Money can be a real source of tension in a relationship and financial stress is a common reason couples call it quits, according to Relationships Australia. That’s why it’s important to find out if your partner is a financial dud sooner rather than later.
I often joke that you should ask someone what their credit score is on the first date – just pop that question in at some stage between entrée and dessert. Anything over 700, and they would probably be considered a good catch but if it’s less than 500 then it should set off alarm bells.
Okay, I admit asking for a credit score on the first date may be a little extreme, but you should at the very least have a few casual money conversations early on to make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to finances. Try asking them something like,
“What would you do if you won a million dollars?” Their answer can give you an idea of what they value and whether they’re a spender or a saver.
So, if they answer, “First-class tickets to Las Vegas, a Mercedes-Benz convertible and a Ducati,” then you know you’re dealing with a spender. Paying attention to your partner’s spending habits can also give you an insight into their attitude towards money. If they are always splurging and need to have the latest of everything, for example, that is also a clue that they’re a spender.
You might find, though, that the red flags start to appear a little later as your relationship becomes more serious. Here are some of the signs to watch out for:
- • They always run out of money before payday.
- • They whack everything on their credit card.
- • They constantly need to borrow money (and never pay it back).
- • They are secretive when it comes to talking about money.
So, what should you do if you think you’re with a financial dud? Even if your partner is showing signs of being a financial dud, it doesn’t mean the relationship is doomed and that you should immediately dump them.
Here are my tips on what to do if your partner is bad with money.
Talk about money
No, I don’t mean going in all guns blazing and accusing your partner of having terrible money habits! It is, however, time to take your money conversations to the next level. Set up a few fiscal date nights. Bring a bottle of wine, sparkling mineral water or whatever it takes for you two to get into a money mood and start talking. If you want to have some real fun with it you can theme your dates. Try these three themed date nights out for size:
Don’t panic! I’m not talking about confessing to how many sexual partners you’ve had, but rather being open about how much debt each of you is carrying, how the debt came about and, if it’s not under control, what is the plan to pay it off?
Apple pie night
On apple pie night the focus is on how you intend to manage your expenses – how do you share the apple pie? Will you share a bank account? A joint account can make joint payments such as mortgage, rent and other bills easier to manage but you may also choose to have separate accounts for savings or personal spending. What if one of you earns substantially more than the other? Do you work on a percentage of your salary to put towards your bills rather than splitting everything 50/50?
Role play night
Not what you’re thinking but it can be just as much fun. Some of the questions you may want to put on the table include: “What would you do if you won millions?”, “If your mate Robert asked you for $5000, would you give it to him?” and “If you had to rate yourself on a scale from one to 1000 – 1000 meaning you’re great at handling money – what would your score be?” you may even ask them to find out how they actually score by getting them to check their credit score.
There are a number of websites that give you access to your credit score free of charge including creditsavvy.com.au, getcreditscore.com.au, clearscore.com.au, canstar.com.au and wisrcredit.com.au.
Set financial goals
You can think of this as a fourth themed fiscal date night – goal night. Identify what’s important to both of you and then put plans in place to reach your goals. Group them into immediate (under one year), short term (one to three years), medium term (three to five years) and long term (five years or more). One thing to remember: Even though it’s great to be working towards a shared objective you shouldn’t forget your individual goals.
Have regular money dates during the year
You’ve gotten to know more about each other’s attitudes about money and set joint goals so it’s all smooth sailing from here, right? Hate to break it to you, but no. You need to check in with each other on a fairly regular basis to stay on top of things and make sure everything is on track. This might be monthly or quarterly but you don’t want it to be too long between money dates. You can check in about how things have been going, re-evaluate your goals and discuss any major upcoming expenses.
Get help if you need it
If your finances are keeping you up at night then don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re struggling to pay the bills or your debt is out of control, consider talking to a financial counsellor.
Get in touch with the National Debt Helpline at 1800 007 007 or visit ndh.org.au to find a branch near you. If you and your partner are fighting about money it can be a good idea to look into relationship counselling. The Relationships Australia website, relationships.org.au, can be a great starting point.
The difference between a financial dud and financial abuse
It’s one thing for your partner to be bad with money, but if they control all the household spending, try to stop you from working or force you to get loans you don’t want, you may be experiencing economic abuse. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one in six women and one in 13 men experienced partner financial abuse in the 2021-2022 financial year.
National domestic, family and sexual violence counselling service 1800RESPECT says sometimes you might not even be aware that it is happening because people who control others financially can often convince you that their way of “managing” money is for the best, or they may convince you that you don’t know how to manage money.
If you want a better understanding of what financial abuse is, what it feels like, and the steps to take if you want to reach out for support, check out the Financial Abuse Support Toolkit at 1800respect.org.au. You can also contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or via the online chat.