New research from Direct Line Life Insurance reveals consumers are hiding over £69bn of debt from their partners. People are completely in the dark over their loved ones’ finances, with 8.3 million (16 per cent) of consumers having debts their partner knows nothing about.

The average debt hidden from a partner in the UK is £8,293, which would take approximately 15 weeks for the average Brit to pay off, even if they could commit their entire earnings to clearing this debt.

In fact, over 460,000 people wouldn’t have even started a relationship with their current partner if they had been aware of their financial position when they started dating.

The largest number of hidden debts are on credit cards with 5.6 million Consumers owing an average of £2,109, or cumulatively £11.7 billion, their partner doesn’t know about.  The other debts mostly likely to be hidden are personal loans, which 2.6 million Consumers haven’t told their partner about and car payments (2.5 million). In a move likely to cause huge acrimony if it were ever to be revealed, 1.4 million Consumers have outstanding child support payments they have hidden from their current partner, at an average of £748.

Table one:  Types of debt for people in the UK

Type of debt Debtors Total debt Average debt
Credit card  5.6 million £11.7 billion £2,109
Personal loan(s)  2.6 million £12.8 billion £5,011
Car payments  2.5 million £6.8 billion £2,756
Other debts  2.5 million £20.3 billion £8,177
Store card  2.3 million £1.3 billion £571
Money owed to friends/family  1.9 million £15.6 billion £8,037
Child support  1.4 million £1.1 billion £748
All debts  8.4 million £69.6 billion £8,293

Source:  Direct Line Life Insurance

Consumers justify hiding debts from their partner, with 29 per cent of those in this position claiming they are trying to pay off the money owed so don’t need to tell them.  Nearly one and a half million Consumers (17 per cent) say they hide the money they owe to avoid arguments, while more than one in ten (12 per cent) don’t think it is any of their partner’s business.

Married Consumers who have hidden debts are even more likely to not disclose debts (30 per cent) to avoid arguments, with 38 per cent saying they don’t think it is any of their partner’s business. For six per cent of married Consumers who have hidden debts, it is the fear their partner would leave them if they revealed their debt shame leading them to keep it under wraps, even though they would also be liable for the debt.

Table two:  Reasons for not disclosing debt 

Reasons for not disclosing debt to a partner Married Britons Brits in a relationship Debtors
I don’t think it is any of their business 39 per cent 14 per cent
To avoid arguments 30 per cent 15 per cent
It is my debt not a joint debt, so I don’t need to tell my partner 16 per cent 24 per cent
I’ve always been in debt it’s not an issue 16 per cent 7 per cent

Source:  Direct Line Life Insurance

The research also reveals that married Consumers are extremely uncomfortable discussing their finances with their spouse. Married people said they would rather discuss their political beliefs (61 per cent) and even their ‘discriminatory views’ (30 per cent) than their current financial situation.

Table three:     Topics married Consumers use to avoid a conversation about finances

Ten things married people would rather discuss than their financial situation
Political beliefs 60 per cent
Their own medical history 58 per cent
Their own death and subsequent arrangements 57 per cent
What they think about their partner’s family 52 per cent
What they would like to happen if they become incapacitated 40 per cent
Religious beliefs 33 per cent
Discriminatory views 30 per cent
Their relationship history 20 per cent
Their family history 18 per cent
Their views on having children 15 per cent
Their current financial situation 9 per cent

Source:  Direct Line Life Insurance

Jane Morgan, Business Manager at Direct Line Life Insurance, commented: “A conversation about your finances can be awkward and if you’ve got debt even somewhat distressing, but it’s important to ensure your partner is aware of your financial position, especially if you live together or are married, as they could be liable for any outstanding debts.

“Given so many people are hiding debts from their nearest and dearest, we’d suggest having these discussions as early as possible to make sure you are prepared. When considering life insurance, couples can build in mortgage costs, as well as a lump sum or any debts to reduce the financial pressure you could face in the unfortunate event your partner passes away.”