Wealth Management

Secret bank accounts see people stash over $100,000 from their partner

Melinda Oliver /

Around 300,000 married and de facto couples are keeping secret bank accounts from their partners, according to new research.

A survey of 1260 Australians conducted by Galaxy Research for TAL Life Insurance found while 66% of couples have joint bank accounts, 45% have an account their partner has no access to. Of this figure, 36% were married and 71% were de facto couples.

Holding separate accounts without providing access to a partner was common, with 45% taking this approach, of which 36% were married and 71% were de facto.

Having separate accounts but allowing partner access occurred for 18% of respondents.

Three per cent have secret accounts, with their partner having no awareness of it.

Secret accounts held by men hold an average of $30,000 to $37,000, while for women, the average amount was $22,300.

Eleven per cent of the secret accounts had more than $100,000, while 13% had between $50,000 and $99,000.

Around one quarter of the accounts had around $50,000, while 39% had less than $5000.

TAL Group chief executive Jim Minto said the number of people with secret accounts was surprising.

He said one in five maintained hidden accounts as a “safety-net” in case something happened. The baby boomers were most active in this respect, with 30% reporting this was the main reason compared to other age groups.

“We know that people have their own financial goals, or that their attitudes to money might not always be compatible with their partner, so there can be some very good reasons for keeping money and life insurance protection separate,” he said.

The reasons for having separate bank accounts varied. In 44% of cases the couples simply agreed to have separate accounts, of which 40% were married and 51% were de facto.

In 41% of cases the accounts were set up before the partner came along, while 20% saw separate accounts as financial protection in case something happens.

Shadforth Financial Group private client advisor Thabojan Rasiah says financial issues are one of the major reasons couples have relationship strife or break up.

“Having separate accounts is not necessarily a bad thing,” he says, explaining that it can help people maintain good management of money coming in and out.

Couples with joint accounts often have division of duties when it comes to managing accounts, he says, although often one person takes control, which can lead to tension.

“It is important that both partners have control over the money to avoid issues,” he says.

He says a good solution can be to keep separate accounts, but to transfer a portion of their wage into a joint account to save for joint goals or bills.

Rasiah says people can keep accounts secret due to a lack of trust, but thinks it is more often driven by uncertainty about the future. 

“No one knows what the future holds… They may not feel secure,” he says.

Regardless of whether couples have joint or individual accounts, Rasiah says it is vital to have good discussions about the future and finances.

“Talking about the future together helps to take away the uncertainty. Even if your goals are different, you can manage the money according to what you want to achieve,” he says.

In the case of married couples who divorce, he explains that secret accounts are pointless.

“Unless they have signed a pre-nup or have legal documents regarding finances, if there is a marriage breakdown it all goes into the one pot,” he says.

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