An early January survey by U.S. News shows that 31.9% of respondents have experienced financial infidelity. This represents a 2-percentage-point increase over last year’s January survey about financial infidelity.
Financial infidelity occurs when one partner hides or lies about a money-related decision. This could involve, for example, one partner having a secret credit card account or a personal debt that was never disclosed.
- Financial infidelity covers a wide range of actions, including hiding credit card accounts or draining a shared savings account.
- Victims most often discovered the deception by noticing that account balances looked wrong.
- Only 10.4% of victims learned of the financial infidelity via confession.
- The most common reason given for committing financial infidelity is to avoid an argument.
Type of Financial Infidelity That Occurred
Survey respondents were asked what type of financial infidelity occurred in their relationships. The most common type of financial infidelity cited was making secret purchases.
- Making secret purchases: 55%.
- Hiding debts or accounts: 44.8%.
- Lying about income: 38.9%.
- Draining money from savings: 29.3%.
- Lending money without your partner’s consent: 20.6%.
How Did Victims Discover the Deception?
Survey respondents who identified as victims of financial infidelity were asked what tipped them off. The most common sign was noticing that account balances didn’t look right.
- Realized account balances were off: 23.5%.
- Found unexpected packages: 21.8%.
- Noticed a large purchase: 18.8%.
- Saw a statement for an unknown account or a collection notice: 15.4%.
- Heard a confession: 10.4%.
- Observed secrecy with electronic devices: 10.1%.
If you see any signs of financial infidelity, it’s a good idea to initiate a discussion with your partner. In the survey, only a little over 10% actually heard a confession of financial cheating. So don’t wait for a confession. Be proactive and you might be able to limit the fallout.
Why Financial Infidelity Happens
In the survey, we asked respondents who identified as the perpetrator to choose the reason they engaged in deception.
- Avoid an argument: 27.3%.
- Feel more in control with finances: 22.2%.
- Embarrassed about mishandling money: 21.9%.
- Desire to help someone else: 13.5%.
- Stress about living paycheck-to-paycheck: 9.4%.
Note that the most common reason reflects a desire to avoid conflict. But buying what you want in secret only postpones the argument. And when the deed comes to light, the argument will likely focus more on the betrayal of trust rather than on the purchase in question.
How Did Couples Respond to Financial Infidelity?
OK, so everything’s now out in the open. When financial deception enters a relationship, it can create trust issues. So maybe it isn’t surprising that 24% plan to separate. This is an increase over U.S. News’ 2022 financial infidelity survey, which showed that 19.9% of respondents were separating.
Respondents were asked to report all the actions taken since the infidelity had come to light. Here are the results:
- Talking regularly about finances: 32.9%.
- Making a budget and setting goals: 26.3%.
- Deciding to separate: 24%.
- Keeping separate finances: 21.2%.
- Taking no action: 19.1%.
- Attending counseling: 9.7%.
Do You Share Similar Views About Money?
While few couples agree 100% on everything, it helps when the two of you are compatible or at least willing to compromise. More than 44% agree on most or all things regarding money, and over 22% say they disagree on either most things or on everything.
When those who experienced financial infidelity were asked if they and their partner had similar views about money, here’s what they report:
- We agree on everything: 11.5%.
- We agree on most things: 32.9%.
- Agree on some things: 33.2%.
- Disagree on most things: 14.5%.
- Disagree on everything: 7.9%
Survey respondents who did not experience financial infidelity in the past year were also asked about their attitudes toward money. More than 70% of respondents in this group say they agreed on most things.
- We agree on everything: 16.6%.
- We agree on most things: 53.8%.
- Agree on some things: 23.1%.
- Disagree on most things: 4.7%.
- Disagree on everything: 1.8%
6 Keys to a Financially Healthy Relationship
You don’t have be financial soulmates to experience a successful and honest money relationship. Sure, the more topics you agree on, the easier it is to stay honest.
But even if you’re a spender and your partner’s a saver, that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve financial bliss together. It just means you both have to work at it a little more.
Here are six suggestions to keep you and your beloved on track:
- Identify your money personalities. Instead of responding with judgment, celebrate your differences. If you’re not great with spending, maybe your partner should handle tracking expenses. The idea is to merge your talents so you can become financially successful as a couple.
- Learn the art of compromise. Even among those who hadn’t dealt with financial infidelity, almost a quarter only agree on some things. This is where compromise needs to happen. Sometimes, you have to agree to disagree on an issue, but then find common ground for setting goals.
- Allow a little freedom. More than 22% of the perpetrators cite the need for more control as the main reason for their actions. If this is an issue, then each of you could agree to having one account on your own. The trick, of course, is to make sure you communicate with each other so it still fits within your budget.
- Create a budget. More than a quarter of couples say that they started budgeting and setting goals as a response to the deception. You really can’t stay on budget if you don’t also track expenses. And then, every four months or so, revisit the budget to make sure it still works for both of you.
- Talk to each other. Have weekly meetings so you hold each other accountable for staying on budget. Also make sure you’re setting goals for retirement savings, 401(k)s, individual retirement accounts and other investments. Once you start planning how you’ll spend and save money, you’ll be on your way to financial freedom as a couple.
- Get counseling. Less than 10% of respondents who dealt with financial infidelity say they’re attending counseling. If you have a depressing amount of credit card debt, credit counseling can help. You can contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling for more information.