Would You Lie to Your Partner About Money?

Let me start by telling you (‘you’ might mean my readership, or ‘you’ might mean Mrs. DQYDJ!) that if I did I certainly wouldn’t write an article about it!

Still, I enjoy living on the edge.  This is an interesting question – is it ever okay to lie to your partner about finances?  We’ve all heard that “money is the leading cause of divorce”.  While evidence is mixed on that front, the truth is that the number of money fights a couple has is a good predictor of divorce rates.  While tossing out lies might avoid a fight now, it might also lead to an even bigger fight in the future.  Regardless, let’s look at the cases for both.  Pick a side!

The Case for Lying to Your Spouse, Fiancée, or Significant Other.  Why Should you Lie about Money?

Ahh, lying.  Everyone’s done it, so let’s try to justify it when it comes to money matters!  Here are a few reasons I can see someone lying about money to their partner:

  • I said ‘partner’ but I didn’t specify how long you’ve been with the other person.  If you just started dating or seeing each other, I can see you lying (or at least being coy) about how much money you make, or the amount of debt you are carrying.  That’s probably not a first-date type of thing to bring up, is it?
  • Would you drink alcohol in front of an alcoholic?  Well, would you discuss money in front of a spendaholic?  If your partner had a spending problem, would you tell him or her that you just came across some money?  What about if they told you that they had a problem and they didn’t want to know about new credit limits, credit cards, and money?
  • What about if you promised your family an upcoming bonus and your company didn’t deliver?  (Okay, that’s been done.)
  • You’re trying to avoid a fight which would occur too soon after another fight (things are currently strained).  Perhaps you’ll bring up the issue later?

There are plenty of other reasons (please add them in the comments!), but the ones I listed above would be a good start for someone trying to justify the behavior.

The Case Against Lying to Your Spouse, Fiancée, or Significant Other.  Why Shouldn’t you Lie about Money?

Lying to Avoid A Fight?  Good Luck... (Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Lying to Avoid A Fight? Good Luck... (Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Jonathan Swift once said “Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it.”  Say what you will about lying, but the truth will set you free (and possibly get you in trouble for your earlier lie!).  There are plenty of reasons to come clean!

  • Let’s be honest – your partner is probably going to find out  what happened anyway!
  • Morals, Ethics, and Religion.  Whether you think any of those is a good reason to avoid lying is up to you, but most people strive to be people of integrity – and that includes telling the truth in all situations (and it helps your reputation!).
  • Lying will lead to a bigger fight later – why not get it over with?
  • Think about it: the issue you are considering lying about is money related.  There might be some drastic measures you need to take in the meantime to react to a money issue – and you will need your partner’s buy in or help.

Think of any other ones?  Add them in the comments.

Honesty Is The Best Policy!

I fall on the side of honesty.  Mrs. DQYDJ appreciates the honesty and open dialog – and I can confidently say that she doesn’t lie to me about money either.  I’m not so naïve to think that everyone is like us, however… so let’s open this up to comments!

Readers, is it ever okay to lie to your partner about money?

Comments

  1. says

    White lies about money?  I say they’re perfectly okay.

    I’ve told a white lie or two to the GF regarding money.  If I made $100,000 tomorrow out of some random luck, I probably wouldn’t tell her, either.  Some would say that’s a big deal – maybe it is – but I think there’s also different criteria depending on the relationship.  We live together, share expenses, but not accounts.  Therefore, we can keep our financial differences to ourselves, without lying.  

    Getting back to what I said, though, if I were to make $100k tomorrow I wouldn’t tell her.  (Good thing I’m not expecting it!)  It’s not necessarily a lie, but not entirely honest, I suppose.  At my age, that would be a big windfall, one that would likely get mentally accounted on her part into a fat diamond ring plus an all expenses paid destination wedding.  On the other hand, I’d be thinking – even after a windfall – more like a local wedding and cubic zirconia.  (Kidding on the CZ comment.)  She’s not a spendthrift by any means, but you know how women work!  If something is on their mind, it’s ALWAYS on their mind.

    I wouldn’t ever lie to the downside, though.  Given that we have to make choices that affect both of us – signing our apartment lease, for example – there’s nothing good that could come of such a lie.  Lying to the downside isn’t such a big deal, in my opinion (given that you aren’t married.)

    • says

      I can see that – you definitely aren’t alone if you feel that money discussions would change between a relationship, an engagement, and a marriage. Still – do you think you’d be able to hide your excitement at an extra $100,000? That’s a significant amount at any age (for most of the country, of course).

      How about after you’re married? Would you ever lie about coming across the $100,000, assuming you had it in a safe asset? (I can see if you’re in something volatile and you think you might lose it the next day)

      At this point I’m an open book. Blame Mint.com and a shared password!

