A new study from the US has found debt levels are taking an emotional toll on relationships, with more than half of the couples questioned saying they brought debt into their relationships.
The survey, by Fidelity Investments, found however that whether couples bring debt into their marriage is not really the issue - it's how they handle it. Unfortunately, for those who say they are concerned about debt today, nearly half also admit that money is their biggest relationship challenge.
The study, which has been conducted since 2007 and is unique in testing agreement between married partners on communication and knowledge of finances, uncovers several disconnects related to managing and paying off debt. For couples who brought debt into the relationship, almost half (49%) contradict each other on whose responsibility it is to pay off that debt. Encouragingly, though, respondents are more likely to feel responsible for taking on their other half's debt (55%) rather than expecting their partner to pay off theirs (33%).
Aside from debt, the study revealed other misunderstandings and knowledge gaps, even though most couples claim to communicate either exceptionally or very well. This runs the gamut from simple disconnects: one in five can't agree how long they've been together, to more serious issues—one in seven couldn't accurately report their other half's employment status.
The study also contains insights regarding the impact debt can have on a relationship, and the value of working together to overcome debt challenges. In fact, couples who identified "paying off debt" as a concern are more likely to have a host of other financial issues, which include communicating poorly, arguing more frequently and having difficulty starting conversations about money.
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