Money News is a segment which takes you behind the new stories about money to analyse what’s behind the headline. This week, we look at reports that celebrity influencer Lottie Tomlinson allegedly paid off her new boyfriend’s $38K debt. Should you ever pay off your partner’s debt? We discuss it here.
Should you ever pay off a partner’s debt? Young people are drawn to influencers like Lottie Tomlinson. She’s growing her own brand as an influencer as well as being the sister of One Direction star Louis Tomlinson. People are interested in her life and stories including the one that appeared in the Mail Online about her allegedly paying off her new boyfriend’s debt are likely to be quickly consumed by and influence the behaviours of her followers. And that’s why we’re talking about it.
Lottie Tomlinson has had a tough few years, with the death of her mother and her sister so no one could begrudge her the happiness of a new relationship. We recognise that this hasn’t come directly from Lottie and has been reported in the media but we know that as young people, we are still likely to be influenced by what we read, particularly that behaviour of those we follow. Rather than criticising Lottie, we’re looking at the specific behaviour that was reported in the Mail Online article and asking whether you should ever pay off your partner’s debt.
Australians have the world’s second-largest household debts.
Debt is something that many of us are managing actively or are worrying about right now. It is something that we accrue and something we know that we are responsible for paying down.
It’s something that the ABC’s Australia Talks National Survey of 2019 picked up on, with 90% of those 55,000 Australians surveyed saying that our household debt was a problem.
90% of the nearly 55,000 respondents to the ABC’s Australia Talks National Survey said that household debt was a national problem for Australia. By household debt, we mean the consumer debt we hold as individuals like car loans or credit card debt.
37% were struggling to pay their debts, and debt was a problem for half of millennials surveyed.
This additional data from that survey shows how many of us are worrying about debt. So the idea of someone coming along and paying off our debt can seem like a wish come true. But is it a good idea for you or for the person paying off your debt for you?
Many of us know what it feels like to be in debt or know someone experiencing debt. It was with this context that we read the story of Lottie allegedly paying off her new boyfriend’s debt.
This story appeared on the Mail Online website on 16 September 2020. Let’s go through the story and dissect the facts behind it.
Louis Tomlinson is said to be ‘concerned’ about his sister’s new romance after finding out Lottie gave Lewis Burton £22K to pay off his debts. A source told MailOnline Lottie, 22, paid boyfriend Lewis, 28, the lump sum in August, and has also foot the bill during expensive restaurant visits. One Direction star Louis, 28, and his grandparents are believed to be ‘worried’ about the influencer’s new romance.
Firstly, that is a huge amount of money. For international readers, £22,000 is AUD $38,726 at the time of writing or USD $28,340. That’s an annual salary for many young people. The report that her brother and grandparents are concerned about the amount of money she’s given away to a new partner is something we can all relate to – if my brother gave a new partner that amount of money, I’d be concerned too.
I would suggest that any new couple talks about money. Talk about who is paying on each date rather than starring at the bill awkwardly until one of your reaches for your card, talk about your career aspirations and talk about the goals you’re saving up for. These conversations are a form of vetting, in checking whether your individual financial habits and lifestyles are compatible before you commit to someone long-term. This is what new couples should be doing – it’s about trying before you buy rather than throwing money at a relationship before you really know the person.
A source said: ‘Lottie paid off a debt for Lewis to the value of £22K in August, a month after they confirmed their relationship. ‘Louis has since found out, as well as Lottie’s grandparents who are worried. ‘Lottie’s twin sisters Phoebe and Daisy told their grandparents it was Lottie who paid the bill when they ate together with Lewis at London restaurant The Ivy, which caused them to worry further.’
So quite a few things to unpack here. Firstly, this is a very new relationship of a month. We all know that in the first months of a relationship, you often show your best version to someone and only relax into your real self months after dating. The conversations you’re having about money a month in should really be scoping out the practicalities of who is paying for what and getting to know them as a person.
On the paying for dinner comment, it shouldn’t really matter if you pick up the bill for dinner once. We’ve all had bad dates and paid the bill just to get out of there stat. We also might pay for dinner with our family that our partner happens to attend because it’s predominantly a dinner for our family rather than theirs.
What does matter is when it becomes a pattern that you’re picking up the bills for every dinner, because it creates a dependency within the relationship whereby you might feel like the person that you’re paying everything for owes you something – and when they don’t deliver, you’re likely to get resentful. It might also seem to your friends that your new partner is a leach because they don’t contribute – and your friends are often a great source of information on this when you’re too love drunk to see what’s happening.
MailOnline revealed Caroline Flack’s ex-boyfriend was dating Lottie in July and the pair later confirmed their relationship by holidaying together in Ibiza. They have since been pictured passionately kissing, as well as sharing an animated exchange, which looked like an argument. Lewis started dating Lottie five months after Love Island host Caroline tragically took her own life aged 40.
Everyone deserves to be happy, no question. But Caroline Flack’s death was incredibly tragic and the boyfriend she was dating at the time might be someone who might need more time and space before moving on. Lottie seems lovely and after all she’s been through in recent years, you just want to wish her a loving partner who will give her the world. The reported behaviour of a partner who allegedly took £22,000 from her in the first month of dating might be cause for concern.
We were considering whether to write this article and in the days that passed, a Sun article appeared which stated that Caroline Flack allegedly also gave her ex-boyfriend money to pay off debt. According to the Sun article, Caroline reportedly gave him “£25,000 to pay off his debts. Plus she paid for absolutely everything in their lives – rent, clothes, food, going out, holidays.” If you had a friend or family member in this situation, you would probably be just as concerned as Lottie’s family is reported to be.
The decision to pay off someone’s debt can’t be taken lightly as you’re likely acting out of love rather than logic and if you break up, that will likely lead to resentment. If you want to show commitment to someone you love, share where you’re at but don’t ask someone to bail you out of a financial situation you created. If you really like someone, share your financial situation, which could be as simple as both sharing your credit score which will to some extent show how someone has managed debt in their path and how attractive they are to a bank considering giving them a loan.
The reason for doing this is very logical. If you marry your partner or co-sign a mortgage with them, your financial situation is tied together. By having money conversations early, you get a glimpse into what it will be like to manage money with them before you are tied together financially.
The short answer is you should NEVER pay off your partner’s debt.
The fact is if you bail someone out of a problem, they don’t learn from it. If your partner is in debt, support them with strategies to pay it off but ultimately, they must be the one to pay off their debt. There are so many free services like the National Debt Hotline that are available to support people to do debt-free that they are not alone and it’s not your job to make them debt-free.
We debated whether to write this article since it appeared in the news. Ultimately, what made the decision clear was Lottie Tomlinson’s 3.7 Instagram followers. Those are 3.7 million people who follow what happens to someone and because of this, might see it as normal to pay off your new boyfriend’s debt because of what’s reported in the press.
Whatever the situation is, please know that you absolutely should learn more about your partner’s financial situation, including their beliefs around money and whether they are carrying debt. But as an individual, know that you are not responsible for bailing your partner out of debt.
Read more: 8 steps to financial independence