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Addressing the taboo of finances in relationships

Photo of the researcher
Dr Ayesha Scott

AUT research, in partnership with Good Shepherd NZ, aims to tackle financial abuse by helping Kiwis talk comfortably and constructively about money with their loved ones.

AUT Business School’s Dr Ayesha Scott (Department of Finance) has been awarded an AUT Health Futures development grant to support her research project, “My money, your money…our money? Building a toolkit for Healthy Financial Relationships”.

The work is in partnership with Good Shepherd NZ, a charitable non-government organisation established to address the critical, contemporary issues facing women, girls and families.

The researchers acknowledge that money is an often-fraught issue for intimate partners in New Zealand, where finances are largely considered a taboo topic and money remains a source of relationship conflict. The so-called money taboo prevents open discussion of personal finances - including household financial matters - leading to conflict, stress, missed financial opportunities, lower retirement outcomes and poorer financial decision-making.

It can also lead to financial abuse, a pattern of behaviour that restricts or removes another person’s access to money, economic resources, or participation in financial decisions. Financial abuse is often used as a coercive control strategy in Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).

New Zealand leads the OECD for rates of IPV, with one in three New Zealand women experiencing physical and/or sexual violence over their lifetime. Money is often “weaponised” in IPV cases and used to entrap an intimate partner.

Dr Scott says the Health Futures project aims to upskill romantic or intimate partners to discuss money matters in constructive and respectful ways. The research team recognises that not all cultures and peoples in Aotearoa see money in the same way, so tools will be built to be flexible to fit New Zealand’s wide demographic spectrum.

Ultimately, the researchers hope to help New Zealanders become more comfortable talking to their partners about money matters, and ultimately shift Aotearoa’s awareness and understanding of financial abuse.

“Kiwis don’t talk about money. Our project addresses this important, yet under-explored gap in current social, health and finance research,” says Dr Scott. “It recognises the complexity of the problem, and places finance into the ongoing intimate partner violence dialogue in New Zealand alongside health, social, law and justice. We aim to overcome the money taboo and ongoing inequality in our community, starting with New Zealanders’ closest relationships.”

AUT researchers

  • Dr Ayesha Scott, AUT Business School

External collaborators

  • Good Shepherd NZ