimes irreparable damage, has been done.

 

Fear

If someone is in an abusive or controlling relationship, they may find it necessary to sneak money and put it into a secret account to fund their escape or prepare for separation. Additionally, an abused partner might feel like she needs to hide her purchases from a controlling spouse if she fears there will be negative consequences for her spending.

 

Entitlement

Some partners might feel they are entitled to a secret credit card or bank account because they make significantly more money than their partner. They believe because they earn the majority of the money, they deserve to treat themselves with “no questions asked.“

 

Addiction

Any kind of addiction, whether it’s alcohol, drugs, shopping, sex, or gambling can lead to financial infidelity. Usually, the person battling the addiction is trying to cover up their bad habit as well as the financial ramifications associated with it. They hide evidence of their compulsive shopping trips or fail to admit they’ve blown through the retirement savings to fund their addiction.

On the other side, partners of addicts may begin to hide money in an effort to keep it safe. They might open secret bank accounts so their partner can’t use the money to fund their addiction.

 

Affairs

This is the double whammy of infidelity. One partner is having a physical affair while also committing financial infidelity. The cheating partner is buying gifts and paying for romantic dinners all behind their spouses back.

 

 

How to overcome financial infidelity

It’s easy to comprehend how financial infidelity happens. That doesn’t make it any easier for the person who has been duped. In an effort to avoid financial infidelity, or overcome it if it’s already occurred, here are some strategies you can try with your partner.

 

Communicate

Couples should have open conversations about money as soon as their relationship starts to get serious. And they’re an absolute must before any shared long-term financial commitments are made like buying a house, getting married, or even adopting a puppy.

 

Take responsibility

Get your heads out of the sand. Both partners should be aware of their combined financial situation. If one person is more financially savvy and enjoys taking care of the finances, that’s fine. But, you both need to be aware of what’s going on and how to access account information so no one is surprised.

 

Come up with a plan

There’s no such thing as “one size fits all” when building a financial plan. It is up to you and your partner to discuss and decide what works best for you. The important part is to make sure you have a shared plan that outlines how your finances will be managed. This includes things like how you will split expenses, who will be responsible for ensuring the bills are paid, what are your debt and investing philosophies, and whether or not you will consult each other before making a (large) purchase.

(See Guiding Principles for a unique way to get on the same page with your partner.)

 

 

Are you ready to start talking?

Money is the number one thing couples fight about and one of the leading causes of divorce. It’s no surprise financial infidelity is so prevalent among American adults.

Partners come together as two separate people with separate beliefs, values, and opinions about money. This makes it difficult to find common ground when it comes to how to manage your money.

If you’re going to avoid or overcome financial infidelity, it’s imperative you talk early and talk often. If you are still struggling, consider reaching out to a therapist or financial coach to help you get on the same page. Given what’s at stake, isn’t it worth the effort?

 

Have you ever heard someone say, “Finances are a guy thing, let them handle the money?”

Umm, I don’t think so. This sentiment is just so wrong.

Women are more than capable of managing their own money.

Unfortunately, the myth that “men are better at money than women” is still around, and it’s one of the main factors contributing to why women struggle to achieve financial equality.

Are men born with a personal finance gene?

Imagine you and your male partner are in a meeting with your financial advisor. Your advisor starts talking and within 30 seconds you feel totally lost.

But, what about your male significant other?

You look over and he just seems to “get it.”

Have you ever wondered, “why?”

Why does “he” seem to get it while you’re sitting there struggling? Is there some sort of personal finance gene that’s only on the Y chromosome — something that gives men the innate ability to understand money better than women?

If you’ve ever gone down this rabbit hole and wondered why you, a smart and accomplished woman, are struggling while your male partner isn’t, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, this is an all-too-familiar scene, and it needs to stop.

 

Women as Better Money Managers?

 

 

The truth is there is no “finance gene,” and men are not inherently better at managing money than women.

In fact, there’s research to suggest (here and here) that the opposite may be true. When it comes to investing, women often outperform their male counterparts.

Despite this evidence, the majority of financial advisors are men. Financial services is an industry built for and dominated by men. Men who’ve been taught to “sell” to the male ego and the way men think about money. Consequently, there’s a lot of posturing, one-upmanship, and an obsession with “performance.” It’s aggressive, competitive, and numbers-driven.

