TORONTO — As Valentine's Day approaches, a new survey suggests some Canadians planning to take their relationships to the next level may want to have a frank conversation about infidelity — financial infidelity, that is.
The online poll found 36 per cent of Canadians surveyed have lied about a financial matter to a romantic partner, and the same number of participants had been victims of financial infidelity from a current or former partner.
The Leger survey for Credit Canada and the Financial Planning Standards Council also found 34 per cent of those polled keep financial secrets from their current romantic partner.
“We wanted to understand what's on the hearts and minds of Canadians at this time of the year, as it tends to be a time when people are talking about being in a relationship,” said Kelley Keehn, a personal finance educator and consumer advocate for the council, which helped create the survey.
“We're hoping that the takeaway is if you are one of those Canadians who are struggling, you are suffering in silence, it's affecting your marriage, maybe your health, that you're reaching out to someone like a certified financial planner or a non-profit credit counsellor.”
Keehn said financial infidelity is generally defined as dishonesty in a relationship when it comes to money, but she noted that the term is vague and “it requires you (as a couple) to define what that means.”
“If you have separate accounts in your relationship and you both discussed openly that your money is your money and their money is their money, and you're free to do anything that you want, then spending and saving and not telling the other person wouldn't be an infidelity,” she said.
“But if both of you agree to be on the same page and share purchases over $100 and then you went behind the other person's back, now that would qualify as a financial infidelity.”
The online survey polled 1,550 Canadians between Jan. 2 and Jan. 5. The polling industry's professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.
The survey found participants aged 18 to 34 were more likely to be victims of financial infidelity — at 47 per cent — than those aged 65 and older, at 18 per cent.
The poll suggests, however, that gender and income level do not play a significant role.
It found 35 per cent of men surveyed and 37 per cent of female participants said they experienced financial deception from a partner, while 36 per cent of men and women polled said they have lied about a financial matter to a partner.
Survey respondents were also asked about the worst form of financial deception they experienced from a former or current partner, with the most common offence being running up a credit card without informing a partner. Other answers included “lied about income,” “made a major purchase without telling me” and “went bankrupt without informing me.”
Keehn said the issue of financial infidelity is nothing new, but added that with employment becoming more precarious, it's important for couples to be open about their finances. While discussing financial matters can be awkward, the sooner couples talk about it, the better, she said.
Keehn advised people in new relationships to discuss what their financial goals are to better understand if they share the same attitudes toward money. For couples struggling with finances, she suggested contacting a financial planner or researching classes on financial planning.
She also stressed that conversations about money should happen on a regular basis.
“Like with your health, you don't go to the gym once, you don't have a salad once, it's the same with your money. You don't just have one conversation about money and that's it.”