9 Financial Red Flags in a Relationship

9 Financial Red Flags in a Relationship

This “ 9 Financial Red Flags in a Relationship “ post provides an overview on what the red flags that couple need to be aware of. These red flags, when addressed promptly, can help build and/or strengthen relationship. On the other hand, these red flags, if not solved and/or are overlooked at, can have detrimental effects to your relationship with your loved one.

One of the truths about relationships is that a good relationship is not just about love, trust, commitment, and all those other words with big meanings. It’s also about money or how to deal money to be specific.

I’m not saying relationship is just about money and that you need to think about it before you go in a relationship or in marriage. All I am saying is that it is part of a relationship. I’ve seen quite a few of couples or families go through difficulties in life such as divorces, disagreements, and fights because of financial issues.

According to a study by Jeffrey Dew of Utah State University, money disputes were considered to be the best harbingers of divorce.

A lot of people say that prevention is better than a cure. The same thing goes with relationship and money. Whether you are going into a relationship or are already in one, there are red flags in finances that you and your loved one need to be aware of.

Often times, many people tend to overlook or try to not to understand their situations about money. Many hope that time can help solve the problem but, sometimes, it doesn’t. By the time they try to solve the problems, these dilemmas have already grown bigger that couples can no longer find ways to solve them.

Financial Red Flags in a Relationship

It is always best to start addressing the red flags in a relationship before they get worse and get out of control. But before you address those red flags, you both have to know what they are. Here are some of the common but overlooked signs that you both need to be aware of.

1. Not talking about money

One of the red flags in a relationship is when couples are not talking about money.

For those who are getting ready to enter a marriage or already in one, there should have been the money talk and a lot of it. Money talk is as personal as it gets and exactly the same thing with going into a marriage or being in a marriage.

If you both haven’t talked about money like discussions on who will pay what or how much each other’s debts are or something else, then, that’s a red flag. You don’t want to go into marriage totally unaware of the financial situation of your better half and vice-versa.

2. Filing for bankruptcy

Another red flag in a relationship is when your loved one filed for bankruptcy in the past.

Bankruptcy is one of the solutions that people avail whenever they are in deep money trouble and they can’t find other ways to solve their money problems.

In a relationship, there should always be transparency especially when it comes to finances. If you find out that your loved one filed for bankruptcy in the past, you may find the need to ask why it happened. Although the event happened before you got into a relationship with your loved one, it’s always a good idea to understand the story. You’ll never know when such story or lessons from bankruptcy can come in handy.

You may be able to use this as a cross-check just in case your loved one is showing some signs of financial problems similar to those he/she had in the past. After all, you need to know almost anything and everything about your loved one.

Bankruptcy can be a red flag or just a small blemish in your loved one’s past. It’s always a good idea to know stories like this so you can prepare yourself or see the signs if ever your loved one is going through the same problems now or at some point in the future. Your knowledge about bankruptcy can help you both in figuring out a solution as soon as the signs leading to bankruptcy exist.

3. Lying

Lying is never a good practice in a relationship. Lying destroys all the foundation of trust and commitment. If you find out that your loved one is lying about his or her personal finances, then, you need to sit down, have a talk, and see if he or she is hiding more than just the finances.

You don’t end the relationship just because you found out that your loved one is hiding his or her personal finance situation from you. Find out why your better half is lying. Although lying is not a good practice in any relationship, find out what the root problem is so you can fully understand the gravity of the situation.

You can also reflect if you’ve done something that prevents your loved one from opening up to you. Ask yourself if you’ve said something that gave him the false reason or impression to hide from you.

For me, lying is one of the red flags in a relationship. Lying is not a good practice but it’s not a deal breaker because there are reasons, false or true, that can cause someone to lie. For me, understanding these reasons is key before making any decisions on the directions of your relationship with your loved one.

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4. Having different attitudes toward money

One of the red flags in a relationship is when you and your loved one have different attitudes towards money.

A lot of people say that it’s easier to get along with your better half if your attitude complements his or her attitude.

Different attitudes toward money can cause friction and endless arguments. If your better half is a lavish spender and you are a massive saver, then, both of you may find yourselves arguing over a few dollars here and there.

If you are the saver, you will likely reason out that both of you don’t need to spend on things that really are not considered as needs. On the other hand, the spender, who is your better half, will argue that the money spent is the money from working hard at work and that he or she deserves a reward for doing just that.

Although the reasons may be both valid, the differences in attitudes can or will interpret the reasons both of you have in a wrong way. If your attitude towards money is different than that of your better half, then, it’s best to find a common ground or a common goal that either of you can live by or agree to.

You don’t need to pinpoint who’s right or who’s wrong because it can go either way. What you both need is to make sure that you are on the same page. This way both of you won’t have to argue because you don’t understand your loved one and vice-versa.

According to a study authored by Carolyn Washburn and Darlene Christensen, understanding how partners view and value money can begin to open the lines of communication and lessen the conflicts.

