Have a nosey at your partner's finances!
Emma Roberts uncovers how having a nosey at your partner's finances can save your own.
You jet away on blissful holidays together, share snug evenings on the sofa and spend hours chatting about everything under the sun.
Every topic that is, except one subject that is the ultimate romantic taboo; finance.
Yes, it seems muttering the word ‘finance’ to your partner kills the romantic flame as quickly as an industrial sized fire extinguisher, leaving a smouldering awkward silence behind.
With online banking only a few convenient clicks away, we no longer have to trudge to the bank to deal with our money, meaning more and more couples are left in the dark about their partner’s finances.
Of course, you might feel happy to be oblivious to your partner’s financial habits - after all it’s none of your business right?
But the worrying thing is, being left in the cold about your partner’s finances could freeze your own.
What’s mine is yours
So, you think you’ve met your dream partner, the ying to your yang, your soul mate, and the last thing on your mind is their financial history.
Things are going so well, you decide to move in together and, naturally, you think it’s the best idea to open a joint bank account to deal with your household bills.
But before you promptly prove your love in plastic, you should know that any joint application for credit, a loan, a mortgage or a joint bank account creates a financial association between the two of you that will appear on your credit report.
This means that all their monetary antics will affect your credit rating.
That’s great if you know that they’re a saint with their cash but if they have, or proceed to get, a poor credit rating this will bring yours down too.
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What’s more, once you’re financially associated with each other, you become ‘jointly and severally liable for repayments' on any joint debts.
In short, you’re both equally responsible for repaying any bills or debts you have taken out together and if your partner fails to keep up their half of the payments, guess who’ll be chased for 100% of it?
So the best thing to do is to sit down and have a real discussion about their money situation before you make any joint financial commitments.
Another option is to consider keeping your finances separate, so you won’t be financially associated with each other.
The only problem with this is, you’ll be more likely to be kept in the dark about your partner’s spending habits.
If you're worried about your credit rating, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial with Experian through lovemoney.com (this will allow you to access your report for free - but if you don't want to pay a monthly subscription charge, remember to cancel before the 30-day trial is over). Alternatively, you can get your credit report for £2 from Equifax, CallCredit and Experian.
Sadly, financial problems are one of the main causes of divorce in the UK, with many couples arguing over varying spending habits and mounting debt. The problem is that many couples fail to effectively communicate with each other about their finances, building up tension and anger.
To avoid this, couples should take time to talk calmly about their joint financial situation, perhaps setting spending ground rules. The key is being honest and setting realistic expectations of each other.
And if you’re seriously struggling with your debt, don't just ignore it. There are plenty of free independent debt advisory services such as Citizens Advice, National Debtline, the Consumer Credit Counselling Service, Payplan and Advice UK who will be able to provide guidance on a range of options to help you sort out your debt problems, and you won't have to pay anything for this advice.
If you’re an older couple who happily chat openly about your money, then you’ve probably already started discussing your financial retirement plan.
If you've left your pension planning to the eleventh hour, find out how to catch up quick.
Yet, according to a survey by Prudential, 32% of couples aged 40 and above say they don’t know or understand the details of their partner’s retirement savings.
More than a fifth said they haven’t even mentioned financial planning for their retirement with their partners.
This is seriously risky, as the longer you leave discussing your financial plans for retirement, the harder it’ll be to get a decent plan further along down the line.
Again, communication is your lifeline here, so start talks early so you’re not caught out later on.
The truth is, it’s essential that you discuss your finances with your partner, as ignorance on this matter really won’t be bliss.