If you suspect your significant other is keeping money secrets from you, you might be onto something.
Among adults who combine finances with a partner or spouse, 41 percent admit to deceiving their significant other financially, according to a 2018 survey from the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE).
More than 2,100 adults in the U.S. were polled for the nonprofit’s latest biennial survey about financial infidelity.
The survey asked respondents about various instances of hiding or lying about their finances. The instances of financial deception that respondents most commonly admitted to were:
- Hiding cash from a spouse/partner — cited by 21 percent
- Hiding a minor purchase from a spouse/partner — 20 percent
- Lying to a spouse/partner about something related to finances — 13 percent
- Hiding a statement or bill from a spouse/partner — 12 percent
Among people who admitted to having committed financial deceptions in their current or past relationships, the most common reason for the deception is that they believe some aspects of their finances should remain private, even from their spouse or partner. More than one-third of survey respondents — 36 percent — cited this reason.
Other reasons that respondents cited for financial deception include that they were embarrassed or fearful about their finances, or knew or believed that their partner would disapprove of their finances.
The NEFE survey also found that 75 percent of adults say financial deceit has affected their relationships in some way.
Ted Beck, president and CEO of NEFE, notes that financial deception can impact relationships regardless of whether it’s a seemingly harmless offense like hiding a purchase or a more serious offense like hiding a bank account. He explains:
“It causes arguments, erosion of trust, and regretfully in some cases even leads to separation or divorce.”
Signs of financial deceit
NEFE has been studying financial infidelity for years. Spokesperson Paul Golden notes that following could be signs of financial infidelity in a spouse or significant other:
- Your loved one removed the itemization from a statement, so that the statement only shows the amount paid.
- Your loved one tries to beat you to the mailbox every day, such as to intercept bills or notices they don’t want you to see.
- Your loved one becomes defensive or withdrawn when you try to have a conversation about money.
- A loved one says they are going to buy something, but the purchase doesn’t show up on your financial statement.
- You find a receipt or another piece of paper you don’t recognize with an account number you don’t recognize, or you come across a credit card account that you didn’t know your loved one opened.
If you suspect that your significant other might be keeping financial secrets, Golden suggests broaching the subject with care. Confronting the person directly is likely to lead to an argument.
“Don’t belittle or badger them. Keep all the negative thoughts about how they spend their money to yourself,” Golden says.
One way to begin is by calmly discussing your own feelings about money and using that as a starting point for a conversation about money.
If you do uncover financial deceit, it may take a little time for wounds to heal.
“It’s going to take time to get through it,” Golden says. “You’ve had a breakdown of trust.”
Have you ever experience financial infidelity? What advice would you give to others in the situation? Share your thoughts by commenting below or on our Facebook page.