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Will your debts make you undateable?

Written by: Emma Lunn
More than half (54%) of single people would rule out dating someone with financial problems.

Only one in five (19%) daters would be happy to go out someone with financial problems, while 27% weren’t sure. Men are far more likely to overlook financial issues, with 24% of men saying they’d date someone with money problems, compared to 14% of women.

The figures come from a survey of 2,000 people by Opinium for Hargreaves Lansdown. The study found that the older people are, the more off-putting financial problems are to potential partners.

Only 7% of people aged 55 and over would date someone with money issues, compared to 27% of those aged 18 to 34. Those who are divorced are least likely to consider it – with only 5% saying they’d date someone with financial problems.

The higher people’s income, the more likely they are to consider dating someone with debts. Two thirds (64%) of additional rate taxpayers would, compared to 38% of higher rate taxpayers, 16% of basic rate taxpayers and 11% of non-taxpayers.

Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “It’s easy to see why daters aren’t keen to match with someone who will make their life more difficult and complicated financially. It’s also perfectly understandable that the less you earn, the less likely you are to consider it. If you’re already having to work hard to make ends meet, there’s a much bigger risk that someone else’s problems could push you under.

“Higher earners, by contrast, might feel they have space in their budget to cope. The fact that women tend to earn less on average might also help explain why they’re more wary about taking on a partner with money worries.

“There’s also the sense that people who have been around for a while know just how stressful it can be to live with someone else’s money worries. Divorced people are highly likely to steer clear, possibly because they might have been through this before, or because their own finances are still recovering from divorce and they don’t think they can take any more pressure.”

However, the survey assumes that you know in advance whether someone has financial problems. In reality, very few daters would be open about it from the outset and it can be a tricky topic to raise early on.

How to protect your money in a relationship

Dating someone with debts or financial problems might not be an issue in the early days – but if the relationship progresses, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.

Think carefully before moving in together

If your partner isn’t getting to grips with their financial problems, it becomes even more of an issue if you want to move in together. At that point you need to know where you stand and then make a decision. Can you cope financially if they can’t pay their way, and are you prepared to do so? These are two separate issues, and you shouldn’t feel under pressure to say yes to either of them.

Use direct debits for bills

If you do decide to move in together, you’ll want to be sure that all the bills are covered. You can either share direct debits fairly from both of your accounts on pay day, or one partner can set up a direct debit to the other who will cover all the bills.

Talk about serious financial problems

If your partner is in financial trouble, you need to make some decisions. Are they prepared to tackle their problems? Are you willing to make compromises while they do this? And what will you do if they fall short?

Be careful taking out joint financial products

Your credit records won’t automatically be linked when you move in together – unless you have a joint mortgage. But even if you’re just renting, joint bills and accounts will create a financial link for credit report purposes.

This means if your partner makes financial mistakes and runs up debts or misses payments, it will affect your ability to borrow money in the future. So, if you are moving in with someone who has a history of credit problems, think carefully before taking out any products that will link you.

Be very wary of second credit cards

Technically there is no such thing as a ‘joint’ credit card in the UK – but you can have a second card for your partner on your account.

But whoever’s name is on the account will be responsible for the entire bill, so it’s usually best avoided.

Consider your property situation

If you own your home, and your partner is moving in, consider the situation if they make financial contributions towards the property or your mortgage. If they pay off part of your mortgage or add value to your home, in the event of a split they could potentially apply to the court for an ‘interest’ in the property.

The courts would then decide whether they have the right to some of the value. If you’re unhappy running this risk, you should draw up a cohabitation agreement before they move in.

Draw up a prenup before you get married

If your partner has debts, or historic problems with debts, and you’re getting married, you can help protect yourself with a prenup. While these aren’t legally binding, they will be considered by a divorce court. You will still be responsible for any joint debts, but you can lay out how you want to deal with pre-existing debts or debts they run up in their own name.

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