Four in 10 ‘have kept money secrets from family and friends’

Four in 10 (40%) people admit having kept a financial product such as a credit card, loan or savings account secret from family and friends, a survey has found.

Partners are the most likely to be left in the dark, according to the research from the Government-backed Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) to mark Talk Money Week.

MaPS said Millennials aged 25 to 34 are the most secretive age group, with nearly three in five (59%) hiding money products.

This compared with just over a quarter (26%) of retirees aged 65-plus.

Among 25 to 34-year-olds who had kept a product secret, credit cards, personal loans and overdrafts were most commonly hidden.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic having hit the finances of large swathes of the population, more than a third (38%) of people surveyed said they stay silent about money worries, with some of the reasons given including embarrassment or a fear of being judged.

Publication of the survey carried out among more than 5,200 people across the UK marked the start of Talk Money Week (November 9 to 13), a campaign run by MaPS to improve financial wellbeing by encouraging people to open up about their finances.

The Talk Money Week study also indicated that people in relationships tend to under-estimate the extent of money secrets their partner keeps from them.

While 23% of people in relationships suspect their spouse has kept a money secret, nearly half of those in relationships (45%) admitted having an undisclosed money product.

In some cases people have kept serious debts hidden.

One person surveyed said: “I was once close to bankruptcy due to credit cards and loans which I did not reveal to my partner until it couldn’t be hidden any longer. I admitted the issues eventually and we sorted it.”

Another said: “I didn’t tell my husband when I lost control of our credit card debt and ended up juggling cards and minimum payments. Eventually I admitted it to him and actually acknowledged the amount of debt I now had – he supported me to get on to a Debt Payment Plan, which I have been paying for just over a year now, and we are far more financially stable.

“We made a choice as a couple to no longer use credit. We also now have a joint account as our main account and only our agreed personal budget for minor expenses which is transferred out to our personal accounts.”

The research also suggests that people in relationships have significant knowledge gaps when it comes to their partner’s income. Almost a third of those polled (30%) said their partner does not know how much their annual income is approximately.

Sarah Porretta, strategy and insights director at the Money and Pensions Service, said: “We know there are numerous reasons why people keep money secrets from those closest to them – a secret savings account could act as a buffer for those who want to escape a difficult relationship; an unpaid bill could be kept under wraps in order to protect anxious family members.

“For many who keep money secrets, it can be a feeling of shame or embarrassment that debts have spiralled out of control.

“Yet we also know that many people will be struggling with money worries due to the financial impact of Covid-19, so if you feel this is getting on top of you, having a conversation with someone – a friend, family member or expert – can bring a different perspective and allow you to feel more in control as a result.

“Opening up is a valuable start to making problems more manageable, for the benefit of our health, relationships and overall wellbeing.”

The Money Advice Service has budgeting help and guides on its website to help people talk about money, including http://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/talking-to-your-partner-about-money.

If someone’s partner is controlling their money or running up debts in their name, help is also available on the Money Advice Service website at http://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/protecting-against-financial-abuse.

Economic abuse, where someone is prevented from having control over their own money by someone else, possibly as part of wider domestic abuse, should be reported to the police.

The bank of the person who has been abused should also be able to offer support.

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