Sunday, 11 April 2010

A secret stash

People hide all sorts of things from their partners. Phobias, wild crushes, midnight binges, body hair. And quite often, it seems, secret savings accounts.

A new study says that one in five men and one in ten women have private stashes they don't reveal, averaging £2000 but sometimes a lot more.

They have all sorts of reasons for squirrelling it away. In case the relationship fails, because it's none of their partner's business, because it gives them some financial independence, and for men because a stash of cash makes them feel more masculine.

Those high-earning bankers in the City of London are said to be particularly prone to hiding large chunks of their earnings from their partners. It must be pretty easy, with such astronomical sums flying in all directions.

There's no way Jenny or I would have secret accounts. We've had joint accounts for many years and whatever's in them belongs quite clearly to both of us. When we first met I had my own bank account with quite a sizeable sum in it (which Jenny knew about) but we eventually pooled all our money.

I suppose if you genuinely think your relationship might collapse, then having some private savings is a sensible precaution, to enable you to start afresh. But I can't see any other good reason for salting away money your partner doesn't know about.

To me it suggests terrible deceit and lack of trust, keeping something very important from them because they might not approve. And if you're hiding something so significant, what else might you be hiding that they ought to know about? A taste for secrecy can spread into umpteen areas, like a virus, until deceit becomes routine.

34 comments:

kylie said...

for me it's about control

Nick said...

Kylie - You're dead right, why didn't I spot that? It's absolutely about having control, and preventing your partner having any say or influence.

kylie said...

you probably wouldnt spot it if you dont have control issues either personally or in your relationship

Nick said...

Kylie - You're right, Jenny and I have a very balanced relationship, both very assertive and not easily squashed!

Kate said...

Its been a long while since I thought about it - but I did have a separate bank account when I was married - it gave me the independence I needed to buy gifts... oh and perfume and things!!!

Leah said...

I never realized so many people have those secret accounts!

I've never had one either, as Sarge and I are pretty transparent to each other with the bank accounts--like you and Jenny, we've always from the beginning had joint accounts and "full disclosure." Actually, although I do think it's about control, I also agree with you that secrecy in marriage isn't a great thing, and that it can spiral and cause problems. Hiding a harmless crush is one thing, but hiding other tangible events and things like bank accounts is another...but then, every situation is different, and as you point out, there are definitely marriages where it would be prudent to do so!

Leah said...

Oh, just to add: I think there's an enormous difference between keeping a known separate account (as Kate said she did) and keeping a top secret account.

I don't know...maybe I'm of two minds about it, under further consideration...kind of an interesting question, this is!

Nick said...

Kate - I think a present fund is fair enough. One of the rather odd things about a joint account is buying each other presents with money that belongs to both of us!

Leah - Indeed, every relationship is different, and a secret that's necessary in one could totally undermine another. But in general I think any secrecy potentially sabotages closeness.

Suburbia said...

I find it strange that my parents, in their 7o's, have never had a joint account and my mother has no idea how much her husband is 'worth', as it were. Very odd!

Nick said...

Suburbia - I think that still applies to a lot of couples. The man of the house wants tight control over the money for fear of a fluffy female mind causing financial mayhem....

Baino said...

We did have separate accounts for a long time. Laziness more than anything and the 2 years where I didn't work I was quite happy to be given an 'allowance' it was ample for my needs but we did eventually combine. Mortgages do that to you! Now that it's just me and the kids we all have transparency and often purchase stuff together . .the power of three is greater than the power of one! I think keeping secrets is worse frankly then they're secrets so how would youever know?

Nick said...

Baino - The power of three is greater than the power of one. Indeed. Good point about not knowing whether someone is keeping something secret.

Grannymar said...

One of my SIL's always had money in the back of her purse. Her mother had given it to her on the morning of her wedding (to my brother), the mother called it 'running away' money! It had been spent, replaced and added to several times over the years. My brother never knew about it.

Nick said...

Grannymar - Running away money, I like it! Amazing that your brother never knew about it. He must never have had occasion to look in her purse!

Quickroute said...

The missus and I have separate a/c's but only out of the need for accountability and financial discipline.

Megan said...

I see this kind of thing a lot in my business. Just last week we had a woman ask that we create a separate application for her husband to sign that did not include all her sole accounts (both savings and credit cards). We had to tell her we couldn't do that. She was not happy. I think she forgot that California is a community property state...

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Flip and I pooled our resources from the beginning. The only minor inconvenience it caused was that we always knew what the other had spent for our gifts. While I can see the need for some people to have hidden funds, it hasn't been necessary in my present relationship.

Nick said...

Quicky - Accountability and financial discipline? You mean one of you's a bit of a spendthrift, lol?

