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Young love and money: A balancing act

September 2019

In conversation

Let’s have that big talk about… money. Financial literacy in young couples is low, and as a result, 1 in 10 women are experiencing economic abuse. Rochelle Seneviratna, Producer at Today talked to Jozica Kutin, Researcher at RMIT University, about her research into this very topic, and what she’s hoping to change as a result.

There is research that suggests men are more likely to see having money, or earning money as a form of power and status, whereas women are more likely to see using money as an opportunity to express your love and concern for others.

Rochelle: Can we start with an overview of your role and the research that you’ve done to-date on economic abuse within young people?

Jozica: I’ve been working at RMIT for the last six years, but for the last four years, I was doing a PhD, with Roslyn Russell, my supervisor. My PhD was prompted by her involvement in other organisations that were looking at financial abuse in women; women at the later stages of their relationships where they’ve been in abusive relationships for a long period of time. And then she came to me with the problem—“we’ve got no idea how many people this affects.”

That then triggered my research which was about figuring out the prevalence; so, how many people experience economic abuse? But then also thinking about, “Well, how can we prevent this?” For me, the key was then to look at the beginning of people’s relationships, at their relationship formation phase. That’s why I focused on 18 to 29-year-olds.

Rochelle: From the research that you’ve done, what would you say the key takeaways are?

Jozica: For young people in particular; they experienced forms of financial abuse, or economic abuse differently to other people. Their stories were more about being financially exploited—which is one of the forms of economic abuse—and destruction to their property, possessions and things like that. Because their asset base, or their income, or the income pool wasn’t a huge amount, they generally then didn’t go to other services to get some help. So that’s basically the second point; they weren’t engaged with the domestic violence services. They associate those services with older people, and mainly for people who are experiencing physical violence.

The next important thing was that they actually didn’t even realise that it was a thing, until they saw the ad for the research to be interviewed about their money issues in their relationship. Then that got them reflecting, “Well, actually, yeah, this was an issue in our relationship.”

And I think what happens with young people—and I guess people in general—is that if you’re experiencing financial hardship, and you’re struggling with bills and paying for all kinds of things, you think that your problems in your relationship are because of that. As opposed to the problems in your relationship causing that; so, something that the other person’s doing that then causes you—or both of you—to be in financial hardship.

Rochelle: When you did your research and you interviewed the participants, was it quite evident that it was only until after they were out of the relationship that they realised they had been in a relationship where they were suffering from economic abuse?

Jozica: That’s pretty much the case. When I asked them to reflect on what the warning signs were and what was happening, they often felt what they were doing or contributing was actually part of the tit for tat in the relationship. So, for the women who were feeling exploited, it was, “I gave him money,” or, “I paid for his education,” or, “I paid for this,” or, “I signed this contract for him, because that’s what you do when you love somebody. And if I was in that situation, he would do the same thing for me.” So there was this expectation that it would be reciprocated, but then eventually what they found is that it wasn’t.

Then it got to the point where they then realised, “Hang on, this isn’t fair.” And usually, other things in the relationship would happen. So either it became physically violent, or there was a break in trust in another way, like having an affair with somebody else.

Rochelle: You mentioned that economic abuse is more prevalent for females versus males. Why do you think that is? I find that quite interesting. Why is there such a disparity between genders?

Jozica: It’s interesting, isn’t it? Part of it goes to the roles that we play in relationships, and our traditional expectations about who manages the finances in relationships. Traditional expectation is that the man is the breadwinner, therefore, he has control over the income, and he basically also has more control over the financial decision making. A lot of us have been brought up in households like that. However, society is now saying to us, “No, this is not the case. You can work, you can earn your own money, and you can have a say in the financial decisions.” So, it’s about trying to integrate the new way of doing things—and what our social expectations are—into the home and into our relationships.

There is research that suggests men are more likely to see having money, or earning money as a form of power and status, whereas women are more likely to see using money as an opportunity to express your love and concern for others.

One of the biggest and common risk factors for partner abuse and violence is at the time when women are pregnant or have their first child. That—to me—really indicates an increase in vulnerability. There’s an increase in vulnerability because you become dependent. You’re financially dependent, you’re physically dependent, you’re kind of housebound in a way, and bound to the child.

When someone is controlling and coercive around money, it’s much easier for them to exploit that vulnerability. So you can be vulnerable because you have a disability, because you earn less than your partner, because you’re caring for children in the home, or because you’re not working.

Rochelle: Has there been much research done on that aspect, as to what the factors are surrounding that exploitation?

