Dear Penny: Should I Be Worried About My Husband’s Secret Bank Account?
I don't know if I should get a lawyer, but my husband has been taking money out of our joint bank account. He’s been transferring it to a new bank account in his name that I don't have any information about.
We are both on Social Security and pensions. I take a total of $1,400 every month, but he gets $6,100 total every month. He pays for the mortgage, water, electric bill, food and house maintenance. I pay for my own car, gas, the tolls for both of us, and for my personal things.
He used to keep half of my total pay, but I told him I needed to pay my credit cards. I also help my four adult children; he is their stepfather. Should I be worried?
Unless you think there could be an innocent explanation, like your husband is planning a surprise for you, there’s clearly something going on that your husband doesn’t want you to know about. You should definitely be concerned.
The fact that you have so little control over your finances is troubling by itself. Your husband may pay for most of your expenses, but do you really know where that $6,100 a month goes? It sounds like he has carte blanche, while you get a small allowance.
I do think you should consult with an attorney. Unfortunately, with a joint account, either party can withdraw the entire balance in most circumstances, so it doesn’t sound like your husband has done anything illegal.
But you need to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Sometimes people attempt to hide money before they file for divorce. Or there’s the possibility that you’ll want to end this marriage because of the secrets your husband is keeping.
I’m assuming your husband isn’t aware that you’ve discovered his secret bank account. If you discovered the transfers while going through bank statements and you’re able to talk openly about money, you could simply mention it in a non-confrontational way. Say that you noticed that he opened another bank account and see what information he offers.
But I have a feeling that this is a relationship where open discussions about money aren’t happening. In that case, avoid confronting him about it for now. It’s essential that you open a separate account that’s in your name only.
Try to syphon off whatever you can into your separate account so that you have a couple months’ worth of expenses saved. If you’re still paying off your credit cards, just make minimum payments to save extra cash for now. If you can come up with an excuse for why you need to withdraw extra money, go ahead and fib.
As difficult as it may be, tell your adult children that you’re not in a position to help them out right now. But do tell them what’s going on, because you need emotional support. You may also want to make arrangements to stay with one of them for a few days after you eventually confront your husband.
While you’ve discovered one secret bank account, I worry that there may be other things you don’t know about. Get a free copy of each of your three credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com to make sure there aren’t any accounts you don’t recognize and verify that any joint credit accounts are current.
If this marriage is salvageable, I hope that you’ll revisit the way you handle your finances. You and your husband should have regular check-ins to go over account statements and bills. You need to feel comfortable asking questions about any major transactions.
But for now, I think you need to prepare for the worst. Meet with an attorney to start making a plan. And most importantly, trust your instincts. Secret bank accounts are a big red flag that you can’t afford to ignore.
Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].
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