Sometimes you might wonder if your spouse is signing away on documents that you will never be aware of down the road. Or, maybe you are concerned that there is some secret stash of money you didn't know about because it wasn't included in the family net worth. At all times in our lives, we will inevitably have little whispers in your ear about whether or not there is cheating going on in our relationships. Since this is a personal finance column, I'm really talking about financial cheating. How can you tell if your spouse is financially cheating on you?
- Swap Credit Reports - What happens in this situation? You think everything is going well in your family finances and then all of sudden you find out that your spouse has racked up $20,000 of credit card charges. How mad would that make you? What would that do to your relationship? It won't make sense for most families to have all joint credit cards and certainly there needs to be some level of trust in any relationship for it to work. However, if you swap credit reports once per year you can be more proactive than reactive to see what is going on with credit card activity.
- Unusual Levels Of Cash - If you have a joint account, you can keep pretty good track of ATM withdrawals as they will be listed on the statements. But, if you keep separate accounts where you don't have a line of sight then you might look for unusual levels of cash activity. This doesn't necessarily mean that if your spouse is carrying a wad of 100 dollar bills that they are automatically guilty, but it is something to watch for over a sustained period of time.
- The Tax Return - People can lie. People can lie on tax returns. However, whatever is on the tax return when it is reported can tell a story of where money and income are being run through the household. Schedule B on your tax return will show all of the reported interest income and dividends and schedule D on the tax return will show all of the capital gains and losses from taxable investment accounts. You can also see schedules for certain business expenses if your spouse is an independent contractor and files schedule C.
- Inspect What You Expect - In some households, one of you may be the technical 'CFO' of the family. If you aren't the CFO, do you have a yearly review of what's going on with the family finances? Far too often, one spouse will make a ton of the investment and financial decisions without the other spouse having a real clear picture of what the short and long term impact will be for your family. You must inspect what is going on even if you aren't an expert on financial matters.
- You Never Discuss Money - One of my final warning signs is if your spouse gets extremely angry or nasty every time you want to talk about money. It seems like a simple statement, but you might chalk it up to a bad day at work or other life stress and not about money. If this is a routine behavior to redirect to another topic, you may want to get some professional help.
None of us want to believe that our partner or our spouse may be cheating on us, especially when it comes to money. Use these five tips to help you get to the bottom of what is happening with your money.