Study Finds That More Than Half of Couples Bring Debt Into Their Marriages

Less money, mo' problems

Updated 07/08/18


Planning a wedding can wind up being a debt-inducing affair in and of itself. But, if you or your partner has come into your relationship with pre-existing debt, the financial strain may take a further toll on your romance.

Financial expertise company Fidelity Investments just released the findings of its eleven-year Fidelity Couples & Money Study, which ultimately found that most couples aren't communicating about finances as well as they think they are, and that over half of the 3,324 survey participants brought debt into their marriages. What's more is that, of those who carried over their debt, four in ten admitted that it negatively impacted their relationships, and almost half cited finances as their biggest relationship problem. The main issue among married couples concerned about debt was how to resolve theirs or their partner's money issues, and these partners were more likely to have poor financial communication and a difficulty instigating money talks in the first place.

The Fidelity Couples & Money Study also revealed that, within indebted couples, 49 percent claimed problems arose when determining which member of the marriage should pay off the debt. But, interestingly enough, the findings also reported that 55 percent of participants felt more inclined to take over their partner's debt, whereas only 33 percent expected their significant other to pick up their slack.

"We see over and over that dealing with debt is one of the biggest stressors in day-to-day life. Working as a team to put a financial action plan in place to address debt can help couples get out from under this burden, and as importantly bring more peace of mind to your household and relationship," Alexandra Taussig, senior vice president of lifetime client engagement at Fidelity, said in the press release. "It's not the debt you bring into the relationship that matters, but how you work together to handle your debt over the long run."

While 54 percent of respondents would rather work more to save up for retirement in the long run, even if that meant spending less time with their spouses, Fidelity argues couples don't have to choose one over the other as long as they "stay on the same page and take time to plan their future together."

The best way for newlywed couples to go about this, according to survey respondents? Participants were asked to provide their own financial advice, with "save as early as possible for retirement" being the most popular response. Additionally, they advised "don't take on more debt than you can possibly afford" and "make all financial decisions together." Newlyweds, take note—these tips might cancel out future financial fights.

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