Jozica: I think a lot of the research and factors look into the fact that men—and society has promoted this—are the ones to have power and control in these situations; and they then believe that.

There’s a process of letting go of that male expectation, or male stereotypical expectation of that’s how you should do things, and that if you don’t do things that way, the sky isn’t going to fall in and you can actually be equal in your decision making.

And I think the reverse is also true, because I’ve heard when talking to young women, that their independent identities are also caught up in their capacity to earn money. So when they stop earning money—because they’re staying home with children—they feel as though they have less right to access the family money, or the other partner’s money; which shouldn’t be the way things go.

Rochelle: Because they haven’t earned the money?

Jozica: That’s it, yes. I’d like to do more research around that because now we’ve been so ingrained with thinking, “You can be independent,” “You need to be financially independent,” “Earn your own money,’’ do this and do that; so you think that your right to financial decision making in the relationship is dependent upon you earning money and bringing money in. But it shouldn’t be, because everybody brings in different things into a relationship.

Rochelle: I think something else that was quite interesting that came from your thesis were cultural factors, and that depending on your cultural background, economic abuse in certain relationships can be more prevalent. Do you want to talk more on that?

Jozica: Some of my participants did talk about their difficulty—or their struggle—with cultural differences. It was either that they were brought up in a strong patriarchal, financially-controlling environment in their home countries or with their families. So they found it difficult to be more independent and were more willing to accept a man’s dominance in relation to their finances and financial decision making.

With other couples, there were financial practices that they didn’t understand, and were suspicious of, and really needed to be able to, I guess, come to a level playing field in relation to that. For some couples, for example, he would be sending money home, but he wouldn’t talk to her about why, or how much.

So she knew, but it wasn’t up for discussion, and it was actually impacting upon the amount of money that they both had. It wasn’t up for discussion, and it wasn’t disclosed how much, and it was just presented as, “Well, that’s my priority. It’s none of your business. You don’t need to know.” Whereas her message from her family was, “That does not make sense.”

Rochelle: Was it ever a woman sending money or keeping their finances to themselves in their relationship?

Jozica: No, it was mostly men.

In one of Roslyn’s studies where she surveyed a whole lot of women about their money practices, I asked a question: “Do you have money stored in a secret bank account or somewhere else?” and 23% of women said yes.

There were about 2,000 people in that survey. So it’s a representative set, which is really interesting.

Rochelle: Do you think it comes back to safety and the fear of not being able to access shared money?

Jozica: Even women of older generations will say “you must always keep some money for yourself.” And that’s certainly how it should be, but whether one or both partners should be secretive about that is another thing. Because certainly if the male was doing that, and if it was enormous amounts of money, that would become an issue. But of course once you separate or divorce, unless you’d hidden it in somebody else’s bank account, it all comes out.

But the problem with that study is that they didn’t ask, “Why did you keep it a secret?”

Rochelle: With women becoming a lot more vocal on standing up for equal pay in Australia, have you seen a shift in the prevalence of economic abuse and finance practices within young adults relationships?

Jozica: I was surprised to see that it was a problem amongst young people, because I would have thought that given the social and cultural context now—that they would be way better off than my mum was.

My mum came from low education, a non-English speaking background, migrated here, had a very controlling husband, and I just thought, “Well, that’s that generation. That’s what it was like then.” And then I learnt that somebody I knew who had a high level of education, was also on a very restricted allowance, had no idea how much her husband earned, had no idea what was in the bank accounts, and that shocked me. But then it shocked me even more to find out that young adults were also experiencing this.

These discussions were coming up with Roslyn about the work that she was doing, and it was also coming out of the mouths of my friends young adult children, they were talking about the situations they were in, and then I just thought, “What the hell is going on?”

Rochelle: I think it’s a lot more common than we realise. I spoke to one of my best friend’s younger sisters who’s 22, and she mentioned that she’d just come out of a relationship where she was suffering from economic abuse; buying all the food, groceries, paying the rent, and didn’t speak out. It was only until she was out of it that she realised that is was completely skewed in their relationship.

Jozica: That was the same with my friend’s daughter as well. Similar age. She was doing everything; working two jobs and studying. He was doing a bit of DJ-ing, and she was paying off his Centrelink debt. And that’s just wrong.

Young people are more likely to move in together these days than they did in the past, and they’re still effectively in a share house type of situation. So, as your relationship progresses, then maybe your trust increases. And then also maybe your trust with the other person around finances should also increase. But it shouldn’t be all or nothing at the very beginning.

