Financial infidelity and gray divorces
The Role of Money in Divorce After 50
Financial issues are a common cause of relationship strife. In a 2023 survey, 64% of American couples report that they are “financially incompatible” with their partners. Financial difficulties can lead to stress, marital problems, and possibly divorce.
Gray divorce is a relatively new term used to describe the wave of couples getting a divorce after spending decades together. For couples over 50, divorce rates are the highest than any other age group. People between 55 and 64 account for 43% of divorces according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
People over 50 make up nearly half of all U.S. divorces now, a trend that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic as many people began to gain a new perspective on their mortality.
With the stigma around divorce shifting, couples who once felt as though they had no option but to stay together despite their unhappiness are now seeking separation. In many cases, they have grown apart over many years, and they are simply no longer in love with one another. While some relationships fall apart organically, many other gray divorces are fueled by what’s known as financial infidelity.
Understanding Financial Infidelity
Dishonesty can destroy any relationship, and money problems in a marriage can occur if one partner lies to the other about the couple’s finances. This is referred to as “financial infidelity,” and even simple omissions can feel like a big betrayal.
Financial infidelity can be described as being secretive about money. Someone might lie about how much they spend or what they buy, secretly save money or invest in a business or stocks without telling their partner, or even lie about how much money they’re putting away for retirement.
Couples in their 50s are planning for their golden years, which can be dramatically hindered by one or both spouses’ financial infidelity. Imagine saving for decades only to realize that your partner has squandered most of their own money on things you never even knew about or that they’ve been amassing thousands of dollars in credit card bills behind your back.
Financial deception can severely harm a relationship because it ultimately destroys trust. Even if the amount is small, the act of lying about money to a partner can be enough to start unraveling an entire relationship. If you suspect something isn’t right, it might be a good idea to do some digging.
Common Causes of Financial Infidelity
It is common for married couples to conjoin their finances. Some people may retain individual accounts from when they were single, but their partner is aware of them. Discovering a spouse has not been honest about their financial choices can often leave the other completely disillusioned and anxious about their own future. It can also negatively impact your own finances if you have joint accounts.
In a gray divorce, there can be many concerns about how separation will affect one another’s security during retirement. This is especially true for couples who relied predominately on one spouse’s earnings to sustain their current lifestyle.
The consequences of financial infidelity are obvious, but the causes can be more confusing. Someone may lie about money in a relationship to:
- Keep their spouse happy
- Avoid judgment or disapproval
- Hide compulsive shopping that they either are embarrassed by or that they do not recognize as a problem
A spouse might lie about how much something costs to avoid upsetting their partner, or they could lie about the amount of debt they have out of fear of disapproval or even rejection. They may think that they can replace the lost funds by getting a second job or working overtime.
Couples who already have difficulties communicating are even more likely to struggle to reveal information about their spending, saving, or finances that could cause conflict.
However, no partner is responsible for the other’s deception. Even if a spouse is worried about another’s reaction, the responsibility falls on the individual to be honest about their behavior.
Financial infidelity can also be common in marriages with unequal financial independence. For example, if one partner earns a lot of money and pays for all of the couple’s living expenses, the other spouse may take the money that they are given to pay for expenses and use it for their own purposes. For example, one spouse gives the other $100 to buy groceries, and they spend $50 on food and put the other $50 in a savings account.
For a spouse who suspects their partner is being dishonest about finances, there are several red flags to watch out for.
Warning Signs of Financial Infidelity
You may suspect that your spouse is not being 100% honest about their finances if you notice that your partner is:
- Making excuses for their excessive spending and shopping habits
- Being more frugal than usual or suddenly giving a lot of gifts
- Attempting to hide receipts or other evidence of purchases
- Avoiding direct answers to questions about finances
- Refusing to discuss their spending habits or savings even though they did previously
- Being caught lying about purchases and arguing about it
- Hiding, disposing of, or creating false copies of receipts or other financial statements
- Changing passwords to bank accounts, credit card accounts, or other financial accounts
- Suddenly only paying with cash
- Making unexplained bank withdrawals
- Suddenly changing their routine deposits
- Spending money on things that they never did before
If you notice any of these signs, you may want to bring them up with your partner while also considering your own financial well-being.
Financial Infidelity and Divorce
Money problems in a marriage do not automatically mean that a couple will get divorced. There are couples who struggle with money issues and can eventually overcome their difficulties. Whether or not a marriage is salvageable all depends on how willing partners are to communicate and repair any damage that has been done. Speaking to a licensed marriage and family counselor may be a helpful way to determine what the next steps should be in your relationship.
If you are considering divorce and worried about the financial implications, consider reaching out to our office and speaking with an experienced divorce attorney. We help couples of all ages and from all backgrounds navigate the complicated process.
Divorce can be difficult and painful. With so many emotions and logistics to consider, it is important to find the right resources early on that will help you make the best decision for your future. If you are seeking support, contact the law office of Kelly Berton Rocco. We can help you explore potential next steps. You can connect with a divorce attorney by calling our Hackensack office at 201-343-0078, or by completing and submitting our contact form to schedule a consultation.