“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so,” wrote Mark Twain.
In 2016, NerdWallet commissioned a survey* to get a better handle on Americans’ thoughts about lying when money is involved. It’s interesting to note which money-saving lies participants found acceptable. The list included:
- Logging on to someone else’s retail or media account to avoid subscription fees (33 percent)
- Not reporting under-the-table income to avoid taxes due (24 percent)
- Lying about your age or your child’s age to receive a discount at a restaurant or retailer (21 percent)
- Lying about annual mileage to lower auto insurance rates (20 percent)
- Lying about income on a loan or credit card application (12 percent)
- Lying about smoking tobacco to lower life insurance rates (11 percent)
(The number in the parentheses reflects the percent of those surveyed who said the lie was okay.)
The survey found far more men than women believe it is acceptable to tell lies to save money. For instance, 30 percent of men said it was okay not to report under-the-table income to the IRS. Only 18 percent of women agreed. One-fourth of male survey participants thought it was okay to fudge annual mileage to receive lower auto insurance rates, while just 16 percent of female respondents agreed.
Age also makes a difference. Americans who are age 65 or older were far less likely to find financial dishonesty acceptable:
“The survey found that 11 percent of seniors say it is acceptable to use someone else’s paid account for online movies, music, or articles to save on subscription costs, compared with 39 percent of Americans ages 18-64. Just 7 percent of Americans ages 65 and older think it’s acceptable to lie about annual mileage for lower auto insurance rates compared with 23 percent of Americans ages 18-64. Among all of the lies in the survey, the one that gets the most support from those 65 and older is not disclosing under-the-table income to the IRS in order to pay less in taxes – 14 percent say that’s acceptable.”
When it came down to it, “For all questions, retirees had the lowest rates of acceptance of lies compared with students, employees, and the unemployed.”
*The survey included 2,115 Americans, ages 18 and older, and was conducted February 18-22, 2016, by Harris Poll on behalf of NerdWallet. This survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.