Prudential research reveals millions of Brits hide financial details from partners

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New research from Prudential reveals British couples are keeping details of their debts, savings and incomes secret from each other.

Couples are keeping their financial affairs secret from each other, and failing to come clean with their other halves about debts, savings, investments and even how much they earn, according to new research from Prudential.1

The survey, analysing attitudes to and conversations about money among co-habiting couples aged over 40, finds that one in eight (13 per cent) have debts that they have not disclosed to their partners. The average value of these hidden outstanding debts is £7,800 per secret debtor. Women (14 per cent) are slightly more likely than men (12 per cent) to keep quiet about their borrowing.

Meanwhile, nearly one in five (18 per cent) over-40s in relationships have secret savings and investments stashes worth an average of £20,800. And more than a fifth (22 per cent) do not know how much their partner has accrued in pension savings.

Prudential also found that many couples fail to disclose their true earnings to each other, with 14 per cent admitting that their partners do not know how much they earn. Around a quarter (28 per cent) of those who keep some or all of their earnings secret say that they do so to maintain their independence.

Vince Smith-Hughes, retirement income expert at Prudential, said: "Couples looking to secure their financial futures should be very wary of keeping elements of their finances secret from each other. The reasons for keeping quiet may seem perfectly valid, and coming clean may result in some awkward conversations, but it is important for couples to have a full understanding of their joint financial circumstances when planning for the future.

"For example, couples who are keeping separate secret stashes of savings with the intention of funding their retirements could be missing out on vital pensions tax relief. Alternatively, couples approaching retirement, unaware of their partners' debts, could be in for a nasty shock if they haven’t been cleared when the time comes to give up work.

"Ideally, a couple looking to secure the best possible income in retirement will have a conversation about the savings and investments they both hold. A further conversation with a professional financial adviser or retirement specialist should also help with the decisions that will need to be made when turning these savings and investments into retirement income."    

When asked how their secret debts arose, many of those with debts say that they have come about as a result of day-to-day life – 56 per cent cite general living costs as the main cause of their debts. However, nearly one in five (18 per cent) attribute their secret debts to overspending due to previous relationship break-ups and other emotional upheavals.

When it comes to secret savings stashes, there are interesting differences between men and women. Men (22 per cent) are more likely to have secret savings and investments than women (16 per cent), while 24 per cent of female secret savers say they are keeping the money hidden to provide financial security in the event of a break-up compared with 11 per cent of men. Three in 10 (29 per cent) women will use the cash to help fund their retirement compared with one fifth (20 per cent) of men.

There are, however, often simple explanations for partners keeping money secrets from each other. Nearly one in four (22 per cent) of those who don't tell their partner the full story about their income are planning to use the cash to buy presents for their other half, while another 22 per cent admit to planning for a major purchase such as a dream holiday or new car.

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Notes to editors:
1 Research conducted in June 2014 among 1,851 adults aged 40+ who currently live with their spouse or partner, by Consumer Intelligence.com on behalf of Prudential.

Media enquiries
Jo Field         
020 7004 8078                 
jo.field(at)prudential.co.uk

Celine Plum         
020 7004 8009            
celine.plum(at)prudential.co.uk

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Jo Field
Prudential
020 7004 8078
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Celine Plum
Prudential
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