Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
How Private Are Americans About Their Money? [2024 Survey]
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How many people know your annual salary? How comfortable are you discussing your salary openly with colleagues or superiors? Do you share how much is in your savings or retirement accounts with others? Does your partner know your credit card balance?
These and more are the burning questions we wanted answered. So we went directly to the people and surveyed 1,000 working professionals across the U.S. to uncover exactly how private Americans are with their money and personal finances.
It’s no secret that talking about money — especially salaries, debt, and credit scores — is taboo in American culture. Many Americans try to keep their finances as secret as possible, sometimes even going as far as to safeguard this information from their partners.
In our survey of working Americans regarding their financial attitudes, we discovered that:
- Only 3 in 10 Americans are comfortable talking about their finances with others.
- On average, American men claim to be more comfortable discussing their finances than American women.
- 30% of Americans have admitted to lying about their income at least once.
- Only 41% of employed Americans know how much their colleagues make, and 25% of those have used that information to negotiate their own pay.
Let’s dive deeper into the specifics of how private Americans are with their money.
Americans’ Privacy With Their Money
To accurately depict the extent to which Americans like to keep financial information under wraps, we’ve divided our survey results into 3 categories: privacy with finances at work, at home, and with others.
Privacy With Finances at Work
Regarding the workplace, finances are rarely discussed among colleagues, with nearly half of employed Americans (43%) stating they are uncomfortable openly discussing their salary with their coworkers. Money conversations at work being viewed as inappropriate could be attributed to a few factors, such as leadership discouraging financial discussions and workers being afraid of making their colleagues uncomfortable or underappreciated by their employer. According to our survey results:
- Less than half of employed Americans (41%) know how much their colleagues make.
- Of those who know their coworkers’ salaries, about 25% have used that as leverage for negotiating their own. 30% of male respondents claim to have done this, compared to only 20% of female respondents.
- About 1 in every 3 Americans (36%) have lied in a job interview about how much they currently make.
- Only 24% of Americans reported feeling indifferent concerning comfortability discussing their finances at work.
- Younger generations are more comfortable discussing their salary with colleagues than older generations. Nearly half of Gen Z (45%) and millennial respondents (41%) stated they feel comfortable discussing their finances at work. In comparison, very few Gen X (22%) and baby boomer respondents (21%) reported they would be comfortable doing so.
Privacy With Finances at Home
Financial privacy extends beyond work and into their home lives for some Americans. They hide details from debt to annual income to even how much is in their savings accounts from romantic partners, family members, and housemates. This desire for financial privacy runs so deep that about 1 in 5 Americans (22%) stated they would rather share their sexual history with their parents than their current bank statement. While feeling the need to keep finances a secret at home stems from many sources, the recurring theme is a fear of being judged by loved ones. From our respondents, we found that:
- About 1 in 4 people in relationships are hiding that they have debt from their partner.
- A slim 14% of those making $150K+ annually hide their debt from their partner, whereas a striking 31% of those who make under $40K annually keep their debt hidden from their partner.
- A quarter of millennials say their parents know exactly what’s in their savings.
Privacy With Finances With Others
The area in which Americans maintain the most financial privacy is within their social lives. This includes keeping their financial details under lock and key, even from the friends they trust—over 70% of Americans don’t share their annual incomes with their closest friends. As with maintaining financial privacy at home, many Americans likely avoid discussing their finances within their social circles out of fear of judgment. Upon asking working Americans about their financial privacy habits with others, we uncovered that:
- Only 3 in 10 Americans feel extremely comfortable discussing their finances with others, with men claiming to feel more comfortable than women.
- Gen Zers are the only generation that would rather share their financial history than their DMs.
- With just a slight majority (57%), Americans would rather share their search history than their financial history.
- Of the 30% who admitted to lying about their income at least once, men claimed to most frequently lie to friends (69%), coworkers (44%), and job interviewers (32%). Comparatively, females lied most often to friends (55%), job interviewers (38%), and then coworkers (34%).
We conducted a survey involving 1,000 employed (full-time or part-time) Americans. This survey aimed to reveal valuable insights about Americans’ habits and tendencies regarding their comfortability when talking about finances. The questionnaire covered various aspects, including privacy specifics based on audience or financial details, privacy habits (lying, for example), and comfortability scores. Our survey was administered from January 3 to 4, 2024.
Our research confirms that working Americans greatly value their financial privacy. With only 30% of professionals feeling completely comfortable speaking openly about their finances, it’s clear that discussing money remains a touchy subject for many. From lying about debt at home to the lack of salary transparency in the office, our results show that Americans keep money private in all facets of their lives.
Featured Image Credit: Upgraded Points
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