Hiding debts from your partner

The burden of debt can affect people in a variety of ways. As well as straining your budget, it can also create anxiety which can affect your life in several serious ways.

One in ten people don’t believe they’ll ever be debt-free, and recent research has shown that one in seven people are hiding their debts from their partner.

51% of people interviewed said their reasons for hiding money worries were that they felt ‘ashamed’, and 46% admitted they were ‘scared of their partner’s reaction’.

Below we look at some of the reasons people may hide debts, what the consequences of poor debt management are and the best ways to get advice.

Why do people hide debts?

There are many reasons why people might choose to hide debts from the people closest to them, including guilt, shame or not wanting to burden their partner with extra stress. It may also be the case that the debt pre-dates the relationship and any revelations that come out may harm how a couple feels about each other. This could be particularly tricky when the subject of joint financial products like bank accounts, credit cards, bills, rental agreements or mortgages become a possibility.

Sometimes the reasons for debt may be more serious, for example, the result of gambling debts or other addictions. In these instances, hiding debts is only part of a bigger problem and means the causes of debt are less likely to be solved.

As well as hiding debts, there’s also evidence that couples will hide savings and earnings from each other. A recent survey showed that a third of couples have secret savings set aside in case they break up. 

What are the consequences of not dealing with debt?

Avoiding or hiding your debts is never a viable solution, not even in the short term. Missed repayments and the effects of compound interest can cause the debt to grow quickly and lenders will take necessary steps to reclaim what they are owed. In some instances, individuals may find themselves liable for debts incurred by their ex-partner, even if the debt was hidden from them.

Missed repayments or defaults will be recorded in your credit history and will make it more difficult to get access to credit in the future, including things like mobile phone contracts or direct debits for utility bills. If the situation becomes more serious you may have to deal with bailiffs or even court action, which could mean losing valuable possessions like your car or it could mean a creditor attempting to make you bankrupt. If you have a mortgage and do not keep up repayments, in severe cases, you may even lose your home.

Financial loss is not the only side effect of debt problems, the guilt and stress of hiding debts can also lead to mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

Where can you get help and advice on debt management?

There are various organisations and charities that exist to help people who are struggling to cope with their debts. These include websites that give practical advice on how to restructure or pay off your debts, experts on bankruptcy and also services that can help with mental health issues.

A good place to start is with Citizens Advice who have resources on their website and also have contact details for local branches where you can speak to an advisor about your situation. An alternative source is the Money Advice Service, which is an independent service, set up by the government. They offer free and impartial advice through a free phone line or via online chat. Similarly, the National Debtline offers online advice and independent opinions through a free phone service.

Both StepChange and the Debt Advice Foundation are charities that give advice on debt solutions, with practical steps and confidential, impartial advice.

If debt worries are causing you stress or anxiety, Martin Lewis and Money Saving Expert have information on how to cope with money worries.

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