Personal Finance

1 in 6 newlyweds admits to this financial secret

Financial secrets newlyweds keep

The case for prenuptual agreements may have just gotten stronger: According to a new survey by credit-tracking company Experian, 16 percent of newlyweds admit they are hiding a financial account from their spouse.

Of those with secret accounts, about 60 percent were men and 40 percent women. Men and women also differed in how much spending they said they'd be comfortable keeping from a spouse. While female respondents said they'd quietly cough up $383 on average, male survey-takers were willing to spend $1,259 without mentioning it to their better halves.

Overall, nearly a third of people admitted to being relatively clueless about their husband's or wife's finances before tying the knot. About two in five respondents said they didn't know their spouse's credit score, while about 30 percent were unaware of their partner's long-term financial goals or student loan debt. And a quarter didn't even know their spouse's annual income.

"Obviously, some people do have things they want to hide," said Indianapolis-based financial planner Meredith Carbrey. "But a lot of couples just don't make the time to sit down and talk finances, or one person is hesitant out of fear their partner will judge them."

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Skipping that hard talk about money before getting hitched seems to have consequences. While newlyweds said their biggest financial goal was saving to buy a residence, about a third complained that their spouse's credit score has affected their ability to get a home loan. And nearly 20 percent have actually needed a co-signer for major purchases since walking down the aisle.

Credit headaches are only one financial problem the survey revealed. While about 40 percent of respondents said credit scores are currently a source of marital strife, about a quarter cited budgeting and 20 percent blamed debt repayment. One in three newlyweds said their spouse's spending habits are different than what they expected.

When you are worried about your spouse or fiance's finances, it can be emotionally challenging to broach the topic. But there are ways to get your partner to open up without seeming too critical. Meeting with a financial planner or other professional can help by adding an unbiased third party to the equation, said Carbrey.

"That can be a good moment to find out about assets and liabilities, and whether they have too much debt," she said.

Other occasions, such as renting an apartment together, can give you the opportunity to find out your partner's credit score, Carbrey said.

Robin Williams with wife Susan, left, and daughter Zelda Williams in 2011.
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As it turns out, people don't always practice what they preach. When asked what qualities they prioritize in a spouse, 80 percent of newlyweds said they cared about credit scores, while 92 percent of survey respondents said financial responsibility.

All the more reason to open up a dialogue with your husband or wife early on, said Carbrey. If it makes sense, one solution can be delegating money-related responsibilities to whichever partner is thriftier.

"Maybe one person is slower with bills but can handle scheduling the calendar, so the other spouse takes over finances," she said.

Just be careful to make sure both you and your partner know where important documents are kept, in case of an emergency, Carbrey said.