Millennials are most likely to cheat on their spouse financially, according to a new report by CreditCards.com. More than half (57%) of millennials ages 25 to 37 admit to having committed financial infidelity, compared to 45% of Gen-Xers and 37% of baby boomers.
Among millennials who have kept financial secrets from their current spouse or partner, 42% say they’re spending money their significant other wouldn’t be comfortable with, compared to 37% of Gen X respondents and 28% of boomers. (CreditCards.com surveyed 2,501 adults, including 1,378 who are currently married, in a civil partnership, or living with their partner.)
CreditCards.com industry analyst Ted Rossman attributes millennials’ financial infidelity to having a greater sense of financial independence in relationships. “Millennials are more likely to have two-income households, so they’re also more likely to get married later,” he says. Indeed, less than half (46%) of millennials are married, compared with 83% of the so-called silent generation who were married in 1968, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center report.
“They’re making their own money, so they feel, ‘it’s mine.’ This other person shouldn’t have any say over it,” Rossman says.
CreditCards.com found that 27% of millennials are keeping a secret checking, savings, or credit card account, compared to 15% of Gen X and 11% of baby boomer respondents. Seventeen percent of millennials say they’re secretly carrying debt, compared to 10% of Generation X and 9% of boomers.
Millennials are also more likely to be in relationships where both partners are working; and they’re also more likely to get a prenup to define what’s mine vs. yours.
Couples feeling worse about financial infidelity
The survey found that 44% of Americans admit to committing financial infidelity against a spouse or partner. More than a quarter (27%) of survey respondents overall say that financial infidelity is worse than physical infidelity, compared to 20% who said it was worse last year.
“I think the big takeaway is that an awful lot of people are keeping secrets from their partner and that’s really the key here. You just shouldn’t do it,” says Rossman. “I mean, I know it’s uncomfortable to talk about this stuff, but I think keeping a secret is way worse because it just really festers and creates this feeling of mistrust.”
Men hold more financial secrets
The survey found that men spend more money than their partner would be comfortable with: 38% of men say they spent more money than their partner would like, compared to 31% of women.
“We talked to a number of psychologists in developing this research. It seems that a lot of men, unfortunately, are keeping financial secrets as a way of exhibiting control and power and influence,” says Rossman.
Couples are forgiving when it comes to financial infidelity. CreditCards.com asked survey participants whether they would stay in a relationship if they discovered their partner had $5,000 in credit card debt. Rossman says only 2% of adults said they would leave the relationship; 81% said they’d be upset, but they’d stay in the relationship; and 16% said they wouldn’t care much at all.
“The secret is what really hurts,” says Rossman. “I think that we can kind of get past these issues as long as we bring them up. We just really need to have money conversations.”
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