Secret cards

imageHiding credit card debt

By Adrienne Gibbs

Sharon always had a hidden stash of money in the closet, something for a rainy day. Then she took things a step further by getting a credit card that her husband knew nothing about. This way, she could purchase clothes online without telling her hubby.

She kept up her subterfuge by being the first one home from work and shredding the bills before he saw them. When paperless billing became available, she opened a Gmail account and had the bills sent there.

Sharon is not alone. There are no hard statistics detailing how many men and women either stash cash in the closet or hide credit card debt from a spouse (or hide such debt from their parents.) But anecdotal evidence and interviews with financial planners suggest that the problem is widespread. A 2008 USA Today/Gallup poll of 1,025 adults recently found that hiding bank accounts and credit cards from your spouse is a huge no-no, with 55 percent saying it is a “major” violation and 9 percent saying it is grounds for divorce. Money magazine in 2005 found that 71 percent of 1,001 women and men with incomes above $50,000 had money secrets.

“I don’t know why I do it,” says Sharon, 35, a Washington, D.C.-area lawyer who did not want to give her last name for fear of being identified by her husband, who is also a lawyer. “I just feel like I need something for me. And I don’t want him questioning what I’m doing or what I’m buying. He doesn’t understand that I like what I like.”

Why they do it
“It’s an emptiness that’s missing between two people in a relationship or emptiness from childhood,” says Bonnie Eaker Weil, a New York relationship therapist often tapped as a guest expert for the Oprah show and author of the newly released book “Financial Infidelity.” She believes that overspending, as well as hiding debt, is indicative of a power struggle in a relationship. Additionally, the act of shopping or spending releases a pleasure drug into the brain, says Weil, who dedicates a chapter of her book to the hidden debt issue. This rush of adrenaline feels good and is difficult to fill with anything else.

“You’re trying to fill up your emptiness by shopping until you drop, or as a man, you do it by betting on the Super Bowl or betting on golf,” she says. This has led some 40 percent of committed couples to lie to each other about money issues ranging from overspending to hidden credit card debt and some 82 percent to hide purchases from each other, says Weil.

The big reveal
Financial advisers and credit counselors say they frequently counsel couples on hidden credit issues. Usually the hidden debt is revealed after the couple finalizes their financial plan and one of them leaves the room to visit the restroom or get a drink of water. Meanwhile, the other has a chance to talk privately with the financial counselor or planner.

“We often get people who call up and will say, ‘Can anybody find out about this?’, and we think they’re worried about their creditors, but they’re worried about their spouse finding out,” says Sandy Shore, a senior counselor with Novadebt, a company that provides financial planning assistance. “Sometimes they’re just overspending. Sometimes it’s a case where when you do a budget with them you find the budget is too short. And more often than not, it’s the woman calling.” Many of the women who call, Shore says, are using credit cards to supplement their household incomes. This happens when a family is living above their means, she says. “She wasn’t spending on luxuries or things like that,” says Shore of a former client. “A lot of items are not covered in the basic budget.” Don’t ask, don’t tell
Then there are people like Brady, 45, of Dallas, who does not want his last name used for fear of his wife finding out his secret spending habits. He doesn’t exactly hide credit cards from his wife, but he doesn’t tell her and she doesn’t ask. Now he’s trying to figure out how to pay for the couple’s mortgage while also paying off a few $500 tickets to Cowboys games — all without discussing the budget shortfall with his wife.

This need for secrecy is usually taught — inadvertently or by example — by a parent or encouraged by a past experience, says Weil. For example, many mothers tell their daughters to keep an account or money on the side. Or a guy who is the victim of a nasty divorce may keep a private post office box so that wife No. 2 can’t figure out how much he earns. Such secrecy can damage a relationship when at least one partner believes that complete trust is necessary to the relationship. Also, current financial times — from the rise in gas prices to the mortgage crisis — may lead people to make unsound decisions while under duress.

