Do you know everything about your partner’s finances? Do you know what debts they have and what savings they’ve made? Are you sure?
Because seemingly endless pieces research suggest that a significant number of people hide spending, debts and savings from their partners.
In fact, a survey by Prudential last year showed that nearly a fifth of women had hidden savings, averaging £1,000.
And new research by the Co-operative Banking Group found that nearly two-thirds of people in relationships have debts, but more than one in 10 hides that debt from their partner.
Not only that, but a study from Debenhams Personal Finance concluded that more than more than a million people have a secret credit card so they can hide extravagant purchases from their loved ones.
Of course, it might insult you to find out that your partner has secret savings, but at least that won’t harm you financially; whereas secret debt can rip lives apart.
So how can you find out if your partner is a financial cheat, wracking up debts on the side and risking your credit rating with their spending?
Is your partner hiding something?
Last night, I tried a fairly straightforward approach to this issue, casually asking my husband: “Do you have a secret bank account? Or a loan or anything?”
He was startled and understandably fairly affronted – we’re always very open with each other about our finances.
Since we have a child and a mortgage, we use both joint and separate bank accounts, to make sure we have our own resources and a shared pot. We use shared spreadsheets to ensure we know exactly where our money is going and consult each other before making large purchases, even with our separate cash.
Asking whether or not he had a secret bank account was a bit like asking him whether or not he had a secret lover in Istanbul – it was just incredibly unlikely. But what are the warning signs for a financial cheat?
Signs your partner is a financial cheat
There are hundreds of sad stories online that show secret debt can destroy relationships and even mental health.
A search for ‘secret debt’ on Yahoo! Answers shows that there are plenty of people whose lives are falling apart because of a lack of financial honesty.
Take ‘Gem’. She discovered her boyfriend’s debts were even more considerable than she had thought: “I don't understand how his debt has doubled. He claims it's because he needed to buy a new laptop and car insurance. He then tried to blame me, saying I really wanted to go on holiday and he couldn't let me down - even though I am paying for myself!”
Reading through these cautionary tales, there are some common warning signs that all is not well.
- Your partner receives letters they squirrel away rather than open in front of you
- They receive letters from banks you thought they didn’t have accounts with
- You notice new purchases but they always play down the cost
- Your joint account has large withdrawals that your partner struggles to account for
- They seem distant and worried but won’t discuss why
Recovering the relationship – and the money!
By the time you’re seeing warning signs, it’s potentially too late. Your partner may already be wrestling with dreadful money worries and feeling under immense pressure.
The sooner you start talking, the better. Tell your partner you’re concerned and give them an opportunity to admit there’s a problem.
Do your best to avoid being judgemental – if you want to make the relationship work then you need truthful answers so you can help them find a path out of debt, and rebuild the relationship.
Having said that, if you think your other half is an ongoing financial risk or just generally dishonest then be cautious about spending too much of your own money bailing them out. You don’t want to find yourself with no money and no partner.
Respect your partner’s privacy
Of course, none of this is to say that you should be combing through your other half’s bank statements or checking their receipts.
Even in a close relationship with lots of shared financial obligations, each partner needs a certain amount of privacy; it’s okay to have some secrets.
Maybe they’re saving up for an engagement ring; maybe they want the security of some personal savings. Maybe they’re worried you’d blow their money on something frivolous.
But if you can get over the British taboo of talking about money and start communicating more openly with your other half, you reduce the chances they are hiding something from you.
Are you keeping a financial secret from your partner? Do you hide savings or is a debt that’s upsetting you? Share your experiences and thoughts with other readers in the comments below.