Managers, CEOs and entrepreneurs are used to mitigating risk. When it comes to personal life, however, but too many are behaving recklessly and exposing yourself to an STD (sexually transmitted debt.)

Accountants and financial advisors meet with many individuals who are struggling with an STD they received from a once-loving partner. Examples include the high-flying executive who fled overseas and the wife was left facing a mountain of debt; a partner who was liable for a large phone bill because of a present purchased in their name; and a wife with a gambling addiction who drained the bank accounts and stopped paying tax and supplier bills. In all of these cases, one party was left devastated and with a nasty case of STD.

How to avoid taking on partner debt―and protect your credit rating

1. Use protection

Clare Boothe Luce said “Sometimes the best protection is a little money of her own” and I believe this is true for both partners in a relationship. It’s why I’m a fan of always having some money of your own in your own bank account. But it’s just as important to protect whatever assets you have, including your income.
Protection means not opening joint bank accounts, joint credit cards, co-signing loans, moving in together, signing up to phones or other plans until you’ve moved through step 2, 3 and 4.

2. Talk about it

Before you get too serious and start to share any sort of financial product make sure you have a conversation about money: who owns what, who owes what, what taxes are outstanding and what you hope to achieve with your finances. While money’s not the sexiest subject for couples, sometimes you simply have to pour a glass of wine, take a deep breath and have the conversation. This means there will be fewer surprises down the track and if there are any financial skeletons you can make plans to deal with them early on.

3. Insist on transparency

Make it hard for each other to financially cheat by sharing with each other what you have and what you owe. We’re talking eyeballs on bank statements. While you don’t need to know each other’s passwords and logins―as that removes some of your safety net―you need to have a regular, monthly chat around finances where you both bring along your bank statements. A great way to be transparent without risk is to use a cloud-based solution like Xero or the free Money Smart app where you can see each other’s financial information but can’t access funds.

4. Seek professional advice

Before you join funds, move in together, apply for loans or sign documents, make sure you seek professional advice to understand the implications. For example, if you move in together and both names are on the lease but your partner leaves, the landlord won’t necessarily chase you both for the money. They’ll chase the easiest one to locate and the one that is earning the largest income. The same goes for signing documents. You may be told it’s not a big deal to guarantee a loan or become a company director but, if things go wrong, the ramifications can be life-changing.

Sex, money, and relationships

Often we focus almost entirely on the sexual side of a relationship because it can be the most fun but it’s money issues that can cause the most lasting damage. By choosing to be smart about money, couples can not only avoid paying off partner debt―and getting STDs―but can create strong relationships where money isn’t something dirty or awkward but is just another thing that is talked about.