Rochelle: I think something that you’ve mentioned which is quite interesting is that it’s a serious relationship, it’s your first one, you’re a young adult, and then you mix love and money, and it’s almost a recipe for disaster.

Jozica: Maybe don’t quote me on this, but sometimes it makes me think, “Oh, so the old ways of doing things, of having an engagement, having your parents approval, is actually strategies to try and contain that limerence phase.” When you’re completely in love with the other person, you can’t even focus on their faults. You just dismiss all the negative things, you’re really hopeful and you want things to work out. So, small things, you’ll just go, “I’ll put that to the side. That’s fine.” But it builds, and then you’re at risk that it becomes a pattern and that that person is not the right person for you.

Money shouldn’t be tied up into your personal value or worth, but that you’re somehow able to negotiate your relationship goals and your individual goals so that you’re both financially secure, and that as a couple you’re also financially secure.

Rochelle: What sort of resources are out there that might help young adults and educate them on economic abuse?

Jozica: I’m going to just say in a blanket matter, that there’s nothing. That’s why we’re doing this amazing project with Today where we are developing a tool to address the lack of resources out there that help young people learn how to look after this aspect of their lives.

But outside of this project, I do try to find things and I try to look at the various resources that are out there. There’s a lot of online resources that have been developed around domestic violence and family abuse, especially since the Royal Commission. Services like women’s health organisations and women’s domestic violence organisations all came through as a result of what happened in the 70s. But like I said in the beginning, I think young people are alienated from that. They don’t associate what they are going through with those services.

The biggest thing with the financial abuse is that you have to deal with money every day. You can’t eliminate it. Right? Whereas with physical violence, there are some behaviours that people don’t think are violent, but actually are. If your partner is hitting you, it’s black and white, and you can recognise that. But you still have to coexist with money in your relationship. You’re not going to be able to avoid it.

There’s a website called The Line, which is aimed at, I think 15 to 25-year-olds, which discusses questions around where do you cross the line in relationships? What’s appropriate behaviour? What’s not appropriate behaviour? But there’s nothing really in there about money. And the Respectful Relationships program, which is in high schools and primary schools—they might’ve changed it now—but it didn’t include financial abuse in their definition of abuse. They don’t cover those kinds of behaviours.

Rochelle: Why do you think this has been overlooked? Why hasn’t it come to the forefront of education for young people who are finding themselves in these relationships?

Jozica: For some reason, it continually flies under the radar, and it continues to do so. It’s a very powerful tool that anyone can use to control or exploit someone, that they can mask as normalised behaviour. Using reasoning like, “But this is the best way for us to do this,” or, “We’ve got these goals, so because you’re not sticking to the budget, you’ve sabotaged us.” So you can be very easily convinced that you’re doing the wrong thing in relation to money.

Whereas with physical violence and verbal abuse, the impacts are much greater in terms of your personal safety and long-term health and well being. You can have horrible, tragic consequences, and children growing up in that situation carry that trauma with them forever. So, rightly so, there’s been a focus on that area.

People who will abuse other people will quickly learn, “Okay, well, that’s not acceptable anymore. What else can I do?” The financial stuff can really just fly under the radar and sneak up on you. I can almost call it the last bastion of abuse.

Rochelle: Do you think it’s a stepping stone? So it could start with financial economic abuse and then it could escalate in relationships? Has any of the research or your studies shown that?

Jozica: I don’t know in terms of the exact pathway, but generally when we’re looking at physical abuse and emotional abuse, there are those warning signs at the very beginning.

So it does build up, and it builds up from a place of control. Often, that masks as jealousy and protective behaviours — “I don’t want you seeing him or those people”, “I don’t want you being there”, or “I don’t want you to wear this.” Those are some kinds of controlling behaviours, and then money comes into it. We have found that 90% — if not more — of the people who go to domestic violence services have also experienced some form of financial abuse.

There are people that only experienced financial abuse — we don’t even know the exact number — but it’s a much smaller group. Mostly financial abuse coexists with other forms of abuse, especially emotional abuse.

Rochelle: In your research, what are the main challenges that you’re currently facing? I know there are probably a few, but if you had to isolate a key one?

Jozica: Researchers always complain about not having enough funding!

But really it’s just time, I would love to have a whole team of people who were working on different aspects of the issue. That’s why it’s important to collaborate and work with other organisations.

I have been working with three other organisations who are also working on this issue as well, and we’re working together and collaborating to get some kind of change. So, there’s a need to raise awareness, but then what? What are the resources that are out there?

