Report: What Financial Lies Are Spouses Telling Each Other?

In this Guide...

Our survey of over 1,000 married men and women in America finds that over 1 in 5 married people have a secret bank account or savings that they've hidden from their spouse, and a quarter of husbands are lying about their personal debt. Learn more about the financial lies people are telling their spouses and expert advice on how to prevent and deal with financial infidelity.

A man uses his home computer while his wife looks over his shoulder
1
Key Findings

 

  • 1 out of 5 married people currently have a secret bank account or financial savings their spouse does not know about.

  • More than half of married people have lied about the cost of a purchase.

  • The most expensive purchase men have lied about averages $500, compared to just $150 for women.

  • Men are more than three times as likely to lie to their spouse about investments, and a quarter of men are currently lying to their spouse about their level of debt.

  • Women’s financial lies are much more narrowly confined in scope, while men lie about a broader range of financial issues.

  • 22% of married people wish they could keep their finances completely separate from their spouse.

  • 74% of married people say they have never been caught lying about money by their spouse. 

  • One out of 10 married people consider being lied to about money worse than infidelity.

Graphic highlighting 1 in 4 spouses have been caught lying about finances

It’s often said that “money talks,” but our recent survey suggests that it may not always be telling the truth. That’s particularly true among men, who were found to be more likely to hide large purchases and are more likely to lie about things like having secret bank accounts or investments their spouse is unaware of. 

We asked 1,013 married men and women across the U.S. and asked questions about what they do and do not tell their spouses when it comes to money. Here are some of the truths we uncovered about the lies many spouses tell. 

According to research published in in the Journal of Consumer Research, Financial Infidelity can ruin a couples ability to save for retirement, pay off a mortgage and enjoy enriching experiences together, leading to lower levels of satisfaction in their marriage.1

2
Men Lie About More Financial Matters and Higher Ticket Items Than Women

While neither sex was found to be innocent, it was men who proved to be most likely to lie about more expensive purchases. 

When asked about the most expensive purchase price they’ve ever kept hidden from their spouse, the average male response was $500, compared to just $150 among women. 

Graphic showing types of financial lies told by spouses

The most common types of financial lies among both sexes relates to the actual cost of a purchase (which accounts for 52% of all financial lies) and purchases their spouse does not know about (47% of all lies). 

But while men and women share these common lies, women’s lies are much more limited in scope. Men were more likely than women to lie about each of the following: 

  • Their personal debt
  • Secret bank accounts or financial savings
  • Borrowing money from a friend or relative
  • Investments or assets their spouse doesn’t know about
  • Their salary or wages
  • A raise or bonus
  • Taking out a loan
  • Inherited assets or money
  • Their collective debt as a couple

Graphic showing percentages of types of lies by gender

Women, however, were only found to be more likely than men to lie about the actual cost of a purchase and purchases their spouse does not know about. 

The largest disparity between the sexes concerned investments or assets that are hidden from their spouse, which is three times more common among men. Men are also nearly three times as likely to lie about a salary raise or bonus and almost twice as likely to lie about taking out a loan. 

Graphic highlight of 1 in 5 respondents who want to keep their finances separate from their spouse

Not all lies are water under the bridge, either. A high number of married people are currently lying to their spouse about money. 

More than one out of three men and four out of 10 women are currently lying about the actual cost of a purchase, and around one in five individuals of both sexes are currently lying about a secret bank account or savings. More than a quarter of men and nearly one-fifth of women are currently lying about personal debt. 

3
Men and Women Lie About Very Different Things When it Comes to Money

The cost of clothes, investments and purchases for children are the three types of expenses men and women most commonly lie about to their spouses. 

Graphic ranking the most common purchases spouses hide from each other

The things that spouses lie about, however, differ greatly when separated by sex. 

Graphic showing the types of purchases each gender most commonly hides from their spouse

Men are:

  1. Twice as likely to lie about bar or restaurant tabs
  2. Twice as likely to lie about the cost of recreational activities
  3. Four times as likely to lie about gambling winnings or losses
  4. Nearly five times as likely to lie about spending money on alcohol
  5. Seven times more likely to lie about the cost of a car or other vehicle

Meanwhile, women are:

  1. More than twice as likely to lie about spending on clothes
  2. Eight times more likely to lie about the cost of cosmetic or beauty supplies or treatments
  3. Nearly twice as likely to lie about gifts or items for their children
4
Men Are More Likely to Lie About Money Because They Are Embarrassed or Afraid

Graphic showing quotes of survey respondents giving reasons for lying about finances

The reasons married people lie about money also differs by sex, with men being more likely to do so because they’re embarrassed about their financial status or decisions. Men are also four times more likely to lie about money because they’re afraid their spouse will consider leaving them should the truth be revealed. 

While women shared much of the same fear of embarrassment about their financial status or decisions, their reasons for lying were much more varied.

Graphic highlight of 35 percent of respondents who hide financial info from their spouse due to embarrassment

5
How to Find and Prevent Spousal Financial Infidelity

If you suspect your spouse is lying about their finances or is hiding important financial information from you, it's important to address the situation quickly, directly and – perhaps most importantly – thoughtfully.

David Reischer, Esq. is a family lawyer and the CEO of LegalAdvice.com. Reischer says that if you suspect your spouse is hiding vital financial information from you, a forensic audit may be in order.

"To uncover hidden assets, a forensic accountant will examine a variety of financial documents from the spouse, including tax returns, bank records, real estate records, insurance policies and possibly filings," says Reischer. "It is not uncommon for an accountant to also review loan applications and credit reports to yield clues about a spouse's hidden wealth."

Before entering into a marriage, it may be advisable to join into a prenuptial agreement with your future spouse. Reischer says this is the one legal document that can offer you the most protection, whether you're "extremely wealthy or only middle class."

According to Reischer, a prenuptial agreement "is often seen as an unromantic sentiment, but it works as intended. A prenuptial agreement is a smart way to clarify what happens should a marriage fail."

6
Conclusion

Men and women both lie to their spouses about money, but differ in the types of purchases and expenses they lie about. Men are more likely to lie about more expensive purchases, and men’s financial lies are more varied in nature than those of women.

7
Methodology

This study was conducted via a survey conducted July 13, 2021. The total survey included 1,013 married people aged 18 and older. Participants were filtered based on completion time and failure to follow written instructions within the survey.

Margin of error: +/- 4% (95% confidence interval). This survey relies on self-reported data.

1Garbinsky, E. et al. Journal of Consumer Research, Volume 47, Issue 1, June 2020, Pages 1–24, https://doi.org/10.1093/jcr/ucz052.

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