43% of Americans keep this financial secret from their partner

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Almost half (43%) of Americans hide substantial credit card debt from their loved one, according to TD Bank’s 2019 Love and Money survey, which surveyed 1,753 respondents in the United States who are married, in an engaged relationship or divorced.

If you’re in a serious relationship and are deliberately keeping your credit card debt silent, it’s not a smart move for you or your partner, experts say.

“Hiding these decisions, as well as ignoring the consequences that could result from them, can seriously make the problem worse and damage your overall relationship as well as your financial life,” Peter Hoglund, Certified Financial Planner New Jersey-based Wealth Improvement Group, tell CNBC do it.

While keeping quiet about your credit card debt might not seem like a big deal to some, no secrets – no matter how small – counts as financial infidelity. “Financial infidelity in your relationship happens whenever you’re not honest about debt, expenses or secret accounts,” says Ryan Marshall, Certified Financial Planner at Ela Financial Group.

Other experts agree. Any the secret of money hidden from an engaged partner counts as financial infidelity, even if you didn’t intentionally hide it, says Adam Holt, CEO and founder of Asset-Map, an online financial advice resource.

Covering debt can have far more serious consequences than lying about little things, like minimizing how much you spent on a shopping trip or keeping your daily coffee a secret.

“I’ve seen people lose their homes almost without the other spouse knowing before it’s too late,” says Marshall. “One spouse was having a gambling problem and was not making mortgage payments. Unfortunately, the other spouse did not know until they were in foreclosure proceedings.”

Hiding large debt or bad credit could also cause your partner to end the relationship. the TD Bank poll found. Almost a third (31%) of millennials (aged 23 to 38) respondents say they would consider breaking away from their SO on these money issues.

How to prevent financial infidelity in your relationship

To avoid any sort of financial deception between you and your partner, open shared accounts that both parties can access, suggests Hoglund. This way you can with each connection and see what is being spent in real time.

“Even if you maintain separate accounts, pull back the curtains by allowing your spouse to access your finances read-only,” says Hoglund.

It’s also a good idea to talk to your partner and try to figure out where they’re coming from and why they may have hid their debt. In this case, “the financial deception is probably a symptom of a larger problem and indicates that something bigger is lurking beneath the surface,” says Aaron Graham, CFP with Abacus Wealth, based in South Carolina.

It is often “shame, embarrassment or worry,” adds Marguerita Cheng, certified financial planner, CEO and co-founder of Blue Ocean Global Wealth. Covering up debt may indicate that your partner may be struggling to “live within their means or may have difficulty managing their budget and cash flow,” Cheng says.

To be on the same page, transparency and communication are essential, especially if you are planning to get married. “Marriage is a legal merger between two people and one has to know everything about the other’s money – good and bad,” says Kristin O’Keeffe Merrick, financial advisor at O’Keeffe financial partners.

Even if your partner hasn’t hid debts, it’s a good idea to have regular money records to discuss your financial concerns and goals together. These talks can serve as a moment of contact about your mutual financial progress, and when done in a thoughtful and understanding manner, they can promote honesty and transparency between you.

Depending on your financial goals, you may want to check in every week. Then, once you feel more united on the money front, you can start having them as and when you feel they are needed.

“One of the most important tips for forming a strong financial bond between partners is open communication about each other’s money and finances,” says O’Keeffe Merrick. “It may sound simple, but not all simple things are easy!”

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