Finances & Money

4 Out Of 5 Americans Lie For Money

Have you ever lied for financial gain? The odds are strong that you’ve done it at least once. According to a new study from, almost 4 out of 5 Americans have admitted to lying for some type of financial gain – and many don’t feel guilty about their lies.

Over 2,000 U.S. adults were asked if they had committed any of the financial lies presented in a list, from the illegal to the merely unethical. A surprising 78% of respondents admitted to at least one of the transgressions. Assuming a random sample, the study implies that almost 193 million American adults have lied for financial gain at some point in their lives.

Over half of respondents had lied in two specific areas – pocketing found money that wasn’t theirs (56%) and accepting an undercharge or excess change without bringing it to a seller’s attention (52%).

Close to one-third of respondents lied about keeping purchase information from their partner(36%) and downloading content illegally to avoid fees (30%).

Approximately one-quarter of respondents had misrepresented themselves for financial gain (26%), knowingly stuck somebody else with all or part of their share of a bill (24%), or made a purchase with a plan to use the item only once and immediately return it (22%).

We do seem to find lying to the IRS less acceptable. Only 17% admitted to withholding financial information on taxes – although that percentage might raise eyebrows at the IRS.

Even worse, we don’t seem to be disturbed by our lies. Only 17% of respondents admitted feeling guilty about their actions and confessing their lies. (Presumably, the match in percentages between liars to the IRS and remorseful liars is just a coincidence – although it’s possible that the odds and/or consequences for getting caught in any particular lie play a factor in the level of remorse.)

When it comes to finances, men appear to be less trustworthy than women. In seven of the eight categories listed, more men than women lied for financial benefit, ranging from a 3% to 10% difference between the sexes. The only category where women were less honest than men were not telling their partner about various purchases.

The younger you are, the more likely you are to engage in financial lies. The study found that in all eight categories, Americans in Generation Y were more likely to lie than baby boomers and those in Generation X. These findings are consistent with a NerdWallet/Harris poll in 2016 that found younger and male respondents to be more likely to lie about financial issues.

Are you more likely to lie about finances depending on where you live? Maybe, if you live in Nevada. The current home of most legalized gambling in the U.S. had the highest percentages in four of the eight categories.

If there’s a silver lining in the study, it’s that Generation Y was more likely to feel guilty and admit their lies in six of the eight categories. Perhaps the trends toward honesty as Americans get older will increase, as the younger generation’s guilt turns into more ethical actions in the future – or maybe that’s because as we get older, we are the recipients of more lies instead of the creators of them.

The study is sobering when it comes to America’s attitude about honesty and finances – and the situation may be worse than it appears. If 4 in 5 Americans admit to lying about money, what are the odds that the other American is lying to the survey?

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1 Comment

  • Sadly this doesn’t surprise me. I work in the city of London and am constantly amazed by the amount of pure self-interest in most people that I deal with. It isn’t unusual to hear a “what’s in it for me” type comment. Sadly the morals of our society…

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