How Australians are gambling with their finances
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The Melbourne Cup may be dubbed ‘the race that stops a nation’, but there doesn’t seem to be anything stopping millions of Aussies from handing their cash over in the hopes of winning big – in fact in 2009, a record $95.6 million in Melbourne Cup bets were taken in Victorian and NSW TABs alone. But while having a flutter on the Cup can be fun, you don’t have to be a ‘problem’ gambler for gambling to be a problem and even an innocent bet can lead to serious consequences in some circumstances – namely, betting more than you can afford to lose.
In 2008-2009, Australians spent a staggering $19 billion on gambling, and no matter how you look at it, what that really amounts to is a lot of families losing a lot of cash that they probably really couldn’t afford to spare, with an average of $1 500 per gambler lost overall.
Gambling can cause big problems for any family, no matter how financially secure you think you are. If you think that your partner has problems with gambling – or you just want to take a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach if you’re not sure – there are three critical things you need to do to protect your financial future:
Step 1: Seize the assets
Make sure all your family assets are in your name – either in joint ownership with your partner or your name only – to help prevent them from being sold or mortgaged to finance your partner’s gambling. If your partner won’t agree to the transfer, it is possible to apply for a court order to have it made, so chat to your solicitor or local Legal Aid office to find out how to make it happen. Next, if you’re sure that gambling is a problem, put all your bank accounts, credit cards and finance cards into your name and give your partner an allowance rather than letting them access the accounts directly. Change all of your PINs and passwords and make sure the new ones won’t be easy for your partner to guess – so birthdays, anniversaries and children’s names are out. This will help you to keep control of your family’s spending, and keep your partner from being tempted by easy access to cash.
Step 2: Self-insure
It’s always a good idea to ‘self-insure’ against any financial problems you might face – and excessive gambling definitely qualifies! Set up a personal bank account just for you and start saving. You should aim to have about three to six months’ worth of living expenses set aside in it so it can act as a safety net if you ever need it, but start by setting aside as much as you can for now and work your way up from there. It’s important that your partner can’t access this account, because this is your emergency stash of cash to protect your family financially – so make sure you keep it secure.
Step 3: Do it yourself
They say that if you want something done you have to do it yourself – and that’s especially true if your partner is suffering from a gambling problem. Take control of your family’s finances to ensure that the money you put aside for the family bills is getting used for them and not for gambling. Being as organised as possible will definitely help you here – you can use our budget spreadsheet templates and other money worksheets to help get you started and keep you on track so that you always know where your money is going.
Getting it done
If you’ve never had to deal with your family finances in such detail before, you might need a bit of help working out how to get started and it’s worth considering talking to a financial counsellor, who can provide you with advice and help you to set some of these provisions for protecting your finances in place. They will also be able to help you sort out your options for dealing with any debts that may have accumulated due to your partner’s problem.
There’s no doubt that living with someone who has a gambling problem is tough, especially if they don’t want to give up control of the family finances and assets. But even if you have to fight to put some of these steps in place, it’s absolutely vital that you do – your family’s financial future could very well depend on you having the strength to take control now.
If gambling is a problem in your family, help is available. You can find out more about where to get assistance from these organisations:
The Salvation Army - https://salvos.org.au/need-help/problem-gambling/
Problem Gambling - Relationships Australia - http://www.relationships.com.au/advice/problem-gambling
Gambling Counselling Services - Wesley Mission - http://www.wesleymission.org.au/Community_Services/counselling/Gambling_Counselling_Service.asp
Gambling Help NSW - http://www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au/
Problem Gambling VIC - http://www.problemgambling.vic.gov.au/
Gambling Help Services QLD - http://www.gamblinghelpservices.com.au/
Problem Gambling SA - http://www.problemgambling.sa.gov.au/aspx/home.aspx
Gambling Help WA - http://www.gamblinghelponline.org.au/accessing-support/western-australia.aspx
Gambling Help TAS - http://www.gamblinghelponline.org.au/accessing-support/tasmania.aspx
Gambling Help NT - http://www.gamblinghelponline.org.au/accessing-support/northern-territory.aspx
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