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It can be perfectly well-intentioned: You hide some income from your spendthrift spouse so you can fully fund your retirement.

It can seem insignificant: Your partner comes home with a new outfit when you’ve been bagging lunch to save up for that new bathroom you both want.

It might stem from just wanting to maintain a sense of self-identity: Your better half keeps a separate, secret credit card because they need to feel some independence within your relationship.

These are all examples of financial infidelity. No matter the justification, it can be a painful, confusing revelation for the partner in the dark. Ongoing financial infidelity could end up becoming as toxic to the relationship as a physical affair. It’s never the amount of money that matters. It’s the erosion of trust.

Working out a budget as a couple is among the best ways to manage your money and ensure both of you are aware of what’s going on at all times.

Setting Expectations

When you join together as a couple, you’ll both want to be on the same page when it comes to how you’ll approach finances together. It starts with communication. The sooner you have the “money talk” with your partner, the better. But it’s never too late to start. Sit down and:

  • Ask how your partner feels about money and what it means to them.
  • Look at your household balance sheet together.
  • Determine your financial goals – both common and individual.
  • Set ground rules about spending or investing.
  • Make time to stay involved in this conversation in the future.

(For more tips on discussing finances, read our “Talking Money Checklist – How to Approach Financial Conversations with Your Partner.”)

Use a 50/30/20 Budget

Working out a budget as a couple is among the best ways to manage your money and ensure both of you are aware of what’s going on at all times.

Try a 50/30/20 budget as a jumping-off point. This approach organizes your expenses into three categories: needs, wants and savings. Allocate 50% of your income to your needs, 30% to your wants and 20% to savings, investments and debt repayment.

  1. Your list of needs should include nonnegotiables, such as your mortgage or rent payment; utility bills; recurring medical costs, such as insurance premiums and medications; and commuting expenses.
  2. After you’ve identified your monthly needs, it’s time to pinpoint your wants. This category encompasses costs such as dining out, streaming subscriptions, gym memberships, clothing and leisure travel. Both partners can weigh in on which wants fit the budget, or you can divide the 30% into 15% each and separate your spending.
  3. Allot the remaining portion of your budget for making progress toward long-term goals through savings, investments and debt repayment.

The 50/30/20 split is only a general recommendation. If you’re facing mounting debt, you may want to allocate more than 20% of your budget to pay it down. Adjust your ratios accordingly.

A Final Word

If you do discover financial infidelity, talk through it with your partner. And be sure to bring all your listening skills. It’s only through heartfelt give and take that you can get to the root of the issue; find forgiveness and, with time, rebuild trust.

This information and recommendations contained herein are compiled from sources deemed reliable, but are not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or are offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

By selecting any external link on key.com, you will leave the KeyBank website and jump to an unaffiliated third-party website that may offer a different privacy policy and level of security. The third party is responsible for website content and system availability. KeyBank does not offer, endorse, recommend, or guarantee any product or service available on that entity's website.

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