Signs Your Romantic Partner Is Financially Unstable

Look for these red flags.

Money is the last thing on the minds of most newly minted couples, but financial stability can end up being incredibly important over the course of a long-term relationship or marriage. At a time when the average American now has $23,325 in debt, excluding mortgages, and 35% of people who experience stress in their relationship blame finances, couples hoping to make it in the long term should consider financial compatibility alongside other factors in choosing a partner. Catch financial instability early by keeping an eye out for these red flags from your partner.

Your partner lets bills pile up.

Watch for a stack of unopened bills, final notices or signs that regular bills are going unpaid. Constantly getting calls from collectors or having services suspended are obvious signs your partner is in serious financial trouble.

What to do about it: Start an open dialogue from a nonjudgmental place. “Avoid putting anyone on the spot,” says Krista Aliga, certified financial planner at Personal Capital. “Have those conversations honestly and casually with your partner.” Just don’t delay in bringing up this possible deal-breaker.

Your partner struggles with addiction.

If your partner struggles with addiction — to drugs, alcohol, shopping or something else — your finances can suffer. Funding that habit can take precedence over other needs, making it impossible to save for your financial goals or stick to a budget.

What to do about it: Seek professional help to support your loved one struggling with addiction. Getting your partner the help they may need takes precedence over your financial concerns, but consider decoupling your money in the meantime while your partner works on his or her health.

Open communication is nonexistent.

Nearly 4 out of 10 adults avoid talking about money with a romantic partner, according to Personal Capital’s Love & Money Report. Money is still a societal taboo for many — we avoid sharing our salaries, discussing our debts and comparing our company benefits. But being more open about money can serve as a useful tool and is especially important in a romantic relationship if you’re thinking about getting serious. Watch out for partners who cringe at the topic of finances.

What to do about it: Take it slow. Begin introducing topics surrounding money and ask open-ended questions when you feel comfortable doing so. “Couples have to have a shared vision, particularly when we’re identifying goals,” says Lisa D. Jones, managing director of the Prime Capital Investment Advisors Springfield, Missouri, market. She suggests individuals try asking their partners questions like, “What would you do right now if you won the lottery?”

Your beau is blissfully ignorant.

So you’ve started talking about money with your partner, but he or she doesn’t have much to say … in a bad way. If your partner is uninterested in the state of their own finances and has no plans to improve that low credit score or lingering student loan debt, you may have a problem.

What to do about it: Encourage your partner to educate themselves. Set aside time to make positive money moves, like checking your annual free credit report or meeting with a financial advisor.

Your mate has a stack of credit cards.

If you happen to catch a peek inside your partner’s wallet at dinner and notice a huge pile of credit cards inside, take notice. While some individuals take advantage of multiple credit cards for their cash back or travel rewards options, having multiple credit cards can also be a sign your partner has a spending problem. In some cases, misuse of credit cards can be severe and the debt that follows is particularly costly at interest rates above 20%.

What to do about it: Have a conversation about it first to discover whether this is a spending problem or simply a desire to get the best rewards. If overspending is a real issue, consider meeting with a financial advisor or even a therapist depending on the particulars of your partner’s situation.

Something doesn’t add up.

If your partner’s luxurious lifestyle doesn’t quite match their job description and salary, something might be up. These days, it’s not uncommon for someone to have a side hustle or second job, but a fancy lifestyle without an obvious source of that cash is definitely worth digging into.

What to do about it: Don’t just shrug it off. If you’re married, it’s time to take a larger role in your financial decision-making. If you’re dating, proceed with caution and open the door to conversations about money when you’re comfortable. Having a money meeting to discuss credit cards, debt and beyond as you get more serious as a couple can be an opportunity to share more about your own financial situation as well as learn about your partner’s.

Your lover is lying to you.

Honesty and trust are key in any relationship, especially when it comes to money. In the Love & Money Report, 58% of respondents say they would end the relationship if their partner was being dishonest about money or spending. If you suspect your partner has been lying about money, serious action must be taken.

What to do about it: Explore your partner’s financial and familial history. “Most of us come from different money backgrounds. Look at the money modeling your potential partner came from,” Jones says. “If there’s secrecy around those areas, that’s a huge red flag.”

All of your activities revolve around shopping.

You eat out every night. For fun on the weekends, you head to the mall or take a vacation out of town. Everything you do as a couple seems to cost money — which is fun at first, but can break the bank if it continues into a long-term habit.

What to do about it: Create a budget that includes free activities, like cooking dinner at home or attending a free concert at your local park. “Budgeting is like dieting, there’s not a one size fits all for any relationship,” Aliga says. “If you are setting a budget, make it realistic and make sure it offers some flexibility. If you’re finding someone is overspending, going way over the budget that was discussed, take those conversations into more frequency.”

Your partner has a pile of debt.

About 1 in 8 Americans have student loan debt, which can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. While it’s not always a red flag to have some sort of debt, the type of debt and reason for the debt matters. If your relationship gets serious, any debt your partner has can quickly become your problem, too.

What to do about it: Create a debt repayment plan with your partner before getting married. In some cases, a prenuptial agreement can help protect individuals from being held responsible for a partner’s owed amounts. Consider meeting with an attorney or financial advisor before walking down the aisle.

Watch for these signs of financial instability.

— Your partner lets bills pile up.

— Your partner struggles with addiction.

— Open communication is nonexistent.

— Your beau is blissfully ignorant.

— Your mate has a stack of credit cards.

— Something doesn’t add up.

— Your lover is lying to you.

— All of your activities revolve around shopping.

— Your partner has a pile of debt.

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Signs Your Romantic Partner Is Financially Unstable originally appeared on

Update 03/17/22: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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