After four years of dating, Katerina’s boyfriend proposed to her in Pismo Beach last January while on a road trip along the California coast. Excited, the couple quickly began planning a wedding in Malibu, California for March 2023. Then some things didn’t quite add up when it came to their partner’s finances.
“He was very avoidant about money, so it became an avoided topic in the relationship,” Katerina, who lives in San Diego, California, asked to use her middle name for privacy reasons.
“He said it was an uncomfortable topic for him and made it seem like he had money or no money depending on the situation.”
As her wedding date approached, Katerina began to worry about the steady stream of online purchases being shipped to their door and all the gym gear piling up in the garage. She wondered if pooling finances really was a smart idea.
“I didn’t know everything he bought because he hid it, but most of the time it was about hobbies: biking, weightlifting/gym, rock climbing, scuba diving, golfing,” she said.
“But then I would find that the hobbies never happened, so it became useless junk.”
Experts say financial infidelity in a relationship speaks to broader communication problems.Getty Images/iStockphoto
She confronted her fiancé and learned that his savings were nil and that he was spending nearly $2,000 a month on these random purchases.
“It kind of felt like I’d been cheated on,” Katerina said. A few months ago, she made the difficult decision to call off the wedding and split from her long-term partner. He promised to go to therapy and change his behavior, but she was skeptical.
“[It felt] like an irreparable betrayal when someone hides this from you,” she said.
Gen Zers and Millennials are increasingly concerned about the financial health of their romantic relationships. They talk openly about credit scores and savings early in the relationship, finalize prenuptial agreements, and call things quits because of money issues.
“Financial infidelity is a serious problem because it devalues the trust in the relationship and indicates communication problems,” Esther Lee, deputy editor of wedding website The Knot, told The Post.
A recent study by The Knot found that respondents identified a partner who is secretive about finances or dishonest about spending money as their top finance-related deal breaker. Sarah Evans / The Knot
The Knot’s 2022 Financial Study found that 43% of respondents considered it most likely to be a deal breaker when their partner was financially secretive or dishonest about spending money.
Research has also found that more couples are entering into prenuptial agreements, regardless of their financial status — not just for Gisele and Tom Brady. A new Harris Poll report found that 15% of US adults polled have signed a prenuptial agreement, up from just 3% in 2010. He also found that 35% of unmarried people say they are likely to sign a prenuptial agreement in the future.
New York-based attorney Andrea Vacca of the Vacca Family Law Group said she has observed the increasing popularity of prenuptial agreements in her own practice.
“More and more people are getting them – [even] younger people, people who don’t have a lot of wealth yet,” she told the Post. “People just don’t want their parents to get divorced.”
This agrees with other data. A new survey by buy-now, pay-later firm Affirm found that millennials see money management as the most attractive trait in a partner. Meanwhile, a survey by TD Bank found that 97% of Millennials say they discuss finances with their partner at least once a month, compared to 88% across all age groups. And 27% of all respondents said they discussed finances with a potential romantic partner before their first date.
Experts note that Gen Z and Millennials have endured continuous bouts of financial uncertainty, including the 2008 financial crisis, the pandemic, rising student debt, and the current surge in inflation. As such, they worry more about money matters.
Katerina said she learned her lesson after her broken engagement and will talk more about money with future partners.
“Finances need to be on the table and transparent before committing seriously,” she said. “I could have ruined my life if I had married him.”