Sunday 30 April 2017

'I have a secret bank account and my partner doesn't know about it'

Chrissie Russell on why one in 10 of us commits financial infidelity

Image posed. Photo: Getty Images
Image posed. Photo: Getty Images

Chrissie Russell

So you thought being faithful was all about never getting caught with a mystery man between your sheets? Wrong.

Forget shameless steamy trysts and illicit romps -- today's cheating is all about money, and we're all at it.

Financial infidelity, as it's being dubbed, is rife in Ireland.

While 90% of the country hasn't two cents to rub together the other 10% is feverishly hiding what assets they have from their other halves.

Of the one-in-10 who has a secret bank account, almost a third of them have more than €5,000 in it. It seems we've all learnt a little something from the bankers and developers when it comes to being economical with the truth about our funds.

"My husband probably knows I've some money put away but he's no idea how much," says Margaret*.

Six years ago the 60-something mum of five set up a private account after she and her husband retired.

For years the husband had been the main wage earner and left the running of the house to Margaret.

She explains: "My husband is inclined to ignore things. He was always very generous when he was earning but he genuinely hasn't a clue when it comes to paying bills and he has no idea how to save."

Margaret, who coyly admits to having "not hundreds of thousands but a significant number" of euros saved in her secret account, reckons it's best that her man remains in the dark.

"If he knew the amount of money I have in that account it would burn a hole in his pocket," she says. "He'd be wanting holidays all the time and he'd be through it in no time. I like having it there for an emergency."

If she were to reveal her account details Margaret fears it would also raise issues about the power dynamic in their relationship.

"I wouldn't like him to feel emasculated if he knew I'd that money and that I was in control of what we do with it. As far as I'm concerned it's there for the both of us but it's just better that he doesn't know too much about it."

Margaret is saving because she wants to be able to do something should the roof collapse (her husband presumably will be finding solace on the golf course which is what his savings go toward) but not all secret savers are quite so selfless.

Financial infidelity is often about people, mostly, it has to be said, women, wanting to look after themselves.

We're all familiar with the small money lies that go on, the coat that cost three times as much you tell your husband, the 'old' shoes you've had for years, but this goes a little bit further.

According to a survey released last week by travel website lastminute.com a vast amount of women are hiding funds so that they're left secure in the event of a break-up. Good sense or a sign the relationship is doomed?

Psychologist Allison Keating from Dublin's bWell clinic fears that separate -- and more importantly secret -- bank accounts could be a step on the way to separate lives.

"If you've started to put away money for yourself for a life after the relationship then, on a psychological level you've already checked out," she says.

"Even if that's not what the money's for, I think it's concerning that someone should feel they have to hide it. Marriage is all about being a team and being able to share, if you're hiding anything from your husband or wife, it's probably not a great idea."

But it's a tricky area. Money has always been about power. Increasingly women have more wealth and power but that impacts on men's sense of control.

Finding out that a woman has been carrying on her own monetary affairs can impact on men the same way as a physical infidelity.

Allison says: "For a lot of men their personal wealth is about their status and sense of self. That can cause them to want to hide debts for fear that their partner will think less of them or feel betrayed if they realise their partner's own financial status is better than they had them believe.

Casey Withney from lastminute.com says the company was "really shocked by surveys results". She says: "We never expected that so many people were lying about money or that so many had secret bank accounts."

But is it really so surprising? The recession of course has played its part -- with less of it to go around, wealth is a more precious commodity.

More people are in debt which means more people are lying about being in debt and at that level, financial infidelity is a dangerous game.

Lying about what you haven't got when someone is relying on you is wrong. But when it comes to being secretive about what you have got -- well is that really such a bad thing?

Given that being loudmouthed, brash and brazen about spending is exactly what got us all into so much bother is it any wonder that those who can are opting for silent saving instead?

You can call it sneaky, you can call it calculating but if your partner calls it cheating then there's every chance he's jealous.

* Name has been changed

Irish Independent

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