Getting financially naked
by Arnold Machel CFP
“…and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
– Luke 16:10 (NIV)
It’s been all over the news lately and it’s been dubbed “financial infidelity”. An online poll found that 36% of Canadians have lied about a financial matter to a romantic partner and 34% keep financial secrets from them. The most common form of deception was secretly running up a credit card bill. Other answers were “lied about income”, “made a major purchase without telling me” and “went bankrupt without informing me”.
A small number of these infractions are likely simply due to a misunderstanding and/or poor communication. For example, a “major purchase” could mean something different to husband and wife. But you have to work pretty hard at concealing growing credit card debt or bankruptcy, so I’ll go out on a limb here and say that in the vast majority of these circumstances a spouse is actively involved in deceit.
I’ve seen first hand the devastating results of this type of behaviour. Years ago, I met with a nice young couple and worked with them for a few years as they raised kids and struggled financially. The wife, addicted to gambling, started hiding withdrawals from their bank account from her husband. She admitted to it when he discovered it and challenged her, but it was too late. They tried to get through it, but failed. Ultimately it caused the destruction of their marriage. My guess is that it was the deceit more than the addiction that caused the failure.
As Christians we have no excuse for this kind of deceit. Yes – we screw up. Yes – we fail. But honesty with our spouses must be held in the highest regard. And when we’re honest and contrite, it’s surprising how much grace is afforded to us.
One way to avoid getting there in the first place might be to have regular financial discussions. Couples often find it challenging to talk about sensitive subjects such as sex and money. The wife cries. The guy doesn’t know how to react. They fight and feel like they’re not getting anywhere and sometimes that may be the case – they may not be getting anywhere. Regardless of how difficult it can be, it’s important to have those deeper conversations. In some cases professional counselling may be needed.
There are often issues in a marriage that we will never resolve and we may need to accept that we will forever be on opposite sides of. But that never justifies deceit. In fact, having regular discussions makes it easier to fess up early on if there ever is even a hint of something that might lead to deceit.
More often though, regular discussion does help us move forward and to find common areas of agreement. It builds our relationships when we work together to resolve problems and/or respectfully discuss topics to try to find common ground.
Personally, my wife and I have found it relationship building to discuss our future goals, be they short, medium or long term. Visioning our future life together helps reinforce our commitment to one another and helps ensure that we are rowing in the same direction… at least most of the time. It’s not something that we do formally and it’s not specifically about money. It’s just something that, over the years, we’ve developed a habit of doing and tends to help us direct our finances.
We talk about places we want to travel to, organizations we want to support, legacies we want to create. It’s not like either one of us rubber-stamps the other’s vision. Sometimes we disagree. Sometimes one of us has to give in to the other. And sometimes alternate visions just sit there – waiting – and we have to accept the possibility that they will sit there waiting forever. The important thing is that the relationship is more important than any issue. And honesty is the cornerstone of any healthy relationship.
Valentine’s Day is over, but if you are one of the many Canadians hiding things (financial or otherwise) from your spouse, consider giving them another Valentine’s gift: honesty and repentance. Get financially naked with your spouse. It won’t be easy. And there’s a good chance that it will make your marriage harder in the short term. But keep being honest; keep talking about the deeper issues – and your marriage will be stronger for it in the long run.
Arnold Machel, CFP(r) lives, works and worships in the White Rock/South Surrey area. He attends Gracepoint Community Church where he serves on the Leadership Team. He is a Certified Financial Planner with IPC Investment Corporation and Visionvest Financial Planning & Services. Questions and comments can be directed to him at email@example.com or through his website at www.visionvest.ca Please note that all comments are of a general nature and should not be relied upon as individual advice. The views and opinions expressed in this commentary may not necessarily reflect those of IPC Investment Corporation. While every attempt is made to ensure accuracy, facts and figures are not guaranteed.
Arnold is now accepting a limited number of invitations to speak for the 2018 calendar year. If you are interested in having him speak to your congregation or other group regarding money matters, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (604) 542-2818, with your preferred date and time.