Personal Finance Red Flags in Relationships

Here are a few personal finance red flags to be aware of in a relationship - these might be things your partner does, or you may even recognize these habits in yourself. If you’re in a partnership where money is shared, these situations could indicate trouble.

RED FLAG #1: Refusal to talk about money.

If a relationship partner refuses to talk about money, it’s a red flag that they might be hiding important information that could affect the other partner’s financial well-being. This could include…

  1. Hidden debt or an excessive spending habit 
  2. Compulsive gambling 
  3. Failed crypto currency investments

RED FLAG #2: Uses credit irresponsibly.

Credit cards can be a great financial tool when used responsibly, but when a partner overspends continually on a credit card, it can quickly snowball into a debt crisis for the couple.

  1. Irresponsible credit card can cause damage to credit scores and result in mounting interest charges and fees. 
  2. Pay attention to spending habits – do they always use their credit card and then only pay the minimum each month? Do they have several cards and always seem to be rotating them or having them declined?
  3. The partner might not be using a credit card, but instead is constantly borrowing funds from family and friends. This might not cause late fees but can lead to the loss of important relationships if the funds are not paid back.

RED FLAG #3: Overly frugal

This can be a tough red flag to spot since recession worries have most of us saving more for a rainy day, but excessive frugality can negatively affect personal relationships and quality of life. Here are a few things to look for to tell when thrifty crosses the line to stingy.

  1. Reducing meals or medications, or pressuring a partner to do so, to avoid spending money.
  2. Putting themselves or others in danger to avoid spending money, like driving on bald tires to avoid buying new ones.
  3. Not allowing themselves or their partner to spend money on fun or relaxation.

WHAT TO DO: What can you do when you spot these red flags in a partner or with yourself?

Relationship partners should set agreed-upon financial rules. For example, an agreement to discuss any potential purchase over a set amount.

  • Disclose debt amounts and types to the partner when the relationship becomes significant.
  • Know the general state of shared finances and goals, even if the other partner primarily manages the finances.
  • Have regularly scheduled financial conversations, not just when something goes wrong.
  • If a potential partner isn’t willing to have these important financial conversations, they may not be ready to be in a financially integrated relationship. 

RESOLUTION: Having trouble communicating about finances in a relationship? Here are some ways to start a healthy financial conversation:

  1. Make the time and space to talk about your financial goals away from distractions like phones, kids or the TV.
  2. Increase your financial knowledge together – Cornerstone offers free financial quick courses online at under Financial Education
  3. Talk to a therapist – money troubles are the #2 reason for divorce, so talking to a therapist can be a good way to get a relationship on the same financial page. 

Recognize financial abuse.

If a partner is displaying multiple financial red flags, sabotaging your ability to earn your own money or limiting your access to shared funds, it’s financial abuse and it may be time to reach out to a trusted friend or community organization for help.