By Lee Hancox, 12 April 2021
Overall, 40% of respondents in serious relationships admitted to hiding a cheque, savings or credit account from their partners, and 11% confessed to secret debt. Money is known to be one of the most divisive topics for couples. That is why it is critical to have courageous conversations and set shared money values and goals together. But getting started isn’t always easy.
Lee Hancox, Head of Channel and Segment Marketing at Sanlam, says, “A first step to start the conversation is financial openness. Couples should agree upfront on how much of the finances are to be integrated or separated, based on their unique circumstances and relationship. Before taking any action, consider any unintended consequences that may arise later. Openness and honesty, whatever the circumstances are, are key.”
Millennials seem especially reluctant to be open. Janet Winterbourne, a relationship counsellor, says this could be due to their more individuated approach to money. Older couples, on the other hand, may have established their relationship construct 20 or 30 years ago, based on a prior socio-economic framework, where roles and equality between couples were different.
She adds that an individual approach is completely fine, providing partners are honest with each other, “Finances can be a personal matter. Some people, if they fulfil their monetary obligations within a relationship, don’t feel the need to share their entire financial situation.
“However, it’s worrying if a lack of trust is causing one partner not to open up to the other. Or if a person is using deception to hide financial mismanagement, due to embarrassment.” This ties into the poll findings, which revealed that 30% of participants confessed to spending more than their partners would be comfortable with.
There are of course exceptions to the norm, but there are often subtle signs to look out for to sense whether your partner is playing open or closed cards when it comes to finances. These are also useful tips to measure our own thoughts and behaviour against. Here, Hancox shares some of these:
If you do spot these signs, it’s more important than ever to initiate a courageous conversation with your partner to align your financial goals and values. This can be difficult if trust has been lost. Here are Hancox’s tips for getting back on track.
“As soon as you enter a serious relationship, have the conversation with each other, understand the different attitudes towards money, get onto the same page with spending habits and dig deeper into each other’s backgrounds. Consider involving a financial adviser to give you a solid foundation and road map to work from.
“Practise being open about your financial situation as this is crucial to
successful financial planning. Your plan is only as good as the information that you provide to your financial adviser, and, if there are things that are not disclosed, this impacts the accuracy of the plan and the eventual outcome,” concludes Hancox.