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Spending causes conflict in a third of romantic relationships, 35 percent of Americans admit they lie to their partner about money – BMO survey

February 8, 2024 | Financial inclusion

As couples begin planning Valentine’s Day dates, the latest BMO Real Financial Progress Index finds that spending is a source of conflict for many Americans in relationships, despite most couples claiming to be financially compatible with their partner.  

A third (34 percent) of partnered Americans say spending is often a source of disagreement in their relationship, with money being the number one source of tension for nearly half (47 percent) of younger adults ages 18-24. Despite this, most partnered Americans (84 percent) say they are compatible with their significant other when it comes to financial goals.  

More than one in three (36 percent) Americans say their partner does not (or would not) always get an accurate picture of their finances and 26 percent say they sometimes omit things when it makes them look bad. Younger Americans ages 18-24 lie the most (46 percent), followed by ages 25-34 (43 percent). 

The latest BMO Real Financial Progress Index also explores the various ways couples communicate about money – everything from when the right time is to combine finances and commit to a relationship to financial dealbreakers that have the potential to end relationships: 

  • When Mine Becomes Ours: Half of Americans (50 percent) believe getting engaged is the right time to combine finances, followed by when the relationship becomes official (16 percent) and moving in together (9 percent). Notably, 14 percent think it’s never the right time to combine money. 

  • Relationship Financial Dealbreakers: When reviewing their partner’s finances, Americans say mortgage debt is (or would be) a top concern (41 percent), followed by credit card debt (36 percent) and credit scores (35 percent). 

  • The Heart-to-Wallet Talk: Most Americans (79 percent) say the money talk should happen at the early stage of a relationship with 39 percent saying the right time is when the relationship becomes official followed by 31 percent when moving in together. Nearly one in ten (9 percent) think it should happen after the first few dates.  

  • Shopping Sprees: Nearly half of Americans (49 percent) say they often spend more money than they know they should, while 37 percent of partnered Americans say their partner spends too much on impulse purchases. Additionally, about 3 in 5 (59 percent) say their partner is a saver or frugal. 

  • Treasurer of the Duo: Nearly half (43 percent) of partnered Americans say one partner pays the entire monthly mortgage payment in a relationship. Additionally, 51 percent say they designate one person to handle credit card bills. The trend continues with other expenses such as utilities and groceries, where more than 50 percent say one person is responsible for those payments.  

  • The Harmony Hunt – Discovering Compatibility: 84 percent of partnered Americans say they share unified financial goals with their significant other. Additionally, 87 percent say they are comfortable discussing finances, emphasizing open communication. 

“Regularly communicating about money is crucial to building trust and understanding each other’s financial values and priorities. Whether your goals are to get better control on spending or simply have a better view of your financial situation, developing a plan that supports both individual’s unique financial goals is key to making real financial progress in any serious relationship.”

Tina DeGustino,
Regional President and consumer strategy expert, BMO

Financial outlook among Americans continues to improve

The BMO Real Financial Progress Index has tracked financial optimism among Americans since it’s launch in 2021. Financial optimism continues to improve, with 76 percent of Americans feeling confident about their finances in the year ahead – up two points from last quarter.

Additionally, 76 percent of Americans feel they are in control of their finances and 71 percent feel confident about their current financial situation. When asked about whether sentiments have changed about the prospect of a recession, more than half of Americans (52 percent) say they are either less concerned or their concern has stayed the same.

BMO offers tips to make real financial progress

In addition to creating a budget and sticking to it, BMO offers the following tips to help Americans make real financial progress and navigate rising costs of living:

  • Whether you split expenses from individual or joint accounts, there are many ways to work as a couple to manage expenses and plan – so it’s important to set regular touchpoints with your partner to review finances and discuss goals – or review spending at least once a month if you are single.

  • Regularly meet with your banker or financial advisor to make sure your savings and payment patterns are on track to reach both near- and long-term goals.

  • Track your incoming and outgoing money flow as well as expenses that will help build the framework to create an accurate budget.

  • Set up a savings goal and recurring savings transfers into an account – no matter the amount – which will provide a sense of progress and motivation to achieve your savings goal.

To find out how BMO helps customers make financial progress, visit:

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