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The 'bizarre' money secret many Americans keep — even from their spouse

  • About 1 in 5 Americans don't tell anyone how much their salary is, including their spouse or partner, according to a survey from financial firm Aspiration.
  • Only 60 percent of women and 52 percent of men share their salaries with their significant others.
  • Experts say it's important to start talking about money issues early in a relationship.
Millennials finances
Jamie Grill | Getty Images

"How much do you make?"

It's a question many Americans are hesitant to answer — even when it's a loved one asking.

About 1 in 5 Americans don't tell anyone how much their salary is, including their spouses or partners, according to a recent survey from Aspiration, a California-based financial services firm.

Only 60 percent of women and 52 percent of men share their salaries with their significant others, Aspiration found. The firm polled 725 adults in early February.

Even those couples who divulge salary details tend to do so after they hit a relationship milestone: 45 percent wait until they are moving in with each other, 15 percent wait until they are engaged, and 10 percent wait until marriage.

"Money issues are a real problem in a number of relationships and it's better to have things on the table sooner than later." -Andrea Syrtash, Author of "He's Just Not Your Type"

American adults' hesitancy to share how much they make can hinder healthy financial growth as a couple, said Andrei Cherny, co-founder and CEO of Aspiration.

"Money has traditionally been a taboo topic in America and people don't like to discuss it because it makes them uncomfortable," Cherny said. "However, this unfortunately results in many Americans having limited financial literacy — how are people supposed to learn how to deal with their money in a responsible way, if nobody ever wants to talk about it?"

Ed Zapson, a financial adviser at investment company Edward Jones, said that once couples find "themselves using 'we' or 'us' for making plans, as if the two of them come in a unit, it's probably time to have a [money] conversation."

It's a big mistake if you're not sharing details of your financial status with each other at that point in a relationship, he said.

"The truth of the matter is, when you start functioning together as a unit your finances are intermingled — whether you have joint accounts or not," he said.

For example, if you're living with your significant other and they don't pay the rent because they're in debt, it's not just your partner who risks being evicted.

While you shouldn't necessarily share details like your salary and accrued debts on the first or second date, early communication about finances can prevent a lot of unhappiness down the road, said relationship expert Andrea Syrtash, author of "He's Just Not Your Type.'"

It is "bizarre" to withhold financial information from your partner, Syrtash said. Being secretive about finances could lead to mistrust and resentment, she said — "and the foundation of a healthy happy relationship is trust and respect."

"Money issues are a real problem in a number of relationships and it's better to have things on the table sooner than later," she said.

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