Couples are not always honest with each other when it comes to money. In fact, when you look at the secrets people keep from their partners, ones related to finances are near the top of the list, according to a new survey from CreditLoan.com
While "Things done in a past relationship" tops the list for women (23.9%) and men (24.3%) it was followed for both genders by "Wasteful or unaffordable purchases" at 22.1% for women and 16.5% for men. When you add in other financial indiscretions partners in a couple keep from each other including "Debt" and "Bank accounts" over 40% of both men and women have money secrets they keep from their partners.
"It's important to note that for some, this grand fudging of numbers doesn't necessarily stop with an overpriced scarf or shiny new Xbox console," wrote CreditLoan founder Daniel Wesley in the report. "Undisclosed debts are often shrouded in fear or shame, but coming clean about poor credit scores, squirreled-away inheritances, and even gambling or shopping addictions can be an opportunity to improve communication."
Couples need to talk money
If you're going to get married, or even plan a long-term relationship, it's important to come clean about your finances. That means confessing the embarrassing, disclosing debt, and generally putting your cards on the table. It's also a good idea to go over your financial goals and make sure that they are in line.
People often have very different ideas when it comes to wasteful spending, according to the CreditLoan report. For example, men are much more likely to waste over $500 on a collectible or hobby item, according to their partners, while women are guilty of spending about the same on wasteful home decor, according to their significant other.
No matter which way you slice it, men and women spend and save differently. "What looks like an essential purchase to one person could be a complete waste of money in someone else's eyes," wrote Wesley.
That's why couples need to not only talk about money but set a budget. This should include some money for each partner for discretionary spending as well as an agreement about what dollar amount triggers having to check with the other person. It's also important to discuss what each partner considers essential and to address any concerns either member of the couple has.
This is not a one-off discussion. it's something that needs to be revisited regularly as your financial situation changes. For example, to a young couple just getting started financially, a modest lunch out may be an indulgence where an older, better-off couple may not even consider a pricey steak dinner as requiring partner consent.
This takes honesty
Keeping financial secrets can ruin a relationship. If you have secret accounts or debts your partner does not know about, any honesty in other financial areas or budgeting plans won't matter.
"Arguments about money is by far the top predictor of divorce," Sonya Britt, a researcher at Kansas State University said in the K-State News. "It's not children, sex, in-laws or anything else. It's money -- for both men and women."
The reason for that is at least in part because really any two people don't see money in the same way. Your essential purchase may seem frivolous to your significant other and the only way to stop that from becoming an issue is to talk early and often.
Editor's note: A previous version of this article stated that Sonya Britt was a researcher at the University of Kansas. The Fool regrets the error.