Is financial cheating running rampant?

A new study from found that 20% of respondents who are in a relationship admitted to spending $500 or more behind their partner’s back, and 6% admitted to having a secret bank account or credit card.

Although 31% of men and 18% of women do not object to their partner spending $500 or more without informing them, 31% of all respondents want to know if their partner spends more than $100.

Men vs. Women. Men are more likely than women to maintain a secret account or credit card (8% of men vs. 5% of women). They are also more likely to hide large purchases (26% of men vs. 14% of women).

Young vs. Seniors. Couples who are seniors (65+) are less likely to cheat financially than are younger couples (those 18-29). Significantly more young survey respondents made secret $500+ purchases (25% of youths vs. 15% of seniors) and had secret accounts or credit cards (7% of youths vs. 4% of seniors).

How to avoid financial cheating

Be open. Openness related to money is a key ingredient to avoid arguments and secrecy about family finances. If both partners are involved in bill paying and have agreed upon savings and spending plans together, they will be more likely to achieve their financial goals and less likely to fight about money or be financial cheaters.

Decide together. Make joint decisions about how to handle your finances.

  • How much can each of you spend without consulting your partner? Is the threshold $100, $250, $500 or more? Or is there no established threshold? Does it vary depending on the type of spending? For example, decide if spending $100+ on family groceries is OK, but spending $100+ at a liquor store or shopping mall is crossing the line.
  • Will you have a joint account to pay for all purchases? Will you each have separate accounts? Will you have a joint account for shared expenses and separate personal accounts? Each of these options is common, and can be successful. Our blog has previously addressed them in guest articles by personal finance expert Jean Chatzky. Jean’s articles summarize how couples can Pay Together and Stay Together and share how she and her husband use Yours, Mine and Ours Accounts to handle their finances.


How to address existing financial cheating

Have you or your partner already crossed the line into financial infidelity? Is one partner’s overspending or debt having a negative impact on your relationship and your family’s financial security? If so, before you throw in the towel on your relationship, try to address the underlying issues (a lack of the openness and joint decision-making we outlined in the above bullets). It’s not too late to salvage your family finances and lessen relationship stresses.

  • Do-it-yourself tactics. In addition to the tips offered in the articles linked above, we’ve also provided information on dealing with debt in a partnership.
  • Free financial counseling. Alliant members are eligible to take advantage of GreenPath Debt Solutions, one of the industry’s most respected financial counseling programs – for free. GreenPath's professional credit counselors are committed to helping you solve your financial problems and achieve your financial goals. Through debt counseling, debt management and financial education, their counselors will work with you to explore options and help you select the debt relief strategy that’s best for you.