It started simply enough. I saw a pair of shoes I wanted. They were on offer, too. The shop clerk asked if I wanted to put them on the department store card. I said sure, made the application, and was approved. I'd gotten a bargain and a £1,000 limit on the spot. When I got home, I didn't bother telling my husband about either.
It wasn’t until over a year later that he found out about those shoes and that card. On the verge of foreclosure, we checked our credit report and there it was, along with a lot of other secret spending we had both done.
Apparently affairs of the heart are not the only kind of secrets some of us keep from our loved ones – new research by financial information service Experian shows a surprising number of us lie about affairs of the pocket as well. Considering the major investments we often make as couples, such as buying property, financial dishonesty can have a serious long term impact on our lives, according to relationship experts.
One in six of us have discovered a partner hiding the true state of their finances. A video can be found here that reports on the problem, showing that even people stopped on the street are likely to have a few financial secrets.
Whether it be dreaming up non-existent sales to justify that extra item in the wardrobe, to hoarding unpaid credit card bills that could earn us black marks against our next credit report, financial dishonesty seems to be more common than is healthy. When both partners have financial secrets, the results can be even more distressing.
I’m sure most of us have told little white shopping lies, but when it happens week after week, it can soon add up to a hefty debt that can affect the biggest dreams we have with our partners, such as a buying a house, having children or renovating a home.
Unpaid debts and poor financial management will be revealed in undeniable black and white on a credit report, and a low credit score makes it difficult to find the necessary financial backing to make those major purchases.
In our case, it was when we were facing foreclosure on a rental property. The tenants had failed to pay their rent and after a lengthy eviction battle, we knew we had a big renovation bill on our hands. With finances inexplicably tight, we prepared to apply for a loan. It was then we discovered the horrible truth – we were both spending a lot more than we were telling each other about.
We knew the right steps to take, so both got our credit reports ahead of applying for this big loan. We knew it would allow us to get the best rate possible. What it showed us was that we both had some pretty big credit card bills we hadn’t mentioned to one another and, worse still, a few missed payments each. After all, it seemed, as our above board joint financial investment was causing trouble, we both neglected our secret debts.
While our story didn’t end up with a happy ending – we had to sell our investment house at a below market price because we couldn’t afford the loan terms we were offered for the required repair work – it did give us a huge wake up call. We learned the hard way that secret spending can start innocently enough but have huge financial consequences. My recommendation to anyone now is that you should get your credit report, both before any big loan application and on a regular basis, and discuss what is there with your partner. It could just save your house.