24/08/2016 6:01 AM AEST | Updated 25/08/2016 7:18 AM AEST

The Money Secrets Partners Keep From Each Other

According to new research, one in five Aussies have a secret bank account from their partner.

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Pop quiz: how much does your partner earn?

If you had to guess the answer, you're not alone. According to a new survey by ING DIRECT, almost 40 per cent of Australians aren't exactly sure how much their significant other takes home each year.

Furthermore, almost one in five Australians keep a 'secret' account from their partner and 20 percent of women don't trust their partner when it comes to money.

In other words, when it comes to financial affairs, Aussie couples aren't exactly being transparent. Which brings us to the question: what gives?


"We actually get a lot of clients who have their own [secret] accounts," Jenny Brown of JBS Financial Strategists told The Huffington Post Australia. "Sometimes it's what we call runaway money. Typically, you'll have one spouse -- usually the female -- who has this account to the side that her partner doesn't know about."

Brown says these accounts are often set up "just in case something happens" and are usually "sitting to the side as a safety net".

"I'm actually helping out a client at the moment, and her husband hid everything from her during their relationship, and now he's left," Brown said. "She has had to go through and try to find out where her super is, who she has insurance with... and this is a smart woman I'm talking about.

"It's actually a real worry when it comes to financial literacy for females. We see a lot of women who just blindly trust their partners when it comes to financial affairs, sometimes to their disadvantage later down the track."

Eric Audras
"There's something I need to tell you... about our superannuation..."

According to Brown, another reason a person might have a secret personal account is if they don't want to be held accountable for their spending habits.

"It's not uncommon for a spouse to have their own private account, but this could be known in the relationship," she said. "And it's generally so they can spend money on themselves without having to answer questions. So theoretically, they get their 'pocket money' and can do what they like with it."

Brown says having private accounts outside of the joint account (which is typically used for shared expenses such as rent, food and bills) can also be handy if one partner tends to be more 'generous' than the other.

"A lot of people have money issues," Brown said. "And by that I mean if there is money sitting in the joint account, they will just spend it until there's nothing there. That can be an issue with one party in a couple so it makes sense for them to have their own private account so they don't spend everything the couple has."

As financial advisers, we always make sure we get payslips or tax returns from both parties. If you want holistic advice with cash flow management... everyone needs to be on the same page.

Okay, so that makes sense. But what of 39 percent of Aussies not knowing what their significant other earned?

"I was surprised at that," Brown admitted. "Though having said that, we have had clients come in and unless they have a pay slip or a tax return, they don't know what they earn themselves.

"For us, as financial advisers, we always make sure we get payslips or tax returns from both parties. If you want holistic advice with cash flow management, and if you want to know about whether you can afford additional super contributions or to upgrade their house -- whatever their goals are -- everyone needs to be on the same page."

In fact, Brown says financial transparency is of utmost importance in any committed relationship, though she acknowledges it depends on the definition of 'committed'.

"Different relationships are obviously serious at different stages," Brown said. "But if you are going to start living with somebody and moving in together, there needs to be cards on the table and open discussion. Otherwise you need to treat each person as an individual in terms of their finances... it doesn't work as a couple if you're not being upfront with one another."

When it comes to working toward common financial goals, you both need to be on the same page.

If the relationship is fairly new and you don't necessarily want to divulge how much you earn just yet, but there is still the need to cover joint expenses, Brown advises setting up a 'kitty account' into which both members of the relationship transfer equal amounts of money to cover everyday finances.

"There should always be some level of transparency," Brown said. "Which then grows and changes over time.

"These days, for instance, I think it's quite common to move in with someone fairly early in a relationship, compared to 40 years ago when you would have to get married first.

"So even in these new stages, you still need to have that transparency of 'well let's get a joint account, this is how much we will both put in, this is what we will use the money for,' and so on.

"But if you're still harbouring financial secrets from your significant other when you are married or in a serious committed relationship -- and this is my personal view -- it makes you wonder, what other secrets have you got?"

Emma Innocenti
In saying all this, there's no need to oversee each other's ATM withdrawals.

In conclusion, if you're serious enough about a person to live with them and to share common financial goals, it's time to spill the financial beans.

"If you have a deal with a couple, need both parties to be transparent," Brown said. "Quite frankly it's too hard to plan if you don't. If you're not open with one another on this level, you're not necessarily going to be able to reach your goals."