5. Hiding from your loved one

Ever found out that your loved one has secret bank accounts or stash of money hidden somewhere in your house? If yes, this may be a red flag as well.

Just the other day, I was watching The Good Wife. In one of the scenes Mrs. Florrick, the mother of Gov. Florrick, found out that her soon-to-be husband who’s a lawyer had a secret bank account with a balance of $2M. This scene stuck in my head for some reason. I believe that this is one of the red flags in a relationship.

I wonder why a number of people hide money from their loved ones. Is it because there’s a possibility that divorce will happen or something else?

If ever you are in this situation, always take time to talk to your loved one and ask why he or she has money or a lot of it that you don’t know of? It may be because you are a big spender and your loved one wants to make sure that you don’t spend all the money unwisely.

You’ll never know what the problems are until you have a serious talk. You may not realize that the concern is not really with your loved one but is with you.

6. Neglecting debts

Another red flag is when your loved one is neglecting his or her debts.

Do you find your loved one with a ton of unopened mails on bills from the same creditors or from collection agencies? If you do, then, there may be issues on your loved one’s financial situation, which can or will affect you sooner or later.

When you see situations like this, always take time to talk to your loved one and you need to make it a priority. You can always open the mails but you may be violating his or her privacy. I know if I were in situations like this I still won’t open my wife’s mails.

Have a conversation right away because you just don’t know how serious the problem is. You don’t know if the house that you both live in is under foreclosure or the credit card companies are trying to recoup their money from your loved one.

If you happen to be working for the state or federal government or private companies that require good financial standing, your job may be affected if your better half is in bad financial state.

7. Multiple jobs

Hopping from one job to another may also be considered as one of the red flags in a relationship. If you are going to be into a long-term relationship or in marriage, you need to ask yourself if your loved one will keep on getting new jobs or hop from one job to another once you are married.

Better yet, ask your loved one the reasons that he or she is going from one job or another. Is it because of getting laid off? Is it because of better job opportunities? Is it because of recession?

Having multiple jobs can be a red flag especially when your loved one gets laid off quite often and make it as one of the reasons for having a number of jobs in just a few years. Getting laid off several times can signal your loved one’s lack of responsibility and this lack of responsibility can extend all the way to your relationship or marriage.

According to the findings of the study led by Liana Sayer – Ohio State University, the husband’s employment status threatens marriage but the wife’s employment status does not.

As a couple, you both need to help out each other in good and in bad times. These events test how strong your relationship is. Find a way to solve your loved one’s job situation. May be your loved one needs therapy, work in a different job industry, or something else.

8. Paying one loan with another

If you find yourself paying one loan using another loan, then, you need to make sure that there’s a plan on how to address this before going into the marriage. If you are already in a marriage, then, find a way to break this cycle. The same thing goes with your better half.

Ask yourself how you’re going to pay your own debt. Are you going to use your better half’s money? How are you going to pay your debt when you start having kids and find yourself not having enough money?  These are just a few of the questions that you or both of you need to address.

The reality is that changes do come and sometimes, they come unexpectedly or they come all at the same time. You and your loved one need to be prepared to handle these changes. One of the best ways to prepare for these changes is to address the issues with paying one loan using another loan.

9. Using too much credit

Is your better half racking a mountain of debt? If so, you both need sit down and figure out the (gravity of the) situation.

You don’t just dish the person out because of the insurmountable amount of debt. What I am saying is find out how and why your loved one is in that situation. Did your loved one have to pay for emergency, unforeseen medical expenses? Or, does your loved one use credit to pay for lifestyle?

Ask if there’s any plan on paying the debt off? If there’s one, then, you have something less to worry about but you still need to be aware of such plan or plan of actions to make sure the plan is getting implemented. But if there’s none, then, that mountain of debt will become an issue sooner or later.

According to a research about marriage and money, consumer debt increases the likelihood of having a fight over money. It also increases the likelihood of arguing over issues other than money. If you both stay away from discussing debt issues, you may find yourself not being able to communicate with each other. On the flip side, you both may find yourselves arguing even on the smallest and non-sense topics that don’t really matter to your relationships.

Don’t let your loved one figure out alone what the best thing to do with the debt situation. Be proactive and tackle the debt together. Your loved one will be more than willing to pay off the debt knowing that your support and help are there. After all, as a couple, you are both in a relationship to help out each other in any situations you both are in.


There are financial red flags in a relationship, some of which are very obvious and some are subtle. It is always best to discuss financial matters as these can or will affect positively or negatively your relationship with your loved one.


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Allan Liwanag

Allan Liwanag is a personal finance blogger who paid off at least $40K debt in 3 years by adopting simple and extreme saving techniques while ensuring his family's needs were taken care of. An analyst by day and dedicated blogger by night, he loves to share his thoughts - based on his research, personal knowledge, and experience - on topics related to family, life, and money. Allan lives with his family in Maryland, USA.


