I can’t tell you how happy I am to have Sarah as a spouse. Whenever we sit down and go through bills together, one or the other of us can explain exactly what each item is on every single bill. There is no “hidden” spending other than the occasional claim of “that’s a gift for you.”
However, the reader mailbag – and my own experience watching other married couples – has shown me that in a lot of marriages, such a level of trust does not exist.
They don’t know what their partner is spending money on. Often, their partner is spending more money than is probably appropriate for their financial situation. Sometimes, their partner is hiding spending by using a hidden credit card – one that’s going to eventually come due.
If your partner refuses to talk about line items on a credit card bill, you need to protect yourself.
If your partner spends money all the time but doesn’t want to discuss budgeting, you need to protect yourself.
If your partner has an addiction that’s constantly sucking away money, you need to protect yourself.
These situations aren’t necessarily relationship ending. They are a sign that you should seek marriage counseling, though.
Thankfully, the steps you can take to financially protect yourself are pretty easy. Here’s what you do.
First, open up a separate savings account. Ideally, this should be separate from your primary bank so that it can’t be accessed via ATMs using your normal ATM card.
Next, set up an automatic transfer that scoops some money regularly from your checking account. It doesn’t need to be an enormous amount, just enough so that the new savings account will build up over time.
Then, forget about this savings account. Just let it sit there and gradually build up for the time being. You should only tap this money in the event of a genuine emergency. If the communication issues in your relationship are eventually solved, then you have some additional money to help get the two of you out of your financial situation. If that never happens, then you have a fall-back in case things get too out of hand.
You should also set up a Roth IRA for yourself and have the money for that come out of your primary checking automatically. I have one through Vanguard that I’ve been very happy with. This way, you can make sure that your retirement is safe no matter what foolish things your partner is doing.
These steps not only create accounts that protect you, they also reduce the pool of money in your checking account, leaving less available to be spent without care.
Just because your partner won’t face responsibility doesn’t mean you have to be at risk. Take care of yourself, because if you don’t, who will?