One in five couples over 40 has debt kept secret from their partners, according to new research.
The two main reasons for falling into debt are borrowing to maintain a lifestyle that is unaffordable or overspending for emotional reasons, like the failure of a relationship.
Some owe the money as they conceal child support payments to a previous partner.
The average hidden debt adds up to £7,800, says the study by The Prudential
Hiding debts is not the only financial issue in relationships, as one in four admitted they had not told their partners about savings of an average £4,000.
Many said the money was kept a secret to pay for a car or holiday, while others are putting money aside as retirement savings.
Money seems to cause problems in many relationships.
According to the research, 13% of people have never told their partner how much they earn, while 10% have told their partner false information about their income.
Nearly 40% admit they have not told their partner the truth about their basic salary – confessing the amount is higher than they believe.
A third do not declare any bonus, overtime or other cash payments to their other half.
When asked why they keep financial secrets from their partners, half said they wanted some money of their own to maintain financial independence, 30% said they kept the cash to buy gifts or surprises for their partner but 22% said they did not trust the decisions their partners made with their money.
Lack of trust
However 16% are worried about how they would cope if they separated.
The Prudential’s Vince Smith-Hughes said: “Keeping financial secrets from a partner can undermine retirement income and create trust issues in a relationship, whatever the reasons for failing to tell a partner about savings or debts.
“One point they should consider is tax relief on retirement savings. Not investing the money together could lead to missing out years of tax relief that could grow their money and make them better off.
“Suddenly finding out a slice of retirement income has to go on repaying a debt the partner had not revealed doesn’t go down with most partners either.”
Smith-Hughes suggests partners with financial secrets should sit down and have a frank discussion as the first step towards sorting out their money and making the best of their pooled resources for retirement.