Rochelle: What would you say is the main thing that you wake up each day wanting to strive for in relation to economic abuse within young people’s relationships?

Jozica: As you know from the workshops that we’ve done, a lot of people have talked about how difficult it is to talk about money, and how it was such a taboo topic, and said things like, “What? You’re going to start talking about money on your first date, second date, third date? How’s that going to come across?”

I think one of the provocations that my colleagues and I were talking about was, what if instead of talking about love and emotions on those dates, all you did was talk about money? Like you reversed everything so that it just became normal to talk about money?

There’s a Holy Grail out there. I don’t know where it is, but just something that allows young people in this context to negotiate that minefield of money. Money shouldn’t be tied up into your personal value or worth, but that you’re somehow able to negotiate your relationship goals and your individual goals so that you’re both financially secure, and that as a couple you’re also financially secure.

But this is what I love about this process, that as much as it’s anxiety-provoking, it’s also exciting because it’s not just coming from me, and it’s not just coming from our research, but it’s being tested by the young people who we’re trying to target.

Rochelle: Interesting, so on the first date. “So, let’s talk about money,” and just get straight to the point.

Jozica: Part of it is that it’s not romantic. It’s these idealised notions of romance, and of what that should be. And the thing is, yeah, it’s not romantic, people aren’t perfect.

The School of Life, they do a really interesting series of video lectures on romanticism, and how it’s just mucked everything up. Because you’re waiting for that spark, but actually it’s got to be all these other things.

Rochelle: Absolutely, we need to talk about these serious issues.

With this tool that you’re building in collaboration with Today and YLab, what do you hope that it will give to young adults?

Jozica: I’m really hoping that it’s going to be a tool that young people will go to, because it’s engaging, and it’s interesting. And it’s not just for women, it’s also for men — for everybody. Because often the solution is focused on women. But it should go both ways and it should also be couple-focussed as well.

I’m hoping that it sparks conversations amongst young people and their partners. And I’m also hoping that it really helps men—or people who might be financially-controlling or exploiting—to think about their behaviour in a way that doesn’t alienate them or shut them off, but perhaps brings them in to reflect and change their behaviour.

So I think once you’ve hooked them in, then embedded in there are the links to all the resources that they need. Because there’s certainly a lot of financial information out there. But in the context of the relationship, and trying to balance those relationship goals with your money goals, it’s a whole different kettle of fish, I think.

Rochelle: Let’s talk about language and messaging. Through the co-design workshops we’ve heard participants say things like, “We don’t want it to be labelled as economic abuse.” What impact have those comments had on you? Or What thoughts have those comments sparked?

Jozica: I’ve found the co-design process really interesting, because of course, before we started those workshops, I had my ideas about what I could do. So it’s certainly not the in-your-face approach, and I think it made sense to me that they’re put off by those words and terms, because I think—I’m just repeating myself again—but I think they associate those terms with older people, and say, “We’re not that. We all love each other and we’re all accepting of everybody’s sexualities.” and things like that.

It’s a much more open, accepting and physically affectionate cohort of people. So I think they’re really wary of economic abuse as a term. It just doesn’t make any sense to them. So I’ll be really interested to see how it goes.

But this is what I love about this process, that as much as it’s anxiety-provoking, it’s also exciting because it’s not just coming from me, and it’s not just coming from our research, but it’s being tested by the young people who we’re trying to target.

Rochelle: As you’re coming from an academic background, it’s been really nice to see you embrace the way that we work here at Today. Co-design is an important part of the way we work—we run design sprints and have all these crazy terms that we use... it’s been a different world for you to step into, but I think you’ve done a great job.

Jozica: It is a different world. I have to say that I do know quite a few artists, so I’m not averse to that process. And as you know, there is poetry in my thesis—which is unusual for a finance thesis—but look, I think it was the way to go because something different needed to happen. And from when I was speaking to young people around, “What’s out there? What would be helpful?” They were talking about stories, things that they could relate to, not lists of facts, not a video of a psychologist or a social worker saying this, that, or the other thing. All those things were causing them to switch off. So it was clear to me that this was the process we needed to go through.

Some of my original research participants came up with some really creative ideas as well. The best one was having a “dick-free year”. So, instead of Feb-fast, it was dick-free year. And that was her way of detoxing from all the patriarchy, and men, and not getting involved. Her idea was not hand over any money to any male if she could avoid it.

But also, I have to say that it was a credit to the Ecstra Foundation to also go with a project that had no clear, defined outcome.

