Financial Cheaters: Who's Worse, Men or Women?

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If you've ever lied about your spending or pocketed change you didn't deserve, you're not alone. Two new surveys reveal that a surprisingly high percentage of people are willing to cheat financially, and that women tend to be more honest than men when it comes to money.

According to a recent survey by Money-Rates.com, 37 percent of respondents say they've kept excess change handed to them by a cashier. And, 25 percent said that they would or might do it again in the future if the opportunity presented itself.

When the survey separates respondents by gender, women appear to be more honest than men. In fact, according to the survey, men are more likely than women to cheat on their taxes, pad an expense account, and fudge the truth to an insurance company.

The survey results suggest that women are more susceptible to guilt, since while 35 percent of women say they've kept extra change from a cashier, only 21 percent say they would do it again. Among men, 39 percent say they've pocketed extra cash and 31 percent say they would do it again.

Among both genders, 25 percent say they've taken company property home from their employer for their personal use; 23 percent say they've cheated the IRS by not declaring all of their income -- but 30 percent say they would cheat on their taxes if they didn't think they'd get caught.

Couples and Cheating Financially

While some financial cheaters lie year-round, be it to the IRS or on their expense accounts, the holiday spending season can ratchet up tensions over money within families, and may lead to more incidences of financial infidelity.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%A new survey by McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union looked at couples and their holiday spending in three categories: heterosexual married couples, same-sex couples, and previously divorced people now in new marriages or relationships.

All of these couples said they disagreed over money sometimes. But according to survey results, straight married couples actually lie more to each other than the other types of couples.

Some of the survey findings include:
  • While 34 percent of straight married couples have lied to their partners about holiday spending; just 25 percent of same-sex couples and previously divorced couples admit to lying to their partners.
  • 48 percent of all straight couples disagree about how much to spend during the holidays.
  • 43 percent of previously divorced couples disagree about holiday spending.
  • 37 percent of same-sex couples argue about holiday spending.
Both straight married and previously divorced couples try to hide their overspending in various ways.

More than half of straight married people say they pay with cash to cover up large purchases, and more than 1 in 10 have taken out a credit card in their own name to conceal their spending. Among gay couples, only one-third say they cover up spending with cash purchases, but 15 percent say they're likely to grab a bill and pay it before their partner sees it, compared to 9 percent in heterosexual partnerships.

Lying and overspending are bad ways to enjoy the holiday spirit. Instead, try mutually setting a budget, using your credit card or debt card rewards points for gifts, and finding less costly ways to give gifts and share the season.

Michele Lerner is a Motley Fool contributing writer.

Financial Cheaters: Who's Worse, Men or Women?
Mindel says hiding details of an inheritance or trust fund is one of the most common lies he's seen in clients.

It's not a wise move, especially since it's easy enough for a partner to find out if they pay attention to your tax returns, Mindel points out.

Unless you also plan on also lying to the IRS about the trust fund, you'll have to report your monthly checks with the rest of your taxable income.
A California woman made headlines when her ex-husband sued her over lottery winnings she hid from him while they were still married.

Years later, he took her to court and wound up walking away with 100 percent of her earnings.
"Now, more and more states across the country are imposing penalties for spouses that fail to properly disclose financial information to their spouses," Mindel says.
If you've got money that's off the books, such as cash you're earning from a freelance or part-time job, it's not OK to stash it in a secret account your partner doesn't know about.

"People get pissed when they find statements about hidden accounts," says family law attorney Jennifer Deniger.

"A lot of married couples don't understand the concept of joint property and they think that if they get divorced, then anything they have in a solo account is theirs to keep. But the joke is on them because the [spouse] still gets half."

Lying about job loss often occurs because spouses are either ashamed of their failure or are convinced they'll be able to nab a new gig before their partner notices.

"We don't see it very often, but you hear about people that are shocked to hear that their spouse has been covering up a job loss," Mindel says. "They leave early to go to work but don't have a job to go to."

Mindel says any vice that sucks up disposable income -- like frequent casino trips or betting at the race track -- is a danger to marriage.

"We've had women [clients] who've been addicted to male strippers and spent all their money on clubs," he says.

"They end up putting financial pressure on their families because of their addiction."

Partners often hide credit card statements or past debt from their spouse, telling themselves that they'll be able to pay off their debt before it balloons.

"I find that most people have no idea how much their partners have in student loan debt, so that can be iffy when the payments need to come out of your joint income," Deniger says.

Before you tie the knot, sit down and exchange a credit history with your partner, Mindel recommends. That way, you're both on equal footing.

If you're uncomfortable coming clean about your debt, you're probably better off putting off marriage altogether.

Couples should treat marriage like a business merger, Mindel says, especially if you're planning on drawing up a prenuptial agreement.

"You've got to know the value of both companies," he says.

Plus, if you ever get divorced, a court can penalize you for not disclosing your full income and award your ex more spousal support.

If you've got kids you're not telling your spouse about, you could end up in court or worse -- jail, says Money Talk Matters CEO Taffy Wagner.

"I know of a situation where a husband did not tell a wife that he had previous children and was not paying child support," Wagner says. "The [new] wife ended up being sued because they had a joint account."

Andrew Scharge, founder of Money Crashers, says this is an especially easy lie for a stay-at-home spouse, who can cover up bill collector mail and phone calls.

"The difficult result is the loss of their home, which will come as a shocking surprise to the spouse who was unaware of their financial situation," he says.

"It can be a challenge to deal with a lying spouse, but ultimately, if the couple does not deal head-on with these issues of trust by implementing some money management tips for married couples, the couple will very likely separate or divorce."

Compulsive spending habits can wreck a marriage, especially if they're kept under cover. Some partners go as far as to send shipments to friends' houses or the office as a cover-up.

"Compulsive spenders lie about the amount of money they spend, how often they spend money and what they spend money on," says Paul Hokemeyer, a licensed marriage and family therapist.

"It destroys relationships because the non-spending partner typically has no clue over the extent of the spending that's going on and wakes up to a bankruptcy or unmanageable debt that in turns makes them feel betrayed, taken advantage of and humiliated."
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