Britons are hiding away £41bn of debt and savings from partners

The Momentum UK Team 28 August 2012

Couples are stashing away money in secret accounts and hiding debt from their partners, which could have legal implications, according to a report by the The Co-operative Bank.

The recently released ‘Modern Families and Household’ report suggested that 62% of respondents in relationships have individual debts accrued on credit cards, from personal loans, overdrafts and mortgages that amount to an average of £17,112. However 13% have not disclosed these debts to their partners.

Those under the age of 35 are carrying three times as much debt as those over 35 and individual debts within couples are higher for women, at an average of £22,418 compared to £14,228 for men.

Debt is not the only financial aspect that couples are hiding from one another, according to The Co-op’s report a total of £22.8bn of savings are kept separate from partners with an average of £9,517 per partner stowed away in secret accounts.

While over a third of couples (38%) have a joint current accounts and 25% joint savings accounts, a fifth (21%) of couples choose to keep their financial affairs completely and bank alone. However according to The Co-op not disclosing your financial assets to your partner could cause problems further down the line.

Christina Blacklaws, Director of Family Law at The Co-operative Legal Services, said:

"These findings show that there is a huge amount of money that couples are hiding from each other.

"Many people facing relationship breakdown may be shocked to find out that they may have responsibility for their ex-partner's debts, even if they were not aware of them, or may not have any rights to assets or property which they themselves may have invested into. Even if your partner dies, debts may well be passed on to you as an individual or to the estate.

"Legally speaking if a married couple decide to divorce they have to disclose all of their money and assets as part of the process to the Courts, if a pre nuptial agreement has not been agreed.

"Unmarried couples do not have the same rights as married couples, therefore it is important that people who are in this situation know exactly what their rights and responsibilities are. For instance, there are more couples who are drawing up agreements regarding their finances when they move in together nowadays."

The report also highlighted that debt problems were significantly higher amongst younger couples with average debt per young person at around £30,000 which could be due to university fees. Young couples were also less likely to share their finances with just 27% of couples aged between 25 and 30 opting for joint accounts compared to 48% of those aged between 55 and 68.

James Hillon, Head of Home and Family at The Co-operative Bank, said:

"The report has shone the spotlight on couples across Britain and the level of truthfulness there is between loved ones about financial affairs.

As the old adage goes, a problem shared is a problem halved and being honest with your loved ones about debt is always preferable to being caught out in the long run."