This One Money Habit Can Ruin Your Relationship, Survey Finds

When it comes to money and relationships, aim for honesty.

If you’re in a relationship, you likely know that arguments can erupt over money. But if you’re wondering, “How does money affect relationships?” be aware that bad financial habits can actually cause couples to call it quits.

To find out which money issues in relationships are the most toxic, GOBankingRates surveyed more than 5,000 adults across the U.S.

Keep reading to find out which bad financial habits to avoid in a relationship.

Being Secretive About Finances Is the Biggest Deal Breaker

In the survey, GOBankingRates asked respondents: “Which of the following are the most significant financial deal breakers for you in a relationship?” Respondents could choose one or more of the following answers:

– Overspending
– Secretive about finances
– Too much debt
– Too cheap
– Poor credit
– Doesn’t make enough money
– Other

If you’re keeping money secrets from your significant other, you might be putting your relationship in jeopardy. That’s because our survey found that being secretive about finances is the No. 1 financial deal breaker. About 34 percent of respondents named this as the top money habit that can hurt a relationship.

© GOBankingRates.

When financial secrets are being kept, it affects both partners, said Elle Martinez, creator of the Couple Money blog and host of the Couple Money podcast. Shame builds in the partner who is keeping secrets. And the partner who feels betrayed wonders, “What other things are they hiding?” she said.

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However, you’re just as likely to put a relationship in jeopardy if your spending is out of control. Our survey found that a nearly equal percentage of respondents — 33 percent — said overspending is the most significant financial deal breaker in a relationship.

The third-most common financial turnoff is having too much debt, followed by being too cheap and having poor credit. Not making enough money is the least likely financial deal breaker, the survey found.

To avoid money issues in relationships, Martinez recommends that couples have regular money dates.

“They are low-key ways to open up the conversation and get on the same page,” she said. “And even if you keep some accounts separate, being transparent about the balances can go a long way toward building up trust and working as a team on your personal and financial goals.”

Millennials Are More Worried About Secrecy and Debt in a Relationship

Although being secretive about finances is the top financial deal breaker for most generations, millennials had a higher percentage of respondents than other age groups who chose this answer.

About 35 percent of millennials ages 18 to 24 and 36 percent of millennials ages 25 to 34 named “secretive about finances” as the most significant financial deal breaker.

Biggest Relationship Deal Breakers, by Age
OverspendingSecretive About FinancesToo Much DebtToo CheapDoesn’t Make Enough MoneyPoor Credit
18-2434.72%34.72%30.83%18.90%11.66%17.43%
25-3434.38%35.78%34.38%16.25%14.06%19.06%
35-4434.08%32.96%26.63%18.99%13.59%14.53%
45-5432.31%30.43%27.75%17.96%11.93%15.82%
55-6431.91%33.76%23.69%17.02%12.77%13.90%
65+31.59%32.23%24.55%17.39%13.55%15.60%

Interestingly, older millennials (ages 25 to 34) are also more likely than other generations to say that having too much debt is a top deal breaker in a relationship. Older millennials are also slightly more likely to list “doesn’t make enough money” and “poor credit” as the No. 1 deal breaker.

© GOBankingRates.

Gen X (ages 45-54) respondents, though, are less likely to be worried about money secrets. In fact, more respondents in this age group said overspending is the top deal breaker in a relationship.

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Men and Women Don’t Agree on Most Significant Deal Breaker

The survey showed that women and men don’t agree about the most significant financial deal breakers.

Biggest Relationship Deal Breakers, by Gender
OverspendingSecretive About FinancesToo Much DebtToo CheapDoesn’t Make Enough MoneyPoor Credit
Female31.70%39.28%29.33%20.05%13.40%17.32%
Male34.19%28.10%26.86%15.83%12.74%14.84%

For women, being secretive about finances is the top financial deal breaker. About 39 percent of women chose this response versus 28 percent of men.

On the other hand, men think overspending is a bigger problem in a relationship. About 34 percent of men surveyed name this as the most significant financial deal breaker compared to about 32 percent of women.

© GOBankingRates.

“Bottom line, in most homes and most relationships where there is a man and a woman, the man makes more. Not in all — but in most,” April Masini, relationship expert and founder of Ask April, an online relationship advice forum. “That simple fact makes men more sensitive to overspending in the relationship.”

“Likewise, when women don’t feel they have control over a relationship’s income, they’re more sensitive to that income,” she continued. “And if they feel it’s in jeopardy, because a partner is lying about it, their concerns aren’t just about the dishonesty — their concerns are really about the stability of that income.”

After overspending and being secretive about finances, having too much debt is the third-most common financial deal breaker among both men and women, followed by being too cheap and having poor credit.

Not earning enough is the least likely deal breaker for both women and men, but women are slightly more likely to cite this as a problem.

Up Next: See the No. 1 Deal Breaker for Couples in Your State

Methodology: These findings are the result of a Google Consumer Survey that collected answers from 5,215 respondents from Jan. 3, 2018, to Jan. 5, 2018. The survey posed the query, “Which of the following are the most significant financial deal breakers for you in a relationship?” Respondents could choose “Other (including none of the above)” or one or more of the following six responses: (1) “doesn’t make enough money,” (2) “overspending,” (3) “poor credit,” (4) “secretive about finances,” (5) “too cheap” or (6) “too much debt.” Analyses are based on all responses, excluding “none of the above” answers.