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How lying about your finances could ruin your marriage

By John Kariuki | December 3rd 2012

By John Kariuki

It is not African to fully declare one’s wealth, so claim many ageing people. It is cool for any self respecting old man to stash away some property, and, frequently a mistress, for a rainy day!

Some ageing professionals will never be drawn to say categorically the number of wives and children that they have! Consequently, many die with their money stashed away in bank vaults! Scores of African entrepreneurs continue dying intestate. They don’t declare where their secret property is or with whom it is jointly owned, occasioning great losses that could run into trillions of shillings to their heirs apparent!

Speculative ventures   

Tragically, many young employees of the dot.com generation have followed in the footsteps of their parents and grandparents by hiding some cash and property away from the probing eyes of their children and spouses. The wheel of financial infidelity has turned full cycle. But just like the taking on of extra lovers, this financial infidelity is pure cheating.

Whereas there could be elaborate plans in romantic infidelity, money cheating is often done amateurishly leaving inexplicable gaps. But it inevitably erodes people’s relationships as quickly as the mpango wa kando (mistresses) disloyalty!

Personal finance experts and marital life counselors advise that there should be no money secrets between spouses for the sake of their relationships. They say that financial infidelity is fairly common and it often heralds fights and divorce.  Simon Kimani, a businessman, had been macho to a fault, furthering the African man’s wealth management style.

“I would never consult my wife or children when investing in risky and speculative ventures,” he admits. After all, he would reason, he had made all the money himself. “At times I would put all my money in high stakes stocks which would plummet in a week and my family would be reduced to taking groceries on credit,” he says. Many times he would sell off assets like cars, livestock and land to shore up for such secret miscalculations. He had many rows as his wife, naturally, suspected that he had an extramarital affair. But a near-death experience changed all this.

“I missed death by whisker in a road accident and had all the time in hospital to re-strategise my financial plans,” he says. Now he consults his family before undertaking any major venture. “Even if you have some good investment intentions, it’s always good to put your family in the picture to scrutinise your plans and for their emotionally support,” advises kimani.

Hilda Mapenzi, a personal finance banker, says that a certain amount of transparency is required in order for couples to move forward financially. “If one spouse is making secret bets with money that he or she can’t afford to lose, it could affect his or her ability to pay bills, contribute to joint savings or pay off mutual debts,” she says. This, she adds, will certainly put a strain on the other spouse.

Lack of trust 

According to Ms Mapenzi, financial infidelity starts when the two spouses have unregulated freedom to operate different bank accounts. “I routinely quell warring couples when they discover that their spouses have secret bank loans,” she says. Ms Mapenzi advises couples to discuss their salaries, savings and debt at an early stage in their relationships to avoid trouble later.

“The next step is to agree on a common strategy for paying the bills and meeting other financial goals, such as matatu fares, buying a house, paying for their children’s education and preparation for retirement,” she says.

She adds that if couples are not honest with each other’s personal finances, it will be difficult to combine their separate lives in an effective and economical way.

“Without consultations, each is bound to amplify his or her separate money mistakes, driving both further away from their common goals,” she says.

Ndung’u Kang’oro, a Kinangop based family life counselor, says that the failure to reveal all of one’s financial aspects his or her partner suggests lack of trust, which does not bode well for any relationship. “Just as with an extramartial affair, a spouse might take revenge as a result of financial infidelity by going on a frenzy of unplanned expenditure to get even,” warns Kang’oro. This counselor says that it is unfaithful for one to secretly save or spend money without his or her spouse’s knowledge regardless of the nobleness of the cause! “Your partner will feel betrayed when he or she discovers you are saving to buy a car while the two of you are supposed to be upgrading your home,” he says. He adds that the cheating spouse puts his/her interests first and then cheats about it.

Kang’oro says that often financial infidelity results from one spouse covering up for genuine business losses, instead of bringing them to his or her partner’s attention. “Of course on need not tell his or her partner every time business dips, but if there is a major loss, one must confess at the earliest opportunity,” he says and adds:

“After all, if a couple is truly committed to their relationship, a financial mishap should ideally be a loss for both of them.”

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