Press release: UK couples' financial secrets revealed

6 February 2015

  • One in ten married UK adults has an ‘escape fund’ in case they want to leave
  • 13% have a ‘secret stash of cash’ their spouse doesn’t know about
  • The average couple has 39 arguments about money per year

Opinions are divided as to whether it is acceptable for couples to have secrets in a relationship, but new research from the Money Advice Service has revealed that when it comes to finances, some are pulling the wool over their partner’s eyes.

The research, carried out amongst 2,000 UK adults in a serious relationship*, has shown that nearly a quarter of married couples (24%) say their partner would be ‘upset, angry or surprised’ if they knew the true state of their finances. Here’s why:

Secret Cash Stash

Many admit they are less than truthful with their spouse when it comes to their actual bank balance. Nearly one in seven (13%) married UK adults has a secret ‘stash of cash’ which their partner doesn’t know about and a further 15% have previously had a secret stash.

While most (41%) cited ‘financial independence’ as the reason for keeping their money secret, 38% were worried that their partner would want to spend the money if they knew about it. One in five (20%) kept their cash on the quiet as they wanted to be sure their partner didn’t just like them for their money.

Escape Funds

The research uncovered the surprising prevalence of ‘escape funds’ – a sum of money hidden from a partner, specifically intended to allow them to have the financial means to leave the relationship. The research found that one in ten (9%) married adults in the UK admitted they currently have one, while an additional 14% said they had one previously. The average escape fund was found to be around £7,500.

Secret Debt

Although hidden stashes of money are likely to cause issues within a relationship, the repercussions of heavy debt can have a more serious and negative impact. Nearly a third of UK adults (30%) have been with a partner who they later found out was in serious debt. One in five (18%) admitted that they have hidden their own debts from their partner.

Impact of partner’s finances

In many cases, UK adults are suffering the effects of poor financial decisions made by their partner. Twenty-two per cent of those who have been in a relationship for at least a year say that they have been impacted by their partner’s financial decisions. One in eight (12%) pointed to the fact that their credit rating had been damaged by the actions of a partner – rising to one in five (19%) for those aged 25-34.

Responding to the findings, Nick Hill, a money expert at the Money Advice Service, says:

“We like to think that the person we choose to share our life with will always be honest with us but our research shows that, even for married couples, this may not be the case. It may be upsetting to find out your partner is hiding money from you, but finding out they are in significant debt could be much worse with consequences for your own finances.

“The important thing to take away from this research is that finances shouldn’t be a taboo subject. It is vital to talk about your financial position as soon as you feel comfortable, ideally before you become financially connected with your partner. If you are planning to share bills such as rent or a mortgage, make sure you are clear about how these are split. If either party fails to pay their share, this could impact both of your credit ratings in the future.

“There is a wealth of advice available on the Money Advice Service website to offer advice and help couples manage their money more effectively. You could also work through our budget planner together – a great opportunity to start a conversation about your finances.”

According to Corinne Sweet, Psychologist and Psychotherapist, and author of Stop Fighting About Money:

“Talking about money is often still a taboo for couples as it evokes feelings of vulnerability and dependency. Many couples hide their true money status as they need to control the power in the relationship. Having money secrets, or a secret escape stash, is likely a way of showing that you have doubts about the relationship.

“The biggest challenge in a relationship is establishing openness and transparency, and that takes trust, effort and time. It is fairly essential to get your ‘money baggage’ out in the open at the start of the relationship, and try and clear up any nasty (or nice) surprises as you go along as secrecy can eat away at the infrastructure of a relationship. Even if you chose not to be completely honest with your partner, be as honest as you can with yourself, because only then will you achieve happiness in relationships and life.”

Five Tops Tips from Corrine Sweet on talking money with your partner

  • Strive to voice your beliefs about money as early on in the relationship as you can, to avoid misunderstandings building up.
  • If you are secretive about money, ask yourself why? Are you protecting yourself? What is it you don’t trust in your partner?
  • Relationships need some mutually agreed ground rules about money – these can be re-negotiated as you go along.
  • If you have unequal incomes or assets, try and work out ways of paying for things that reflect this: for example a 70/30 or a 60/40 split.
  • If you have debts, try and be honest about it (at least with yourself). Take full responsibility for clearing them and keep on top of them.

**To find out more about money and relationships, visit moneyadviceservice.org.uk

-ENDS-

NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. *Research conducted by One Poll for The Money Advice Service in January 2015 amongst 2,000 UK adults who are either married or have been in a relationship for at least one year. The survey was conducted online.
  2. **Specific articles include:
    Your financial position in a new relationship
    Should you manage money jointly or separately?
    Talking about money with your partner
    Budget planner

About the Money Advice Service

The Money Advice Service is an independent organisation. It gives free, unbiased money advice online at moneyadviceservice.org.uk, over the phone on 0300 500 5000, and face-to-face right across the UK. The Service was set up by Government and is paid for by a statutory levy on the financial services industry, raised through the Financial Conduct Authority. Its statutory objectives are to enhance the understanding and knowledge of members of the public about financial matters (including the UK financial system); and to enhance the ability of members of the public to manage their own financial affairs.

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