Consumer debt levels are reaching record highs among U.S. consumers — but is this having an emotional toll?
According to Fidelity Investments’ latest Couples & Money study, more than half of the couples surveyed carried debt into their relationship — and for those that did, 4 in 10 admitted it had a negative impact.
The study, which has been conducted since 2007, tests the agreement between married partners on communication and knowledge of finances. The latest study 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%).
According to Alexandra Taussig, senior vice president of lifetime client engagement at Fidelity, 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,” Taussig said in a statement. “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.”
The study contains several insights regarding the impact debt can have on a relationship, and the value of working together to overcome debt challenges.
For example, the study finds that 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.