8 Financial Red Flags To Look Out for in a Partner

Congratulations – you’ve met “The One” and have made the decision to spend the rest of your lives together. But before you commit yourself to that, it might be a good idea to take a step back and have “the talk” with your partner.

In this guide, we’ll explore common financial red flags to watch out for and provide tips for you to navigate them.

Here are some red flags to look out for

1. Refusing to talk about money… ever

We get it — talking about finances isn’t everyone’s favourite thing to do. But it is one thing to dread financial discussions, and a whole other thing if the person you’re about to share your life with refuses to share anything about their finances.

If you’re going to share your life with someone, it’s important that you both know what you’re bringing to the table and how you can save for the future you want to build together.

Try your best to create a safe space where they feel like they can open up, especially if their reluctance is because they’re ashamed of their income or savings. If they’re resistant for a long period of time, then you may want to take a step back and try other approaches. Having a discussion about your finances is paramount, so be sure to settle this before you commit to building a future together.

Read more: Managing Money as a Couple

2. Mismatched financial priorities

It is perfectly normal to have differences when it comes to where your money goes. However, if you’re going to get married, you need to find common ground. Having an agreement on how much of your combined income goes into essentials like the mortgage is vital in the early stages of marriage.

If your financial priorities are not aligned, it can create tension and conflict in your relationship, particularly if you and your partner have very different views on how money should be spent, saved, or invested.

Take the time to discuss your individual financial goals and values openly and honestly. Explore ways to compromise and find common ground, such as creating a joint vision for your financial future. Be sure to find the middle ground before you get slapped with major life decisions and bills from every corner.

Read more: How to Invest as a Couple In Singapore

3. Irregular income and unpredictable financial behaviour

Whether your partner’s income fluctuates due to freelancing, commission-based work, or seasonal employment, or if there are frequent fluctuations in spending habits without apparent cause, it’s essential to address these issues openly and constructively. Frequent ups and downs may indicate a lack of financial planning, discipline, or reluctance to address underlying issues. 

Start by understanding the underlying reasons for irregular income or unpredictable financial behaviour. Is it due to fluctuations in employment opportunities, inconsistent work hours, or impulsive spending habits? By identifying the root causes, you can better address the issue together.

4. Unwillingness to manage and reduce debt

We’re surrounded by consumerism and credit everywhere we turn today, and debt is something that many fall prey to. With interest rates as high as 24% per annum on overdue credit card spending, your unpaid credit card bill would double in three years.

Even if your partner pays off the minimum amount required to be paid on each credit card bill, that’s still insufficient. That amount refers only to the interest incurred, and paying that sum each month doesn’t help to reduce the size of the overall debt.

Don’t get us wrong — we’re not saying you have to walk away from someone you love because they’re in debt. It’s okay to marry someone in debt, but you’d want to make sure that they are willing to make adjustments to pay off their debt eventually. When you marry someone in debt, there may be potential problems like getting rejected for mortgage loans for your home purchases. Many also end up having to help their partner in their snowballing debt repayments. 

The key here is being able to acknowledge the wrongdoing, and take steps to make amends and not repeat it. 

Read more: How successful couples save money together

5. Resistance to budgeting

Resistance to budgeting is another red flag that may indicate issues with financial responsibility. Without a budget to guide financial decisions, it is unlikely that your partner will be able to achieve his or her long-term financial goals, and may thus miss out on future opportunities for growth and advancement. The lack of budgeting may even leave you and your partner vulnerable to financial crisis.

Set aside dedicated time to create a joint budget and regularly review your financial progress together. By setting clear financial goals and holding each other accountable, you can overcome resistance to budgeting and strengthen your financial partnership.

6. Unequal financial contributions

We live in 2024, so we’re definitely not saying that the man (or the woman), or even the higher earner between you shoulder all the expenses incurred. But a relationship is about commitment and contribution between two people.

If your partner constantly tries to wriggle out of expenses, or frequently comes up with reasons to avoid paying for things, then it’s probably enough cause for concern.

Think about it — should this behaviour continue into marriage, will you end up having to foot the bill for your expenditure, from big ticket items like home renovation and furniture, to smaller things like groceries and utilities? Will that end up leaving you with little to no savings, and be caught out in a helpless position should things go south?

Have an open and honest conversation about your financial expectations and contributions as a couple. Discuss how you will split expenses, manage joint accounts, and make financial decisions together. 

Read more: You Make More Money Than Your Husband. What Now?

7. Your partner is secretive about where their money is going

The whole point of having a discussion about money is so there is transparency and honesty. This chat, however, might raise some question marks. You may find some gaps in the money they make, the amount of savings they claim to have and their spending habits.

Unless your partner is running a business with irregular income, this discrepancy and secrecy could well be a red flag. They might be hiding their debt, have spending problems, or in some cases – dating someone else at the same time (it can happen!). If your partner is being exceptionally secretive, be sure to address this red flag before you progress any further.

8. No emergency funds or savings plan

If your partner is always enjoying nice vacations and meals, splurging on fancy cars and pricey things like luxury goods or jewellery, you may want to make sure they’re planning for the long term too. It’s important to be on the same page as to whether such a lifestyle is sustainable.

If your partner has no savings or investments, this will no doubt affect your future together, especially if either of you lose your job or if a health emergency occurs. So be sure to look out for such habits and make sure you’re both saving, investing and planning financially for the future.

Navigating financial red flags

Addressing these red flags now is a great way to look out for your relationship and future. You’d be surprised how much money affects relationships. The key is to start the conversation even before you start planning for the wedding.

1. Initiate honest conversations

  • Start by initiating honest and open conversations about your financial concerns and goals.
  • Create a safe and non-judgmental space where both partners feel comfortable discussing their financial situation.

2. Set shared financial goals

  • Work together to identify shared financial goals that align with your values and priorities as a couple.
  • Establish clear objectives for saving, investing, debt reduction, and long-term planning.

3. Plan for the future

  • Discuss your long-term aspirations and develop a plan for achieving them together, such as establishing a joint budget and building an emergency fund
  • Consider factors such as homeownership, starting a family, retirement planning, and other major life milestones.

Read more: Marriage & Money: What Insurance Should We Look at as a Couple?

4. Seek professional guidance if needed

  • Consider seeking guidance from a financial advisor to help you navigate complex financial issues.

5. Practise transparency and accountability

  • Maintain transparency in your financial dealings and hold each other accountable for financial commitments.
  • Regularly review your financial progress together and make adjustments as needed to stay on track.

6. Support each other through challenges

  • Be supportive and understanding during challenging financial times, offering encouragement and assistance when needed.
  • Work together as a team to overcome obstacles and find creative solutions to financial problems.

7. Celebrate milestones and achievements

  • Celebrate financial milestones and achievements as a couple, no matter how big or small.
  • Recognise and appreciate each other’s contributions to your financial success, fostering a sense of partnership and mutual respect.

The more transparency there is, the less room there is for misunderstandings and financial issues in the marriage. Just as you will ask a prospective employer questions and consider whether a job is suitable for you, you should also deliberate carefully before committing the rest of your life to another person. After all, marriage is arguably an even bigger decision. These are must-have considerations so do have these talks before you say “I do”!

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