Is Your Relationship in Debt Crisis?Feb 14, 2018
Are you and your partner avoiding talking about debt? If so, you may not be alone. According to our recent Debt Confessions poll, 36 per cent of Canadians are rarely or never talking about money. If debt is in your life, not talking about it can cause financial hardship and take a toll on your relationship. Here’s how to talk about it.
What are the good things going on in your financial life? Take stock of them. Have you contributed to a retirement savings plan, or an emergency fund? Put savings away for a purchase you want to make? Maybe you’ve made a charitable donation that you’re proud of. Have you or your partner started a new job, or graduated recently?
If you have debt, it can feel like your financial situation is bleak. Taking a moment to remember the positives that also impact your finances sets you up for a good talk.
Be honest about debt
Take note of all of your individual and mutual debts. Mortgages, credit cards or bank loans, vehicle loans, or outstanding bills should all be included.
According to the poll, the most common debt secret couples keep from each other is credit card debt. Consumer debt like credit card debt can carry high interest rates and be difficult to manage alone. Talking about it with your partner is the first step to eliminating it. Then, evaluate how beneficial or detrimental each debt is. A manageable mortgage or a student loan may be beneficial in the long run, but a vehicle loan might not be.
Be honest when talking to your partner about money and their habits. Over half of Canadian couples say they would like to change at least one of their partner’s financial habits. But your partner could be oblivious to this if you never bring it up.
Talk about your goals
If you’re a millennial, the good news is that talking about money might come easier to you, since that’s the group most likely to have these conversations early in the relationship. For GenXers and Boomers, the comfort might take a little longer to develop, but be open and share your individual and family goals.
Start listing all your “wants”. You may have short-term goals such as paying off your credit card, or save up to have a date night. You should also have mid and long-term goals like saving for a vacation, doing a small renovation, building a retirement plan, or saving for your kids’ education. Sharing and building goals is a great way to talk about finances with your partner.
Some of your priorities might not match exactly. Even seemingly frivolous goals (like a new vehicle, a renovation, or a trip) could be meaningful to the other person.
Getting to the root of why you each want something–or don’t want something–can help you to find middle ground and make concessions.
If you both make concessions, you’ll feel like you’re on equal grounds. Agree to revisit your plan and priorities on a regular basis, or as life events or financial events occur (expanding your family, illness, job change, job loss, changes to monthly expenses, and so on).
Check out the financial blog Money After Graduation to read about financial blind spots, and how to move past financial anxiety. You and your partner are in control!
If you or your partner have debt, or you’re carrying mutual debt, talking about it is the first step to reducing it. Discussing how you spend and save, and making debt repayment a priority can help.