74% of Millennials and Gen Zers Have Been Mad at Their Partner for a Financial Decision They Made

Devon Delfino
February 23rd, 2021 | 8min
Image by Tu Anh
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Relationships are tricky enough without adding money to the mix. For young and older couples alike, talking (or not talking) about debt, or about ways to spend or save, can cause tension.

To understand how this impacts younger couples, MagnifyMoney surveyed nearly 1,000 Gen Zers and millennials who are married, engaged or in a relationship. According to our findings, nearly three-fourths said they’d been mad at their partner because of a financial decision they made, while 15% hadn’t yet discussed debt with their partner.

Here’s what else we found.

Key Findings

  • 74% of partnered millennials and Gen Zers have been mad at their partner for a financial decision they made. The top two argument drivers: The partner made a big purchase without telling them about it (31%) or spent a lot of money on something the respondent considers to be frivolous (30%).
  • When asked the hardest part of their relationship money-wise, 30% said each partner was raised with a different view on money. The other most common answers were one partner earning a lot more than the other (19%) and one partner being a saver and the other a spender (17%).
  • Gen Z and millennial couples are saving for the future. In fact, 57% are saving for a home and 46% are saving for a baby. Plus, 38% of those who are in a relationship but not engaged are saving for a wedding.
  • Nearly 1 in 7 (15%) Gen Z and millennial couples haven’t discussed debt. That jumps to nearly a third (32%) for those who don’t live together. Even 8% of married couples have never talked about debt.
  • Nearly a quarter (24%) of married Gen Z and millennials still keep separate bank accounts. An additional 19% have a joint account in addition to their separate accounts. This could be one reason why more than a third (36%) of young couples say they use a service like Venmo or Cash App to pay their partner at least once a week.

Nearly 3 in 4 millennial and Gen Z couples — which includes married and engaged couples and those in relationships — have been mad at their partner for a financial decision they made:

Those who earned between $50,000 and $74,999 were the most likely (84%) to have been mad at their partner for a financial decision.
Magnify Money/Lending Tree

Those who earned between $50,000 and $74,999 were the most likely (84%) to have been mad at their partner for a financial decision. Conversely, just 16% of that income group said they never felt that way, compared with a range of 22% to 35% in the other brackets.

Among those who said they’d been mad at their partner for a financial decision, the most common circumstances were either that their partner made a big purchase without telling them or the partner spent a lot of money on something they consider frivolous:

Older millennials (ages 33 to 40) were most likely to report hiding debt as the financial decision that made them mad at their partner.
Magnify Money/Lending Tree

Interestingly, older millennials (ages 33 to 40) were most likely to report hiding debt as the financial decision that made them mad at their partner (11%), versus 6% of younger millennials (25 to 32) and 8% of Gen Zers (18 to 24).

We also asked whether a partner had been mad at the survey respondent for a financial decision they made, and 67% said yes. However, there was a variation among gender, as 78% of men said they had made their partner mad at them for a financial decision, versus 58% of women.

As for the reasons why a partner had been mad at a respondent’s financial decision, the top two argument drivers were the same as when the respondent was the one who was mad:

  • Not telling the partner about a big purchase (29%)
  • Spending a lot of money on something the other person considers frivolous (27%)
Among all respondents, 19% said one partner outearning the other was the hardest difficulty.
MagnifyMoney/Lending Tree

For many, the most difficult part of dealing with finances while being a couple came down to being raised with different views on money.

A point of contention could be frivolous spending, said Lauren Perez, a MagnifyMoney deposits writer. With video games, for example, one partner might not agree with the other’s spending decisions because they feel the money could be spent elsewhere.

“Someone who is used to living paycheck to paycheck may not understand the money views of someone who comes from generational wealth and vice versa, which can certainly lead to disagreements,” Perez said.

She also cited the gender pay gap as a potential reason, in which men can make significantly more than women. Among all respondents, 19% said one partner outearning the other was the hardest difficulty.

Building off what we just discussed, more than 6 in 10 (63%) men in these millennial and Gen Z couples make more money than their partner, compared with 26% of women.

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