On Avoiding Financial Infidelity — “The Innocent Spouse”


A few weeks ago I did a post about the importance of retirement planning and talking with other women and importantly if you are married, your spouse, about the state of your finances.

“So many 40-something women wish they had started planning for their retirement in their 20s. But it’s striking how many women don’t. At the luncheon they presented a stat that only 15% of women who are married do any retirement planning. Yet 47% of women over 50 are single and financially responsible for themselves.”


One of the points being that even if you think you have a financially secure future, you never know what may happen in the case of divorce or upon widowhood. This was hit home again last night at a book launch party I went to for The Innocent Spouse by Carol Ross Joynt. The subject of the book is “financial infidelity.” What happens when your spouse has cheated the government out of huge sums of money without you knowing?  He cheats you out of your financial future. Unless you can prove you are innocent in these cases, you are liable for the debt. Carol found this out when her husband died and she discovered he owed $3 million dollars to the IRS  Hers is yet another cautionary tale on the importance of not entrusting your finances to your spouse told with wit and warmth and ending up as a story of empowerment.

From the Today Show interview yesterday:

“A survey found one-third of Americans admit to lying to their spouses about money. That can have devastating effects. Here is one woman’s tale. They epitomized the Washington power couple. She was a television producer whose career included working for Walter Cronkite. He ran Nathan’s, one of the most high brow bars. They had private yacht trips and a beautiful home. In January, 1997 , Howard was diagnosed with critical pneumonia. In less than a month he was dead. Shocked by the loss, Carol attempted to hold it together for their 5-year-old son Spencer. And then three weeks later the second blow came. Howard had secretly been embezzling money and owed the IRS nearly $3 million. Their affluent lifestyle had been a fraud. A trusting wife who left the finances to her husband, Carol was clueless about Howard ‘s wrongdoing. She now faced the fight of her life to prove to the government she was an innocent spouse. Carol writes about her 12-year ordeal in her book called “Innocent Spouse.”

Go here for the video or transcript as well as an excerpt of the book.

There are still a lot of women who get married and are happy to hand over the reins of their financial future to their husband like Carol did:

I was happy to be married to someone who loved to run the finances. I let him and I trusted him.”

It reminded me of several 40-something women I spoke with recently who almost felt intimidated to talk to their husband about their finances, particularly if they hadn’t done it from the start or their husbands worked in the financial industry. Better to talk than to fight. 6o% of married people fight over money at least once a month and it is the . So start talking. If you are getting married or are moving in with a boyfriend open up the discussion right from the start. If you have been married a while just explain to your spouse that you trust him but want to get a handle on the finances for your own growth and understanding.

Some Tips from the Today Show interview:

  • First of all, trust but verify the family finances.
  • Read your tax return.
  • Look at your credit report.
  • Ask questions. Ask tough questions. Remember marriage is a partnership.
  • Maintain your own credit cards .
  • If you have doubts bring in your own expert to make sure you understand what’s going on.

Another reminder on the importance of talking openly about your finances, independently reviewing the information with an attorney or financial advisor and owning your financial future.




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