Fighting over money with your better half? Join the club.
Finances are the leading cause of stress in a relationship, according to a survey of people in a relationship or partnership released Wednesday by SunTrust Bank. Some 35 percent of all respondents experiencing relationship stress said money was the primary cause of friction. (Annoying habits came in second, at 25 percent.) Among respondents with relationship stress aged 44 to 54, 44 percent said money was the primary cause.
"Money really touches everything. It impacts people's lives," said Emmet Burns, brand marketing director for SunTrust.
Money and stress do seem to go hand in hand for many Americans, whether they're in relationships or not. A study released earlier this week by the American Psychological Association found almost three-quarters of Americans are experiencing financial stress at least some of the time, and nearly a quarter of us are feeling extreme financial stress.
But divergent views and values can make money a particular source of tension within couples.
It's no fun to accept blame in an argument, and sure enough, the SunTrust survey respondents were far more likely to attribute virtuous financial habits to themselves. Some 34 percent said they were the saver and their partner was the spender, and just 13 percent said the reverse. That also means that 47 percent of the respondents said they and their partner had different saving and spending habits.
"A spender or a saver is really in the eye of the beholder," Burns said.
Couples don't just argue about money: they hide transactions from each other. One in 5 Americans in a relationship say they have spent $500 or more and not told their partner, and 6 percent maintain secret accounts or credit cards, according to a poll conducted for CreditCards.com.
SunTrust, for its part, found that 36 percent of partners in a relationship do not consult their significant other about even large purchases.
The SunTrust study is being published on the heels of a similar survey by Ally Bank. In that survey, which was not limited to people married or in relationships, 55 percent of respondents said that a strong budgeting and saving strategy was the most appealing money-related quality a partner or potential partner could have. In addition, three-fourths of the respondents to this survey said it was moderately or highly important to find a partner with a similar approach to money and budgeting.
Two-thirds of the Ally Bank survey respondents said they did not have serious, recurring arguments with significant others about money. But among those who did, spending was a more likely culprit than saving habits.
Ally conducted its survey in December, as consumers were in the midst of a robust holiday shopping season. SunTrust's survey was taken in January, just as outsized post-holiday credit card bills were landing.
Those, it's safe to say, can be stressors.