February 1, 2018
In a national survey of 1,372 U.S. adult who are in relationships, conducted on behalf of CreditCard.com by YouGov, 31% said keeping a credit card, checking or savings account hidden from a spouse or romantic partner is worse than physical cheating.
Surprisingly enough, a hefty 15 million Americans who are in live-in romantic relationships said they’re currently guilty of this kind of financial infidelity, and another 9 million said they had been in the past.
Experts agree that a secret account – depending on what it’s used for – represents a violation of trust. “You don’t know what the other person is spending money on,” commented Sonya Britt-Lutter, associate professor of Personal Financial Planning planning at Kansas State University. “Are they spending it on another person, or are they spending it on something else that pleases them in a way that you’re not pleasing them as a partner or spouse?
“I think it’s the same type of ‘What am I doing that’s not good enough for you?’ feeling, whether it’s financial or physical cheating.”
Among the other key findings of the financial infidelity poll:
- Living together makes secrecy more difficult. A full 23% of respondents in relationships – living together or apart – said they have kept accounts hidden from their partners. People who don’t live with their lovers were significantly more likely to say this than those who do.
- Financial cheating may hurt more when you’re earning less. People who make less than $40,000 per year were more likely than those with higher incomes to say that keeping a secret account is worse than having an affair.
- Most of us shoot straight with our partners about money. Eighty-five percent of spoken-for respondents said they’re honest with their significant others when it comes to money.
- Some of us don’t think the honesty is mutual. However, only 77% said they believe their spouses or partners are truthful to them about finances.
- If you don’t talk about it, you can’t fight about it. Eleven percent of people in relationships said they never discuss money with their partners. Women were significantly more likely to say this than men.
Kansas State University’s Britt-Lutter said it’s difficult to pin down reasons why people financially cheat. One simple explanation: We like to keep spending on things we used to while single, even though a partner finds it wasteful or frivolous.
“A lot of it boils down to a difference in values,” Britt-Lutter said. “If there’s something that I value that you don’t value, I’m still going to spend money on it because it’s something that I think is important. I’m just not going to tell you about it to avoid the argument.”
Research contact: Brady.Porche@creditcards.com