Study: Debt Takes a Toll on Couples’ Relationships

Debt strains everyone's finances. But for couples, it also stresses their relationship. Here's what anyone can learn from this.

Study: Debt Takes a Toll on Couples’ Relationships Photo by Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock.com

Debt can take a toll not only on a couple’s finances but also on their relationship.

Couples who worry about paying off debt are more likely to struggle with other financial issues. They also are more likely to have general communication issues, according to Fidelity Investments’ latest Couples & Money Study.

The investment management company has been conducting this study since 2007 and considers it unique because it tests partners’ knowledge of finances and retirement planning as well as their agreement on communication.

How debt impacts relationships

It’s perhaps unsurprising that couples who cite paying off debt as a concern are more likely to struggle with money or even communication than couples for whom debt is not a concern. Still, Fidelity’s findings put stark numbers on the extent to which debt can strain a relationship.

The study shows that among couples who consider paying off debt a concern, 46 percent agree money is their biggest relationship challenge. And 67 percent argue about money.

By comparison, just 16 percent of couples unconcerned about debt see money as their top relationship challenge, and only 41 percent argue about money.

For the latest Couples & Money Study, 1,662 couples were polled. All participants were at least 22 years old, married or in a long-term committed relationship and live with their partner. Participants also have a minimum household income of $75,000 or at least $100,000 in investable assets.

The average study participant is 52 years old and has a household income of $131,000.

What you can learn

The latest Couples & Money Study also asked participants for their best financial tips for newlyweds — which may aid more than just couples who recently married.

The top three responses to this question were:

  1. Save as early as possible for retirement.
  2. Don’t take on more debt than you can possibly afford.
  3. Make all financial decisions together.

Whether you’ve taken on more debt than you feel you can handle or you’ve taken on any amount of debt that strains your relationship, the solution comes down to tackling that debt.

That’s easier said than done, of course. But it takes only one relatively simple decision to get started.

That’s because there are two main ways that committed or single folks with any type of debt can tackle their debt load. They are:

Whichever approach you take, you will be one step closer to becoming debt-free. The only wrong move in the face of debt is to do nothing.

What’s your take on how financial strains like debt can tax a relationship? Share your thoughts or experiences by commenting below or over on our Facebook page.

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More

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