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Study: Most People Lie About Money

Posted by on Sep. 25, 2013 at 8:13 AM
  • 21 Replies

Washington - According to one survey from the Baltimore-based fund shop T. Rowe Price, 77% of parents say they are not always honest with their kids about finances. 15% fudge the truth at least once a week.

When it comes to spouses, nearly half of Americans lie to their partners about money, according to research on “financial infidelity” by and Self Magazine.

Which begs the question: Is it ever OK to lie about money?

“Sure,” says Mark La Spisa, president of Vermillion Financial Advisors in South Barrington, Illinois. “Money is private, and you are not obligated to share all your financial information with every family member. In fact, sometimes talking too much about money can open you up to be a victim.”

After all, some lies are made with the best intentions. If you are struggling with serious money problems, for instance, you likely don’t want to share that information with your 6-year-old.

Coming up with the mortgage payment or putting food on the table are very adult concerns - kids should not fret about those issues, which could cause long-term insecurities.

If too-young children ask about family finances, most people might say everything is fine, and there is nothing to worry about. Such a lie isn’t malicious; in fact, it is done with their interests at heart.

Ask Trent Hamm, and he’ll describe an elaborate money lie he once had going with his wife, Sarah. Hamm, a writer in Des Moines, Iowa, was siphoning money out of the couple’s accounts, a little at a time. When Sarah noticed what was going on and asked him about it, Hamm made up yet another lie to cover his tracks: that the withdrawals were to cover the cost of lunch with a buddy.

In reality, Hamm was saving up to buy her a custom necklace, complete with five birthstones. (The couple have three kids.) “I felt guilty about it, but it was worth it,” says Hamm, 35. “And I confessed it to her when she received the necklace.”

Some of the most common money lies, according to the Financial Infidelity poll: hiding a purchase from your partner, claiming it was bought on sale or asserting that something new was obtained long ago.


Roughly 6 million Americans keep financial accounts concealed from their significant others, according to a poll by Such secrets might be kept to maintain a feeling of financial independence.

“There is a lot of fear around the question, ‘Am I going to be OK in future?’ ” says Mikelann Valterra, a financial coach in Seattle and the author of “Why Women Earn Less.” “They’re creating pockets of security so they’ll be able to sleep at night.

Valterra’s advice? Tell your marital partner the truth. “When it comes to other relatives, you don’t owe them anything,” she says. “If they are constantly hounding you for money, being over-honest could harm you.”

There are a host of other tricky scenarios that play out among families every day. If your child wants you to splurge on a pricey item, for instance, how do you respond? According to the T. Rowe Price survey, 32 percent of parents lie and say they can’t afford it.

One of those parents: Toronto writer Samantha Kemp-Jackson. When one of her four kids wants to buy something overly expensive, Kemp-Jackson has no qualms about lying and saying the bank account is empty.

“Kids ask questions every 30 seconds, and if you have a deep discussion about every single one, you’re going to be answering questions all day and all night,” she says, laughing. “Sometimes I think it’s perfectly fine to tell them a little fib about money, whether it’s about your salary or some toy they don’t need. Then you can go on your merry way and get the laundry done.”

A shortcut, maybe, but a highly effective one.

Often the financial lies we’re telling, however minor or harmless or even well-intentioned, may be unnecessary, says Robert Feldman, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and author of “The Liar In Your Life.”

“We don’t expect people to tell us what their salary is, how much money they have in the bank, or how expensive their house is,” Feldman says. “You can often just say, ‘It’s private, and I don’t want to talk about it.’”

That way, it’s not necessary to come up with a lie. “Honesty isn’t always a perfect policy - but it’s still the best policy,” Feldman says.

Have you ever lied about your money? Your salary, earnings to others? How about what you spent it on? Or to answer your children?

by on Sep. 25, 2013 at 8:13 AM
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by on Sep. 25, 2013 at 8:21 AM
1 mom liked this

 I cannot think of a circumstance where I had to talk about my SALARY to my kids.

I have never lied to my kids and said we couldn't afford something to say no....if I wanted to say no they couldn't have something then I simply said NO.  I didn't lie to make life easier.

DH pays all the bills (I dont like to do it) so lying to him about money I have spent wouldn't even be possible, even if I ever wanted to.

Not understanding why people would be so dishonest here.

by Platinum Member on Sep. 25, 2013 at 8:46 AM
Nope. Never lied about money to my hubby or the kids.
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by Roma on Sep. 25, 2013 at 8:47 AM

Never lied to them about money.  Always talked to them about value versus actual pricing.  My kids learned at an early age to find out if something was on sale before they asked if we could purchase it lol.

by on Sep. 25, 2013 at 8:49 AM
No,it's never okay to lie about money or anything
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by Bronze Member on Sep. 25, 2013 at 9:42 AM
Yes and no. I have honestly told them that we didn't have enough money to buy frivolous things and that we lived in a dump because we didn't have a lot of money, but I never explained to them how dire the circumstances were or that my significant health problems were related to the place we were staying. Children need as much honesty as they can handle. They don't believe our lies, but telling them every detail of the truth is not necessary.
by on Sep. 25, 2013 at 9:52 AM

We are very open & honest with our kids about our money, finances, and budget. My oldest, age 15, has asked what our salaries are, and we told her. We will also tell our youngest when he asks. We always show them receipts from grocery shopping, eating out, etc., so they know how much things cost in comparison to how much we make. I don't think it's right to lie to kids about money. They have to learn how to live within a budget when they're older, so sugarcoating things doesn't work, IMO.

by on Sep. 25, 2013 at 10:25 AM

 It's impossible to lie about to my spouse. We are on a 0 sum budget. This means that before we even get paid we budget out every single cent. So there is no money available for me to lie about. Our kids probably won't know how much money we really have but they'll know we budget and they'll know how much money is budgeted for their college fund, fun activities, school, etc. It's important for them to know those things but they don't need to know how much we really make and how much we put into retirement, etc. If they asked I'd tell them it was none of their business.

by Bazinga! on Sep. 25, 2013 at 10:26 AM


Quoting JakeandEmmasMom:

Nope. Never lied about money to my hubby or the kids.
by Sooze on Sep. 25, 2013 at 10:35 AM

 I tell my son what my parents told me:  it's private.  We're doing ok, but you don't need to know how much money we have.

by Woodie on Sep. 25, 2013 at 10:56 AM

Sure I have....I don't pretend to be perfect! :)

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