Oh Yes They Did! Millions Committing ‘Financial Infidelity’

When you think of infidelity, you probably don’t think about money, but a report from CreditCards.com finds that 13 million Americans have committed financial infidelity, by hiding a bank or credit card account from a partner, spouse, or significant other.

[Related: Giving Tuesday: Blacks and Middle Class Are the Most Charitable]

The study also found that:

  • 41% have spent over $100 without their spouse or partner’s knowledge, including 19% who have spent more than $500.
  • Men are almost twice as likely as women to have spent more than $500 without notifying their spouse or partner.
  • About one-quarter believe that their spouse or partner should be able to spend more than $500 without letting them know.
  • The middle class were the most approving about having their spouse or partner spend $500 or more without having to know about it.

BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Matt Schulz, CreditCards.com’s senior industry analyst to discuss how we can be more ‘financially faithful’ to our significant others.

BlackEnterprise.com: Why do people commit financial infidelity?

Schulz: It’s all about a lack of communication. Not all financial infidelity has to be bad, though. For example, a young guy might have a secret savings account to save for an engagement ring for his girlfriend. However, in most cases, the best policy is simply to be as open and honest as possible with your partner, especially when it comes to money.

Your report found a quarter of people were tolerant about financial infidelity on spending of more than $500. Why do you think that is?

People can be pretty trusting. I think many people trust that their partner wouldn’t go too crazy with spending and are willing to cut them a little bit of slack when it comes to secret spending. There’s some risk there, though. After all, one $500 purchase may be no big deal, but multiple such secret purchases can be a very big deal and take a real toll on a budget and a relationship.

How serious is financial infidelity when it comes to creating a healthy relationship around money with a partner?

Financial infidelity is a big deal. If someone is hiding money or debt from their partner, it makes it almost impossible to make an accurate budget. Plus, if you’re keeping a financial secret, it’s only natural for your partner to wonder what other secrets you might be hiding. That’s how relationships end up in big trouble.

Money is a leading cause of divorce. Do you think that has something to do with financial infidelity?

Again, I think it’s all about communication. So many couples just flat out don’t talk about money. They’re afraid to have what can be pretty awkward conversations, so they never come to a consensus of what’s OK and what’s not within the relationship. Every relationship has different boundaries and expectations and the only way to find them is to communicate. If there’s no communication, there will probably be trouble ahead.