Finance: relationships

Sterling. See PA Feature FINANCE Finance Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FINANCE Finance Column.
Sterling. See PA Feature FINANCE Finance Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FINANCE Finance Column.

Many relationships have hidden secrets, but it’s surprising how often money appears to be at the heart of them.

New research from the Money Advice Service has found that nearly one in 10 (9%) people across the UK in a serious relationship admit to having a secret “escape fund” - in case they decide to leave their partner. Men were found to be more likely to have such a fund than women and the average amount held in one of these funds was £7,500.

Meanwhile, nearly one in seven (13%) people who were married said they keep a stash of cash that their partner does not know about. Many people hoarding such a pile said they want to be financially independent, while another common reason was that people were worried their partner would spend it.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, nearly one quarter (24%) of married people said their partner would be “upset, angry or surprised,” if they found out the truth about their finances.

The research was carried out among 2,000 people who were either married or have been in a relationship for at least one year, and a separate report, from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), also recently found that money worries are more likely to put a strain on a relationship than a cheating partner.

With money having the potential to pressure a relationship so much, wouldn’t it be better to talk through our finances with our loved ones?

Corrine Sweet, a psychologist and psychotherapist, explains why it’s not always that simple.

“Talking about money is often still a taboo for couples as it evokes feelings of vulnerability and dependency. Many couples hide their true money status as they need to control the power in their relationship. Having money secrets, or a secret escape stash, is likely a way of showing that you have doubts about the relationship.”

Sweet says the biggest challenge in a relationship is establishing openness and transparency, which takes, trust, hard work and time.

“It is fairly essential to get your ‘money baggage’ out in the open at the start of a relationship, and try and clear up any nasty or nice surprises as you go along, because secrecy can eat away at the infrastructure of a relationship.

“Even if you choose not to be completely honest with your partner, be as honest as you can with yourself, because only then will you achieve happiness in relationships and life.”

The research from the Money Advice Service, an independent body set up by the Government, found that the consequences of not being up-front about money can be serious for your financial health as well as the wellbeing of your relationship.

Nearly one third (30%) of people surveyed said they had been with a partner whom they later found out was in serious debt. More than one fifth (22%) of people who had been in a relationship for at least a year said that have been impacted by their partner’s financial decisions. And one in eight (12%) people said their credit rating had been damaged by the actions of a partner.

To avoid unpleasant money surprises, here are Sweet’s tips for talking about money:

:: Voice your beliefs about money as early on in the relationship as you can, to avoid misunderstandings building up.

:: If you are secretive about money ask yourself why. Are you protecting yourself? What is it you don’t trust in your partner?

:: Relationships need some mutually-agreed “ground rules” about money. These can be renegotiated as you go along.

:: If your incomes are different, try working out ways that reflect this so you share the burden of financial costs equally. Instead of splitting the cost 50/50 (half and half), the split could be, for example, 70/30 or 60/40.

:: Be honest about any debts, if not with your partner than at least with yourself. Take responsibility for clearing them and keep on top of them.