Every year around Valentine's Day, the conversation around financial infidelity heats up. Pundits start talking about secret credit cards, hidden debts, and hiding purchases from partners.
But credit cards and checking accounts aren't the only places that people conceal money from their partners. It can happen with investment brokerage accounts, crypto trading, and other forms of investing, too.
To find out more about this, The Motley Fool surveyed 1,500 American adults about financial infidelity and how it shows up (or doesn't show up) in their lives.
- Almost three-quarters of Americans in long-term relationships (including those who are married) share at least some of their financial accounts.
- 37% of those who share financial accounts with their partner have an account their partner doesn't know about.
- Only about 6% of account sharers have a secret investing account and around 8% have a retirement account they don't share with their partner.
- More than one in five men who are hiding an account from their partner are hiding a crypto account. Men are almost four times more likely than women to have a secret crypto account.
- 51% of respondents never hide any purchases from their partner.
- Most people use their own credit cards or accounts to hide purchases from their partner, but 8% of those who hide purchases use crypto to do so.
- Men tend to be the decision-makers when it comes to crypto and investing, while women are more likely to be involved in decisions around retirement savings (where decision-making is split more equally).
- Secret financial accounts don't seem to be correlated with relationship happiness – people who didn't share accounts with their partner were almost equally likely to be happy or unhappy in their relationship.
Most Americans aren't keeping secret financial accounts from their partners
Among our survey respondents, 72% said they share at least some of their financial accounts with their partner (called "account sharers" from here on out). And most of them share honestly – among account sharers, 63% said they don't have any accounts their partner doesn't know about.
Of the ones who are hiding accounts from their partners, the most common types of accounts were credit cards, checking accounts, and savings accounts. You can find more details on these types of accounts and how people share them in "52% of Americans Say Secret Spending or Lying About Money Is Cheating."
Only about 6% of account-sharing respondents had an investing account their partner doesn't know about. Around 8% had a retirement account they kept secret. But 13% of our account-sharing respondents said they have a crypto investing account that their partner doesn't know about.
Men are 50% more likely to have secret accounts than women
37% of our respondents have a financial account their partner doesn't know about, but they weren't split equally along gender lines.
Among account sharers, men were more likely to have accounts that their partners didn't know about. 3 in 10 account-sharing women have a secret account, while nearly 5 in 10 men have one.
Secret crypto investment accounts were an especially interesting case – men were more likely to have a crypto account their partner didn't know about than any other type of account. And men were almost four times more likely than women to have a secret crypto account.
|Gender||Percentage of account sharers with a crypto account their partner doesn't know about||Percentage of account sharers with an investing account their partner doesn't know about||Percentage of account sharers with a retirement account their partner doesn't know about|
Across all categories, men were more likely than women to have an account their partner didn't know about.
8% of respondents use crypto to hide purchases from their partner
While 51% of our respondents said that they never hide any purchases from their partners, quite a few do -- and 8% of those who hide purchases said they usually pay in cryptocurrency to hide them.
Paying in cash or using a financial account their partner didn't have access to was much more popular, but as more people put money into crypto, it will be interesting to see if that number goes up.
Interestingly, those who pay with crypto to hide purchases were overwhelmingly male. Only 13% of respondents who said they use crypto to hide purchases were female. Women tended to prefer using their own credit card or account or just not saying anything.
Men make investing and crypto decisions, while retirement is split more equally
In addition to secret accounts and purchases, The Motley Fool also asked about decision-making when it comes to investing, cryptocurrency, and retirement savings.
When it comes to investing, almost half of men said that they were the primary decision-maker, while less than a quarter of women said the same. (This disparity is one of the reasons The Motley Fool is sharing empowering examples of underrepresented inventors in the Investors Like Me series.)
|Gender||I'm the primary investing decision-maker||My partner is the primary investing decision-maker||We split investing decision-making equally||N/A|
Cryptocurrency followed a similar pattern, with men being over three times more likely than women to say they're the primary decision-maker when it comes to crypto. Women were also almost twice as likely to say that this question isn't applicable to them – which may provide more support for the idea that many more men have secret crypto accounts.
|Gender||I'm the primary crypto decision-maker||My partner is the primary crypto decision-maker||We split crypto decision-making equally||N/A|
Decision-making related to retirement savings was more equally split between men and women:
|Gender||I'm the primary retirement savings decision-maker||My partner is the primary retirement savings decision-maker||We split retirement savings decision-making equally||N/A|
While the fact that men are more likely to make decisions related to the facets of investing is unsurprising, it's also worth noting that women tend to earn better investing results than men. A better understanding of risk, longer-term thinking, and fewer trades combine to make women particularly well-suited to investing.
Secret financial accounts and relationship happiness don't seem to be related
It's easy to imagine that people with secret investing and crypto accounts might not be very happy with the financial side of their relationship – the need to hide things like that doesn't seem conducive to a positive financial relationship.
But these survey results didn't point that way.
Instead, the people who had secret accounts were split almost equally along lines of satisfaction with their relationship, both in general and financially.
Financial honesty can be tough, but it's crucial
Finances can be one of the most difficult things to talk about in a relationship, no matter how secure you are in that relationship or how well things are going. Money is often listed as one of the most common reasons that couples fight, and open communication can go a long way toward reducing the number (and intensity) of disputes.
If you're one of the millions of Americans with a secret crypto account, consider celebrating Valentine's Day by opening up to your partner about it. Just maybe not on Valentine's Day. Probably better to bring it up on a different day.
(Editor's note: The Motley Fool is in no way providing relationship advice in this article. If you need help talking to your partner about finances, find a financial advisor or therapist to help you get the conversation started.)
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