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6 signs your partner is a bad money match - and how to avoid 'sexually transmitted debt'

Money can break a relationship, but a partner can also break your bank.

Money is make or break. From new relationships you’re trying to sanity check, to existing ones that give a niggling feeling you’re in financially too deep, money is the underlying reason for many problems.

Money, or financial strife, is behind many divorces. Nearly half of Aussies (45 per cent) who have experienced financial stress in the past year reported it placed a strain on their relationship, according to a study by, while one in four admitted it led to talk of breaking up.

But when it comes to making money, hooking up with and then hooking up your finances with someone can be a fabulous financial strategy. The power of two people on the same money page is far greater than their individual potential.

Compilation image of a pile of money with a rip through it and a headshot of Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon in the left corner in a circle frame
Money is a key factor behind many divorces and separations. (Source: Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon/Getty) (Samantha Menzies)

So, how can you work out if you are a money match or not? Here are the six signs your relationship might be financially bad for you.

Bad sign 1: New things just show up

Surveying someone’s spending habits doesn’t have to be invasive. You can observe how much they might spend based on what they bring home or get delivered to the door. How often do they appear in new clothes or with new things? And how much – if you don’t know – might they earn? Does their spending seem responsible or does it look like impending debt danger?


Also by Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon:

Remember, sexually transmitted debt – the financial STD – affects you too, especially if you combine finances and/or want to get loans down the line.

Here’s a big hulking hint…

Bad sign 2: They drive a car they cannot afford

Cars – usually – do nothing but drive your finances backwards. Rarely are they a smart use of money because they almost always fall in value, and that goes doubly if you borrow to buy them.

Maybe just ask outright, if the wheels look too flashy for the available wealth: "Do you have finance on this?" It’s a chunk out of your partner’s salary each and every time.

Bad sign 3: You pay more than your fair share

Think about how your finances have changed since you’ve been loved up. Now, in the first flush of a fling, you are likely to spend more – you may be going out and going away. Down the track, you might be happy to cheaply (Netflix and) chill.

But are you constantly footing the bill? Is there always a short-term cashflow issue they need your help with? Everyone has their tight times but, for it to not drag you down, these need to be feasibly short term.

Bad sign 4: There’s a secret bank account or ‘skimming off the top’

An escape fund is a sure sign a person is not fully committed to the relationship. Think carefully if such a thing may exist – missing bits of money are a big clue – you deserve better.

If you are the one with the secret stash, have a hard think about why. Is it just for guilt-free fun? Or is it because your partner is financially controlling?

A lady proudly told me the other day that she snaffles $20 for herself every time she does the grocery shopping and her husband has no idea she now has enough for a holiday. For me, that’s alarm bells. Is she only being given a food ‘allowance’ and nothing more? Why does she feel the need to sneak some for herself? It speaks of a financial imbalance that is, at best, divisive and, at worst, financial abuse of the type designed to stop someone being able to leave a relationship.

Bad sign 5: Their super is sad

Even if you’re many years from retirement, it’s worthwhile checking out their super. If they are self-employed, do they even contribute? The earlier you stash your cash the more time it has to snowball… and that means more fun stuff.

Speaking of the age aspect, will you hit 60 before or after your partner? It’s probably a consideration for down the track but what happens when one can get at their super and the other can’t?

Bad sign 6: They don’t talk about the future or plans

Sure, maybe they don’t want to plan. Or maybe they can’t. An inability to plan is a big problem in a relationship - just like you seldom get somewhere if you don’t know where you are going, you are very unlikely to reach money goals you don’t have.

I always say you can plan for prosperity or coast for calamity, and that also applies to who you emotionally and financially join forces with.

They say you make your bed and lie in it – so are you making a bad money bed?

Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon is the author of How to Get Mortgage-Free Like Me, available at Follow Nicole on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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