Recession Ignites Financial Discord Among U.S. Couples
Once Again, Money Causes More Arguments than Sex, According to PayPal Survey

SAN JOSE, Calif.--Many U.S. couples are finding that the worldwide financial crisis is affecting their relationships at home, according to PayPal’s third annual “Can’t Buy Me Love” international survey. In fact, 43 percent of U.S. couples, and almost a third of all couples surveyed, say the recession has caused them to argue more often, primarily about finances and household chores.

According to the survey, this may be the result of a shift in the power dynamic between partners, since, about one in 10 couples report the role of primary breadwinner has changed over the past six months due to job losses or salary decreases. The research, conducted by Ipsos, examines topics around love and money in Australia, Canada, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“This survey proves that when it comes to arguments between loved ones, money trumps everything else, including children, work, job security—and even sex,” says Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, author and personal finance expert. “What’s different this year is the added pressure from the recession. Even if people are still employed, they are worried about losing their jobs and making ends meet, and it’s bringing more conflict into the home.”

In some countries, ignorance is bliss when it comes to financial matters. Couples in the Netherlands tend to avoid discussions about money, likewise reporting the least amount of finance-related arguments. On the contrary, couples in the U.S. and Mexico are the most likely to openly discuss their finances and report the highest instances of household arguments related to money.

In addition to arguing, at least 10 percent of couples surveyed say they have ended a relationship due at least in part to financial issues. The United States and Mexico ranked the highest at 14 percent, the Netherlands the lowest at 5 percent. Respondents also differed greatly in the amount of debt they currently hold. In Mexico, only 15 percent of respondents claimed no debt, versus 51 percent in Italy and roughly a quarter of U.S. and Australian respondents.

Around the world, well over half of all couples are keeping separate bank accounts. In the 2008 online population survey, 71 percent of UK respondents and about half (46 percent) of Americans reported having separate accounts from their partners. This year, those numbers are even higher: 80 percent of UK couples and 57 percent of Americans have separate accounts. Moreover, more couples in the U.S. are hiding purchases from their partners this year: about 23 percent reported doing so, versus 18 percent in 2008. For the second year in a row, clothing is by far the most likely purchase that women will hide from their partners, according to the survey.

St. Valentine Still Smiling

Despite the financial turmoil, gifts still equal romance on Valentine’s Day. In the United States, 70 percent of respondents who are in a relationship give gifts to their significant others. Mexico, however, tops Valentine’s gift giving with 79 percent of respondents planning to buy something for their loved ones this year. Around the world, Valentine’s Day cards remain the number one purchase, followed closely by dinner dates. In the UK and the Netherlands, romantic getaways are popular. Chivalry is still alive in all countries, with men giving more gifts on Valentine’s Day than women.

Other Global Findings

  • American couples typically bring the largest levels of debt into relationships (51 percent) while most couples in Italy and the Netherlands say they have no debt.
  • Money is the number one cause of arguments among U.S. couples (31 percent) followed by household chores (28 percent), in-laws (22 percent) and sex (15 percent).
  • Finances are least troublesome among couples in the Netherlands and the UK, where less than 20 percent of couples argue about money. Financial issues are the most troublesome in Australia, Mexico and the U.S. where more than 30 percent of couples have money issues.
  • More Americans are going online to find a date this year. In 2008, one out of five respondents tried online dating; this year, 25 percent have taken the plunge.

For consumers who’ve already found that special someone, PayPal is making it easy to do all Valentine’s Day shopping online with the click of a mouse this year. Between January 30 and February 14, 2009, shoppers can save up to 50 percent on Valentine’s gifts from select merchants when they pay with PayPal. To check out the deals from participating merchants, visit

About the Survey

The PayPal “Can’t Buy Me Love” Survey was conducted by Ipsos from December 9th, 2008 to December 19, 2008 via email invitation to online panelists. The total sample size was 7,000 adults, evenly divided between Australia, Canada, Mexico, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.

About PayPal

PayPal is the faster, safer way to pay and get paid online. The service allows members to send money without sharing financial information, with the flexibility to pay using their account balances, bank accounts, credit cards or promotional financing. With more than 70 million active accounts in 190 markets and 19 currencies around the world, PayPal enables global ecommerce. PayPal is an eBay (Nasdaq:EBAY) company and is made up of three leading online payment services: the PayPal global payments platform, the Payflow Gateway, and Bill Me Later. More information about the company can be found at

About Lynnette Khalfani-Cox

Lynnette Khalfani-cox is a personal finance expert and the author of The Money Coach's Guide to Your First Million, Investing Success: How to Conquer 30 Costly Mistakes & Multiply Your Wealth and the New York Times bestseller Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom. Her latest book is Zero Debt for College Grads: From Student Loans to Financial Freedom. Lynnette worked for nearly a decade as a Dow Jones Newswires reporter and a Wall Street Journal reporter for CNBC. She has interviewed thousands of financial experts, and personally paid off more than $100,000 in credit card debt and nearly $40,000 in student loans before becoming a self-made millionaire.

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