We are really bad at talking to our loved ones about money. Really bad. In fact, we would rather talk to our partners about our dating history than our finances, even in long-term relationships.
But as the cost of living crisis continues, that lack of openness could start to cause real trouble.
A new study carried out by Capitol One shows that it takes 18 months for people to open up to a new partner about their finances, including savings and debts. But it only takes 11 months for them to start talking about their exes.
For some people, the taboo over talking about money never goes away – 45% of people in committed relationships said they were uncomfortable talking about money.
In fact, some go to extremes to conceal their finances. One in 20 people don’t know how much their partner earns and one in seven say they have hidden at least one purchase from their other half.
The trouble is, as the economic situation continues to put pressure on all of us, many households will find their budgets really stretched.
Some will find their finances stretched beyond breaking point – the StepChange debt charity says that there’s a rise in the number of people citing rising prices as the reason they are trapped in the red.
That puts a lot of pressure on a relationship, so now is the time to talk to your partner about your finances – including any debts you may have and what your shared goals are.
Here are our top tips...
Don’t wait until you’re moving in together to start the discussion, it’s important to know where you stand before you’re at the point of sharing bills.
You don’t want to surprise someone with your debts and you definitely don’t want to be surprised by theirs.
Go in easy
You could start with easier conversations like long-term financial goals, or whether you’re a saver or a spender, which will give you more information and make it feel more normal to discuss finances.
Read more: Bills: What to do if you can't pay them
This is really hard because no one wants to look bad in front of the person that they love. But if there’s a financial problem in your life like debt you are working to clear or a credit card you’re struggling with, then a long-term partner may need to know.
And if you’ve worked hard to start a conversation about your finances then you don’t want to then mislead them. So in most cases, it’s a good idea to be honest and also ask for honesty back.
Here’s a really important note though – if you don’t feel safe being honest then ignore the rest of these tips and go straight to number 10.
Accept your partner may be different
People have different attitudes to money and they can run very deep and be rooted in our early childhood experiences. It may be that your partner has a fundamentally different attitude to finances than you – and they may not be willing to change.
If they aren’t, then you need to think about whether you can live with that, or if it’s something that will cause so much tension that the relationship simply won’t work.
Make a budget
Drawing up a budget is the single most useful thing anyone can do for their own finances. If you’re living with a partner and sharing bills then drawing up a household budget can help smooth out any financial difficulties.
If you know how much you’re both contributing to the running costs and you know what your bills are, then you can also see how much you have to spend on things like food.
That can avoid arguments but also avoid one partner feeling like they are paying too much and building resentment.
Set shared financial goals
Do you have long-term goals as a couple? Maybe you want to buy a home together or take a holiday or budget for a baby one day?
Discussing those goals as shared financial commitments lets you talk openly and positively about your finances and commit to paying down debt or even making some shared savings.
Build financial resilience together
We are in a tough economic time and rapidly rising prices and bills could continue for a few more months yet. So if you can build a financial safety net together through some savings then you will be better placed to get through it.
It will also take some of a stress out of your finances, which may mean less stress on your relationship, so it’s two kinds of resilience.
Read more: How to save money: 22 easy cost-cutting tips
Just like in all other parts of your relationship, you will have boundaries when it comes to sharing your finances.
And just like in all other parts of your relationship, it’s important to say clearly what those boundaries are and not to be pressured into giving up more independence than you want to.
For example, it’s very common to want to keep your own current account private. In that case, you might decide to share a joint account for bills. Talking honestly about this is key to successfully managing your finances as a couple.
Share the load
It’s quite common for one half of a couple to take charge of the household finances and for some people that might work well. But it can put a strain on the person who has to manage all the bills and leave the other partner feeling that they don’t have any oversight or control.
So it’s a good idea to both know what’s going in and coming out. That also means you’re not leaving one partner stuck if the other was, for example, rushed to hospital
But if your partner is abusive...
...then ignore all of the above advice. These are good tips for most people getting ready to manage their finances together. However, it’s important to acknowledge that some people are in abusive relationship and this may not be safe advice to follow.
If that’s you, then there’s a lot of guidance and advice online. Financial abuse is part of coercive control, it’s illegal and both emotional and practical support is out there.