Nearly half of UK couples tell money lies to their partner

This was the conclusion of research published last week by the Money Advice Service. Having asked 2,000 couples across the UK about their money habits, they found that 45% admit they aren’t always honest with their partner about their earnings and spending. In Wales the figure is marginally lower, with 41% admitting that they lie about money. Strikingly, 12% of respondents in Wales lie about their income, with some people overstating their income whilst others understate it. Being honest about spending, now that’s another matter entirely; 24% of people admit to lying here.

Reflecting on this, I think about what I see and hear when I am out and about. I recently delivered some training to front line staff on financial inclusion awareness. My sessions are designed to get people to talk about money and how they manage it, before they talk about others habits and behaviours. It’s not at all unusual to hear people joking about telling their partner that they saved money by buying items ‘half price in the sales’. For some, it’s almost a rite of passage for young people settling down together for the first time – a culturally acceptable white lie. Others talk of how they struggle to reign in their partners’ spending, or at least the spending that they are told about.

Whilst this all sounds a bit bleak, the flip side is that as a society most people seem to get there in the end (although I accept entirely that this is not always the case). People find ways to manage the situation, doing this in a number of ways. Sometimes they simply operate separate financial systems, each paying specific bills, or splitting the cost of household spending. Others manage their money together and tolerate each other’s money behaviours.

Having worked with credit unions for many years, I have noticed that there is a significant contingent of ‘secret savers’ out there. I couldn’t put a figure on it, but the stories are compelling. Saving without telling their partner so that things many of us take for granted became affordable. Often it was for children’s expenses; school trips, shoes or days out. I also noticed the extent to which credit unions are willing to support people in a situation where they had little financial control, offering advice and practical support. Those people were frequently women who had to manage on a restricted budget and sometimes within a complicated set of family relationships, domestic abuse or violence being part of the equation.

So, where do we go from here? The Money Advice Service offers helpful advice on broaching the tricky money conversation. You might find this information useful personally or to pass on to someone you know.

Secondly, please consider supporting your local credit union. You can do this in a number of ways but saving with them regularly, so that they can drive their ethical lending business forward is a great starting point. Beyond providing a return to savers they offer support to those that are struggling with managing their money, whether it’s a secret or not.

Katija Dew is the National Financial Inclusion Champion for Wales

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