Couple holding hundred dollar bills

People holding money (Photo by Roman Samborskyi on Shutterstock)

NEW YORK — One in 10 Americans don’t know how much money their partner makes. A poll of 2,000 adults in serious relationships, engaged or married and split evenly by generation, also reveals that respondents are in the dark about much more than just the money that’s coming into their homes.

Perhaps even more alarming, about one in seven people (15%) aren’t sure how much their partner has in their savings, what their credit score is, or even where their partner spends most of their money! However, it appears that’s a two-way street, as 21 percent admit they also have their own financial secrets.

Interestingly, savings came out as the top secret respondents keep (38%), followed by how much debt they have (32%), where they spend the majority of their money (29%), and how many different bank accounts they have (27%). More than one-quarter (27%) of Gen Zers (born after mid-1990s) keep their credit score hidden from their partner, which is more than any other generation. 

Americans would prefer to have the “money talk” about six and half months into a relationship, but it took the average couple almost eight months to start being transparent. The average Gen Zer was right on schedule and began the conversation at the six-month mark.

infographic on the financial secrets people keep
(Credit: SWNS)

Let’s Talk About Cash, Baby

The survey, which was conducted by OnePoll on behalf of the banking app Chime, finds that when it came time to have that conversation, respondents started with topics like current expenses (22%), financial goals (20%), or budgeting (15%).

Results also reveal that 77 percent of respondents agree that being financially irresponsible is a turn-off, and 22 percent have gone so far as to break up with someone because of how poorly they manage their finances. As for finances, a high salary (30%) is the top desirable trait when it comes to what people prefer in a partner. That narrowly beat out zero debt (28%) and far surpassed a good credit score (19%).

When asked how respondents manage their finances with their current partner, 34 percent each have their own separate accounts, while 30 percent have one shared account, and 28 percent share an account for bills and joint expenses and have another account for spending moneyHowever, that doesn’t necessarily mean those are the ideal ways to split finances. In their opinion, the best way to manage finances with a partner is to share an account for joint expenses and keep their own account for spending (44%).

This may be why 43 percent agree that whoever makes more money in a relationship should pay for the majority of bills and expenses. Even so, only 11 percent split their bills based on their salary or income levels. 

“Reaching goals with your partner can be one of the more rewarding parts of a relationship. So we weren’t surprised to see that three in four people find being financially irresponsible a ‘turn off’ – a majority of Americans don’t want to be held back on their financial progress,” explains spokesperson Janelle Sallenave, Chime’s Chief Experience Officer, in a statement. “We believe transparency is critical to building trust with your financial institution, and, of course, the same goes for relationships. Being honest and direct will set you up for success, so it’s exciting to hear that just 21 percent of those surveyed say they keep financial secrets from their partners.”

In Love And Money

The survey also asked how couples manage non-essential spending such as vacations and events, and 29 percent simply pay what they can afford. Another 26 percent say that each partner pays half, while 19 percent split it based on who has the most disposable income at the time.

The average couple fights about money about once per month, though millennials and Gen Xers tend to battle twice each month. Three in 10 respondents would be upset if their partner spent $200 or less without their knowledge, though it would take $437.80 for the average respondent to be mad. 

When it comes to dates, most respondents (57%) take turns paying with their partner. At the end of the day, almost two-thirds (63%) find it easy to manage their finances with their partner.

“While 26 percent of couples say they’re both savers, a similar amount (25%) say that they tend to save while their partner tends to spend,” says spokesperson Dr. Traci Williams, clinical psychologist and certified financial therapist on behalf of Chime. “Couples can get on the same page by working on their financial goals together, discussing the values they share, and making plans for their future. A great place to start is sticking to a budget, which we were glad to see more than half (52%) of couples do!” 

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 Americans in a serious relationship, engaged or married, split evenly by generation (500 Gen Z, 500 millennials, 500 Gen X and 500 baby boomers) was commissioned by Chime between Jan. 2 and Jan. 5, 2024. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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