Money Secrets: How Common is Financial Infidelity?

Have you ever lied to a significant other about money? Financial infidelity can wreak havoc on a relationship. Not only does it generate deep distrust within a couple, but it can also easily impact the affected partner’s entire finances. According to a University of Notre Dame professor who studies financial decision making in relationships, deceiving your significant other financially by maintaining a secret bank account or failing to disclose debts can be just as harmful as physical/sexual infidelity. In fact, a recent study found that approximately 15 million Americans have hidden or are currently hiding an account from their significant other!

What Is A Financial Infidelity?

Cheating “financially” on your significant other can take on many forms. For some, it can be a lie through omission. For example, you may not share with your partner your total salary or what percentage of that salary you save monthly. While for others, it can be far more toxic. Ultimately, if within a relationship there are lies regarding money or spending, one or both partners are committing financial infidelity. Much like little white lies, a person can begin lying about money innocently or with no malicious intent, such as spending more than your significant other would want. However, it can quickly become a slippery slope if one or both partners refuse to talk about their finances.

Financial Cheating: The Stats

In an online poll conducted by YouGov, 2,501 U.S. adults were asked if they had ever committed any form of financial infidelity. Of those, 1,378 were currently married, in a civil partnership, or living with their significant other. The survey considered financial infidelity to include having secret card accounts, secret checking or savings accounts, hiding debt, or spending more than their spouse or partner would accept.

How Common Is It?

Far more common than you’d think! Of the 2,501 U.S. adults surveyed, 44% have been financially unfaithful. 0f those, 34% said they had overspent and kept their spending a secret from their partner. 12% revealed they kept their debts a secret from their partner while 17% had private accounts.

Who Does It The Most?

Millennials are far more likely to cheat financially on their significant others. 57% of Millenials report having deceived their partners, versus just 37% of Baby Boomers and 45% of Gen Xers. Millenials are also the most likely to hide spending. 42% reported having spent money on goods or services without telling their partner, while 37% of Gen Xers and 28% of Baby Boomers reported secret spending.

Why Do People Cheat Financially?

The survey found that 36% of people excused their cheating by asserting it was in order to control their finances and have privacy. 26% believed the reason they had cheated financially on their partner was due to feeling embarrassed about mismanagement with their own funds.

Is It Really So Bad?

While the vast majority of Americans do not believe financial infidelity is worse than an affair, 30% believed there was no difference between the types of infidelity and 27% claimed it was undoubtedly worse than being unfaithful physically or sexually.

Red Flags For Financial Infidelity

Although there is no sure-fire way to know if your partner is being financially unfaithful, there are a five key red flags you should keep an eye out for: 

  1. You find credit card or bank statements you are unfamiliar with.
  2. Your partner overspends in a manner you can’t explain financially.
  3. You observe your partner lying about money to others.
  4. Your partner has financially addictive hobbies such as gambling or other vices.
  5. Your partner has trouble having conversations about money or reacts angrily/avoiding when discussing your finances.
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