In other words, the language of finance was created by men for men. Is there any wonder why men “get it” and women so-often don’t?

But … what if the language of finance was created with women in mind? What if the financial industry encouraged women to believe they could be competent and valuable managers of their own money? What if women felt they were just as capable (if not more capable) and had just as much at stake as men?

If women had all of this working for them, do you think that maybe women would start to “get it?”

Absolutely.

 

Wealth is Shifting from Men to Women

 

Despite decades of under-serving women, the financial industry is slowly changing as the wealth in this country is shifting from men to women.

Women have held the majority of college degrees for four decades. Women account for 50% of the college-educated workforce, and it’s becoming increasingly common for women to be the primary household breadwinners. There is no reason to believe women are not capable of making their own money and then managing it successfully.

But, there also needs to be a culture shift. We need to see more women in finance, specifically in leadership roles. We need women to feel confident and capable. The financial industry needs to start appealing to women.

On the other hand, women need to stop turning over major money decisions to men as if it’s their birthright. Remember, you are one hundred percent capable of managing your own money.

Yes, the financial language barrier is real, the jargon used by financial professionals makes everything sound far more complicated than it needs to be. Don’t let this get in your way. Your ability to manage your finances is too important. After all, no one cares about your money more than you do.

It’s time to put an end to the myth that “financial planning is a guy thing” because it’s Just. Not. True.

 

 

How to Take Control of Your Money

      1. Believe you can. One of the main reasons men seem to just “get it” when it comes to money is because they are confident in their own abilities (sometimes for no good reason). It’s time women claim some of this confidence — start to believe you are capable of managing your money because you are.
      2. Become financially literate. Knowledge breeds confidence, so start to learn as much as you can. Yes, there’s a lot of financial jargon that makes things difficult to understand, but you can overcome it. There are plenty of financial resources available to help you learn financial concepts — you just need to find them. And let us point out you’ll find a lot at enlightenHer.com! We’ve created a learning environment built specifically for women and how you think about money.
      3. Find experts that speak your language. A good financial planner can help you cut through the financial jargon and explain things in a way that makes sense to you. She will increase your knowledge and confidence when it comes to personal finances. If you’re interacting with a financial advisor that only speaks to your male partner or makes you feel silly for asking a question, it’s time to jump ship and move on. There’s plenty of good advisors out there, but you might have to “date” around!

 

Financial Planning is a Guy Thing, But It’s Also a Gal Thing

 

If anyone ever tells you that financial planning is just for men, be sure to give them an education and bust that antiquated myth. Financial planning is about you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman. It’s about creating a plan that allows you to achieve your dream and your goals.

So, start to take charge of your finances. Take one small step today — read another post on our blog, take out a personal finance book from the library, or listen to a financial podcast. Over time these small steps will add up, and your financial knowledge and confidence will continue to grow!

Money Myth #1: Women Shouldn’t Talk About Money

 

Does talking about money make you feel uncomfortable?

Be honest, does talking about money make you uncomfortable? 

If you answered yes, you’re not alone.

A survey of 1,202 Americans conducted by Capital Group found that people are more comfortable talking about marriage problems, drug addiction, race, sex, mental illness, race, and politics then they are about money. 

In a time where oversharing every detail of our lives on social media is the new normal, it’s somewhat surprising that talking about money is still so taboo.  

 

Why is the topic of money so taboo?

 

The idea that it’s “rude” or “ill-mannered” for women to talk about money is about as relevant as saying “women shouldn’t work.” It’s an archaic notion, one rooted in keeping a woman “in her place” and out of power. Yet, for women, money is still one of the most taboo topics in America. 

With all of the progress women have made in the realms of education, health, and work, why is money still so off-limits?

 

Family

Most of our beliefs and values come from our family. Our beliefs about money are no different. If you grew up in a family that didn’t talk about money or a family who thought money was the root of all evil, or a family who constantly fought about money — then it’s no wonder if you’re not open to talking about it. 

 

Shame

There is so much shame around money. 

