A US News survey in early January found that 31.9% of respondents had experienced financial infidelity. This is an increase of 2 percentage points compared to last year January survey about financial infidelity.
Financial infidelity occurs when a partner hides or lies about a money-related decision. For example, this could mean that a partner has a secret credit card account or has a personal debt that has never been made public.
- Financial infidelity encompasses a wide variety of actions, including hiding credit card accounts or emptying a shared savings account.
- Victims usually discovered the deception by noticing that the account balances looked wrong.
- Only 10.4% of the victims learned of the financial infidelity through a confession.
- The most common reason for committing financial infidelity is to avoid arguments.
Type of financial infidelity that took place
Survey respondents were asked what kind of financial infidelity was prevalent in their relationships. The most common type of financial infidelity mentioned was making secret purchases.
- Making secret purchases: 55%.
- Hide debts or bills: 44.8%.
- Lying about income: 38.9%.
- Getting money from savings: 29.3%.
- Borrowing money without your partner’s permission: 20.6%.
How did victims discover the deception?
Poll respondents who identified as victims of financial infidelity were asked what tipped them off. The most common sign was that account balances didn’t look right.
- Realized account balances were different: 23.5%.
- Unexpected packages found: 21.8%.
- Noticed a big purchase: 18.8%.
- Seen a statement from an unknown account or a collection notice: 15.4%.
- Confession heard: 10.4%.
- Perceived secrecy with electronic devices: 10.1%.
If you see signs of financial infidelity, it’s a good idea to start a conversation with your partner. In the study, only slightly more than 10% actually heard an admission of financial fraud. So don’t wait for a confession. Be proactive and you may be able to limit the consequences.
Why financial infidelity happens
In the survey, we asked respondents who identified as the perpetrator to choose the reason why they engaged in cheating.
- Avoid arguing: 27.3%.
- Feel more in control of 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 is the desire to avoid conflict. But buying what you want in secret only postpones the discussion. And if the deed comes to light, the argument will likely focus more on breach of trust than on the purchase in question.
How did couples react to financial infidelity?
OK, so everything is out in the open now. When financial deceit creeps into a relationship, it can cause trust issues. So perhaps it’s not surprising that 24% plan to break up. This is an increase from US News’ 2022 financial infidelity survey, which found that 19.9% of respondents broke up.
Respondents were asked to report any actions taken since the infidelity came to light. These are the results:
- Regularly talking about finances: 32.9%.
- Making a budget and setting goals: 26.3%.
- Decide to divorce: 24%.
- Keep finances separate: 21.2%.
- Take no action: 19.1%.
- Attending counseling: 9.7%.
Do you share similar views on money?
While few couples agree 100% on everything, it helps if you two are compatible or at least willing to compromise. Over 44% agree on most or all things related to money, and over 22% say they disagree on most or everything.
When those who had experienced financial infidelity were asked if they and their partner had similar beliefs about money, they reported the following:
- 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 have not experienced financial infidelity in the past year were also asked about their attitudes towards money. More than 70% of the respondents in this group say they agree 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 to be financial soul mates to experience a successful and fair money relationship. Of course, the more topics you agree on, the easier it is to stay honest.
But even if you are a spender and your partner is a saver, that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve financial happiness together. It just means you both need to work at it a bit more.
Here are six suggestions to keep you and your loved one on track:
- Identify your money personalities. Celebrate your differences instead of judging. If you’re not great at spending, your partner may need to keep track of expenses. The idea is to combine your talents so that you can become financially successful as a couple.
- Learn the art of compromise. Even of those who had not experienced financial infidelity, nearly a quarter agree on only a few things. This is where a compromise has to take place. Sometimes you need to agree to disagree on an issue, but then find common ground to set goals.
- Allow a little freedom. More than 22% of the offenders cite the need for more control as the main reason for their actions. If this is a problem, each of you can agree to have one account of your own. The art is of course to ensure that you communicate with each other so that it still fits within your budget.
- Make a budget. More than a quarter of couples say they started budgeting and setting goals in response to the cheating. You really can’t stay on budget if you don’t track expenses as well. And then review the budget about every four months to make sure it still works for both of you.
- Talking with each other. Have weekly meetings so you hold each other accountable to stay on budget. Also, be sure to set goals for retirement savings, 401(k)s, individual retirement accounts, and other investments. Once you start planning how you’re going to spend and save, you’re on your way to financial freedom as a couple.
- Get advice. Less than 10% of respondents who experienced financial infidelity say they go to counseling. If you have a depressing amount of credit card debt, credit counseling can help. For more information, please contact the National Credit Guidance Foundation.