Relationships & money
Love and money
moving in with someone, opening a joint account, or starting a
joint loan or investment? It pays to go into love and money matters
with your eyes open.
Here are some tips on managing finances with your partner.
Talk to your partner about
Talking to your partner about money is important, whether you
have similar or different spending and saving styles.
Here are four crucial issues to discuss:
- Relationship goals: Work out your relationship
goals with your partner. Consider what goals you share: is
marriage, buying a home or having a baby on the horizon?
- Current financial situation: Take stock
of your income and expenses, assets and debts and your credit
rating. Start thinking about ways you may be able to reduce
spending so you can save for your goals, and how you can reduce any
- Attitudes to spending and saving: Are you a
spender or saver? What about your partner? Your background and
experiences will influence how you think about money. Understanding
how your partner approaches financial matters will make it easier
to create a money plan that suits you both. Try to find common
ground so that you are working together.
- The financial controller: Who will handle the
finances? Will one person look after household expenses, mortgage
and savings, or will you share the responsibility? Make sure you're
both happy with the decision.
Case study: Bill and Jen get their finances together
and Jen have been dating for 12 months and are ready to move in
together. They expect it will be cheaper than renting separate
When it comes to their finances, Jen is happy to keep track of
the household bills. Bill will research the costs of buying a
house, to see how they can afford to buy one together in the
future. He has also agreed to look into high-interest savings
accounts to get them started on saving a home loan deposit.
Bill and Jen decide to keep their own transaction accounts, and
open a new joint account for household bills. They also decide to
keep their own credit cards for personal expenses. This gives them
freedom to buy their own things and keep their personal shopping
separate from joint expenses.
Take action together
Don't sign anything you don't understand. Always read documents
If you're serious about sharing your
finances, here are some things to consider:
Use both names
- Put both of your names on services like electricity and gas.
This will make you equally responsible.
- Putting joint assets and liabilities, like your home and the
corresponding loan, in both names means you will both have an
ownership interest in the asset and both be responsible for the
- Think twice before putting your name on a loan that will only
benefit your partner. See loans involving family
& friends and joint accounts for more details.
- If you have private health insurance, it could be cheaper
to share a couples plan than pay for two singles plans.
- Insurers will often give family discounts on multiple policies,
such as for car insurance, so shop around to see if you can get a
better deal by using the same insurer for several policies.
Plan for a shared future
- Get organised by making a list of all your accounts, loans,
investments and insurance. Keep all your financial information in
one place so you both know where it is.
- Work together on a household budget. This will help both of you
see how much money you can spend and how much you can save or
invest in your shared goals.
- If you are married or in a de facto relationship you may be
able to split off some of your super contributions to your spouse.
This may be beneficial for your retirement plans. If you have a
non-working spouse you may also be able to claim a tax offset for
after tax spouse contributions.
- Make a will and keep it up to date. See our wills and powers of
attorney page for more information.
If you earn less income than your partner, you may feel you
don't have a right to make decisions about where the money goes.
Talk to your partner about how you feel. You should work as a
partnership, including when it comes to money.
Case study: Danica takes care of herself and her
is in a long-term relationship where she is the main breadwinner
and her partner is often out of work. Money is often a source of
tension in their relationship.
"What I've learnt is that it's important to talk to each other
and be open about your finances. I think you've also got to have
shared goals as far as money goes, but it's critical to have your
own goals too. Just because you're in a relationship doesn't mean
you should lose yourself financially."
Know the facts about sharing
Don't be blinded by love - be aware of how much money is coming
in and going out. Here are some facts you may not be aware of:
- A joint loan doesn't mean you're only liable for half the debt.
If your partner defaults, you may be liable for the whole amount,
including fees, interest and charges, even if your relationship
- If a utility service such as electricity or gas is only in your
name, then it's your sole responsibility to pay the bills.
- Think carefully before you guarantee a loan for your partner or
family members. If things don't go to plan and the borrower can't
repay the money, you could be asked to repay any loan you've
guaranteed, including fees, interest and charges. For example, if
the guarantee is secured against your home you could risk losing
- Ignorance is not a defence. Signing papers you know nothing
about, just because your partner told you to, does not make you any
less liable for any loans or guarantees you may have agreed
Shared credit cards
If you are thinking about sharing a credit card with your
partner, make sure you understand the different types of accounts
Joint credit cards
A joint credit card is held in both names. The bank will
consider the incomes and credit histories of you and your partner
when you apply for a joint credit card, and you will be equally
liable for repaying what's owed on the card. A joint credit card
will be suitable for you if you both share the same financial goals
and trust each other to do the right thing. However, if your
partner goes on a spending spree without your knowledge, you are
both responsible for repaying the debt. If you can't repay the
debt, it will affect your credit rating as well as your
Primary and secondary credit cards
If you already have a credit card in your name, you can arrange
for your partner to have an additional card on your
account. This can be useful if you have a better credit
history or higher income than your partner. If your card is
linked to a reward scheme, points earned on the
primary and secondary cards will usually be credited to your
account. However, as the primary cardholder, you will be solely
liable for any debt on the account.
Cancelling shared credit cards
If you want to cancel a shared credit card, there are steps you
will need to take to cancel the card properly. These steps
will depend on whether you have a joint credit card account, or
whether one of you is the primary cardholder, and the other is the
secondary cardholder. See how to cancel a credit
card for more information.
Joint bank accounts
Opening a joint bank account is a big step in your relationship.
accounts to help understand the risks and benefits, and how to
close a joint bank account, so you can work out whether it is right
Get professional advice before:
- Guaranteeing a loan
- Signing your name to a loan which will only benefit your
- Becoming a partner in a business
Find out more about going guarantor and
If you want to maintain some financial independence, think about
keeping your own bank transaction account and credit
card in addition to any joint accounts.
If you have assets to protect or children from a previous
relationship to support, you may consider entering into a binding
financial agreement (BFA), also known as a prenup. BFAs can help if
you're worried about who should get what if the relationship ends.
They are only binding if you have both signed the agreement and
received legal and financial advice before signing.
Take care of yourself
If you need help with debt or money problems, think about seeing
a financial counsellor. The
Department of Human Services has a free
Financial Information Service (FIS) that can tell you if
you are entitled to any benefits, especially if your circumstances
Consider relationship counselling
If you have broader relationship conflicts related to money, a
relationship counsellor may be able to help. Read more about
managing relationships on the Australian Government Family Relationships website, or
visit the community-based support service Relationships Australia. There
is also useful information about your legal rights for dividing
property on the Victorian Legal Aid website.
Know the signs of financial abuse
Some people find themselves being pressured by partners, family
or friends to hand over control of their money or property. This
may be financial abuse.
If you think you may be experiencing financial abuse, seek
assistance from the following organisations:
- 1800 RESPECT is the national
family violence and sexual assault counselling service. It is a
free, confidential service available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call 1800 737 732 to speak to a professional counsellor.
- The Family
Relationship Advice Line provides information and advice on
family relationship issues and parenting arrangements after
separation. It can also refer callers to local services that can
provide assistance. Call 1800 050 321 between 8am and 8pm, Monday
to Friday, or 10am to 4pm on Saturday local time, except national
- Lifeline provides crisis support
services. Call 131 114, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- WIRE Women (Women's Information and
Referral Exchange Inc.) are the Victoria-wide free generalist
information, support and referral service for women. WIRE Women has
conducted research into women and financial abuse.
Keeping a sense of your financial self is key to
a strong relationship. Don't be afraid or embarrassed to speak to
your partner about money issues, and work on sorting them out
Last updated: 16 Nov 2016