You don't have any financial issues to hide from your partner ... do you? According to a new survey from CreditCards.com, almost 1 in 5 of us does.
The survey found that 19% of Americans have at least one financial account that they hide from their spouse or live-in partner – either banking or credit card accounts. That translates to around 29 million Americans who aren't fully open with their loved one about finances.
The true number of cheaters is likely higher. Why expect 100% of people who would lie to their partner to be completely truthful with a survey that asks about cheating habits, confidential or not?
Cheaters may rationalize their behavior by saying that their cheating is only financial, not physical in nature. That doesn't fly with most Americans. Approximately 35% of respondents believe that financial cheating is just as bad as physical cheating, and 20% think financial cheating is worse.
Still, the survey data shows an unusual level of tolerance. Only 2% of respondents would break up with their partner after discovering $5,000 in secret debt on a credit card – and 16% of respondents said they wouldn't care much or at all. (Perhaps some of that 16% are keeping their own secret accounts.)
In a way, the tolerance level is comforting. It implies that we're willing to accept that our partners aren't perfect and we're willing to work to save our relationships – as long as there's effort from both sides to accommodate financial differences.
Millennials are almost twice as likely to keep secret accounts, at 28% compared to 15% for older groups. As the generation is most adept at using technology, it may just be easier for millennials to hide accounts – but the reason may also lie in their experiences.
Many millennials came of age during the Great Recession and struggled financially during their early adult years. They may enjoy the freedom of being able to spend whatever they want, whenever they want.
Millennials may also be slower to trust others in sharing financial resources, even their spouses/partners. With increased student loan debt and a general aversion to credit, it may take millennials longer to feel comfortable being open about their finances in the early years of a relationship. To check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes, join MoneyTips.
When relationships last over time, trust builds and hiding accounts becomes less acceptable. Around five million Americans admitted having a secret account at one time that they no longer have. While that sounds like a large number, that's almost six times less than the number of Americans that continue to hide accounts.
Why keep a separate secret account? Reasons could range from gambling addiction to overspending, to concern about family savings – but the bottom line is a disagreement on how money should be saved and spent.
It's fine, and potentially healthy, to keep separate financial accounts in a relationship. You have privacy and some latitude to spend as you like without your partner's approval. Keeping those accounts a secret, or lying about the status of those accounts, is not healthy. Maybe you're just assuming your partner would disagree with how you use your separate account. How do you know unless you talk about it?
It's up to each couple to decide how open they want to be with their finances, and whether secrets are acceptable. However, keeping secret accounts leads to budgeting uncertainty and potential problems with excessive debt – not to mention issues of trust. If you'll hide a financial account or credit card from your partner, what else are you willing to hide?
If you want to reduce your interest payments and lower your debt, join MoneyTips and use our free Debt Optimizer tool.