Shame if you have too much, shame if you don’t have enough. Shame if you feel like you lack the financial literacy necessary to start or engage in a conversation about money. 

Enough with the shame.

 

Culture

Many ideas about money are deeply rooted in tradition and culture. Many women don’t talk about money because society has told them it’s not ladylike or it’s tacky. 

Traditionally, it was the man that made the money, invested the money and controlled the money. Women were often (and sometimes still are) oblivious to their families’ financial situation. Women make up nearly 47% of the workforce and 41% of mothers have taken the role of sole or primary breadwinner for their family. Things are changing. 

While there are personal finance communities where it is viewed as normal or, dare I say, even fun to talk about money, these conversations need to move to a bigger forum. Talking about money needs to be commonplace at a societal level. 

 

Why we need to start talking about money 

 

Empowered women present a challenge to the status quo of a leadership that is predominately male. One way to curb this challenge is to silence it – to punish, reject, or shame women who talk about money.

If we want to overcome this, then women need to start the conversation and then keep it going. 

Women deserve the opportunity to take control of their lives and experience the freedom and confidence that comes from being financially stable.

 

 

Women need to talk about money to increase their financial power in their home, their community and on a global scale.  

By removing the stigma and putting the topic of money on the table you can begin to help those women who are experiencing financial hardship but are too afraid to reach out or are too embarrassed to ask for the help they need. 

By starting the conversation you can create a network of support to help ensure women aren’t trapped in abusive relationships because they don’t have the financial means to leave. 

By starting the conversation about money you can discuss wages and your company’s or industry’s pay structure to ensure women are getting paid an equal amount when compared to their male counterparts. 

The importance of women talking openly with each other about finances isn’t just about individual equality. Being financially empowered is bigger than you. Your example and your mentorship are powerful tools for helping other women achieve financial (and full) equality.

So, if you want to be a part of the conversation, or better yet, if you want to start the conversation, what steps can you take?

What can you do to ensure your daughters, sisters, nieces, mothers, coworkers, and friends have the confidence and knowledge needed to take control of their financial futures? 

How to start talking about money

 

Talk to your spouse

If you’re comfortable enough to sleep in the same bed or even share a pet with someone, then you should be able to talk to them about money. 

Why is this important? Well, money is one of the main things that couples fight about and it’s one of the leading causes of divorce. If you and your partner share a bank account, a debt, or if you’re financially reliant on your partner, you need to be on the same page. 

Both of you should be aware of your financial situation. You should be aware of how much money is in the bank, how much money you have invested and, if you’re carrying any debt, how much. You should be part of the conversations with your financial advisor and you should know the passwords to all of your financial accounts. 

When it comes to money don’t put your head in the sand and rely on someone else to make the decisions. There is nothing more empowering than taking control of your finances. 

 

Talk to your friends

Start to make the topic of money more commonplace by bringing it up in casual conversation. You don’t have to make people feel uncomfortable by asking how much their house cost or what they spend on their monthly car payments. 

Instead, use conversation to share ideas about money. Educate each other on interesting and useful things you’ve learned. Share financial resources or attend a financial event together and make it a fun and educational night out.

Talk to your kids

Children are the future so set them up on the right financial path. Make money a topic that is open for discussion, make financial literacy a family goal, and seek opportunities to teach your children about money management. 

If you don’t feel like you have the financial education needed to give your kids advice then make an effort to learn together. Check out some personal finance books at the library or find some good online resources (there are tons of them). Or, seek outside resources – bring them with you when you go to speak with your financial advisor and have them ask some questions.

 

 

You should be talking about money. You should be talking to your spouse, your friends, your children, and anyone else who wants to join the conversation. 

Talking about money doesn’t need to be uncomfortable. You don’t need to ask overly personal questions about how much money they make or how much debt they have. The goal is to start discussing money to increase financial literacy and to normalize the topic.  

By having a conversation about money you are demonstrating that it’s not a subject that should be kept secret. It’s not a topic that is shameful to speak about.

So, are you in? Are you ready to bust this money myth and start the conversation?

 

Why is this personal finance and investment stuff so confusing? How am I supposed to talk about this finance stuff with my kids if I don’t even know what “building a portfolio” really means?

