According to new online poll from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, 24% of respondents would not tell their spouse if they were experiencing financial difficulties.
Why would a spouse keep mum over something so significant? The NFCC data showed that 9% said they would keep silent because knowing about the issue would worry their partner, 7% said they'd keep it secret because telling would damage their relationship, while 8% said, with a certain circular logic, that they wouldn't tell their spouse because their spouse had no idea about the debt.
The results surprised Gail Cunningham, spokeswoman for the NFCC -- but perhaps not in the way you'd expect. "I was most surprised that more people did not hide debt from their spouses," she told DailyFinance. Still, she finds the percentage of those who would hide a money problem troubling, she says.
The silver lining is the 76% who would share the information with their spouse. Two heads are better than one when it comes to solving financial issues.
Those who stay quiet though, should realize that silence is not golden and in fact can be a clue, that all is not well in marriage-land. "A reluctance to share financial information in a marriage could not lead to anything positive, and is possibly a sign of a deeper underlying problem in the marriage itself," says Cunningham.
If you're having trouble starting a tough money talk with your honey, the NFCC offers these tips:
- Don't approach the subject in the heat of battle. Instead, set aside a time that is convenient and non-threatening for both parties.
- Do make it a casual conversation about a serious subject, respecting the fact that each person has valid opinions and concerns.
- Do be honest about your current financial situation. If things have gone south, continuing the same lifestyle that was possible before the change in income is simply unrealistic.
- Do be open to adjusting your lifestyle. If spending cutbacks or second jobs are necessary, resist whining. It's likely that your situation will be temporary, and you could end up regretting the pity party you hosted.
- Don't hide income or debt. This is known as financial infidelity. Instead, bring financial documents, including a recent credit report, pay stubs, bank statements, insurance policies, debts and investments to the table.
- Don't point the finger of blame. That's a real conversation stopper.
- Do probe to understand long-held financial attitudes, often present since childhood and ingrained by observing how parents addressed money issues.
- Do acknowledge that one may be a saver and one a spender, understanding that there are benefits to both mindsets and agreeing to learn from each other's tendencies.
Financial stress is one of the main causes of divorce, warns Cunningham. "Taking action now could prevent a disaster later."