How do you make what’s unspoken spoken? And how do you make sure that everyone’s going to play fair at the end when you break up?

Rochelle: They took a risk, or a bit of a leap of faith...

Jozica: Yes, so credit to them for embarking on an innovative process. And for me, it’s certainly been a huge learning curve, and my brain was really hurting in the design sprint. Especially when we came back to day two, and you’re saying, “Now, you got to come up with more ideas.”

I felt like, “My brain’s not working.” And I just felt like, “I just want to go back to my office and do some data analysis because it’s pretty easy.”

But it was a really good process. I was out of my comfort zone, but that’s good. That’s how you learn, and I had no idea what to expect, really.

Rochelle: With the tool that will be developed from the research and design work that we’ve been working together on, do you hope to spread this wider?

Jozica: Absolutely. There’s no point having anything online that just sits there and nobody uses it, or looks at it, or shares it, or anything like that. We have a dissemination and promotion phase for a period at the end, but also I plan to work with the Ecstra Foundation, whether it’s them hosting, or continuing to promote and develop, and revise, and expand that resource based on what comes of the initial work.

Rochelle: To spread that awareness and educate the young people of Australia.

Jozica: One of my colleagues said, “Oh, is it going to pass the pub test?” Is it going to be for the everyday person? And I really hope it can speak to the wider audience.

Rochelle: I’d like to go back to the topic of your initial research and delve a little deeper into that.

Jozica: I did three things that lead into this project. The first study I did was analysing ABS data, which was a survey of 17,000 people across Australia, about their experience of different forms of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. I pulled the economic abuse data out of that. So that was the first part of the PhD. I was analysing that data, and then published a journal article on that.

So that’s when the statistics come out: 16% of women, and 7% of men have experienced it. For young adults, it’s 10% of women, and 5% of men, just rounding it up. So from that we’ve got a bit of an idea of the lay of the land and the type of questions that they ask. And it is an under-estimate, I believe, because it doesn’t include exploitation in there, which as we know what young people experienced more, and it doesn’t include the economic entanglement, like getting people to sign contracts.

That data captured whether you were interfering with someone’s education or work, whether you damaged their property, whether you controlled their access to the car, the internet or other household assets like a phone. Whether you controlled their access to finances, or money in the home, and access to information about money. And the fifth one was being deprived of your basic necessities.

That was also an issue with some of the young people in my study. The women who were mothers, young mothers, were the ones that experienced physical violence, financial control, and just horrible, horrible situations. And one of the things that often came up, was being deprived of basic necessities. Part of that can result from not having enough money, or part of that can be damaging people’s glasses so they can’t see.

Rochelle: What was the second phase once you had the data?

Jozica: The second phase was interviewing practitioners. That’s where I interviewed 24 people who either worked as financial counsellors in domestic violence services, domestic violence workers, people from legal services, housing workers, and a university counsellor. That was to get their perspective on the issue, how it affected young people, whether they had seen young people as well, and also whether they had seen young men. Most of them hadn’t because they were mostly at services aimed at women. So that was also really interesting, because then most of the people, as I said before, going to those services had physical abuse issues.

Rochelle: What were the findings from interviewing the practitioners?

Jozica: They stated that young people need to learn more about finances because they don’t understand what they’re getting themselves into. And they also don’t really understand the concept of money. So they’re a bit more flippant or they’re not very protective of their money or things like that. That they do things because of love as opposed to thinking about their finances.

Rochelle: They’re thinking with their hearts, not so much their heads.

Jozica: That was also hard for practitioners to understand. Like, “Why is this person supporting that guy when all he’s doing is playing his X-Box all day?”

And they just weren’t aware of it, partly because it’s not out there it’s an issue, but partly because of gender-based stereotypes and all the expectations.

So the final study was then, “Okay, well I’m going to go and speak to young people and see what they’ve experienced.” So I interviewed 24 people—six guys and 18 young women—and got them to tell me their stories.

Rochelle: Had all 24 participants experienced economic abuse?

Jozica: They’d responded to the advertisement which asked, “Is your partner, or boyfriend, or girlfriend controlling or exploiting you for money?” And then there was a bit of an explanation about what that might include.

Emails were sent out through the Women’s Health Organisations, and then I also put ads on Gumtree to get volunteers to participate in it. And I had some referrals from financial counsellors as well. So there was a big range, from young guys saying, “I think I did experience that.”

… With the young men, it’s a whole different kettle of fish.

Rochelle: What do you mean by that?

