How to be financially prepared if your relationship ended

Most people in long-term relationships aren’t open about their money.

Can you believe that?

I don’t mean they ‘forget’ to mention finding a fiver in an old pair of jeans, or not saying how much that birthday present for Stephanie in the office really cost.

Nope, I’m talking about people intentionally hiding from their partner how much money they have.

Of the 1,000 people who took part in Portafina’s latest survey, 43% admitted to hiding debts from their partner.

More than one in three people aren’t even willing to talk about pension plans – a crucial element of planning and preparing for the future.

And if you’re counting on a windfall being your nest egg for retirement, think again because 40% have kept inherited money a secret.

With all this secrecy, perhaps the worst thing is…

…92% of people aren’t protecting themselves financially.

How bulletproof is your relationship?

For some people, trust is the bedrock to a relationship and everything should be open. For others, trust doesn’t come as easily as that, especially if they have been hurt in the past.

Some people even keep their finances a secret because they are uncomfortable that they have more, or less, than their partner does.

And then there are the people who are secretive about their money because they’re sure their other half would spend it before the week was over.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are the couples who pool all their money together and have everything in a joint account. They both know the other person’s earnings, savings, outgoings and any inheritances they’ve received.

Whichever group you belong to, the chances are if you’re in a committed relationship you expect it to go the distance. That confidence can influence behaviour – like not having anything in place to protect you financially if things don’t go to plan.

An estimated 42% of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce[i], though, so it makes sense to have some backups.

But almost nobody does.

Are you as prepared as you think?

Being financially prepared isn’t all about focusing on a potential break-up.

The sad fact is, there are a lot of things that can happen. From a job loss to an unexpected illness, or even the untimely death of someone in the relationship. We don’t want to think about such possibilities, but burying our head in the sand just means we’ll find it hard to breathe and be a pretty tempting target for anyone walking up behind us.

Okay, I know; this is getting depressing.

So let’s focus on the good news: it’s very easy to put at least basic protections in place. Here are some simple things that you can do immediately:

You don’t need to be joined at the hip – or the bank

If you’re one of the people that hides money from their partner then the odds are you already have at least one account they don’t know about. But secrecy isn’t the only reason to not rely on a joint account.

The first point here is if a break-up did occur, you wouldn’t be the first person to discover that your other half has decided to empty the account. If it’s the account where you put your salary and your joint savings, well… you could be in a tough situation.

By having a separate account, you give yourself more control. How much you keep in there is up to you - it could be nothing more than a safety net to cover a month’s worth of bills.

Having additional accounts can also protect you in other situations, like these:

  • Your joint account gets hacked
  • Your card is lost or stolen and you can’t access money in the account
  • The bank fails (the first £75,000 is protected in a personal account, and that’s doubled to £150,000 for a joint account, but it can take time to get it back)

Protection, protection, protection

If you have a pet, a house, belongings or a car then there’s a good chance you have insurance for them.


Because you know that things can go wrong.

So it also stands to reason to protect the biggest thing you rely on: your income, or possibly your mortgage instead.

While everything is going nicely and both of you are earning, it can be easy to dismiss income or mortgage protection as unnecessary. But if it takes both incomes to cover the outgoings then the harsh reality is one job loss could wreak havoc.

That’s where protection comes in.

The premise of them is simple and they are likely to appeal to most people: if you lose your job or are unable to work, you can receive a percentage of your salary or your mortgage payment covered. This offers peace of mind that your bills are still being paid and you won’t find yourself on the streets.

Another option to consider is life assurance. If you and your partner share the mortgage cost, neither of you would have to worry about the other not being able to afford it if the worst happened.

Everything I do… I do it for you

Bryan Adams may have been the one to sing it, but it’s basically a parent’s unspoken code.

When you’re a parent you know life isn’t all about you, and there’s the sense of duty to put your children first.

Often this manifests itself in things like buying them the latest toy they want, keeping them safe and – of course – being their personal taxi.

Yet one of the most important things a parent can do is make a will.

“Hang on,” you might be thinking. “What’s this got to do with relationships?”

Well, nothing and everything.

Nothing because if you and your other half break up, a will won’t be used to allocate the distribution of things.

But as we’ve already looked at in the last section, unexpected things can happen – and they can be tragic. A will doesn’t only cover children; it can also include your partner (and anyone else you want to include, actually).

So if the worst did happen to you, or your other half, the assets will go to where they’re instructed.

Not only would this give you peace of mind that your assets and belongings are distributed as you’d like them to be, but it also means that your children are spared further difficulty during an already emotional time.

And, ultimately, isn’t that the best thing a parent can do for their children?

Create the future you want

Whether you’re in a relationship, single, open or private about your money, there’s one thing everyone has in common – the need to have a plan.

It doesn’t have to be a grand plan, just an idea of how much you should be saving and where you should be saving it. After all, putting £5 a month into a bank account paying no interest isn’t going to do much for you. Switching an underperforming pension to a cheaper, better performing pension could do wonders, though.

Unfortunately, figuring out how much to save can be tricky, so people often don’t do it at all.

To give you an idea of what your future could look like, we’ve got a simple savings tool to give you an illustration – just adjust the sliders and see how the outcome changes.


Try this tool


Armed with that information, you’ll be on the way to your ideal future before you know it.

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