April 25, 2024

What is financial infidelity? And what should you do about it?

Dear Liz: My sister is married to a man who is considerably older. They’ve been married for eight years. He has cancer and the outlook isn’t good, but he refuses to discuss their financial status. As a result, she has no idea what’s going on. How can she force him to tell her their financial situation? They aren’t getting divorced, and every article I’ve read only addresses financial disclosure in divorce cases. I will probably be the one helping her figure this out after he passes away.

Answer: Refusing to discuss the details of shared finances is at best a form of financial infidelity. A recent NerdWallet survey conducted by the Harris Poll found that many Americans aren’t sharing financial secrets with loved ones, including their income, credit card debt and how much they’ve spent on a purchase.

But at worst, it can be a sign of abuse. If he’s controlling or abusive in other ways, her physical safety may be at risk. Encourage her to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233, which can help her assess her situation and connect her to resources that can help.

Even if she doesn’t plan to divorce, a consultation with a divorce attorney could still help. The attorney could suggest ways to piece together some of the details of their financial life and advise her about state laws regarding shared responsibility for any debts.

Should you close a credit card?

Dear Liz: You recently wrote about how closing credit cards can hurt your credit scores. I’m wondering what impact closing a business credit card would have on my personal credit score.

For many years I have been working in the film industry under contracts with my personal services loan-out company. My company has two credit cards, including a travel rewards card with a hefty annual fee. This card has been useful to me because my job involved a lot of international travel. But as I’m now nearing retirement and traveling less, I’m considering closing that account. Will closing the card affect my personal credit scores?

Answer: The answer lies in your credit reports, which you can view for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. (Type that address into your browser rather than searching for it, because the top results are likely to be sites that want to charge you for credit monitoring. If you’re asked for a credit card, you’re on the wrong site.)

Typically, business cards don’t show up on personal credit reports and thus won’t affect your credit scores. But check to make sure.

Before you actually call to close the card, however, you should know that the company probably will want to keep your business. You may be offered a hefty wad of rewards points as an incentive to keep the account open. The points could be worth enough to offset some or even all of the annual fee.

Also, review all of the benefits the card offers. Many premium cards offer various credits to offset the fee, and not all of them are related to travel. Even if those aren’t enough to entice you to keep the card, you may want to use the credits before shuttering the account for good.

You also may have the option to swap your card for one with a lower annual fee, something known as a “product change,” so you’ll also want to investigate whether one of the issuer’s other cards might be a better fit.

Social Security survivor benefits

Dear Liz: I am trying to understand the Social Security survivor benefit. I delayed starting to receive my benefits until I reached age 70. My wife just started receiving benefits at 66 and 10 months. Upon my passing, will she receive my benefit at full retirement age, plus the 8 percent annual delayed retirement credit plus the annual cost of living increases?

Answer: Assuming your benefit is larger than hers, then yes — her survivor benefit would be the amount you were getting at your death. The survivor gets the larger of the two checks a couple was receiving, and the other benefit goes away.

Liz Weston, Certified Financial Planner®, is a personal finance columnist for NerdWallet. Questions may be sent to her at 3940 Laurel Canyon, No. 238, Studio City, CA 91604, or by using the “Contact” form at asklizweston.com.

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