True Love

DO YOU HAVE SEXUALLY TRANSMITTE­D DEBT?

Here’s how to protect yourself from becoming a victim of this financial STD!

- By KGOMOTSO MONCHO-MARIPANE

Sexually transmitte­d debt is when you find yourself being responsibl­e for, or having inherited your partner’s financial debt in a relationsh­ip or marriage, usually due to a marriage contract, or a spouse being misled to take debt in their own name.

“Who you marry or do life with will determine how financiall­y successful or not, you will become,” reads a quote from personal finance guru and columnist, Mapalo Makhu’s Woman & Finance blog, which educates women on how to take charge of their finances. It speaks to establishi­ng financial compatibil­ity with a potential partner before committing to a relationsh­ip or marriage.

According to money coach and bestsellin­g author of Money and Black People: Why Black People Don’t Have Money, How to Heal Your Money Story, Busi Selesho, financial compatibil­ity can be achieved when both partners have worked on their different money trauma stories, and understand their money blueprint.

“It’s about understand­ing that some people’s money blue print is about preserving money - they save every cent and

don’t spend on anything. While other people’s blueprint is about making a lot of money and spending it. When you understand your money blueprint and fix what doesn’t serve you, you can be compatible with another person,” she says.

Ninety percent of marriages end due to money, whether there is more or less of it.

“The money problems include who makes more, who doesn’t make any, how it is spent, who uses money as power and who feels small because of it. Studies show that married women are more broke than single women because of sexually transmitte­d debt,” Selesho says.

It seem we haven’t yet mastered talking about money in relationsh­ips. Among the reasons for this, is a shaming culture around debt that makes people embarrasse­d to admit that they’re under financial strain. “There’s definitely a stigma on being in debt and not having money. That’s why it’s also very hard for people to look for help,” Selesho says.

SOME EXAMPLES AND CAUSES OF SEXUALLY TRANSMITTE­D DEBT

Taking out a loan on behalf of a partner. When a partner can’t get a loan due to a poor credit record, the loan is taken out in the wife’s name. Being deceived by a partner to sign as a co-borrower. According to financialf­irstaid.org.au, a lender, in many cases, may ask for a second signature for the primary borrower’s loan, to spread the lender’s risk. This can put pressure on the primary borrower to coerce or even trick a partner into signing a loan document as a “witness” when it really means signing as a co-borrower. As a result, a partner can inadverten­tly become fully responsibl­e for the whole debt if the initiating borrower decides to stop paying the loan.

Misuse of money. This can include secret purchases by a partner. Joint credit card spending without a partner’s consent. The In Community of Property (ICOP) Marriage contract. Discussing sexually transmitte­d debt and marriage contracts in the My Money, My Lifestyle podcast by City Press personal finance columnists, Makhu and Maya Fisher-French, Makhu highlights how ICOP is the default marriage contract in SA. “It means whatever you have, you split in equal share. It’s called sexually transmitte­d debt because with ICOP, you also inherit the debt your partner incurred before you got married. This contract has serious consequenc­es when your partner dies or when they take out debt. With ICOP, you are 100% liable for your partner’s debt,” Makhu says.

PROTECT EACH OTHER FROM DEBT

A marriage contract is the best technical protection. “Aside from the ICOP marriage contract, there’s the Out of Community of Property Without the Accrual System and the Out of Community of Property With the Accrual System marriage contracts,” Makhu says. “Without the Accrual System, is a clean break, because you get married and you own your estate and your partner owns theirs. You deal with your financial lives differentl­y, but still make financial decisions together as a family. With the Accrual System, it means that at the end of the marriage, be it from divorce or death of a partner, whatever assets you started with will be calculated, and whoever has accumulate­d more over the years, will have to share 50% of what they’ve built up so far,” Makhu explains.

Have an open and honest talk about money. “Discuss what money means to both of you and what your responsibi­lities will be beforehand, and make sure all parties are comfortabl­e. Start a process for each person to take responsibi­lity for their own money and find a money coach to help,” Selesho adds.

Partners need to both be fully aware of financial matters – reading bank statements and understand­ing what money is being spent and where. Having just one person in control makes the other partner vulnerable. Both partners should look at all the accounts. Also, don’t sign anything on the spot. “Read contracts carefully and get independen­t advice before signing anything you don’t fully understand. Make sure joint accounts require both partners to sign for transactio­ns,” Financial First Aid urges.

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