“We have trouble dealing with money conflicts due to stress levels that wreak havoc on our chemicals in our brains, causing it to go into overdrive and it affects the brain’s clarity, judgment and decisions,” says Weil. “People lack the skills to deal with the hot-button topics and these emotional stresses affect your decisions and cause damaging behaviors like excessive drinking and drugs. People are feeling very stressed out and instead of having an affair, they’re doing financial infidelity.”

Uncovering hidden debt
Secret debt is often found through accidental ways. Sometimes a spouse is unable to get home first and check the mail, or one of them might forget to sign out of a private e-mail account on the computer. The best way to check for hidden debt is to check out each other’s credit report on an annual basis, say financial planners. The credit report will detail exactly what you both owe. Alternatively, both spouses should be equally involved in paying for the household expenses, says Novadebt counselor Shore.

“It’s a lack of communication between the spouses,” she says. “Sometimes one person has their head in the sand and is not really paying attention to the issue and sometimes the credit cards are only in one person’s name and sometimes they’re in both. A lot of people don’t check, they don’t look.”


What girlfriends think they do!?

Paranoid much?!

Why do We try and sneak into his Facebook account? Why don’t We trust him? I think the real issues are not “what are they up to?” But rather “why do we think they are up to something?”

Lets face it.. We all know someone who has been cheated on, or lied to, or stabbed in the back right? But should all these horror stories really affect us that much that we find ourselves trying to figure out their passwords and become qualified stalkers/hackers?

The answer should be NO. I would like to think that we have enough confidence to trust that they will come back to us, that we are worth it. Sadly, this is not always the case.. I for one am guilty as charged for being overly paranoid.

And you know what the worst thing about it is? They aren’t going to leave us because they where up to something or because they found someone else.. They are going to leave us because we are overbearing bordering crazy. There is a fine line between jealousy and paranoia and we must remember not to cross this line..

At the end of the day he is with you because he wants to be. Not because he has to be. Let him have his time without you. It will make the time you spend together all the better.image

Monday blues?


imageI find my self looking forward to getting into work this Monday. Not because I enjoy work per say, but because I needed to get out of the house. I felt like I was going crazy. What was I doing to impact his mood this much? Was it something I said? Or did?

Sunday night he was in a lousy mood but I couldn’t be sure why. I know that he is stressed with work and that he is anxious about his new business, but did I do something to make things worse? I went to bed that night with a million thoughts in my head, and woke up the next day feeling like I barely slept. After preparing breakfast and getting our child ready for school I had to wake him up so that he could do the school run. He mumbled under his breath all the way to the school and almost killed us with his driving on route to my office. He said something about being a taxi driver and also mentioned ghastly hours in the morning.. I know he isn’t exactly what we call a morning person but he needed to keep the car to run his errands so he had to be the one to do the driving today.

What can I say? I was sure glad to be in the office.. And after explaining my feelings to the girls at work I have come to the conclusion that all men seem to go through their “time of the month”. One of the girls advised me to let him be. Let him dee stress and try not to argue with him. Keeping my mouth shut is not exactly my forte but I need to try. None of my other attempts to lighten the mood have worked. I have also been advised that pestering him to tell me what’s wrong will only shut him down even more, just like an overloaded computer, pressing a lot of buttons at one go will only make it worse and might cause your computer to freeze. When he is ready to talk he will, and when that time arrives I need to remember to sit back and listen, rather then to try and solve his problems for him. Men and their precious pride.. When things don’t go their way it must be us women who keep the calm and gently remind them not to give up.

Supporting someone doesn’t necessary mean needing to say something, it could also mean being the calm in the background, giving the space for that person to sort out his own thoughts, not over reacting like I started to do, but understanding that it’s not always something you’ve done but the stresses of life which at the end of the day we tend to take out on each other.

There don’t hav…



There don’t have to be harps playing or birds singing or pose petals falling from the sky… And there are definitely days when the romance is dead. But if you look around, things are pretty amazing. So stop for a second. Enjoy the beauty. Feel the magic. Drink it in. ‘Cause it won’t last forever. The romance will fade. Things will happen. People will change. Love will die. But… maybe not today.