Hiding Debt from your Spouse


Yesterday I was reminded of something I heard in my past. Peter from Bible Money Matters mentioned that someone had reached his site by someone searching for "should i use 401k to pay off hidden credit card debt?" This single question really gets your head spinning. We have all heard of hiding money from your spouse, while I don’t advocate hiding anything, this seems to make sense. You want to stash a little cash aside so you can by your wife something nice, so you hide it in a jar or elsewhere until you have enough to by that gift.

Why on earth would you want to hide debt from your spouse/partner? A relationship is inherently built on honesty and trust both of which go out the window the second you start doing things to undermine the financial well being of your household.  When someone takes on debt but does not involve their significant other in the decision they are putting their relationship in jeopardy.

You may think that your financial shortcomings only affect you but when it comes down to it both people in a relationship affect the financial future of the couple as a whole. I have a friend who is a mortgage broker and this is probably something he has seen pretty regularly. Imagine that you and your spouse go in to qualify for a mortgage and the broker comes back to you and says: “I could get you a 4.5% rate, however, there is this $10,000 credit card balance so the best I can do is 5.8%” to which your spouse responds with “what credit card.” All I can say is I hope you have a comfy couch when that scenario goes down.

What Can You Do About It?

Lets say you have made this mistake and you have hidden debt your spouse doesn’t know about, what steps should you take to make this situation better.

  1. Admit you have a problem, if to no one else but yourself. Most instances where you are trying to hide your spending, or debt, you are doing it to fulfill some obsession whether it be gambling or shopping. Admit your problem and if needed seek help from an AA or related group.
  2. Stop taking on any additional debt, hidden or otherwise.
  3. TELL YOUR SPOUSE! This is a must, you CANNOT maintain a healthy relationship when their are secrets and deceit involved.
    • Sit down with them and admit your problems, or reasoning for the debt.
    • TOGETHER come up with a plan to eliminate the debt
    • Eliminate the debt

The key here, as always in a relationship, is going to be communication. You aren’t going to want to be brutally honest, but you need to be. As I said earlier, your relationship is built on honesty and trust. You are going to lose points in the trust department so you might as well be completely honest and keep, or even gain, some of those.

Once you have the air cleared on the subject it is going to be just like tackling any other debt you have. To Peter’s Googler, under no circumstances should you take out of your 401k to payoff your “hidden” debt. Plan your attack method and then, in the words of Dave Ramsey, work the plan with gazelle like intensity. You are going to feel better because you don’t have the weight of lies, deceit, and debt on your shoulders and eventually your wife will forgive you.

Photo: (SashaW)


1 Bible Money Matters July 23, 2009 at 3:12 pm

What, no link for poor Peter? heh.. jk.

It is pretty sad to look at those Google referrals sometimes and see the things people are searching for. Things like the one you mentioned above, or others:

If I divorce my husband will I still get half the tax rebate?


Help me with my foreclosure

Like you say – communication is key, and hiding debts from your spouse is never a good idea. Personally I’m a horrible liar anyway – so i would never get away with it.

Oh, and taking money out of your 401k is almost never a good idea – so yeah – don’t do that.

2 Live for Improvement July 23, 2009 at 6:29 pm

You should never hide debt from your spouse communication is the key to any relationship as previously mentioned. On the otherhand a hidden savings account might not be a bad idea if your spouse has problems managing their money.

3 Ashamed October 16, 2009 at 10:56 am

I have unfortunately made this mistake. I came clean to my wife, and we made a plan together to pay off the debt and get our lives back on track.

Now, however, my wife doesn’t trust me and it’s making us both miserable. I don’t know what to do.

4 stomachache November 16, 2009 at 12:16 pm

I have been living with this for 4 years and will be done paying off my debt in a year and a half. I feel that I deserve this disgusting feeling in my stomach and my spouse doesn’t deserve to live with that. I have made it this far so I think I can tough it out for a year and a half more and be done with this nonsense. I know I have chosen the dangerous path but I have faith that I can do this get back on track. I recommend not getting into debt in the first place. If you don’t have the cash to buy it then you really don’t need it.

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