Turns out a shocking percentage of people don’t know their significant other’s salary

One in five people in relationships say their partner is irresponsible with money, according to Policygenius’ second annual “Couples and Money” survey. Of these, they are 10 times more likely to break up over money issues than people who say their partners are financially savvy.

Policygenius used Google Consumer Surveys to pool 2,005 U.S. adults in a relationship about how they managed money with their partner.

Money mysteries

The irresponsible partner’s financial facts are more likely to be murky and unknown to their significant other. For example, only 42% of those who say their partner is bad with money knows that person’s debts, compared with 66% of people with money-minded partners.

However, there’s something to be said for teamwork: results found that a vast majority of couples were dealing with their finances together and 78% of respondents said they managed joint finances. However, 16% didn’t know basic facts about their partner, including things like salary, debt, assets, credit score, and retirement savings.

The survey data didn’t ruffle Patrick Hanzel, a certified financial planner for Policygenius. Some of the numbers may look “shocking,” he told Ladders, but “for someone like me who’s been in the industry long enough, working with couples’ finances, it doesn’t really surprise me… a lot of couples just tend to put these things off and try to avoid them.”

Still, “one of the things that stood out was that one in 10 couples had a secret credit card. That was kind of surprising.”

Secrets and lies

The survey dug up plenty of naughty – and disturbing – financial secrets.

  • 13% have a secret checking account
  • 12% have a secret savings account
  • 12% have a secret credit card
  • 9% have a secret retirement account
  • 6% have a secret will

Was there ever a valid reason to have a secret account, Ladders asked?

“There could be a multitude of reasons [to have one],” Hanzel said. “It may not always be for a bad reason or something that is negative.” Hanzel posited that many people were just embarrassed by their spending habits, and opened up a secret bank account or credit card “when they don’t want their partner knowing how much they’re spending on clothes or at happy hour after work.”

There are times where secret spending is harmless, especially in a dual-income household, Hanzel said. “If you’re not racking up major credit card debt and it’s not like you’re going shopping every single day, I think there is a harmless aspect to it,” he said. In a single-income household, it might be “trickier.”


Other findings

  • So what do you make again? 30% of people didn’t know their partner’s salary. Half didn’t know their partner’s credit score, and over half (51%) didn’t know their monthly spending habits.
  • Please ask: Nearly 1 in 5 don’t spend any money without telling their partner, and 37% were only comfortable spending up to $100 before making a call to their dearest to let them know about spending more.
  • Please ask before buying the Porsche: one in five people will spend more than $500 without telling their partner, and of those, a very bad 27% are fine with spending over $10,000 without saying a peep. “I thought that was a pretty shocking number,” said Hanzel.
  • Sharing is caring: 46% pool income with their partner and 30% treat their partner’s debt as joint debt.

Have the talk

Before the secret credit cards come out, a financial coming-clean talk is a must before marriage, Hanzel said. The salary question needs to be discussed.

“I think that’s extremely important. Once you are married, then your finances are their finances… a successful relationship oftentimes does rely on a successful financial relationship with each other.” If necessary, you can have outside help step in – a marriage counselor, a therapist, or even a financial planner. The biggest thing is really just being open with each other.”