Jozica: Well, one was completely clear that he was exploited by his girlfriend, and with the others, it was a bit vague. They were there because there were issues in their relationship, but I was sitting there thinking, “I think you’re the one that’s the problem.”

There was one case where he moved in with his girlfriend and he understood the arrangement was that he only had to pay 25% of the rent because he wasn’t earning that much. He was a student, and she was earning much more than him. So that was fine.

He was happy with that arrangement, but then he found that she always wanted to go out to have expensive dinners and things like that, and have expensive presents, but he couldn’t afford these things. And then if he bought her those things, he would run out of money and not be able to pay rent. But then when they broke up, she then said to him, “No, you owe me all this money for rent because you only paid a small amount and not half.”

So then he was like saying, “Yeah, but we didn’t agree with that in the first place. You can’t go back, and if you’d said that at the start, that would’ve been fine. Now I don’t have money.”

It’s all those things in there that says to me about how it’s difficult to come to those arrangements. How do you make what’s unspoken spoken? And how do you make sure that everyone’s going to play fair at the end when you break up?

I think it depends on every stage and phase of your relationship, and I think there’s a process. There’s a process where you develop emotional trust with somebody. You might emotionally trust someone a lot from the very beginning, but I don’t think that equates to the level of financial trust you can offer that person, and I think that needs to grow as well.

Rochelle: Do you have an answer for that?

Jozica: No, I don’t have answers to that. I tried finding answers, but often those answers lead to more questions.

Rochelle: In terms of economic abuse, you have said in the initial research there were those five factors that came into play. But how would you define economic abuse in a young relationship?

Jozica: I think in a young relationship it gets to the point where, for whatever reason, it’s not fair. I don’t think there’s a formula that you can put on that, because even in some instances where people went 50/50, it was actually a very abusive relationship, and very controlling, and demeaning. So, that isn’t the answer. And for young people in particular, there’s exploitation and damage to property, like where they’re living in their rental houses and their phones.

I think it depends on every stage and phase of your relationship, and I think there’s a process. There’s a process where you develop emotional trust with somebody. You might emotionally trust someone a lot from the very beginning, but I don’t think that equates to the level of financial trust you can offer that person, and I think that needs to grow as well. Trust grows, so it depends on people’s behaviour and how they respond as to whether you develop trust in that person. And the same goes financially as well. So, classic stuff. If you give someone 20 bucks and they say, “Yeah, I’ll pay you back,” and they pay you back, then you know you can trust them.

So the answer of, “No, never give your partner money,” is not the right advice either.

That was one of the typical more common behaviours, where they constantly ask them for money. So it’s like a warning sign. “Okay. Right. What’s going on here?” Maybe find out a bit more about why. It’s not like physical abuse. It’s not like you say, “He’s only hit me once, so that’s okay.” But maybe, “When he hits me for the fifth time, that might not be good enough.” In those situations, even once is not good.

Rochelle: I feel like economic abuse in relationships—and particularly young relationships—it’s quite complex. Knowing when you draw that line and think, “Actually, this is not okay. I need to have a conversation with my partner,” and say “this isn’t fair.”

Jozica: I think when you’re in a marriage, or when you’ve gone to a serious committed relationship, there’s more of an expectation that everything gets shared, and that you’re there to support each other, and you’re in there for the long haul; even though we know that half of these relationships end. It’s much easier to buy a house together, to pool your resources, and to act as one economic union rather than individuals.

I suppose people just need to be more cautious in the beginning with their money and the decisions that they make, especially when it can lead to what I call economic entanglement, which could work against you. Signing up to a lease with someone that you haven’t known for a very long time, that would be economic entanglement. You’ve got some kind of contractual thing that’s binding you together, either physically or financially, like going guarantor for someone’s loan.

Rochelle:
Do you find that it’s quite prevalent in young relationships?

Jozica: It’s certainly what the financial counsellors see, because they’re often at the end trying to fix things up. With the young people that I saw, it might only be $10,000, $5,000, or $2,000, but in the scheme of things, it’s not like $500,000, or half a house, or something like that. Those things often resolve through the generosity of their own parents.

My advice is to be very wary about those things in the very beginning, especially if somebody’s asking you to go guarantor or sign a contract for something. You probably wouldn’t do it. Your friends probably wouldn’t ask. They always say, “Never mix family with money”— there’s a reason for that. It’s just being very mindful of those kinds of contractual things at the very beginning.

Rochelle:
Thank you so much for your time, Jozica, we are really excited to be developing this project with you. It’s a really important piece of work and a great thing to be part of.

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