      • says

        I’m really private about my finances.  I think people either talk about finances for the sake of “rubbing it in” or for sympathy.  

        Besides, someone who finds a job paying minimum wage will make roughly $100,000 over the course of 8 years. They certainly wouldn’t go telling about their $100k windfall.  I see no reason why I would tell anyone about a similarly sized, one-day windfall. 

        (I might tell my dad if I were to tell anyone! As he’s in sales, we like to have our own little competitions to keep each other going. Is that bad to tell a parent and not a significant other? Whatever.)

        Marriage is a different story.  I’d have to tell, as it would be discovered anyway.

    • says

      Would you be OK if she suddenly came into $100K and didn’t tell you? Also, has she expressed her interest in a “fat diamond ring” or is that something you’ve projected onto her? My fiance got me a much nicer/more expensive ring than I had expected – not because of MY expectations, but because that’s the ring that he loves and knew that I’d love.

      I’d have to say I would be furious and very hurt if my fiance (and even when he was my boyfriend) did not tell me that he got a windfall. That doesn’t mean I assume I have claim on that money, but at that amount I see it as a lie of omission instead of a white lie. I get a freelance assignment that paid me $100 – I might mention it to my fiance, I might forget. If he asks or he reminds me I would definitely tell him. If I won the lotto, say, of $100K – I would absolutely share the news. And I would expect the same from him.

      • says

        I was projecting, and joking.  A little bit of hyperbole. :D

        It really wouldn’t matter to me.  I just can’t see where her windfall would materially affect me, and from there I can’t see why I should care whether or not she told me.  

        I suppose it would be one thing if she were running around the house pulling her hair out about bills and expenses. At that point, it would be wrong not to tell her, since there would be no reason to worry about such issues with $100k cash in the bank.  

        It might also be cause for concern if, without telling her about the windfall, I started to spend money like a drunken sailor or otherwise completely changed my lifestyle spending.  I wouldn’t do that.  I’d hold onto the cash and live life as if I didn’t have it.  So there’s no need to tell her, right?

        Help me understand why this is a big deal.  What in particular would make you furious and very hurt about it?

  2. says

    I’m of the opinion that you don’t have to proactively share every little expense every single day – i.e. I spent $3 on a magazine at Target today, or I went out to happy hour with my coworkers and put down $10 for drinks and fries. But that information should be freely shared if the other person asks, and big purchases – once you are married, needs be a joint decision.

    • says

      Hey Babe, we made some money on the site banner today?

      For the huge purchases I shared even before we were married.  Of course, in the Bay Area, a house is a huge undertaking… I talked to her first.  It would have been weird to say, “Hey, I bought a house yesterday” without warning… plus I needed her Interior Design skills, heh.

      Our general rule is anything over $100 we talk about.

  3. says

    The “lie of omission.”  That’s what I was going to bring up.  Is it really a lie if you simply didn’t tell the entire truth?  I wouldn’t consider that so much a lie, more a breach of trust.  To me, a lie is the falsification of facts.

    One thing to add to your list of why partners might lie about money:  to hide something else, such as an addiction (alcoholism, gambling addiction, shopping addiction, etc.)

    • says

      Sins of commission are soooooo much more interesting though!

      Where do you put a spending addiction?  When it comes to a gambling addiction, this was something that wasn’t even recognized a few years back, but now I’m pretty sure the PDR lists gambling, video games, and the internet as addictions. 

  4. says

    I actually find myself closely aligned with JT below.  This did initially sound bad when I admitted it to myself, but somehow JT justified it very well!  It is interesting how deception and not truth is at the heart of many relationships.  I feel very honest about most things in our relationship, but my priorities as a saver are just much higher than hers are, so in my view it benefits both of us in the long term if she assumes that I have a little less money than I actually do ;)

    • says

      This is pretty much exactly how I feel.  She has no interest in finance, personal or otherwise, (I try! I really do!) just as I have no interest in some of the things she’s really interested in. Given our difference of interest in the matter, I don’t know why it would be my responsibility to tell her.  

      I honestly can’t see where it would be a big deal.  If years later I tell her that I have $100,000 socked away, for example, I would think she’d be happier that I had it rather than worry about why I hadn’t told her before.  Maybe I’m wrong, there’s no way to know.  It’s a gamble I’d take, though.

  5. says

    I won’t lie to my spouse about money, but I could make a case for someone else that might want to or need to.

    What if your spouse abused you or your children and you were trying to pull together money for an escape?

    What if your spouse and you didn’t have anything in your individual names and he or she tried to control every penny you wanted to spend – that might be justification to some peopel  to hide a bit of money so you could just go buy a cup of coffee if you wanted to.

