Why We Lie About Money

text saying why we lie about money with a child peering through a hole

People tend to lie about money. I have yet to meet a person who would never say a lie, even a small lie. Some of us choose to conveniently omit truth. Some of us choose to tell so called “white lies.” Some of us blatantly make up stories to make ourselves look good. Some of us lie to avoid trouble.

Lying “Harmless” Half-Truth

I will start with myself. I lied about money to my ex-husband. My lies were not malicious, at least in the beginning. I preferred to think that those lies were for the better good. Or so I said to myself. Most likely, my first lie about a bonus that I received from my work, and decided to hide was my first successful attempt to see if I could avoid marriage trouble, avoid being hurt by dismissive looks and snarky comments.

Later, I started buying things and simply putting them into the closet, pretending that they were always there. I viewed it as harmless as long as all was good in the family. At least for a little while. I started building stashes of money, hidden in books and towels.

Looking back I can see now how abominably stupid that was. I shrunk into myself, and ended up in a place I call a negation, an absence. I stayed in this place for almost eight years.

Lying to Avoid Confrontation

My grandfather lied to my grandmother about his plans to invest money. We did not trust banks in Lithuania. Our country just barely became independent, and new banks were growing all around us like weeds. In the Soviet Union we did not have private banks. A private banking system was something new that was introduced to us.  Unfortunately, our newly born banking system was weak and unsecured.

My grandfather, an adventurer at heart, invested about three thousand dollars into a savings account with a new bank. My grandmother resisted his idea with passion and a lot of anger. To avoid constant confrontations, my grandfather chose the safe way out: he said that he decided to wait. Meanwhile, he went to one of the banks and opened a savings account.

We did not know about it until it was too late. The interest was good, the future looked bright, until one day the Lithuanian government went bankrupt, and the banks started closing down one after another. The most disgusting part to it was that people never got their money back. Banks simply closed their doors: no explanation was ever offered.  My grandfather lost all his savings.

It took a very long time for my grandmother to forgive him – not for losing their savings, not for making a mistake and being too gullible, but for going behind her back and lying to her face.

Equating Money to Self-Image

My friend’s husband frequents payday loan places. Sometimes he goes into their physical locations, sometimes he uses the online services (for example, www.parrotpaydayloans.co.uk.) He almost never tells his wife about his financial endeavors.

His money management philosophy is totally idiotic: when he has money, he pays bills; when he runs out of money – he doesn’t. Sometimes there are bills that have to be paid no matter what (mortgage, for example.)That’s when he uses payday loans.

He associates money with self-worth. He was brought up in a very traditional family where his father was the breadwinner, the head of the family, the decision-maker. As the result of this upbringing, the guy lost focus on what really matters – the real meaning of money and marriage.

When my friend found out about her husband’s extra-marital affair with payday loans, she was infuriated. His defense was simple – he could not admit to it because it would make him look weak and feel worthless.

Money and self-esteem have a direct correlation, and a very complex relationship. This relationship defines how we feel about ourselves. It controls the choices we make. It determines the actions we take.

Now, it is your turn to confess. Have you ever lied about money?


23 thoughts on “Why We Lie About Money”

  1. Yes, I have lied about money, buy not anymore. I lied to my former husband. Being the one who paid the bills, it was easy to do. All the bills were paid on time and we had a great FICO score, but my problem with credit cards got out of hand. To the point of owing $30,000 in debt, unbeknownst to my former husband. I paid off every single dime before filing for divorce. And now, 6 years later, I am totally debt free, have an emergency fund and teach financial literacy. It was a long difficult road getting to this point, but I am grateful every single day. And no, I will not lie about money again! Honesty is the best policy.

  2. Wow I feel for your grandma. I would have been upset too. Even though I understand why your grandpa did that I can feel your grandma’s pain.

    That being said I don’t lie to my wife about how I invest. I explain every step and she sometimes looks like she doesn’t listen but I think that is because she believes in me.

  3. When I was younger and more stupid, I’d lie about what I bought at the mall. Now, I try not to lie about money, because honestly it doesn’t benefit me. Sometimes, I pretend I’m broke (lol) to friends/family members that take advantage, but that’s it.

  4. I think I’m an honest person, but even I have lied about money. There are things I won’t tell certain people for fear of being judged, and times that I’ve spent that I shouldn’t have and have later been completely ashamed of myself. It’s crazy how much weight we put to money and class and house size and what clothes people wear. It’s not like I really care what my friends wear or have, but I worry that they’ll care what *I* have…or don’t.

