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Should a Married Person Have Secret Savings?

No. Ideally, there should be no secrets in a marriage. This is something most people agree on, so when the topic came up in a group of married couples last weekend, it was clear the question was really about exceptions.

I believe that in marriage couples should be transparent with each other, especially when it comes to money. Even before you get hitched, there should be full disclosure, and neither party should be in doubt as to what the family income is. If either one is in debt, they should be honest about that as well.

The truth is that things aren’t always the way they should be, and this was the crux of the matter for me. If husband and wife cannot trust each other when it comes to money, there will inevitably be secrets.

Of course, there are what many consider to be extreme cases. Women have bought land and built houses without their husbands’ knowledge, and men have done the same. We probably can remember the story of the woman who got an agent to rent the house that she built, to her husband; he unknowingly paid rent to his own wife for years, and only found out when she increased the rent for the umpteenth time and he insisted on meeting the landlord. I thought it was wicked — and hilarious — that she actually offered to lend him the rent money several times when he struggled to pay the rent.

Nevertheless, there are married people who really have no choice but to save secretly.

I know a guy who, being married to a spendthrift, refrains from disclosing all his income to his wife. The idea of savings is foreign to her, and she is forever making demands: she needs a new car, they need to move from flat to duplex, the duplex needs to be repainted and redecorated from top to bottom, the family needs a vacation in Dubai… I cannot blame him for operating secret savings and investment accounts.

I know women who are in financially abusive marriages. Their husbands earn more (in some cases the wives earn little or nothing) and use money as a tool to control, subjugate and oppress. One case, in particular, is very pathetic. She depends on him for everything, and he can make decisions concerning her welfare at any time. Sometimes he uses money as a reward for “good behavior”, and withholds it as punishment for “bad behavior”. Whether he expresses it verbally or not, she is constantly reminded that she cannot survive without him. If this woman were to receive cash gifts, or any other kind of income, and decide to keep it in a savings account her husband knows nothing about, would I persuade her to disclose it? No.

There are women who, on learning of their husband’s extramarital affair, quickly move to protect themselves by saving and investing secretly. They are no longer confident that they can build with this man, and they need something to fall back on should the marriage end.

These things should not be so, but alas, ideal and reality can be very far apart. Sometimes a person has to do what they have to do. It would not be wise of me to impose my marriage structure on them regardless of whether it suits their circumstances or not.

When it comes to marriage, there is no one-size-fits-all. Be wise.

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Joy Ehonwa is an editor and a writer who is passionate about relationships and personal development. She runs Pinpoint Creatives, a proofreading, editing, transcription and ghostwriting service. Email: pinpointcreatives [at]



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