15 Signs Your Partner May Be Hiding Money Problems

A couple going through their finances together, but one partner may be hiding financial negatives.

Is your partner running up credit card bills, falling behind on payments or otherwise struggling financially without telling you? Signs of a partner hiding money problems could include frequent shopping trips, hiding the mail, refusing to discuss finances and more. Here are 15 red flags that may mean your partner is keeping financial secrets.

1. Hiding or Intercepting Mail

A partner who races to the mailbox could be intercepting online purchases, past-due notices or statements for credit cards you didn't know about. The U.S. Postal Service's Informed Delivery option alerts you of mail to your household so you can get a clearer picture of what mail you may never see.

2. Excessive Offers of New Credit

Is your partner receiving lots of mailers offering credit cards or loans? A barrage of offers could indicate they're shopping for new credit to pay off hidden debt.

3. Refusing to Talk About Finances

Discussing money isn't always easy, but if your partner suddenly refuses to engage on the subject, it could be a red flag. "If your partner changes the topic when you talk about money, (they may) not want to accidentally expose transactions or plans," warns Marley Howard, a Licensed Family and Marriage Therapist.

4. Bills and Statements Stop Arriving

Have statements for your joint mortgage, credit cards, and investment, retirement or bank accounts stopped coming in the mail? Your partner may use online payment and billing to save trees—or hide financial issues.

5. Acting Secretive Around Devices

A partner who scrambles to shut their laptop or hide their phone screen whenever you're nearby could be gambling or shopping online, applying for credit cards or loans or funding a secret bank account.

6. Insisting on Control of Your Finances

Does your partner handle all your shared finances, declining offers of help? This can be a ploy to keep you in the dark about your financial situation.

7. Making Big Purchases Without Asking

Most couples agree on what's too much for one to spend without consulting the other. If your partner rolls up on a new motorcycle or buys a big-screen TV without asking you, they may be overspending in other ways, too.

8. Asking You to Sign Papers With No Explanation

A partner desperate to pay off debt may take out loans, refinance your mortgage or commit income tax fraud. Always get an explanation and read any contract or document carefully before signing, no matter who hands it to you.

9. Living Above Your Means

When your partner treats you to a getaway weekend or lavish dinners, your first impulse is to enjoy it. But luxury spending that doesn't match your income level could indicate they're racking up debt.

10. Frequent Shopping Trips

A partner who's always heading to the mall may not return laden with shopping bags, but could be hiding purchases and smuggling them into the house when you aren't around.

11. Purchases With Price Tags Still on Them

Does your partner's closet reveal a plethora of never-worn clothing with tags still attached? This might signal a costly shopping addiction.

12. Missing Payments on Household Bills

A sudden rash of late fees or past-due notices could reveal your partner has stopped paying the bills. You might find this out the hard way when your insurance drops you or your fitness club refuses you entrance.

13. Using Cash for Most Purchases

Using cash for purchases is less common than it used to be, thanks to the ease and security of payment cards. Reliance on cash could signal a financial secret. If your spouse is in a cash business, for example, they may use cash transactions "and be hiding what they are actually bringing in to lower taxes (or) hide money from spouses and creditors," says Aviva Pinto, certified divorce financial analyst and wealth manager at Wealthspire Advisors.

14. Unexplained Cash Withdrawals

Regular cash withdrawals from your joint bank account could denote excessive spending. It might even mean drug addiction, gambling, extramarital affairs or other habits your partner can't (or doesn't want to) pay for with cards.

15. Sudden Drop in Direct Deposit

If your partner's paycheck direct deposit amount declines, they could be directing more money toward their 401(k) plan or other workplace benefit plan—or they could be siphoning money into a hidden bank account or paying off a secret debt.

How to Move Forward After Financial Infidelity

When you discover a partner's hidden money problems, what's next? Depending on the situation, a frank talk may be enough to put your partner on the right path, or you may want to consider other measures.

  • Get relationship or individual counseling. Impulsive spending may stem from mental health. Consulting a licensed therapist individually or together can help your partner change their behavior, and help you rebuild trust.
  • Seek financial counseling: Financial counselors work with individuals and couples to explore attitudes toward money and build money management skills. They can advise how to create a budget, pay down debt and more.
  • Develop a debt payoff plan. If your partner has substantial debt, you may need to develop a debt payoff plan, such as:
  • Start fresh. Focus on the future, not the past. Work as a team to set new financial goals, such as saving up for a big vacation, a down payment on a home or retirement.
  • Embrace transparency. Put both your names on utility bills, investment accounts, insurance policies and other shared accounts so you both have access to financial information. Share passwords for your online accounts. "If you don't already share device access with your spouse, think about starting," says Stephen Cawelti, a Los Angeles divorce attorney. "Sharing access allows a couple to ‘trust but verify.'"
  • Stay on top of your finances. "Do not leave financial responsibility to only one person," Howard advises. "Even if your spouse handles it, you must know what (they're) doing with the money." Regularly review your finances together, but check accounts on your own, too. Set up alerts that notify you of large transactions or changes to your account.
  • Encourage your partner to improve their credit score. Marriage doesn't merge your credit reports; each individual has their own. Still, a partner's poor money habits can negatively affect your credit if joint accounts are paid late or sent to collections. Even if you have a good credit score, a spouse's poor credit can limit your ability to qualify for joint credit in the future. If money problems have damaged your partner's credit, encourage them to improve it by making on-time payments and paying down debt.

Focus on Your Financial Future

You cannot check your partner's credit report without their consent . However, jointly held revolving credit accounts (such as credit cards or lines of credit) and installment loans (such as a mortgage or auto loan) will appear on both your credit reports. Checking your own credit report regularly will show these accounts' payment status and any negative information, such as accounts in collections, revealing potential problems.

Consider setting up free credit monitoring for alerts of suspicious activity, new accounts and other changes in your credit report. Discovering a partner's hidden money problems may come as a shock, but by working through the issues together, you can rebuild your trust—and your finances.