Are You Wooing a Secret Spender This Valentine's Day?

a couple doesn't share the money - secret spendersAre we a nation of secret spenders? Without a doubt! As Valentine's Day nears, researchers have crunched the numbers to find out what Americans are -- and aren't -- disclosing to their partners when it comes to spending. The bottom line, according to experts, is that many of us don't do such a hot job talking about saving and spending with our sweeties.

But just how many of us are spending without telling our significant others? According to a recent survey commissioned by CESI Debt Solutions, a large percentage of us are secret spenders, at least to a small degree. Among the 200 respondents, 80% said they spend money without telling their spouse. What's more, 18% have secret credit cards."People don't want their partner knowing about their spending," says Neil Ellington, executive vice president at CESI Debt Solutions. "They're not communicating soon enough, and they don't sit down and say, 'I need things that are independent from the family budget.'

"It's the same mentality as with dieting," he adds. "If you're too strict, you start craving what you're not supposed to have." What couples should do, he advises, is to set up a little slush fund for small splurges. Since most of us will succumb and spend on something unnecessarily at least occasionally, if you build that into your budget -- maybe as a reward for reaching some other financial goal -- you won't feel so guilty when you make an unplanned purchase. "If you plan for this, it works," Ellington says.

The main reason people don't talk about money is they're afraid it will create a problem or lead to a dispute, says Ellington. According to the survey, 43% said they didn't talk about money to avoid an argument, while a surprising 20% said they were afraid that a frank discussion about money would end the relationship. (Now I'm no relationship guru, but here's a tip: If saying, "Honey, we need to talk about spending," is enough to trigger a breakup, you're almost certainly better off without him or her.)

While we can't get behind having a credit card your spouse knows nothing about, a degree of financial autonomy is healthy. For instance, it's a good idea for couples to have their own lines of credit. And it seems a lot of us agree: According to a survey of more than 3,000 Americans by FICO, a full 75% keep some or all of their personal credit separate.

The key, though, is communicating what you're doing with your money or your available credit. FICO respondents sometimes behave badly when tempted with all that private credit: Almost 15% admitted making a purchase of more than $10,000 without telling their partner.

Yet another study, this time by Rasmussen Reports LLC on behalf of Country Financial, found that only a slim minority -- 15% -- of the nearly 2,000 respondents claim to make secret splurges. Interestingly, though, the number of married people who reported they were not involved in financial decision-making were much more likely to be secret spenders.

The moral of that outcome, says Keith Brannan, vice president of financial security for Country Financial, is that couples should talk about their spending, both about set budget items like housing, food and gas, as well as discretionary purchases. It might not seem romantic to talk about what you should and should not spend money on, but you don't want to find yourself in the position of 3% of respondents to FICO's survey, who admitted they would wait until after their wedding to discuss financial matters.
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