    What if your spouse drank or gambled away all of the family money and you were left with none to feed your children?  What if they got angry with you when you tried to manage the funds before they got their hands on them?  Wouldn’t you be tempted to somehow squirrel some back to meet your babyies needs?

    I won’t lie because we have built a solid relationship over the years in which we both are comfortable with the way we each individually, and with the way we together, deal with money and finances, but I can’t presume to tell everyone else they never should.

    • says

      If I was handing out prizes for justifications, you’d win.  Definitely +1 on that first scenario.  I would hope that was the case, in fact – having to live under a roof where you were in constant fear?  The least you can do is hide the money.

      I think we’ll probably end up like you – right now we’re comfortable, even though our styles are different.  I’m the Type A maniac while she’s laissez-fair and pays her bills (separate accounts) the day before the due date.

      To each their own, but after 6 months we seem to be falling into some decently healthy habits…

  6. says

    Oh wow JT! I would certainly have something to say to my boyfriend if he kept $100,000 secret from me. 

    I think there’s a perception that all women go goey in the knees and start walking around with dollar signs in their eyes as soon as the word ‘wedding’ rears its head or giant rings are bandied around. Please don’t believe that we’re all so frivolous. 

    The best relationships rely on shared values, similar outlooks on life and honesty. Surely your attitudes towards money should be similarly aligned? Surely you should be honest, open and transparent with each other?

    Like Well Heeled, my boyfriend and I don’t divulge every trivial expense, but we are very open about our incomes, our savings, our bigger expenses and our share options at work. How can we plan for the future without having an open dialogue about finances?

    • says

      It was really just hyperbole, but there is an underlying concern that having that much money would speed certain things up.  Perhaps too quickly (in the financial sense, not the relationship sense.)

      I’ve dated her for more than 5 years. I have no idea how much money she makes other than a fairly rough guess based on a general idea of how many hours she works and roughly how much she makes per hour.   I don’t really know her work schedule from week to week, so at the end of the day any guesses I have would have a very serious margin of error – maybe so big as +/- 25%.  I have a poor understanding of her student loans, and no guide as to how much she has laying around in the bank.  As far as knowing each other’s financial condition, she knows as much about me as I know of her.

      I don’t really think it to be all that big of a deal.  So long as we’re not starving, and I feel good about my finances, I see no need to care about hers.  Maybe that’s weird for someone interested in personal finance/finance, but I’ve never really been much for worrying about the small stuff. Who has how much money and what they make is, as far as we have separate accounts, not really a big deal to me. I’m learning that I might need to rethink that. 

  7. says

    One joint checking account, into which all income flows before being used for bills, investments, etc. So hiding a windfall would require an active decision of deception (making a deposit into a new account). Maybe it feels different if income gets deposited into separate accounts first, but I’m not sure it is. If you get a windfall and know your partner has a spending problem, this sounds like more than one problem.

    • says

       We’re doing separate accounts for the deposits, but since we aggregate everything with Mint.com anyway there’s no hiding, haha.

      Yeah, if you had to hide a windfall that’s definitely a problem – but the windfall itself is a pretty good problem to have (inheritance aside – that’s a mixed bag).  I’d hope that if you had a windfall and your partner had a problem you’d try to start the therapy before collecting… but I hope I never find out what I’d do in that situation.

    • says

      I’ve only been married 6 months so I wanted to get the lay of the land from some experience.  What better way than to put the feelers out, blog style?

  8. says

    I couldn’t imagine lying to my husband about money.  We have similar spending habits and frequently talk about our financial goals so that helps a lot.  We talk openly about everything which has really brought us close over the years. -Sydney

    • says

      I haven’t been married enough to fully develop the opinion, but I’m going with the honesty route for now.

      While I thought that most people would come down on the same side of this question, I didn’t really consider the scenarios where that shouldn’t be the case – emotional and physical abuse, specifically.

      Thanks for your input!

  9. says

    My biggest argument for not lying would be that I wouldn’t want her to lie to me. That said, I wouldn’t rule it out entirely. I think there can be some benefits to lying. For example, if I said we don’t have the money to spend on something even if we did, that would be a financial upside. It can definitely go both ways, though.

    • says

      Maybe in that case you could have an agreement – if you both wanted to save you could agree not to have any surprises to the upside? Just act as if you are making the same amount at the same pace and (if you have the agreement) don’t mention the extra money unless you are directly asked?

      I’d still probably recommend to share when you have news, but it might be worth having a less-frugal spouse ‘learn the frugal ropes’, so to speak. Not everyone is as into PF as blog readers, heh.

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