Making cents: Is it ever ok to lie to your partner about money?

Making cents: Is it ever ok to lie to your partner about money?
Image of young couple arguing about money

A recent consumer survey released by digital bank N26 offered some insights into how Irish people communicate and deal with their finances within their relationships.

The nationally representative Coyne Research survey of 1,000 adults highlighted some dynamics around the role that money plays in relationships, even how Irish people prize financial stability over an active sex life.

Most interestingly, the study revealed that 27% of Irish people (30% male vs 25% females) lie to partners about money-related issues, such as their bank balance and savings.

Irish people have a natural reticence when it comes to discussing money generally so it is not a huge surprise that this extends to our intimate relationships. There were some generational differences within the figures in the survey, with twice as many 18-24-year-olds lying about their finances as those aged 55+. This possibly suggests that people don’t like to reveal their true financial picture in early or less committed relationships.

But in the long run, money can often be one of the biggest sources of stress in a relationship and this will only be exacerbated if one partner is hiding the true picture from the other. 62% of respondents who said they lie to partners also report that their spending habits cause arguments, while the national overall average was 25% If you are in a relationship where you are not entirely open about your own finances or sure about your partner’s situation, it is worth instigating an open chat about money. This is particularly important when your lives start to merge, be it through marriage, having children or setting up home together.

This doesn’t mean you automatically have to open up joint accounts or pool all your money. Many married couples still operate their own accounts, and either set up shared accounts for joint outgoings or agree that each partner will take responsibility for certain bills and payments. But both partners should have a clear understanding of their overall financial situation. If you have concerns about revealing your salary or how much savings you have to your partner, you should consider what that says about the relationship.

Crucially, both partners should be open about their current debt levels. Even if one party is managing repayments on a large loan without needing any assistance, the existence of the debt could affect their ability to borrow as a couple down the line.

It is best to include everything from overdrafts to credit card debt, to give a full picture.

If you have had debts written off or fallen significantly behind with loans in the past, it is also better to be upfront about this. Such activity remains on your credit history for several years and, again, may have an impact on future joint borrowings.

When it comes to being honest with each other, it is also worth discussing your attitudes to money and how major purchases are made - be it through saving or borrowing for them. Our spending styles can be very deep-rooted and cause considerable friction when they clash. Many successful relationships are made up of a careful saver and a carefree spender, different styles don’t have to mean the relationship cannot work. But understanding how the other person views money can make it easier to make the compromises necessary down the line.

These conversations may be uncomfortable but they are worthwhile.

Interestingly, the N26 study also found that 4 in 5 (79%) Irish consumers say they would prefer financial stability over an active sex life. There was a substantial gender divide on this point with 87% females vs 71% males favouring finances over their sex lives. This sentiment is strongest among single Irish adults (84%) versus 76% of those in a relationship, or those who are married (78%).

So while talking about money could be awkward in the moment, establishing a stable financial base could be one of the best things you can do for your relationship in the long run.

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