  5. I don’t know that I’ve lied but I’ve likely avoided or stretched the truth which is probably just as bad.

    That sucks about your grandfather’s money. So many people dreaming of better things likely got burned and jaded in the process.

  6. I’ve hid the fact that I had money from relatives as they viewed it as their money so yes, I’ve lied. And of course, I lied to myself about not having a shopping problem.

  7. If a person who doesn’t need to know about something asks me directly, I won’t lie, but will tell them they don’t need to know. But I will NEVER LIE to anyone about finances, especially in a relationship. I have seen what it does to a marriage first-hand (my parents) and it’s ridiculous. I think the whole “money is my self image” thing is stupid. Get your self image elsewhere, because money is a horrible place to rely on.

    I posted my first “budget confessions” post last week, and will probably have many more. It’s great to admit mistakes, no one is perfect with their money, especially financial bloggers. I think confession is great, but don’t forget to ask the “why” with it. If you can identify the “why”, you can stop doing whatever it is you don’t want to be doing (spending and lying about it), or you may discover you’d rather spend that money and not feel guilty, so you change your outlook.

    Sorry, not sure where this rant was going. Either way, good post, and good call that lying about money is never worth it.

  8. I’m sure I’ve lied about minor purchases here or there; I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. But what’s even worse is being lied to. There have been several instances where I’ve been on the receiving end of a financial lie, and let me tell you, it hurts. A lot. It’s not something that you can’t recover from but like infidelity, it takes a long, long time to regain that trust (if you ever fully regain it at all).

  9. Like many of the readers, I’m sure I’ve lied about small things. I don’t think I’ve ever told a BIG lie, although I know I’ve lied by omission, and have let certain people think certain things about my salary and lifestyle without trying to correct them. I think it boils down to pride and ego.

  10. I’m pretty honest about money, but sometimes I omit the truth and lie to myself! Such as, Oh, I’ll make up that $1,000 in the savings account in a couple of months so it’s okay to use it now to pay such and such. I’m completely in charge of the finances, so any mistake is on me!

  11. I think the only thing I lie about in regards to money is my salary to my friends. They all seem to think I’m making so much more money than them, when it fact it’s the other way around. I probably have more money than them saved up because I’m more careful with my spending and have some investments.

    I know in the past my dad hid the fact that they borrowed a lot of money from his relatives from my mom and some unpaid bills. When I found out about that years later, I vowed to never be like that and to be upfront with the person I’m with about finances. I think it’s one of those things that can make or break the relationship.

  12. I do it on a regular basis. But not to those closest with me (although I’m sure I’ve given a white lie before though it must not have rendered any major consequences.) But I guess I have some pretty nosy acquaintances. I get asked about it a lot and I give generalizations or just flat out lie to get them to leave me alone. It’s my business not theirs.

  13. While I’ve never lied to my husband about money… I do purposefully omit A LOT of information when it comes to my parents/friends/co-workers. I don’t want them to think any differently of us if they knew about our finances – and I don’t want it to alter their expectations of us. Therefore I follow the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy =)

  14. I sometime lie about money to my parents. They worry too much about spending. As for my wife, we keep it very transparent. We get cash allowance to spend on whatever we want so we don’t have to lie. 🙂

  15. Yikes, I have fibbed about money before due to an unsteady relationship. I had a small stash of savings tucked away that I carefully never revealed. In hindsight, it was a red flag signifying how much trust the relationship lacked, and it was time to move on.

  16. I don’t lie, per se, about money, but I certainly do not tell my relatives how much my husband and I earn. I know how much most of them earn because they have mentioned it in conversation.

    Even though we make significantly more than most of them, we are living frugally as we pay off my car and student loans. That makes us appear to make about the same amount of money. I think it is better for our relationships to not know or care how much each other makes. And, it keeps my husband’s brother from “borrowing” from us because he is a bad money manager.

  17. Since I know money is one of the biggest reasons couples split, I made sure to be very open about moeny with my BF and he does the same. We don’t have a joint account or anything but we’ve never hid when we had debts to pay off and we’ve never lied about money either. Honest is the best policy after all! Great post!

  18. Everyone lies about money because, as a society, and as you mentioned, we equate it to self-worth. It’s sad, but true.

    I lie to myself about how much I make with my more entrepreneurial endeavors…

  19. Liza @ InsuranceStraightTalk

    When you don’t want to break any one’s heart, mind or even life sometimes white lies are considered to be used for greater good.

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