If you leave me, can I come too?

  • The number of people registered with Centrelink who have separated but live under the same roof has risen to 53,231
  • This is likely due to the critical shortage of rental properties
  • Even if the couple can sell a house, there may not be enough equity for each to buy a separate house

Over four decades ago, Australian band Mental As Anything released a song that featured the lyrics “If you leave me, can I come too?”.

Of course, times were very different back then, so this anti-breakup anthem probably wouldn’t be viewed as favorably today.

But the song came to mind when I recently came across a pretty heartbreaking news story describing the growing number of people who are separated but continue to live under the same roof because they can’t afford to move. The movie War of the Roses also comes to mind.

Clearly, there is nothing funny about this, as according to Services Australia the number of people registered with Centrelink who are separated but live together has risen from 38,772 in 2017 to 53,231 in 2022.

While the agency doesn’t understand why separated couples continue to live together, the story highlights that, according to The Separation Guide – an information and connection hub for people going through separation and divorce in Australia – he sees an increase in the number of people who say they can’t move because of the rising cost of living and interest rates.

One can only imagine how uncomfortable it could be to continue living with your partner after both of you have decided that your relationship has ended.

Financial links

The main reasons why this is happening are the critical shortage of rental properties across the country as well as the changing lending environment, which is making it more difficult for some buyers to find financing.

If a couple has been together a long time, they’re sure likely to have equity in their home, but the equity growth may not be enough for both parties to buy another home separately.

Likewise, while we are seeing vacancy rates below 1% across the country, it is currently extremely difficult for tenants to secure rental property, which is causing rents to rise sharply. Again, this may mean that individually neither party can afford to pay rent elsewhere.

As you all know by now, the reason I co-wrote The Female Investor – Creating Wealth, Security and Freedom Through Ownership was to help create more financially independent people.

Just consider the alternative outcome if these two people also had their own properties that they purchased prior to their relationship?

Owning separate plots of land may have enabled them to purchase another home to live in using their equity or even sell their other individual assets. They would have had a few options.

I’m not saying that we should all assume that every relationship will fail, or that we should all be constantly on the lookout for “what ifs”.

What I’m talking about here is that owning a property or two in your own name, and independent of any future or current partners, will always give you more choice if the worst happens and the relationship ends.

Such a scenario would ensure that you could both get on with your lives – rather than being stuck without even having the means to leave your former marital home.