Megan - Interesting. I didn't know banks could refuse to open separate accounts. In the UK separate accounts are now a normal option for women, which they weren't at one time.

Heart - I know, the same applies to Jenny and me about knowing how much our presents cost! Sometimes we end up just buying ourselves what we want anyway....

Scarlet Blue said...

If your partner is a gambler or a shopaholic, then you might feel it prudent to have a secret stash.
Or it could be a surprise, emergency stash... isn't it a relief when a loved one comes to your rescue with a surprise stash?
Sx

Nick said...

Scarlet - Good point. In that case a secret account would be an essential survival tactic, I guess. A windfall from a surprise stash would be handy, but I'd still be concerned that it had been kept secret....

gaelikaa said...

In theory it is very wrong to keep secrets - in practise, one has to be a little practical...some men are control freaks and feel that they should handle all the cash. So the woman has to be a little smart and keep a bit aside because she may need it sometime and not be able to get her hands on it. I mean, when being transparent with your partner clearly does not work and when you love him anyway but want to keep your sanity, what do you do? Worse still, when your partner is in the habit of giving large quantities of money to relatives without consulting his wife, as it is all 'his' money, there is a problem indeed.

Sometimes one has to choose the lesser of two evils. "What the mind doesn't see...."

Nick said...

Gaelikaa - There's a genuine problem when the man wants to control all the money, and then the woman keeping some aside seems a sensible response. Sounds like you or a friend have experienced the cash-control extremes you mention. Sometimes secrets are necessary, and the distrust they imply is well-founded.

Rummuser said...

Gaelikaa talks about conditions that prevail in India where this is quite common. To add insult to injury, often the husband controls the wife's earnings too and we now increasingly have divorces on account of precisely this phenomenon. Many working wives would like to maintain their independence and contribute to their families but the husbands resent this and this leads to problems. Indian society is very complex and many paradoxes appear regularly in the urban mileu. I always had a joint account with my late wife and since I was mostly traveling, she managed the home finances till she became incapable. Now of course, I have converted those as joint accounts with my son on an "either or survivor" basis so that in case I pop off, he doesn't have problems operating the funds. He likewise has his accounts as joint accounts with me as has my father his with me. This is very usual as otherwise, probate processes can take for ever in case the operator of the account suddenly passes away.

Nick said...

Ramana - Having joint accounts with your relatives to avoid the complexities of probate sounds an excellent idea. As far as I know, it never happens in the UK, I suppose mainly because people don't want relatives to know all the details of their financial dealings (and how much they're worth!). Perhaps I should broach the idea with my 88 year old mum...

Macy said...

I was in an abusive relationship, and stashed money away until I had enough to move out.
So, yes, a secret account probably is a sign something's wrong.
Doesn't mean that the secret account is in itself bad though.

Nick said...

Macy - I think a secret account always suggests something's wrong. Otherwise why would you keep it secret from a partner you trust and want to share everything with?

I'm sorry to hear about the abusive relationship. Unfortunately such relationships are all too common.

Liz said...

Husband opens accounts but in my name. He says, 'Sign here.' I could be signing my life away so it's a good job I trust him. I have no idea what money we have! He'd better not leave me!

Nick said...

Liz - What, you don't know how much money you have? I think you should start asking him a few awkward questions....

Leah said...

I really enjoyed coming back here and reading the fascinating conversation! Good job Nick.

Wisewebwoman said...

I'm coming out on the opposite side of popular opinion here Nick.
I've seen far too many women abandoned, penniless, while Himself has socked away in an another private account. If I'm quick enough I'll do a forensic and catch him. Or I should say if the woman is quick enough to come to me. And vice versa too.
I'm all for a joint account for running the household but a firm believer in separate accounts also. Things happen and do to the most 'perfect' of relationships.
I also believe in premaritals. For countless reasons.
Emotion should be separated from financial matters. Everyone needs to protect themselves financially from ruin.
XO
Wetblanket WWW

Wisewebwoman said...

Sorry Nick - I meant to add:
And there should be nothing secret about any of this. And a truly healthy relationship would encourage it.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

Leah - I had no idea this was going to develop into such an interesting debate!

www - Difficult one. True that relationships can suddenly collapse, or a partner can die, so a separate account might be a wise standby for an emergency. On the other hand, a separate account implies you have no faith in the relationship, and may even lessen your commitment to it.

But you obviously have a lot of professional experience of broken relationships and financial crises, so your advice is worth thinking about.

TechnoBabe said...

Like you, when hubby and I got together we pooled all we had. Not for one moment did I feel like I should hold out some from him or start a secret stash. I think you are right on many levels. The act of hiding is deceit.

Nick said...

TechnoBabe - Good for you. Though as others have said, if your partner wants to control the money, then a secret hoard of your own might be very necessary.