What’s going on here?  Do men possess a “finance gene” that women don’t?

Ladies … have you ever wondered why men just seem to “get” finances and women often don’t?  If that sounds a bit abrasive to you, go with me here. I’m trying to shift a paradigm in the finance space.

I know you don’t believe men are smarter than women and neither do I.  We are way beyond any debate like that in society.

Women have had more access to education in the past century than ever before and are making great gains. 56% of college students are women. 58.3% of graduate students are women. To put that into perspective, that means there are 139 female grad students for every 100 male students.  And more women than men have earned their doctorate for the 10th straight year.* (through 2018)

Here’s an odd theory that may have crossed your mind.  Perhaps, men possess a special “finance gene” that gives them special powers enabling them to understand the world of finance?  Okay, we don’t even need to dignify that question with a response. Although, you can’t fault one for thinking it.

So, what’s going on here?  Why does financial literacy remain a stubbornly difficult problem to solve when women are advancing so rapidly in other areas of their lives?

I see women all around me trying.  Women are reading (and publishing!) finance books, scouring financial blogs and websites, listening to money podcasts, talking to “knowledgeable” others and yet something is missing:  women are confused, bored, frustrated with financial talk. Let’s be practical about this…. It’s not like you are sitting around talking with your girlfriends about your stock portfolio or the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Why do I, a male financial professional and father of 5 daughters, believe this is?

In a word: language

Language you say?”

Yes, language.

The language of finance is decidedly masculine.

It was created and developed by men, centuries ago when the industry was entirely male dominated, so they could sell financial products to other men.  It was created to fit the way men think about money and the emotional needs fulfilled by money – status, ego, competition, power, freedom.

 

 

From the words used to describe financial instruments* to the way financial firms market their products by focusing on statistics and “beating” the competition, everything in the world of finance was built by men to reach other men.

**Note: would a woman ever say financial “instrument” or tout their “10-year track record against their peer group?”  Nope. This is all for the guys.

No matter how many books you read, seminars you attend, or podcasts you listen to, if your “teachers” are using the same masculine language, a language you don’t relate to how are you ever to learn anything, much less teach those concepts to your children?

Markets Not Misogyny

Before I go further, I want to address what many of you are already thinking:  Does Wall Street Hate Women? [stay tuned for a future blog on the subject]

There’s a lot about Wall Street that could be construed as discriminatory but this (masculine language) isn’t one of them.  The language of finance wasn’t created to discriminate against women or exclude them. It was more basic than that – when the industry was created, men had all of the money and the language of money was created to reach an all-male audience.

As it pertains to the language of finance, it developed in direct response to the market it was serving at the time: men.  Further, it wasn’t built to serve every man.  It was built to serve men with money.  If you were a poor man, Wall Street didn’t care one bit about you (some things never change).

This is the harsh truth: 

    • The language of finance does not discriminate.
    • The language of finance, without malice or intent, does exclude women.

No, the language of the finance industry wasn’t designed to be discriminatory towards women.  Or, poor men. It was designed to reach a specific market – men with money.

And for many, many years that system worked just fine.  That is until women joined the workforce in earnest and gained their own money and economic power.

But by that time, the damage was already done.

 

 

Stop Blaming Yourself 

The most important thing is to realize you have permission, no… the responsibility, to stop blaming yourself for not knowing more about this financial stuff.  No more beating yourself up. No more damaging, negative self talk.  No more thoughts of “men are just better at this stuff than women.”

This new, more enlightened you brings a greater responsibility along with it.

Now that you know nothing innate is keeping you from mastering money, it creates a responsibility to figure it out.  

Sure, the language barrier exists but it’s not insurmountable.  Yes, there are obstacles in your way, obstacles that men don’t have to contend with, and you’re right, it’s not fair.  But you also know what mama always said about life being fair?

Begin Here

Now that you’ve identified a major barrier is language, you can find appropriate solutions.  Here are few places to start:

Above all, remember it is no longer okay to turn over your financial power to a man just because he “gets it.”  You can “get it” too and hold onto your rightful share of financial power.

Sure, it’s easier to have someone else do it but being on equal financial footing with the men in your life is more important than finding the path of least resistance.