Stop money problems wrecking your relationship
Anyone who has ever been in a relationship knows it can be hard work. There is a myriad of things to disagree about.
But forget squabbling over cleaning the house, picking up the kids or whose family to spend Christmas with – it's money, above all else, that is one of the main reasons why we fall out.
According to online loyalty scheme, ipoints.co.uk, nearly a third of us say we would consider breaking up over money issues.
Being able to talk about money openly is the surest way of preventing your finances from becoming a problem.
Dominic Rogers, a 43-year-old vet from Essex, discovered that his ex-wife Jean had been far from honest about how much debt she had been racking up on credit cards – the true sum was only revealed when the couple finally divorced.
"By the time we went to court 18 months later, she had £25,000 on credit cards and I estimate about £10,000 of that dated from when we were married."
Dominic also discovered that his wife had built up a considerable overdraft and had even cleared out her daughter's savings account.
Relationships expert and author of Cinderella Was a Liar, Brenda Della Casa, points out that while we check out our partner's views on all sorts of other matters, we often have no idea about how they handle their money.
"We look at such things as being attracted to each other, having similar values and getting on well, but not anything about finances," she says.
While of course you don't need to each put the same amount into your individual savings account every month to ensure future happiness, Della Casa does recommend sitting down with your loved one and going through your financial objectives and spending habits.
It might be embarrassing to list everything, but getting it out in the open will help you to compromise and learn from each other.
You might have different spending priorities – for example, women tend to spend a lot more than men on clothes and getting their hair done.
Though a husband may feel the amount spent is unnecessary, provided it doesn't interfere with the bigger financial picture, there's no reason for the wife to feel she has to hide these costs.
Frittering it away
On the other hand, if you're guilty of constantly frittering money away when you and your partner are supposed be saving together, it's worth trying to cut back a bit.
Della Casa says: "It's the same as if someone who's very neat lives with someone who's messy. The messy person will probably never be as tidy as the neat person would like, but they can still make an effort."
The focus, therefore, should be on working together. "If your partner has trouble budgeting or is spending to fulfil emotional needs, take steps to help them instead of simply getting angry," she advises.
As well as talking openly about money matters in general, you should definitely feel able to talk about your debt problems too. "You should expect to be told of financial health issues before saying "I do".
"If you're an emotional spender, have filed for bankruptcy or have excessive debt, you owe it to your partner to let them know," says Della Casa.
In 2005 former high-fliers John Sergel, 48, and wife Karen, 45, gave up their impressive salaries to take over a pub in mid Wales, but debt soon started to rack up.
"I thought John knew exactly what he was doing, so I got on with running the bar while he did the bookkeeping – only to find out that he wasn't doing it, and he wasn't paying any bills," says Karen.
The couple spent money decking out the pub – until Karen finally discovered there was a problem. John cited the many things he had to do when they first took over the pub as a reason for delaying the bookkeeping, and Karen left him to sort things out.
However, as John finally got to grips with the books, it emerged that Karen had a lot of personal debts too. A lack of communication on both sides had caused the debts to escalate further.
Karen ended up having to sell her home and eventually the couple divorced. "The sad truth is that most couples don't sit down and talk about their attitudes towards spending until it's too late," says Della Casa.
This was the case in recent episodes of BBC1 soap Eastenders. Usually preferring its storylines to revolve around outrageous affairs and 'whodunit' murders played out by panto baddies, the Branning family's debt troubles touch upon a more realistic (and prevalent) theme.
The recently reunited family were looking forward to a perfect Christmas together. But while Tanya was out Christmas shopping, husband Max was desperately trying to find thousands of pounds to pay off his debts.
Instead of telling his wife that he owed money, he preferred to keep it a secret from her in the hope that he could sort it out. He couldn't, and just a few days before Christmas the bailiffs came round with a court order and removed all their possessions. This was the final straw for Tanya.
You could argue that after all the couple has been through they could cope with a few money worries but, for Tanya, her husband's secrecy about their debts just underlined the fact that she couldn't trust him.
"When we go into a relationship, we trust our partner is looking after us," says Della Casa. The relationship expert adds that financial infidelity is one of the most common reasons for people seeking her advice.
Part of the reason John and Karen, as well as the fictional Max, wouldn't talk about their money troubles was they didn't want to upset their partners and risk ruining their relationships.
They thought they could handle the situation on their own – or perhaps were just in
denial. Although they were wrong to keep secrets, their partners should have been more proactive too.
"Instead of one party relying on the other to 'do it all', you should either take turns handling paying the bills and budgeting, or share the responsibilities," says Della Casa. She adds: "Place bills in a specified area of the home where both partners can look them over."
She also recommends getting regular credit reports. "Knowing there is no place in the closet to hide junk can make partners think twice before cheating financially." Blots on your credit report last six years, and this includes your partner's bad financial habits.
The only way to sever these ties is to notify one of the credit agencies (Experian, Equifax and CallCredit) and close any joint accounts you may have.
The advantage of a joint account is that both you and your partner have easy access to your money, making household bills and costs particularly easy to cover.
A lot of couples also each have individual current and/or savings accounts alongside the ones they share. This is especially useful for those expenses you don't share with your partner.
Unfortunately, there is sometimes no option other than to call on outside help. Money is a sensitive – and at times emotive – subject, and an IFA or, depending on your circumstances, debt counsellor or debt adviser, will bring a more pragmatic approach to fixing things.
|Top five financial reasons for breaking up with a partner|
|A partner spending too much||26%|
|A partner lying about their finances||20%|
|Different attitudes to money||18%|
|Bad spending habits - for example, gambling||11%|
|Source: online loyalty scheme, ipoints.co.uk,|
An overdraft is an agreement with your bank that authorises you to withdraw more funds from your account than you have deposited in it. Many banks charge for this privilege either as a fixed fee or charge interest on the money overdrawn at a special high rate. Some banks charge a fee and interest. And other banks offer a free overdraft but impose very high charges for exceeding the agreed limit of your overdraft.
A financial adviser who is not tied to any financial services company (such as a bank or insurance company) and is authorised by the Financial Services Authority (FSA). They can advise on financial products to suit your circumstances. All IFAs have to give consumers the choice of paying by fees or commission and have to explain which would best suit the customer in that particular instance. Also, if commission is paid either by the client or the financial service provider recommended by the IFA, the IFA must disclose what that commission is.
A report containing detailed information on a person’s credit history, a record of an individual’s (or company’s) past borrowing and repaying, including information about late payments and bankruptcy. It also includes all applications a person has made for financial products and whether they were rejected or accepted. Your credit report can be obtained by prospective lenders to determine your creditworthiness.
A person (or business) unable to pay the debts it owes creditors can either volunteer or be forced into bankruptcy – a legal proceeding where an insolvent person can be relieved of their financial obligations – but loses control over their bank accounts. Bankruptcy is not a soft option. Although it may wipe the financial slate clean, it is extremely harmful to a person’s credit rating (it will stay on your credit record for six years) and will adversely affect your future dealings with financial institutions. Bankruptcy costs £600 paid upfront.