couple in disagreement on couch
Leah Berenson
Leah Berenson
January 15, 2024 ·  5 min read

10 Money-Related Red Flags You Should Be Aware of in a Relationship

Although disagreements are had in a relationship, some are more alarming than others. These instances are generally considered red flags and may pose a danger to one’s own well-being. For example, financial red flags are notable because they can leave one without a home, in bad credit, and in many ways, unable to come out of debt or financial ruin.

Researchers have spent innumerable hours to better understand the importance of good mental health. The importance of being in a partnership that is equally nurturing for both parties. The negative effects of being in a relationship with notable abuse of any kind. And how they all correlate together to create a life of happiness, good health, and safety. In regard to financial red flags, here is a list of ten of the most frequently occurring to look out for in a relationship.

10 Financial Red Flags


Some secrecy is healthy for relationships, in harmless instances like surprise dates or gifts. In contrast, hiding things can pose as financial red flags. After all, the bare minimum, relationships require transparency and communication to thrive. For example, couples should talk about things like making big purchases.

Hiding Debt

It’s common for many people to have car loans or student debt to pay off, so it’s vital to be open and honest in relationships regarding debt. Sometimes debt can impact the whole family, not just the individual whose name is on the loan. Particularly, it’s important to have those conversations prior to getting married.

Avoiding a Discussion About Finances

Moreover, refusing to have any sort of discussion regarding finances is also an example of financial red flags. However, financial red flags start popping up if a partner often avoids discussing finances. “It is completely appropriate during the dating phase to inquire about a person’s financial status and goals, at an appropriate timeline,” explains Liz Higgins, a relationship therapist. “Meaning you may not ask about these details on the first date, but after some months of dating and if the relationship seems to be heading in a more serious direction, at that point it becomes appropriate to inquire a little more about a person’s state of financial health. When this is met with closed-off responses or an unwillingness to dialogue, I would absolutely consider this a (financial) red flag.”

Finances as a Means of Control

It’s customary to help your partner or significant other out in times of struggle. It’s also customary to for them to do the same for you. This even exchange is the means for helping a relationship to feel balanced. Alternatively, it’s a financial red flag when a partner uses their financial contributions to you as a means to control or manipulate you.

Too Many Credit Cards

Although this one isn’t considered a trait of an abusive relationship, it is a financial red flag. Having many credit cards is problematic because it shows a partner has no self-control. Furthermore, it increases the chances of a lifetime of endless credit card bills. Oftentimes, racking up large amounts of interest adding to the endless, vicious cycle.

Read: 10 Things Your Partner Shouldn’t Expect You To Do In A Relationship

Inability to Budget

Another example of a financial red flag is a person not having the ability to stick to a budget. For example, when saving for a trip, it’s common for couples to make sacrifices like daily coffee shop stops or lunch out. While it’s ok to splurge now and then, it’s crucial to look out for a partner who consistently struggles to stick to a budget.

Late Payments

With nearly everything being electronic in regard to money, it can be easy to forget to make a manual payment now and then. For example, when being issued a new card from the bank and forgetting to update autopay. However, frequently forgetting to pay bills shows a lack of responsibility and could mean added interest, meaning more money lost. It could also negatively impact credit scores.

Bad Credit

While this can occasionally be due to negligence by a previous partner, or some other form of misunderstanding, it’s most often a financial red flag. It shows a pattern of reckless spending. “You want to rent a place or buy a house together and your partner’s poor credit holds you back,” explains personal finance expert, Brianna McGurran.

Always Borrowing Money

It’s not uncommon for people to occasionally borrow money for gas or to help them pay a bill. In contrast, frequently borrowing money from others is an undeniable financial red flag. Relationship psychologist Zoe Coetzee explains, “Borrowing small sums of money often and not paying it back can illustrate a certain irresponsibility and dependence on others when it comes to finances, which can develop into a larger issues and serious debt,” Coetzee elaborates, “Financial boundaries should be respected in relationships, and continually overstepping this line is the sign of an issue.”

Financial Red Flag 10: Controlling Your Spending

Other notable financial red flags include when your partner limits your spending. As previously mentioned, families may agree on budgeting when planning a family trip. Other examples include buying a new car or home. “Your partner should never use money as a means of power,” Coetzee also explains. “Controlling your access to finances or information about your joint finances is a danger sign in a relationship.”

Financial red flags, or red flags of any kind, take away a person’s freedom, individuality, independence, and self-esteem. And in the most extreme cases, it can impact someone’s life, safety, and well-being. Fortunately, many resources are available to those who feel they may be in a relationship in which financial red flags, or others, may be prominent. The US Department of Health and Human Services has a page with ample information regarding how to leave safely and what to do or prepare for after leaving.

Meanwhile, the non-profit crisis helpline, founded in 2013, can be reached anytime, day or night, by calling or texting 988. Above all, communication is the most important aspect of any relationship. Consequently, partners should always feel comfortable talking with each other about important things like finances, concerns, or future goals.

Keep Reading: Experts Reveal 4 Major Red Flags Your Partner Is Gaslighting You


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  2. 5 Financial Red Flags in Relationships (And How to Address Them).Nerd Wallet. Mora Dunn and Beth Buczynski
  3. 11 Money-Related Red Flags You Should Be Aware Of In A Relationship.Bustle. Natalia Lusinski. July 1, 2020