Couples admit to keeping secret money stashes

An equivalent of 300,000 married and de facto couples in Australia have secret bank accounts without the knowledge of their partner, according to new research conducted by TAL Life Insurance.

While 66% of couples said they have joint bank accounts, a large percentage (45%) also admitted to having separate bank accounts that their partner doesn't have access to. A further 3% of people said that they have a secret account that their partner is not even aware of.

And the amount of money held in these accounts is not insignificant. According to the research the average balance is $30,000, with 11% of people having more than $100,000 stashed away. The research also revealed that men have more money ferreted away, with the average balance of $37,700 for males, compared with $22,300 for females.

So why all the secrecy? One in five people said they maintained covert accounts as a safety-net in case something happened. The other key reason was that the account preceded the partner. Many couples reported that keeping separate accounts was a joint decision.

"We know that people have their own financial goals, or that 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," said TAL Group CEO Jim Mento.

Those with secret stashes should be aware of recent legislation that dropped the threshold for inactive bank accounts from 7 years down to 3 years. This means if you have been maintaining a secret stash or rainy day account you will need to make a deposit or withdrawal from the account at least once every three years or the account will be swept by ASIC.

And don't just keep your money in standard bank account earning paltry interest. On a $30,000 balance over 3 years, by putting your money into a savings account such as the ING Savings Maximiser paying an ongoing standard interest rate of 2.75% you could earn $2,577 interest compared with just $9 interest earned on a standard bank account paying 0.01% interest. The latest savings account rates can be compared on Mozo here.