May 262015 4 Responses

Do Not Commit Financial Adultery

It may be one of the most uncomfortable moments I face in the pastorate. The grieving family is gathered around the kitchen table going through boxes looking for important papers—wills, titles, insurance policies, etc.

Someone pulls out a piece of paper and quizzically asks, “What’s this?” A few others begin to look over the paper and someone says, “It’s the amortization schedule for a loan. Mom, did Dad have a loan?”

“Well, no,” the Mom says, not realizing her grief for her deceased husband is about to be compounded by bills she can’t pay and the betrayal of a secret loan which causes her to wonder what else she doesn’t know about. (See: People Do Not Get Divorced Because of Money)

Anytime trust is broken between two people it is heartbreaking, but realizing betrayal after one’s death is often a double grief. Not only does a spouse feel betrayed, but they also have no way of finding out the reasons they were kept in the dark about the secret. They will forever have to live with questions knowing that answers will never come.

While I see this on occasion with illicit relationships which reveal themselves after death, I see it more often with financial betrayal as hidden loans, credit cards, and debts appear after life has ended.

It’s a cowardly act and it is inexcusable.

When a couple enters into marriage, they are co-mingling more than just their souls. They are also joining their financial lives with one another. Every financial decision you make impacts your spouse. Your poor choices can hinder their future just as much as it can yours. (See: Money Can Make You Happy)

Because of this, financial decisions must be made in cooperation with one another. While you do not have to discuss every expense, you do have to formulate an agreed-to plan on how money is spent, loans are taken out, and debit is used. Until both partners are on the same financial page, nothing should be done.

And while it should go without saying: it is never appropriate to make a major financial decision without the consent of one’s spouse. If they might have to pay for it after you are gone, they deserve to have a say regarding the decision before it is made.

Sadly, many individuals ignore this basic protocol and for many, their lies are discovered before the funeral even takes place.

It’s a wound which I assume few people would ever intentionally place upon their family, yet many ignorantly do assuming nothing could ever happen to them or that they will pay off the loan before anyone finds out. However, when the heart attack suddenly happens or the disease quickly progresses or one’s financial situation changes near the end of life, debts, loans, and bills are often left unpaid only to be discovered as a grieving family is searching for a burial plot.

It’s not a loving action to leave your family in this position. (See: Never Ignore the Money)

Here are two basic principles which could save your grieving spouse:

1. Agree as a couple to NEVER assume any debt or obligation without the full knowledge and consent of one another. Even if one spouse does all the finances, both spouses must be involved in the big issues. Neither spouse should willfully withhold information nor willfully remain ignorant about the important facts of one’s financial future. Neither of you are promised tomorrow and both of you must be informed enough to handle whatever might need to be handled in the absence of the other.

2. If you currently have a debt or credit card your spouse does not know about, confess it today. Confession is never easy, and it is rarely pleasant. Feelings get hurt, questions are asked, and tough conversations must be had. However, it is far better to have those conversations while you are still living than to have one’s spouse asking questions when you are unable to give answers. It takes courage, but it is courage which is well worth finding. Tell them what you have done and get on the same financial page moving forward.

Marriage changes our responsibilities. What is considered “my money” when single, is “our money” when married. In the same way that a married person does not have a right to be sexually active with someone other than their spouse, a married person also does not have the right to enter into financial agreements without their spouse’s consent. To do so is betrayal and betrayal always has serious consequences.


4 Responses to Do Not Commit Financial Adultery
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