Are You $$Cheating on Your Partner?

According to’s latest financial infidelity poll, 19 percent of U.S. adults who are in live-in relationships – which equates to 29 million people – are hiding a checking, savings or credit card account from their partner.

In addition, 20 percent of all survey respondents feel a partner hiding a secret bank account from them would be worse than physically cheating. Forty-five percent disagree that it is worse and 35 percent say it’s about the same.

Here were some other key findings from the survey:

  • Millennials are the sneakiest. Twenty-eight percent of millennials (18-37-year-olds) in live-in relationships admitted to currently hiding an account from their spouse or partner. This group is almost twice as likely to “cheat” as those who are older (28 percent versus 15 percent).  
  • A secret account is rarely a homewrecker. Just 2 percent who are married or living with a partner would end their relationship over $5,000 in secret credit card debt. But 16 percent said they wouldn’t care much or at all about their partner hiding $5,000 in card debt, and 81 percent would be upset but wouldn’t end the relationship.
  • There’s a gender gap in money management confidence. Men were more likely to say they’re better at money management than their partners, and women were more likely to say they’re worse.

Emily N. Garbinsky, assistant professor of marketing at Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame, notes that people cheat financially for different reasons, but her research has found people are primarily motivated to hide accounts from their partners to avoid conflict, because they know their partners wouldn’t agree with how they chose to spend it. They feel it is easier to hide these accounts to avoid difficult and uncomfortable conversations.

Garbinsky has also found that a couple’s sense of financial togetherness – the degree to which the couple feels their possessions and financial goals are shared – directly affects satisfaction with their relationship.

So when I look at this research, the conclusion seems to be that once a partner starts hiding financial accounts (a sign of a lack of financial togetherness), they are signaling that they are not satisfied with the relationship. In other words, it could be a cry for help; the relationship is not working the way he or she hoped.

My wife and I are probably in the minority of couples; I think within the first week of getting married we closed all of our individual bank accounts and set up a joint checking account. Any additional accounts opened up over the past 37 years have also been in both our names. To me, joint accounts are a way of saying that we’re in this together; what’s mine is yours, and vice versa.

I knew one married guy who told me that when he got money on his birthday, he was adamant with his wife that it was his money, and he was going to spend it on himself. That attitude just seems like it could lead to trouble.

And one final thought.

Instead of viewing secret accounts from a negative perspective, I would imagine that sometimes it may be exhilarating.

Can you imagine if one day your spouse said: “Honey, I’ve got something to show you.” And then your partner goes online and reveals that he or she has had a secret bank account for 30 years, and it now has over $200,000 in it.

Who would get angry at that?

I think my response would be: “Well played!”


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