Think your spouse is being completely honest about his or her finances? Think again.
A survey conducted by TD Ameritrade and personal finance site LearnVest suggests that many Americans don't know as much as they should about their partners' credit history -- or their "credit present." According to the survey, a solid 38 percent of people in live-in relationships admitted they weren't entirely aware of how much debt their partner was carrying.
Another finding confirms that people are indeed withholding some information about their finances, with 21 percent of survey respondents admitting that they aren't always up front about their spending habits. No wonder, then, that 40 percent of those surveyed said they don't completely trust their partner to manage their combined finances.
In a statement accompanying the study, Carrie Braxdale of Ameritrade points out that as people get married later and later in life, combining financial lives is getting trickier.
"Couples are bringing more financial baggage into the relationship than ever before," she writes. "They have 401(k)s, student loan debt, investments and even mortgages. So, it's more important than ever for couples to talk about their finances and work together to develop a plan."
Unfortunately, many don't. We recently ran some sordid tales of "financial infidelity" from financial advisors who have seen it all. Many people maintained separate addresses or P.O. boxes for their credit card bills so that their spouse wouldn't find out about them. One man hid $80,000 in credit card debt that he built up after he took a pay cut, decided not to tell his wife about it, and used cash advances to maintain their lavish lifestyle.
And even if the marriage falls apart, your credit score will still be affected if the debts in question are on joint accounts.
Do you have any tales of a spouse's secret spending or a partner's huge debts? For that matter, do you have any "financial infidelity" secrets of your own that you'd like to get off your chest? If so, we'd love to hear about it: Email me at the address below, and indicate whether you're OK with us publishing your story.
Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.