At What Point Should You Talk About Money With Your Partner?

Every relationship has its hurdles. In order to make it for the long haul, at some point you have to be willing to talk about some uncomfortable topics: jealousy, intimacy, family, maybe even religion?

What about money?

Not the “Who’s paying for dinner tonight” kind of questions, but the more intimate “How much debt do you have” or “What’s your credit score” kind of inquiry. You may not want to bring those kinds of controversial topics up on the first (or second) date, but relationship experts say there comes a point in every relationship where it might be too late to talk about money matters in an honest way.

For a closer look at where couples in the U.K. share – and separate – finances with their significant others, Legal & General surveyed over 1,000 people living with their spouse or suitor. As they found, while many couples may be sharing a bank account (or are willing to), they might be avoiding some of the more personal (and sometimes difficult) conversations about currency. 

Joint Accounts

Among cohabiting couples, roughly 2 in 3 people polled by Legal & General have at least one joint account with their partner, though fewer than 1 in 3 exclusively have combined accounts with the person they live with. 

Overwhelmingly, 91% of couples who shared every account (checking, savings, and credit) with their significant other were already married and had been together an average of 23 years. 

Compared to couples with all of their money pooled together, just as many Brits (32%) keep all of their finances separate from that of their partner. Among those with no shared accounts, more than half (55%) were married and had been a couple for 11 years, on average. The general consensus among half of the partners keeping individual accounts is that they wouldn’t mind combining their finances with those of their significant other, though 15% indicated they wouldn’t want their partner spending all of their money. 

While less common, some live-in couples keep individual accounts but a joint account for mutual expenses where contributions are made based on how much each person earns (16%) or where contributions are completely equal (14%). 

Financial Pressure 

You may not know how or when to broach the conversation about money matters in the early stages in your relationship, but 45% of couples living together feel less stressed about money after they start sharing finances with their partner. More specifically, you might realise there are certain expenses you simply can’t afford without another person in your corner. Twenty-eight percent of people living with a significant other in their 20s and 21% of people in their 30s admitted they couldn’t afford to buy a house if they didn’t share finances with their partner. 

On the other hand, there’s more to your banking profile than the amount of money you make. 

Couples who keep individual accounts might be out of the loop on some major financial milestones in their partner’s life. Roughly 2 in 3 people couldn’t approximate their significant other’s credit score, followed by more than half who didn’t know their bank balance or PIN number. More than 1 in 3 couples keeping separate finances didn’t know how much money their partner had in savings or in debt. 

Even among couples where all of the accounts were joined together, 46% didn’t know their partner’s credit score, and 35% weren’t aware of their PIN number. 

Splitting Quid

When you’re living with someone and sharing expenses, a certain amount of transparency about your bread and honey is a necessity. If you ever break up with that person, you might wish you hadn’t been so forthcoming. 

Roughly 1 in 6 people who broke up with or divorced their partner acknowledged losing money (an average of £775) as a result of being in a joint account. Thankfully, if you want to keep better tabs on who owes what, there are apps that help sort out the sticky bits for you. More than 4 in 5 millennials living with their significant other use financial apps in general, followed by 75% of Gen Xers and more than half of baby boomers. Among them, 1 in 5 say using an app to manage their money has helped reduce the number of arguments they have over pounds and pence.