  1. Even though I’m really young to care about this stuff (huh), this could be helpful to a lot of people since it’s really important to build quality relationships. And we all know that lying is one of the worst things you can do in relationship.

    • I believe that what I have in this post can really be beneficial to a lot of people. A lot of people go in life without thinking where they are making mistakes in their finances and how these mistakes affect their relationship with their loved ones. I hope a lot of people will read this because I believe this will help people understand those financial red flags.

  2. I was never put in this situation before but I don’t think I would share my money in a relationship. I have worked hard to be financially independent and to be able to afford the things that I dreamed for when I was a child, and I am not willing to let anyone drag me down from this position.
    Joanna recently posted…The best food I’ve ever had while travelingMy Profile

    • Couples have their own way of dealing with finances. Some combine their finances, some don’t, and some do combination. As long as the couples deal with money issues positively, then, any method can be used.

  3. Very good points raised, Allan. I think one thing that could be added is if finances is not enough, and especially when both husband and wife already works, there may also be times when working more hours leads to less time being together. The stress that comes from the need and the lack of time together is a risk in a relationship.

    • You are absolutely right. I believe the key is balance, that is, balance when it comes to money and balance in time. My mom would always say that anything in excess is always bad.

  4. Really good tips! I also watched the Good Wife and thought the same thing – massive red flag. I think when your significant other doesn’t expose his debts when you are serious that is a huge red flag even if it is school debts. You need to have your eyes wide open when it comes to money.

    • You are spot on. I believe that there should always be a open dialogue between couple when it comes to money. Money can break a relationship. So, I believe that it’s for the couples best interest to consistently be opened with each other in regards to money situations.

  5. Absolutely! A prevention is better than a cure. Money is an important factor and there are financial red flags that we need to be aware of. We have to discuss financial issues, have some sort of agreement about how to spend, save and budget them.

    • Yes. A lot of people don’t talk about money but they should. They just go about their business and spend and spend without looking at what they have or don’t have. As a result, they become don’t save money and/or may end up fighting over money.

  6. Totally agree with this. The lying part and having differnet opinions are the two major red flags i’d say.

    • Yes. I believe that lying and having different opinions are two major red flags that cause financial difficulties between couples.

  7. Interesting read. I liked that you identified the red flags. This can help a lot of relationships. Thanks for sharing.

    • Yes. I know a couple of people who are going through financial difficulties. As I observe them, I realized that there are commonalities among these couples (in terms of red flags related to finance). I realized that since I blog about personal finance, I decided to make a post about financial red flags.

  8. It’s true, money is the top most argued about subject in marriage! My husband and I, thankfully, didn’t have any financial issues but definitely failed at discussing money at the beginning. We could have been a lot more savvy with our spending of we had. It’s hit your other point about different attitudes because although I like to shop, I’m also a big saver and he’s a BUY ALL THE THINGS kid of guy. If you cannot compromise and get smart about your money together then I agree, some of those red flags are not worth it.

    • Yes. You are absolutely true with your statement.
      My wife and I agree on almost everything about financial matters. For this reason, we were able to avoid these financial red flags.

    • Yes, money is important in any relationship. So, it is important to talk about it openly and positively.

    • Open dialogue is key to almost everything. I believe in what you say, that is, it is important to be open and honest in a relationship. Since money is almost always a sensitive issue, couples need to make time to talk about money. I have seen couples go through difficult times because they don’t talk about money or they hide their money issues.

  9. This is a great post. Really flags up some things that you may not want to think about but are very important to remember.

    • Thank you so much. Hope you found reading this post worth your time.

  10. I agree with most of your points. It’s true there shouldn’t be any secrets in a couple about money. However, I don’t think that this could lead to divorce… The problem is related to communication, not about money specifically (as a lot of couple don’t communicate) 🙂


    • Money miscommunication may sometimes signal more than just money problem or communication problem. What I do believe is that it is in the best of couples to sit down and communicate. Better communication can bring out the best out of couples.

  11. I think if your partner finds out that you have been lying about money then the trust is gone. It is better to be open and honest.

    • That is correct. Money can be a sensitive issue and so does lying. It’s best to be open and honest at all times.

  12. These are definite red flags! I dont think I have ever had to deal with any of these but I do have friends and family that have had financial issues and have done some of these things….it rarely ends well.

    • Yes. These financial red flags are what I’ve seen from a lot of couples who I have known or dealt in the past. You are right when you said that, at times, things don’t end well.

  13. Great food for thought. I think my boyfriend and I have very different ideas on spending but I’m hoping that when we’re a bit older we will both come around to a similar way of thinking!

    • It’s always best to have a parallel line of thought when it comes to finances. Good luck and I hope that you two become in one in terms of money aspect.

  14. This is such a great post and about a topic that so many couples don’t even consider. Keeping communication open and honest is so important even when it comes to finances and money decisions.

  15. This is a great, well thought-out list of red flags when in a new relationship, especially lying or hiding your spending. It’s so important to be open and honest.

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