Debt can be a deal breaker when it comes to relationships.
Well over half of the 2,761 respondents to our Yahoo Finance Love & Money survey – 68% – said that any amount of debt would cause problems in their relationships.
“Couples that have a good financially healthy relationship feel free to talk what's on their mind if something's bothering them,” said Laura Fredericks, money expert and author of “The Ask.”
And couples are talking regularly -- despite how uncomfortable it is. Forty percent of those surveyed said they talk about money once a week and more than half know their partner’s credit score.
Despite the baggage debt can bring into a relationship, 51% of respondents said they’d be willing to take on and help pay down what their partner owes. But it comes at a cost to the individual taking on more of the burden. Debt acquired in the course of a marriage, for example, can have the debt-free partner’s name associated with it and therefore penalize that his or her credit score. The partner who does take on the debt would probably not be able to save as much as they did before. And it could impact a couple’s ability to achieve milestones together like buying a house, a car, or even getting married.
With consumer debt reaching record highs, debt looms as a lasting implication when considering the future of a relationship. According to a recent WalletHub survey, 46% of respondents said they would break up with an irresponsible spender, and 53% wouldn’t marry someone with bad credit.
Reports have shown that partners do hide money from each other. In our survey, women say they hide money more than men do in relationships (34% vs. 23%), and this could be why women reportedly also feel more money guilt in relationships.
Guilt can also arise when one partner does all the buying in the relationship, says Laura Fredricks, author of “The Ask”. “If someone is continuing to pay for things there's the expectation that they'll just keep doing it – they enjoy it, you enjoy it – but suddenly you feel a little bit guilty.”
Secret accounts won’t likely help much in the event of a divorce. Part of any divorce lawyer’s due diligence is to look for hidden accounts.
Fredricks says that couples can sustain differences in their individual net worths, and that this won’t cause a problem if there’s consistent communication. “They can go on years and years and that's fine, as long as there's that transparent conversation,” she says.
More than half of our survey respondents said they felt on equal ground financially with their partner, though fewer women feel that way than men. It is common for partners to have disproportionate incomes or assets, but experts suggest that partners be wary that these imbalances don’t cross over into financial abuse.