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You can’t pop a con­dom on your bank bal­ance, so how do you pro­tect your­self fi­nan­cially in a re­la­tion­ship? Read on!

Women's Health Australia - - CONTENTS - By Clare Bax­ter

We’re talk­ing sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted debt, and how it can se­ri­ously mess with your love-life. Here’s what to do

WWhether you’ve just met The One or have been liv­ing with your S.O. for 10 years, the un­ro­man­tic truth is that in re­la­tion­ships, money re­ally does mat­ter. Ac­cord­ing to finder. com.au, 52 per cent of cou­ples ar­gue about coin, and a sur­vey by Re­la­tion­ships Aus­tralia found fi­nan­cial stress was the num­ber one rea­son for break-ups. But, hold fire on the sad face emoji. These pro­tec­tion strate­gies work, what­ever stage you’re at.

THE SCE­NARIO YOU JUST STARTED DAT­ING

While you’re still in the bliss phase, it’s smart to broach the awks topic of money. Just ask Re­la­tion­ships Aus­tralia coun­sel­lor Fiona Ben­nett, who says set­ting up an ex­pec­ta­tion that you’ll be open and hon­est about your dol­lar sit­u­a­tion from the start can help you avoid – or com­mu­ni­cate bet­ter about – dif­fi­cult is­sues you may face later on. No need for in­ter­ro­ga­tion tac­tics, though: try a less-con­fronta­tional route. “Start off by ask­ing about [your part­ner’s] ex­pe­ri­ence grow­ing up; our at­ti­tudes to­wards money are very much formed by our par­ents,” says Ben­nett. “This can cre­ate a space for in­sights and un­der­stand­ing, with­out [sound­ing as though] you’re blam­ing the other per­son.” Plus, it’s a way less awk­ward date convo than how much HECS they still owe.

THE SCE­NARIO THEY’VE GOT CREDIT BAG­GAGE

A chat with your mate re­veals they’re car­ry­ing $4K in credit card debt. (Not so shock­ing: the av­er­age Aussie has $4268 ow­ing on their plas­tic, ac­cord­ing to a finder. com.au sur­vey.) Why is this an is­sue for you? “If you got a mort­gage or a loan, then it might be only in your name, or [your part­ner’s] par­ents may need to stand guar­an­tor,” says Vanessa Stoykov, au­thor of The Break­fast Club for 40-Some­things, a book about how fi­nan­cial choices can af­fect your life. And if you take out a loan only in your name, it means you’re re­spon­si­ble for pay­ing it back if your part­ner goes AWOL. Swerve this by help­ing bae clear their rat­ing. Get a free copy of your credit score at finder.com. au, sug­gests fi­nan­cial ad­viser Ni­cole Heales. Next, “work through each is­sue listed on [the] credit file. It will take time and dis­ci­pline, and per­haps some pro­fes­sional help,” says Heales. “While you have a bad credit rat­ing it may be pos­si­ble to find lenders … to take you on as a cus­tomer, but they will charge you more.” Con­sumer credit re­port­ing agency Equifax says it can take about seven years to re­pair your rat­ing. Long-term graft for long-term gains.

YOU’RE LIV­ING TO­GETHER

Liv­ing in do­mes­tic bliss but not mar­ried? It may not mat­ter legally when it comes to your as­sets – or debts. Once you’ve been shacked up for two years, you’re de facto – which, ac­cord­ing to fam­ily lawyer Frank Chila, means you fall un­der the Fam­ily Law Act and can have your fi­nan­cial dis­putes de­ter­mined in the same way as mar­ried cou­ples. (Two years is not a hard rule BTW, and you can reach de facto sta­tus faster if you share a child or your fi­nances.) “We look at how your as­sets and li­a­bil­i­ties need to be di­vided in ac­cor­dance with the Act,” says Chila. That means any money or debt you both came into the re­la­tion­ship with will be di­vided be­tween you, based on a list of cir­cum­stances such as fu­ture fi­nan­cial needs.

So, if you’re mov­ing in and have as­sets you want to pro­tect, it may be worth look­ing into a fi­nan­cial agree­ment

(like a prenup). “You’re not au­to­mat­i­cally go­ing to keep a prop­erty, for ex­am­ple, if you came in with it and you sep­a­rate 10 years later,” ex­plains Chila. “So it’s al­ways good to put a fi­nan­cial agree­ment in place that de­fines what hap­pens with that prop­erty, and also with any you ac­cu­mu­late through­out your re­la­tion­ship.”

THE SCE­NARIO YOU’RE ABOUT TO MORT­GAGE UP

Con­grats! Smashed avo isn’t stand­ing in your way and you’ve saved for your first apart­ment to­gether. If reach­ing a 20 per cent de­posit (which ex­perts rec­om­mend) feels over­whelm­ing, Heales ad­vises tak­ing your fo­cus off the num­bers. “You’re more likely to achieve a goal if it’s some­thing you re­ally want and you talk about that, rather than the money,” she says. “Then ev­ery de­ci­sion you make [you can ask]: is it get­ting us closer to our goals or fur­ther away?” Tak­ing on fi­nan­cial stress such as a mort­gage can put a damp­ener on your love life, so get cre­ative with date night. You may not be able to jus­tify exxy din­ners out when you’ve got a $100K sav­ings goal, but beach­side pic­nics with a su­per­mar­ket cheese plat­ter can be just as – if not more – ro­man­tic.

THE SCE­NARIO YOU’VE CALLED IT QUITSVILLE

Break­ing up is hard to do, but it’s even tougher if you have fi­nan­cial dis­putes. “No one en­ters into a re­la­tion­ship think­ing about it end­ing, but we’re see­ing that young peo­ple now are a lot more happy to have those con­ver­sa­tions, know­ing that [sep­a­ra­tion] is just a part of life,” says Chila. And nut­ting out how you’re go­ing to deal with your fi­nances can save you both a lot of angst. “Seek le­gal ad­vice, ask ques­tions, know what’s go­ing on in your fi­nances and com­mu­ni­cate. Be­cause the best thing lawyers can do is for­malise an agree­ment that’s al­ready been reached,” says Chila. “The worst thing we can do is wade through an ac­ri­mo­nious lit­i­ga­tion, be­cause no one … wins.” Ben­nett agrees. “Whether [you’re] to­gether or sep­a­rate, it ac­tu­ally makes lit­tle dif­fer­ence, be­cause you’re still go­ing to need to talk,” she says. What­ever your sit­u­a­tion – lov­ing or leav­ing ’em – com­mu­ni­ca­tion re­ally is al­ways the key.

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