Nobody has done detailed scientific research on “financial infidelity,” until now. The authors of a major new study even needed to clearly define the problem for the first time.
The scholars say many kinds of people might find uses for their work. Some may suffer from financial cheating, while others may be trying to help, such as marriage counselors, or bankruptcy or divorce attorneys.
Others might be marketing and consumer-product companies hoping to understand the habits of financial cheaters. This information could help retailers market to secret buyers or help them build goodwill by protecting customers.
Research that might save marriages
A previous survey had shown that financial cheating is common, especially in couples who pool their money. While 75% said secret spending had hurt their relationship, only 41% admitted being the ones secretly spending.
The authors of the new research looked at ways financial cheaters hide what they do. They tend to:
- Use cash.
- Get individual versus joint credit cards.
- Buy things in plain packaging.
- Shop at non-name-brand stores.
To avoid the harm this infidelity can cause, they suggest couples focus on open communication, agree to realistic individual and joint goals, and allow for some frivolous expenses while keeping the relationship’s overall financial goals on track.
New data for companies and economists
The researchers created new ways to measure consumer behavior. For example, a test of “infidelity proneness” might be a useful marketing tool. With their results, the researchers suggested retailers might consider:
- The recent trend of going cash-free may alienate some customers but could also help others break unhealthy habits.
- A joint versus individual store credit card could be a decision with consequences for some consumers.
- A choice of branded or unbranded packaging may be a major change for some customers.
The study authors also remind readers that hiding money from domestic partners is not always about financial infidelity. Physical and emotional violence and financial dependence are common reasons people give for staying in abusive relationships.
Also, cultural attitudes vary enormously toward women making any financial transactions or buying certain products. Better awareness of such issues may be useful to all the study’s audiences.