42% of Adults Have Committed Financial Infidelity. Have You?

New survey shows that 42% of U.S. adults have kept financial secrets from their significant other, committing "financial infidelity."

Hiding money under a mattress.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Although technology has simplified our finances and our ideas have changed about who should work or earn more, we may occasionally still fight over money. Besides the mental strain, stress and hurt feelings, money fights can erode trust and cripple relationships.  

And while you may be one of the lucky couples to never feud over money, you may sometimes feel guilty about overspending, hiding cash, lying about your spending habits or worse — slipping into financial infidelity. What is financial infidelity? It means being dishonest with your partner about your finances.

In a new survey from Bankrate on financial infidelity, 42% of U.S. adults who are married or living with a partner say they’ve kept a financial secret from their significant other. More than a quarter of these adults, or 28%, believe that keeping financial secrets from a partner is as bad as physically cheating, with 7% saying it’s worse than a physical affair. 

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Bankrate’s senior industry analyst Ted Rossman says, “Financial secrets can take on a life of their own and undermine the relationship. The breach of trust has a greater impact than the dollars and cents. If you have a secret spending habit, undisclosed debt or a credit card or bank account that your spouse doesn’t know about, it’s best to come clean right away.”

What are the different types of financial infidelity?

There are many forms of financial infidelity, with some having a much larger impact on a relationship than others. 

  • Spending too much, 30%
  • Racking up debt without partner’s knowledge, 23%
  • A secret savings account, 19% 
  • A hidden credit card. 18% 
  • An undisclosed checking account, 17%  
  • Spending 11% or more without partner’s knowledge, 11%
  • Spending at least $1,000 without partner’s knowledge, 7%

Which generations commit the most financial infidelity?

Even though gender doesn’t seem to make a difference when it comes to financial infidelity — women (43%) and men (41%), age does, as generations reveal a more apparent divide. 

  • Younger people are more likely to confess to at least one instance of financial infidelity.
  • Leading the generational pack is Generation Z at 67%.
  • Millennials follow at 57%.
  • Generation X, at 34%, and baby boomers, at 33%, are least likely to keep financial secrets from their partners.

Is financial infidelity influenced by income?

There’s also a divide across income groups, with higher-income households less prone to financial infidelity.

  • 47% acknowledge committing financial infidelity in households with an annual income less than $50,000
  • 46% have been financially unfaithful in the $50,000 to $99,999 household income group
  • 34% confess to keeping financial secrets from their partner in households with an annual income of $100,000 and up 

Key findings

  • More than 40% of U.S. adults who are married or living with a partner say they’ve kept financial secrets from their significant other.
  • Younger generations are more likely to keep financial secrets from lovers than are Gen Xers and baby boomers.
  • The leading form of financial infidelity is spending, with 30% spending more than a partner would approve and 23% racking up debt without a partner’s knowledge.  
  • Across all groups, the main reasons cited for keeping financial secrets are a need for financial privacy or control of their own finances (37%), followed by a lack of desire to share (33%), and embarrassment about money management habits (28%).

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Kathryn Pomroy

For the past 18+ years, Kathryn has highlighted the humanity in personal finance by shaping stories that identify the opportunities and obstacles in managing a person's finances. All the same, she’ll jump on other equally important topics if needed. Kathryn graduated with a degree in Journalism and lives in Duluth, Minnesota. She joined Kiplinger in 2023 as a contributor.