20% of Adults Think Their Partner Is Bad With Money

Those with a financially irresponsible partner are 10+ times more likely to break up.
A couple enjoy a mountain view.

While relationship counseling might help some couples get through a rough patch, a new survey suggests that others may want to try financial counseling instead.

Online insurance marketplace Policygenius surveyed 2,005 adults who report being in a relationship to gain insight into how these individuals and their partners deal with money. The results revealed that many couples are headed for a rocky road.

One in five respondents — 20% — said they believe their partner is financially irresponsible, the survey found. More alarmingly for those couples, the study also found that adults who believe their partners are financially irresponsible are more than 10 times likely to break up over money-related disagreements than those who believe their partners are good with money.

A lack of communication may play a role in a person’s perception of their partner’s money habits. Only 42% of respondents who believed their partner was irresponsible with money even knew what debts their partner had. Comparatively, 66% of respondents who thought their partner had good money habits knew about that partner’s debts.

Other signs from the survey point to financial secrecy between partners. Half of respondents said they don’t know their partner’s credit score. Some respondents even admitted to taking steps to keep money-related secrets, with 12% saying they have a secret credit card, 12% saying they’ve kept a purchase secret from their partner in the past six months and 9% saying they have a secret retirement account.

Despite the secrecy around credit scores and spending, the survey found that couples were more likely to share salary information. Of the respondents, 70% reported that they know their partner’s salary.

Additionally, the survey found that most couples do appear to be trying to manage their money together. Among respondents, 78% said they keep and manage joint finances. This is compared with 22% who said they keep and manage their money separately from their partners. Thirty percent of respondents even admitted to treating their partner’s debt as joint debt.

When it comes to spending money, 19% of respondents said they don’t spend anything without telling their partners. Another 37% said they would only feel comfortable spending up to $100 without letting their partner know about the purchase.

Some couples admitted to using money as a way to smooth over other problems in their relationship, with 25% saying they would spend more than $100 on their partner if doing so would end a fight.

Still, the end of the road appeared to be near for some. The survey found that 3% of respondents said they were leaving their partner because of money issues, while another 5% said they would leave if they could afford to.

While there is no right or wrong way for a couple to manage their money, it is important for couples to be on the same page when it comes to their finances. If they’re not, chances are there will be confusion and disagreements down the road. Not only should you discuss your financial goals but it also makes sense to come up with a strategy for dealing with challenges, such as how to handle debt as a couple. If you’re in a relationship and planning to get married, make sure you consider the various ways that marriage can impact your finances before you walk down the aisle.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.

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