Financial Planning

What to do if you’re in a financially dependent relationship

12th January 2022

The Author: Paul Evans

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Paul is both a client adviser and responsible for setting the strategy and vision for United Advisers.

One in three women in a relationship are financially dependent on their partner, according to YouGov data.

Women who work full time are less likely to be financially dependent than those who don’t have a job or work part-time. But even so, a fifth of women with full-time jobs are still reliant on their partner or spouse.

Just half of all couples (53% of men and 48% of women) say that neither person is financially dependent on the other.

So what impact does this inequality have on those affected?

Well, it can make it harder for the lesser earner to leave the relationship if they’re unhappy.

Whether they have no income at all or they don’t earn enough to cover their living costs by themselves, many become trapped in relationships for financial reasons.

Even if you’re not unhappy in your relationship, it’s a good idea to act as soon as you realise that financial dependency exists. In fact, if your relationship is healthy, this is the perfect opportunity to make some changes and strengthen your personal finances for the future.

Here are a few ways to build financial independence so you can both be sure you’re in the relationship for love, rather than money.

If the relationship is healthy and you’re able to work together… 

Dividing housework and childcare responsibilities

Financially dependent

If you’re financially dependent on your partner but your relationship is healthy, work together to level the playing field.

While it’s far more common for women to have full-time jobs than it was, say, 50 years ago, many women still find themselves doing most of the housework and childcare.

Further YouGov data revealed that 38% of women who work full time and have a partner say household tasks mostly fall on them, compared to just 9% of men in the same situation.

This can make it challenging for women to progress their careers at the rate in which men are able to.

If you spend more time running errands and maintaining the household than your partner or spouse, it might be time for them to share the burden – even if they work longer hours than you do. That way, if you’re eager to progress your career, build your skills or pick up more hours, you’re less likely to feel overwhelmed.

Another option is to outsource certain tasks. Hiring a cleaner for a few hours each week can allow you to prioritise your career. Keep in mind that just because you’re usually responsible for these tasks, doesn’t mean it’s your responsibility to cover the cost of outsourcing.

Seek financial advice

If you and your partner are eager to make the relationship more financially equal, seeking financial advice can make a world of difference.

Your adviser will look at your income, savings and assets to determine exactly what you’re working with. They’ll also work with you to identify your life goals and lay out a plan of action to get there.

It might be the case that they’ll recommend specific pensions or investments designed to make the relationship more equitable and fair for both of you. They’ll also discuss wills and estate planning, to make sure your loved ones will be protected once you’re gone.

Consider life insurance

Whether you have children or not, life insurance could be a valuable asset in the event that the higher earner passes away. A good policy tailored to your personal circumstances can be a lifeline at times of hardship.

However, be careful not to over-insure the higher earner. If you work full time and your income contributes towards your family’s outgoings, question how your partner would manage if you were no longer around. You might be financially dependent on them, but that doesn’t mean your income doesn’t make a difference.

If the relationship is unhealthy or you want to leave…

Reach out for help

While it’s usually possible for those in healthy relationships to make things more equitable, if your partner is uncooperative or they use finances to control you, it’s a good idea to ask for help elsewhere. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a trusted friend for

support. You might also want to contact a local domestic violence hotline. This might sound extreme if your partner has never physically hurt you, but financial control is abuse and there are specialists available to help you leave.

Gather important documents

If you’re planning to leave but you’re financially dependent on your partner, gather important documents together and organise your finances as best you can before you break the news.

Passports, bank statements, payslips and birth certificates can be a tremendous help when you’re trying to start afresh. Also, gather together any documents that prove you have ownership of certain belongings or assets.

In the world of personal finance, ‘financial independence’ can mean different things to different people. For some, it’s about building enough wealth to retire early. Yet everyone needs an element of financial independence, even if they have no plans to leave the workforce at the age of 40 and live off their investments.

Financial independence allows you to make your own choices, escape situations that make you unhappy, and enjoy healthy relationships safe in the knowledge that you’re in it for the right reasons.

This communication is not intended to constitute, and should not be construed as, investment advice, investment recommendations or investment research. You should seek advice from a professional adviser before embarking on any financial planning activity.