Have you ever considered the best ways for you to hide money from your nearest and dearest?

No? Ah, just me then…

Actually, I should state at the outset that I looked into this as a purely hypothetical exercise. (Trust me, that horse has long since bolted.) Researching methods erring spouses use to hide away funds from their partners is something that may have entirely fictional relevance, but it’s an intriguing subject.

A recent survey by a credit card website discovered that twenty percent of Americans who are in a relationship admit to spending $500 or more without the knowledge of their partner. A smaller percentage even confess to holding hidden bank accounts or credit cards.

Scaling up the numbers from the sample the website questioned, this means that up to seven million people commit financial infidelity with their loved ones.

At one point, I would—and did—happily have joint bank accounts with my spouse. Around sixty-six percent of married couples do the same. I handled the business accounts and relied on my partner to handle the personal side, pay credit cards when they were due, and to warn me of any impending situation that might put us into debt.

Now, I’m slightly OCD about not accruing debt. I don’t owe anybody anything and intend to keep things that way. But I can appreciate how easy it is for one partner to bury their head in the sand, particularly during current times when employment in all kinds of fields is looking precarious and many have been on furlough at reduced pay. Just because income has gone down, that does not mean expenditure can be cut to match.

Sometimes, it’s purely a case of mismanagement. One partner can’t resist retail therapy in one form or another, and credit cards provide the means of instant gratification. It’s tempting to squint past the outrageous interest rate charged. Many people do not realise that when a credit card company offers a zero interest rate on balance transfers, either the fees charged for such a transaction or the existing balance will still be charged at the full rate—and those amounts will, of course, be the part of the debt paid off last.

But in other cases, things take a more deliberate edge. These are some of the ways I’ve discovered that some couples keep financial secrets from each other.

To begin with, if any of your income is derived in cash, then it’s all too easy to pocket some of it before it reaches home. Equally, paying for goods by card and asking for an additional sum as cash-back at the till also allows a private stash to be stealthily accrued. The resulting amounts will show on statements purely as spending at a particular store rather than as a cash withdrawal.

If you are salaried, then any new income, like a raise, can be diverted to a new bank account. I am told that the Human Resources departments of most large companies are able to split your pay and send it to different destinations if required. As long as you aren’t trying to avoid paying tax…

Speaking of which, I understand you can overpay your tax and have this excess refunded at a later date. I haven’t yet investigated if this is something only possible in America or if it applies to the UK as well. If so, then obviously you will be able to choose where this eventual refund is sent and what account it goes into.

Opening an online account accessed from an encrypted app allows one partner to open additional bank accounts without tell-tale statements or paperwork turning up at the marital address.

Equally, credit cards can usually be managed entirely online. I don’t think I’ve seen a paper statement for any of mine for some years. Although, as the name implies, this gives you only a line of credit, not a means of hiding assets or squirreling away money.

However, you can buy gift cards, load them up, then stash them in a safe deposit box or some other safe place.

Of course, if any of these shenanigans are discovered, you will still have to hand over the amount the courts decide upon when you reach your financial settlement. Perhaps, in that case, the only way to prevent your soon-to-be-ex from getting hold of their share of the loot is to spend it before they get the chance?

What anecdotes have you heard about the extremes warring couples have gone to in order to keep money out of their exes’ pockets? And does it simply end up all going in legal fees anyway?

This week’s Word of the Week is abibliophobia, which means the fear of running out of things to read.

Read and comment on this blog over on Murder Is Everywhere.