Inspiration

How to protect yourself financially when you start living with a new partner

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Over the past ten years, I’ve met many women (and men) struggling with an unwelcome STD received from a once-loving partner. It happened because they felt awkward raising a subject that could dampen the mood—it felt ‘dirty’ to talk about—and as a result, they’re living with the financial anxieties of sexually transmitted debt.

How do you catch a sexually transmitted debt?

Catching a sexually transmitted debt is not limited to those falling foul of the notorious online dating scams (although that’s one sure way of losing money). Financial STDs often appear much more innocuous. For example, you may agree to take out a mobile phone plan for your partner in your name. When they can’t, or don’t, make repayments, you get the debt.

It can happen from oversights too. My client Christine had been in a de facto relationship with Gary for many years. They’d bought a house and were chipping away at a hefty mortgage when Gary died suddenly. As if that wasn’t shock enough, Christine then learned Gary’s superannuation payout was going to his long-estranged wife. Not only had he not formally divorced her, Gary hadn’t changed his superannuation nomination! The substantial super he’d built went to his ex, leaving Christine with their mortgage debt. If only they had talked…

How to protect against sexually transmitted debt

Love has a way of dulling our alertness. The single most effective way of avoiding sexually transmitted debt is to use protection, always.  Here are 10 tips to protect yourself financially when you start living with someone:

  1. Talk money matters. In the first flush of a new relationship, it’s natural to focus on what makes your heart flipflop but money issues can cause the most lasting damage. Research shows money is the number one cause of arguments. Find out, sooner rather than later, about values and goals, spending styles (there are ‘savers’ and ‘spenders’), what you both have and owe. Make it hard to financially cheat one another by regularly sharing and updating this information.
  2. While I encourage you to eyeball one another’s bank or credit card statements, never share logon details.
  3. Don’t go rushing into joint bank accounts, joint credit cards, co-signing loans or guaranteeing a payment plan for your partner. You can be held liable for these commitments.
  4. Be involved in financial decision-making. Discuss, be informed, speak up and be prepared to stand your ground if you don’t agree. Don’t ever defer to your partner to make all the decisions.
  5. Organise to see a financial adviser for an annual financial health check-up.
  6. Maintain your own ‘emergency fund’. This is yours and only yours. It’s a sum of backup money that you can use if the relationship goes sour and you need ‘out’, or you lose your job and still have bills to pay (or there’s a ridiculous sale on shoes you just must have!).
  7. Ensure you both have appropriate personal insurances (such as income protection, life insurance, trauma and total and permanent disability). Injury or illness may stop your partner working. Why ‘keep’ your partner at your financial expense when insurances are there to provide cover?
  8. Update your superannuation nomination for a death benefit payout. Don’t overlook this like Christine and Gary did.
  9. If you do wind up buying a home together, know the difference between ‘joint tenants’ and ‘tenants in common’. When tenants in common, your share passes to the person of your choice as per the Will. It doesn’t have to be your life partner. Likewise, your partner’s share doesn’t necessarily come to you (This is particularly fraught if your partner has children from a previous relationship and dies, leaving their share of your home to the kids, not you).
  10. Update your Will to ensure your personal wealth is protected. This is particularly important if you have children from a previous relationship.

Above all, remember, a man is not a financial plan.

About Helen Baker

helenb@thebusinesswomanmedia.com'

Helen Baker is a qualified Australian financial adviser and author of On Your Own Two Feet: Steady Steps to Women’s Financial Independence. Her latest book is On Your Own Two Feet Divorce: Your Survive and Thrive Financial Guide. Proceeds from the books’ sales are donated to charities supporting disadvantaged women. Visit www.onyourowntwofeet.com.au

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