8 min read

Are you keeping money secrets from your partner?

Would you ever lie to your partner about family money? You might be surprised how many do. Whether it’s telling your spouse a lower salary than you really earn, opening a secret credit card, or squirrelling away hidden savings, many families keep money secrets from each other.

Young adult couple looking at each other suspiciously

More people are keeping money secrets from their partner than you might think. A recent survey of 1,000 UK adults found that one-third of people have savings or investments they are deliberately keeping secret from their partner or spouse, while 19% are hiding debts. And some of the amounts involved are enormous.

The survey found 7% of people have savings of more than £50,000, unknown to their partners. And many are not telling the truth about their take-home pay. An incredible 44% say they actually earn more than their partner thinks.

So why do people keep money secrets? And how can partners and families communicate better and get on the same page when it comes to financial planning?

The reasons behind money secrets

The reasons people do it are varied. About one-third said they want to use secret savings to fund their retirement. And 13% said they wanted to buy things for themselves, such as a car or a holiday. Although you’d expect their partners to notice these more extravagant purchases. Another 13% said they were not using secret income for a specific thing, but simply didn’t trust their partner to make the right decisions about their finances.

A further 11% said they did not want their partner to be able to access all their money. And 10% said they wanted financial security in case of a split.


Secret debt was commonly caused by struggling to meet general living costs and not wanting to admit this to their partner. While some said they had overspent or inherited debt from previous relationships. However money secrets around debt can often make the situation worse.

Emma from Manchester has debt she has hidden from her husband, including payday loans. “I have various debts that I haven’t told my husband about and I often nip home at lunchtime to check the post in case there are any letters from people who are chasing me,” she says. “When we have been skint, I have felt so bad that we have no money, he works so hard. I have taken out payday loans and not told him so he thought we had more money left over.

“Now we’re on better money, I always draw £50 out and stash it in my purse to treat myself to things over the month. He doesn’t know I do this – I like to act hard done by. However, I put £20 in his bank when he had none left and the next day he needed more. I asked where the £20 had gone. It took days for him to admit he is a secret eater and had spent £20 in Greggs.”

She has also not always been honest about her spending with past partners: “In a previous relationship, I used to buy myself new things all the time and then pull them out announcing I hadn’t seen that in years.”

Credit cards

Tom from London admits to having a secret credit card to avoid having to run any spending past his wife. “I wanted something private so I could buy what I wanted interest free without having to talk to her about every purchase. I bought stuff for the kids as well as things I needed like a new suit and some trainers,” he says.

“It was a big mistake as she found out and got very upset. I think it’s fine when you both earn and contribute equally but when one of you has had kids and therefore no longer has any income of their own and the other one still spends on themself and doesn’t tell the other person, that’s not fair.”

The effects

Keeping secrets in relationships is rarely healthy. Money secrets often lead to more financial stress. If one partner is making decisions about family money without the other’s knowledge, this is a sign something might be wrong. If your partner is terrible with money, you might conceal things to protect your family’s financial security. Although this makes sense it might not be a long-term solution.

Tackling the root cause of the problem might be a better approach. You might consider counselling to address compulsive overspending, or working together to analyse the household finances and draw up a sensible budget. If you’re hiding debts, you should consider telling your partner so they can help you tackle them, even if it’s just with emotional rather than financial support.

The more open you are about your family finances, the more effective you’ll probably be in managing your family money.

Written by Hannah Smith – Financial Journalist


Note: Whilst we take care to ensure Talking Finance content is accurate at the time of publication, individual circumstances can differ so please don’t rely on it when making financial decision. The opinions expressed within this blog are those of the author and not necessarily of OneFamily.