Financial infidelity - don't let money secrets ruin your relationship

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National survey reveals how truthful UK adults are about money matters with their partner.

  • Almost a third (32%) of UK adults had little to no trust* in their most recent partner when it comes to financial matters.
  • More than a third (38%) of UK adults confess to twisting the truth** when it comes to their spending habits.
  • This rises to almost half (47%) of UK adults aged between 35 to 44 years old.
  • Nearly one in five women (19%) said they have lied to a partner about the amount of money they spend on shopping.

Financial infidelity is damaging relationships - a leading divorce lawyer says, as new online YouGov research reveals the number of people who bend the truth about spending habits and financial matters with their partner.

A YouGov survey of 2005 UK adults (18+) revealed almost a third (32%) - rising to 34% of women - have little to no trust in their partner when it comes to money matters, spending, budgeting and salaries.

This may well be justified, with more than a third (38%) of UK adults confessing to not being completely truthful about their spending habits, rising to almost half (47%) of 35- to 44-year-olds.

Commissioned by national law firm Stephensons, the survey showed nearly one in five women (19%) admitting that they lied to a partner about the amount of money they spend on shopping, compared to only 7% of men.

However, men were more likely than women to lie about their salary, with 5% saying they have been untruthful about their wage, compared to 3% of women. Also, 11% of the men surveyed said they have lied about how much money they have saved, while 9% said they have been untruthful about their credit card spending.

Amanda Rimmer, partner in family law at Stephensons, said: “While telling a few little white lies to our partners about how much we spend or how much we earn might not seem like a big deal, financial infidelity could be indicative of other trust issues in a relationship.

“Acts of financial infidelity can include making secret purchases, keeping a hidden bank account, draining savings, lying about your income, or taking out secret loans.

“Trust is vital if you are sharing your life, and your finances, with someone else.  If you can’t be open and honest about such a fundamentally important aspect of living together, how can that bode well for the future of the relationship?”

The findings revealed age and location also play a role in how much people trust their partners with financial matters.

Surprisingly, 18% of Generation Xers (45-54-year olds) said they don’t trust their most recent partners with financial matters, compared to 80% of Baby Boomers (55+ year olds) who are the most trusting.

Across the four countries in the UK, those who trust their most recent partners most live in Scotland and Wales (76%) while nearly two in 10 (19%) in Northern Ireland believe their most recent partners are not being honest with them about money.

When it came to their own spending habits, 10% of Northern Ireland residents surveyed said they were not truthful meaning that that they were both the least trusting and the least trustworthy regional group surveyed.

“Whilst no-one enters into a relationship thinking that it might come to an end, it is essential for couples to know what financial resources they both have.” adds Amanda.

“So, if there are changes in the relationship which impact them financially, they can work together to try and find a solution. If that is not possible, having that knowledge can at least make it easier to divide things.”

Amanda advises that it is important for couples who are living together to work together on financial goals and budget-setting.

She said: “Financial unity can go a long way towards helping prevent money-related arguments, which are commonly cited as reasons for relationship breakdowns.

“In short, when it comes to financial matters in relationships, honesty really is the best policy, so avoid even small untruths, such as shaving a few pounds off the price of a new outfit or hiding it in the back of the wardrobe.”

Four top tips to avoid financial infidelity

  1. If you have a completed tax return produced for you by your partner - do not sign it without reviewing it and understanding it.
  2. Have a joint net worth statement with your partner and update it every year. This way you will know if debt is increasing or assets are decreasing.
  3. If money is tight, work with your partner to explore ways to increase your income or decrease your spending. Just cutting a few pounds from a monthly budget can make a difference.
  4. Hold regular financial reviews. Sit down with a neutral party like a financial advisor or a debt counsellor to help with and facilitate awkward conversations. If your partner refuses, suggest couples counselling or therapy. Declining to discuss finances may well mean that there are bigger problems in the relationship than just money.

*Little to no trust defined as anyone who selected ‘A little’, ‘Not very much’ or ‘Not at all’

**Twisting the truth defined as anyone who selected ‘Fairly truthful’, ‘Not very truthful’ or ‘Not at all truthful’

Research commissioned by Stephensons Solicitors LLP and conducted by YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2005 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 24 – 25 May 2021.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).